Saturday, May 31, 2014

2013 End Of The Year Awards- Best Comedy Film- The Wolf Of Wall Street

If you follow my blog regularly, you know all about my love for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and a while ago, I picked Anchorman 2 as the best comedy in 2013....but that happened before I had the chance to watch The Wolf Of Wall Street in theaters.

To say The Wolf Of Street blew me away is an understatement. The two hours and fifty-nine minutes runtime feels like a breeze during the extravagant bonanza. Stop and think about it for a second. A film that runs nearly three hours maintains consistent laughs with a wild and rowdy tone. I never had any "oh man, when is this going to end!" feelings of exasperation. Not once. The Wolf Of Wall Street pulls you into an obscene world full of corruption, greed, drugs, backstabbing, and sleazy debauchery, and I couldn't pull my eyes away from the screen.

The cast is top notch (Rob Reiner is hilarious during his sporadic appearances), with DiCaprio (you'll win the gold someday, Leo) and Jonah Hill earning their Oscar nominations. Legendary director Martin Scorsese steps outside of any comfort zones to take a real risk here. Scorsese takes a risky chance with TWOWS, and the end result was a triumphant success. If I had to rank TWOWS on the list of DiCaprio/Scorsese collaborations, I'll say it deserves a spot in the top three with Gangs Of New York and The Aviator. That's not bad at all.

Scorsese and DiCaprio are in top form as one of the most successful actor/director duos here, delivering another multi-Oscar nominated film together, and The Wolf Of Wall Street is pure black comedy gold. I'm telling you now, if you haven't seen this one, you're missing something special.

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2013 End Of The Year Awards- Best Action Film- Fast & Furious 6

**This post contains spoilers**

After six films you would think the Fast & Furious franchise is finally hitting the "this needs to stop" end of the line point. Well, that's not the case with the sixth installment of this wildly popular action franchise.

Fast & Furious 6 delivers another high octane action blockbuster, featuring edge of your seat thrills, hard hitting fight scenes, jaw dropping stunts, and a few good laughs along the way. The consistent and superb chemistry between the main cast of characters helps, and Dwayne Johnson continues to thrive as Hobbs, adding a welcome addition to the franchise. Although, it's a one and done deal for Gina Carano's Riley. Riley suffered a brutal death, and it's a shame, because Carano had some potential as a dangerous and silent ass-kicker.

And how about the tantalizing scene from Tokyo with Jason Statham after Han's death? Statham VS Diesel as a one on one fight for vengeance is loaded with possibilities, and when you throw Johnson's Hobbs into the mix, you're looking at a bright upside for the next film.

The future is full or promise and high expectations for Fast & Furious, with Johnson sticking around and Statham joining the mix as a villain. It'll be a tough adjustment after Paul Walker's sudden death, but the vast majority of the core cast is still intact, and with a seventh film on the horizon , Fast & Furious still has plenty of gas left in the tank.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

2013 End Of The Year Awards- Best Superhero/Superheroine Film- Iron Man 3

This is my first year with End Of The Year Awards, but I'm leaning towards an "either-or" pick for Best Superhero and Superheroine Film, because the competition (or lack there of) for superheroine films is non-existent 98% of the time.

Again, it's my first year with the awards, I'm trying to figure things out, so there's a chance for a change in 2014. Now let's talk about Iron Man 3!

The controversial Mandarin twist is a "love or hate" clincher for a lot of people, but Iron Man is a serious contender for the best Iron Man film in the franchise. Robert Downey, Jr. is still sharp as Tony Stark/Iron Man, and Downey, Jr. shares excellent chemistry with Gwyenth Paltrow.

I know the first thought that pops into your mind is "wait a minute Mitch.... RDJ and Paltrow sharing excellent chemistry in an Iron Man film? That's nothing new!" Yes, RDJ and Paltrow form a strong duo throughout the Iron Man series and The Avengers, but there's an overwhelming sense of dread for everything coming to an end in part 3.

Pepper is tired of Tony's antics, and Tony is stuck in a life-changing dilemma for his future. You can feel the hopelessness, the doubt, and the edge of the cliff  "make up your mind or I'm gone" ultimatums, because Downey, Jr. and Paltrow put everything on the line here with a pair of strong performances.

Iron Man 2 had a tough act to follow after the 2008 film, and the end result was a so-so at best sequel. Think about all the pressure and high expectations after The Avengers, and Iron Man returned with another juggernaut for summer blockbusters in 2013.

Usually, a franchise from any genre reaches or is close to an end of the line point after two films, and you'll hear the "too many sequels!" complaints. But Iron Man 3 leaves you wanting more after The Avengers. It's an impressive feat that deserves admiration and recognition. Dazzling action sequences and fight scenes, a top notch cast, and Iron Man solidifies its status as one of the most entertaining superhero franchises with another high quality film that's loaded with fun and lots of laughs.

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2013 End Of The Year Awards- Best Hero- Tony Stark/Iron Man- Robert Downey, Jr.- Iron Man 3

Another year, another Iron Man film, and RDJ is still on top of his game as Tony Stark/Iron Man. Although, you'll see a broken version of Stark in Iron Man 3 because he's struggling to comprehended the events in New York and move on after The Avengers.

To make matters worse, he's trying to balance a tense relationship with his girlfriend, Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow). Oh, and he's on a collision course for a deadly battle with The Mandarin (I know, and no, I didn't forget about the "twist").

Downey, Jr.'s charismatic charm and snappy sense of humor is fresh in the third installment for the Iron Man series, but RDJ shows a believable conflicted side for Tony Stark. He's rattled, shaken, and Stark is contemplating retirement, because he's stuck at the crossroads. He can take a serious risk for losing the love of his life (Pepper), if he continues the double life style as Iron Man, so walking away from a world that needs protection from ruthless super villains is not an easy decision.

It's hard to ignore RDJ as Iron Man/Tony Stark, when you sit and down run through lists for heroes (or superheroes). Bottom line, Downey, Jr. hits another home run, and you can't ignore his streak of consistency for quality performances.

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2013 End Of The Year Awards- Best Heroine- Erin- Sharni Vinson- You're Next

**This post contains spoilers**

The Davison Family ran into a series of nasty surprises during a seemingly harmless family dinner/wedding anniversary celebration. A group of invading maniacs wearing animal masks, Felix's (Nicholas Tucci) plot to murder his own family for money, Crispian's (AJ Bowen) involvement in Felix's plans....and Crispian's girlfriend, Erin (Sharni Vinson). At first, you see Crispian's nice and humble person, but as the story progresses, Erin emerges from the pack as a  fierce heroine.

Who takes a stand in the fight against the masked mercenaries? Well, if you guessed the police or a team of special forces, you're wrong. A fearless and cunning Erin systematically exterminates Felix's hired goons one by one.

Erin is a refreshing change for the lone female survivor in horror films. She's not running around, while looking for a place to hide in fear, and screaming to the top of her lungs every five seconds. Erin sets deadly traps (remember the axe contraption over the front door?), she waits for the right moment to attack, and she's not afraid to stand and fight.

Resourceful, smart, strong, and she won't blink at the sight of blood and dismembered bodies? Yep, Erin is an easy pick for Best Heroine in 2013!

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2013 End Of The Year Awards- Best Villain- Harlan DeGroat- Woody Harrelson- Out Of The Furnace

**This post contains spoilers**

He doesn't have superpowers or a fancy entourage with a last line of defense bodyguard, but Harlan DeGroat is a nasty and ruthless villain and a psychopathic drug lord. Harlan murdered John Petty (Willem Dafoe) in cold blood over a debt, and unfortunately Rodney (Casey Affleck) was in the wrong place at the wrong time, so Harlan pulled the trigger for Rodney's death after Petty's murder.

With one look, you wouldn't expect a menacing threat from Harlan. He doesn't a have a statuesque build, but Harlan makes up for a lack of muscles with a rugged and brutal fighting style (remember the opening scene at the drive-through?) and a vicious mean streak. There's no flash or sizzle with Harlan, and he doesn't need  complex master plans to attack his adversaries. Harlan's strategy is simple: he trusts his fists, his crew, and his guns, and he won't stop until he's last man standing. 

But make no mistake about it, the Harlan character doesn't work without Woody Harrelson's performance. The scraggly beard and the unkept appearance helps, but Harrelson showcases the essential dark side with an unflinching demeanor (and the croaky voice helps). Harrelson's timing is perfect, because he knows when to crank up the intensity for Harlan, and at the same time, Harelson shows off Harlan's cocky side with a dark sense of humor.

My only complaint for DeGroat? A weak, weak ending. Russell (Christian Bale) murdering Harlan to avenge his brother's death? Yeah, we all knew it was coming, but the tedious fiasco with Russell stalking Harlan and chasing him into an open field didn't do anything for me. After Rodney's death, you're waiting for the big one on one fight between Russell and Harlan, as Russell unleashes his bottled up rage to finish off Harlan once and for all.

Instead, a wounded Harlan stumbles around an abandoned mill and the open field with Russell following him, and they end the "chase" (using that word loosely) with Wesley (Forest Whitaker) trying to talk some sense into Russell before the fatal shot? Harlan deserved a better send-off.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

2013 End Of The Year Awards- Best Trailer- You're Next (Trailer #1)

You're Next is a legit contender for the best horror film in 2013 and the trailer is superb. At first, you see footage for a peaceful and happy family get-together, but things take a dark turn for the worst, when you see the eerie reflection for one of the attackers wearing a sheep mask.

Suddenly, the calm and quiet family dinner descends into a calamity of chaos and brutal terror during The Davison Family's struggle to fight for survival. Lou Reed's "Perfect Day"? It's an excellent choice for a song. During the early stages of the trailer, Perfect Day works as a tie-in for the happy family gathering, and you can feel the irony at the 1:29 mark, because the "perfect day" devolves into a vicious life-or-death fight.

I had to see You're Next after the first trailer debuted last year, and I can't count the number of YouTube visits to watch this trailer over and over again.

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2013 End Of The Year Awards- Biggest Surprise- We're The Millers

Honestly, I had low expectations for this, and the early mixed reaction was a big turn off for me. But I couldn't stop laughing throughout We're The Millers.

A cast with excellent chemistry? Yep. We're The Millers succeeds as a comedy, because you can buy into The Miller Family as a functioning (towards the end) and dysfunctional "family". Emma Roberts (Casey) is spot on, as the rebellious teenage punk, and you can buy into her act as the rambunctious and uncensored daughter.

Will Poulter (Kenny) is a believable nerd, and Jennifer Aniston delivers another enjoyable risque performance as the lone stripper (Rose) turned housewife/mother. If we're talking about the better "out of the comfort zone" performance for Aniston, I prefer Aniston's Julia from Horrible Bosses, but that's another discussion for another time. Jason Sudeikis? You won't see any big changes, when David (Sudeikis) makes the change from a common drug dealer to an RV driving dad/father. But Sudeikis is capable of pulling some laughs out of you, as the frustrated sleazebag, who's trying to save his own skin.

The story is predictable, and you can see David's change of heart revelation coming from a mile away, but We're The Millers produces consistent laughs. It's a hilarious story about a group of pretenders embarking on a wild and whacky journey, but I'm uneasy about the planned sequel. More often than not, comedy sequels feel unnecessary, forced, or they're just awful films (Son Of The Mask, Be Cool, etc.) 

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2013 End Of The Year Awards- Biggest Disappointment- The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

**This posts contains spoilers**

Steve Carell
Steve Buscemi
Alan Arkin
Jim Carrey
James Gandolfini

That's a STACKED cast for a comedy that showed a lot of promise in the trailers and TV spots, and Olivia Wilde is harmless in her role as Jane. But I don't blame the cast for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone's shortcomings.

Yeah, character wise, Jim Carrey's Steve Gray is a bad case of trying too hard to be outrageous and edgy (i.e. a show named "Brain Rapist"), but Carell is enjoyable in the leading role, Gandolfini is his hilarious as Doug Munny, Buscemi is solid in a supporting role as Carell's lifelong friend, and Arkin is good for a few laughs as Rance Holloway.

The problems? Dry jokes, inconsistent, goofy humor, and cliched and predictable storytelling. Burt (Carell) realizing his mistakes, turning over a new leaf, and apologizing to Jane for his mistakes? Yep. You can see "the jerk decides to turn his life around" stuff coming from a mile away, and TIBW's through motions story is tedious, and to make matters worse, they cap off the predictability with Burt and and Jane falling in love at the end. 

I'll give TIBW some credit for switcheroo/Houdini style ending, but it's not enough to save the movie. In the end, TIBW is a boring comedy that's short on laughs, and it's hard to look the other, when you waste a talented overall cast with a cliched and predictable script.

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2013 End Of The Year Awards- Best Breakout Performance From A Rising Star- Jane Levy- Evil Dead

**This post contains spoilers**

That's right. It's time for End Of The Year Awards! I had plans to start this back in February, but I ran into some time consuming hurdles in real life, and more recently, I promised myself I would stay on course for finishing the American Horror Story: Murder House review series before moving on to new projects on here.

It's my first go around with this awards series, so I'm still working out the kinks, and I'm adding new categories every day on my brainstorming notepad. Also, it's no secret I'm a BIG fan of all things horror, but I'll save my 2013 horror rankings/awards (top ten best, top ten overrated, top ten underrated, etc.) for Horror Month in October.

The categories are self-explanatory, but I'll give a little background info for my first award. The Best Breakout Performance From A Rising Star award goes to young actresses and actors (Chloe Grace Moretz, Rooney Mara, Emma Stone, Jennifer Lawrence Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, etc.), who are on the verge of promising careers to shine in the spotlight as major stars in Hollywood. With that said, let's talk about the first winner, Jane Levy!

I caught my first glimpse of Jane Levy as April in Fun Size. In Fun Size, April is the chatty teenager, who's obsessed with her popularity rankings in high school. April is a funny and lighthearted character, but Levy takes a darker turn with Mia in Evil Dead 2013.

Mentally and emotionally, Mia (Levy) is fragile and shaken, as a recovering heroin addict, and Mia struggles during a tough recovery mission in an isolated cabin in the woods. But Mia runs into a bigger problem, when Eric accidentally unleashes a hellacious evil power from the Book Of The Dead.

Jane Levy's remarkable ability to switch gears throughout Evil Dead 2013 is something to admire. At first, Levy is this struggling addict, who's trying to fight her addiction. After the possession in the woods, Levy shows another side, as this petrified ("You. Have. To. Get. Me. Out of here") and fidgety victim. During the fiasco in the cabin, Levy unleashes a darker and more vicious side, as the demonic possession consumes Mia.

Mia's character is loaded with layers, and Jane Levy nails each one. She's a broken woman, who's looking for a second chance, an unstable addict, a nasty hellcat, a deceptive attacker (remember the scene, where Mia lures Natalie into cellar for a bloody kiss?), and towards the end, Levy shows us a remorseful, resilient, and frightened Mia after Eric's sacrifice.

Evil Dead 2013 is worth the time for Jane Levy's versatile performance, and you're missing something special, if you haven't seen it. It'll take some time, but Levy's on the right track now, and she's a surefire candidate for a future spot in the Oscar nominations. 

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

American Horror Story- Murder House- Final Thoughts

**This post contains spoilers**

American Horror Story: Murder House is a bold show, that’s not afraid to take any chances. Gore, blood, sexual situations, a few “crossing the line” curse words (“sh**”) every now and then, and American Horror Story’s toes touch the line to provide an unforgettable experience for fans of the show.

Murder House features characters with real depth. Constance is a tortured soul with a troubled past, Ben is a habitual liar, and he’s running out of second chances, and Violet is a depressed and isolated teenage girl, who’s desperate for companionship and understanding.

On top of that, the cast is top notch, with Jessica Lange delivering numerous show-stealing performances. Lange is phenomenal, and Lange takes a more villainous turn in Asylum (season 2) as Sister Jude and in Coven (season 3) as Fiona to cement her status as the top mainstay on the show. Dylan McDermott is an ideal choice for the Ben character. McDermott is a natural, when it comes to portraying an anti-hero, or someone, who’s stuck in the middle of the good VS evil zone. Yes. Ben is a caring father, who loves his family, but he willingly engaged in an affair with Hayden, and the affair destroyed his family.

Taissa Farmiga emerges as a star in the making in American Horror Story’s first season, and Farmiga nails another high profiled character (Zoe) in Coven. You won’t see too much of Sarah Paulson as Billie Dean Howard here, but Paulson receives bigger roles in Asylum as Lana Winters and in Coven as Cordelia Foxx (Fiona’s daughter). Evan Peters? When you consider his performances as Kit Walker (Asylum) and Kyle Spencer (Coven),  Tate is still number one for overall quality. Tate is a disturbed kid with a broken life and a nasty mean streak, and Peters brings his A game as Tate.

Consistency is not a problem for Murder House. After each episode, I had to know the answer to this one reoccurring question: What’s next? The cliffhangers, the shocking character deaths, the reveals, the suspense, and the twists and turns. Murder House pulls you into a dark world of betrayal, violence, carnage, and gloomy dilemmas, and you’re hooked in until the very end. I never fell into a down period, where I wanted the show to end, and I can’t remember one tedious slump. Halloween Part I is a prime example, because I’ve seen all three seasons of American Horror Story, and I believe it’s the best episode from all three seasons. The look of panic and shock on Ben’s face, when he opens the door to see Hayden at the end is a great memorable moment.

Murder House sets the stage for a ghostly series with spooky atmospheric tension at the house, and for residents from the past or unfortunate victims of the house’s wrath, the Murder House is a source of pain and fear for a variety of reasons. Larry lost his family in a fire, Moira was shot to death by Constance, and we all know about the tragic end to The Harmon Family’s story. The Murder House is a living, breathing haunted house with a strong heartbeat, any unsuspecting victims are walking into a death trap, and underestimating the house’s power (i.e. Ben in the finale) is a deadly mistake.

Three yeas later, and horror themed shows have a stronger presence on TV. The Walking Dead is an unstoppable juggernaut, Salem popped up on WGN America, From Dusk Till Dawn debuted on El Rey Network, FOX has Sleepy Hollow, NBC has Hannibal, CBS stumbled across a surefire hit with Under The Dome, and Penny Dreadful premiers tonight.

Of course, American Horror Story is still around to establish a recognizable name for a horror TV series, and after three seasons, American Horror Story steps up to the plate for number four with Freak Show. I have mixed feelings for Asylum and Coven, but my hopes are still high for quality with season four. Key players from the past including, Lange, Paulson, Peters, and Denis O’Hare are returning, and the addition of reliable veterans (Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett) from Coven is a positive sign.

Also, the return of Emma Roberts should add a spark to the show, because Roberts was an amazing villainess as Madison Montgomery in Coven. Although, according to reports, it’s Jessica Lange’s last season on American Horror Story, and it‘ll be sad to see her go. Hopefully, she’ll receive a send-off worthy of remembrance, because Jessica Lange  is one of the founders for American Horror Story, and she’s in the small circle for stacking the first set of bricks for the foundation to build American Horror Story’s legacy.

Follow the links below (in chronological order) to read comprehensive reviews for all twelve episodes of American Horror Story: Murder House! (Episode 1- Pilot) (Episode 2- Home Invasion) (Episode 3- Murder House) (Episode 4- Halloween Part I) (Episode 5- Halloween Part II) (Episode 6- Piggy Piggy) (Episode 7- Open House) (Episode 8- Rubber Man) (Episode 9- Spooky Little Girl) (Episode 10- Smoldering Children) (Episode 11- Birth) (Episode 12- Afterbirth)

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

American Horror Story- Murder House- Episode 12- Afterbirth

**This review contains spoilers**

Synopsis: The countdown for the big move begins in Boston with nine months to go, and Ben (Dylan McDermott) finds the perfect house in Los Angeles. Ben praises the Murder House as a symbol of “hope” for a new beginning, but Vivien (Connie Brittion) is still reluctant to trust Ben after the affair with Hayden (Kate Mara). Vivien has plans to move to Florida with Violet (Taissa Farmiga) before the new school year starts, and Vivien is planning a new life without Ben. Eventually, Vivien lowers her guard to accept Ben’s request to fly to Los Angeles to inspect and evaluate the Murder House.

In the present, Vivien is dead, and Ben is alone in the house. Vivien tries to adjust to the afterlife with some help and guidance from Moira (Frances Conroy). As a ghost, Vivien makes the tough choice to stay in the shadows and hide from Ben, because she wants Ben to leave the house with the baby. If Ben sees Vivien or Violet, Ben’s grief will take control, and Ben will stay in the Murder House, risking his life and the baby’s life.

One day, Ben visits Constance (Jessica Lange) to pick up the twin. Constance takes on the role of a babysitter, but Constance stalls Ben because she’s trying to protect the baby. A forceful Ben takes the baby, and before his return to the Murder House, Ben spots a picture of Tate (Evan Peters) and Addie (Jaime Brewer) on Constance’s kitchen counter. Ben puts the pieces of the puzzle together, and Ben immediately suspects Constance as an accomplice in Tate’s scheme, and Ben blames Constance and Tate for Vivien’s death. Constance warns Ben about the dangers of returning to the Murder House, but an angry Ben ignores Constance’s warnings.

At the Murder House, a lonely and depressed Ben prepares an exit strategy for the baby with paper work, and instructions for Vivien’s sister, Jo. In his mind, Ben accepts the idea of a new life for the twin in Florida with Jo, and Ben prepares to commit suicide with alcohol and cigarettes to ease the pain.

Ben  tries to pull the trigger on his handgun, but Vivien appears at the last second to stop him. Violet appears, and together, Vivien and Violet convince Ben to leave the Murder House to protect the baby from the evil forces. Ben grabs the baby, but a vindictive Hayden blocks Ben’s path to the front door on the staircase……….

Review: Why? Why would you go back into the house after EVERYTHING that happened there??? The break-in, Ben witnessed young Moria’s transformation, a group of ghost delivered his children, and his wife died in the house.

And guess what happens, when Ben runs into Hayden? At first, Ben tries to ignore Hayden, but a group of evil ghosts (under Hayden’s orders) attack Ben from behind. The evil ghosts strangle Ben with a rope, and they use the rope to hang Ben from the chandelier. Ben’s death looks like a suicide, and Hayden takes the baby.

Ben’s mind-numbingly stupid choice to return to the house brought a facepalm out of me. Constance is not an angel, but as a former resident with years of history tied to the house, she knows about the dangers and the consequences for a return.

Ben (as a ghost) reunites with Vivien and Violet, but Hayden is sitting in a rocking chair with the evil twin. Keep in mind, Ben, Vivien, and Violet don’t know about the details surrounding the prophecy, and they don’t know Tate’s child is the Antichrist.

Anyway, Constance confronts Hayden about the baby. As the only living person in the Harmon’s circle, Constance is an ideal candidate for a mother/guardian, but Hayden won’t let go without a fight. Luckily, Travis (Michael Graziadei) pops up out of nowhere to slit Hayden’s throat wide open. Travis takes advantage of an incapacitated Hayden (remember, she’s already dead, so she can’t die again), and Travis snatches the baby. Travis hands the baby to Constance, and a happy Constance leaves the Murder House with her new grandson.

Is Constance is a sneaky liar with a hidden agenda? Yep. But when you consider all the limited options, Constance is the best choice for a mother. Vivien is dead, Ben is dead, and Violet is dead. And you can’t raise a child in a house full of ghosts. Whether you like her or not, you can’t deny Constance’s dedication. She is willing to pour all of her love and care into her grandson, and Constance will do anything to protect him. Oh, and to keep the secret safe from the outside world, Constance hides the baby in a closet.

Constance’s cover story? Well, Detective Granger (Charles S. Dutton) and Detective Barrios (Malaya Rivera Drew) return to ask Constance more questions about Ben’s “suicide,” and they want to know what happened to the baby and Violet (remember, Tate hid her body in a crawlspace). Constance tells Granger and Barrios Violet ran away with the baby after Ben’s suicide to start a new life. It’s a perfect cover, because Ben staged everything at the house (papers, keys to all the doors, instructions for Vivien’s sister, etc.) for the aftermath of a suicide, so Constance’s story/lie works as a logical conclusion for Violet’s whereabouts.

So what’s next for The Harmon Family as ghosts? Together, Vivien, Ben, Violet, and Moira join forces to put a stop to the murders and never ending violence at the house. The good spirits at the house (Moira, Elizabeth, etc.) are tired of all the deaths of innocent families, who unknowingly walk into a murder trap. But the evil spirits (Hayden, Nora, etc.) are filled with rage and bitterness, and they will unleash their wrath on the new tenants.

The Harmon Family’s first test as a team? The Ramos Family. After Marcy’s (Christine Estabrook) fabricated sales pitch, Miguel Ramos (Anthony Ruivivar), his wife, Stacy (Lisa Vidal), and their son, Gabriel (Brennan Mejia) move into the Murder House. After a series of bizarre incidents and an appearance from Violet, Gabriel (or “Gabe”) suspects something fishy, but Miguel and Stacy are overjoyed at the thought of a fresh start in the new house (sounds familiar, huh?). And Miguel and Stacy are planning to have another baby to fill Gabe’s void after he graduates from high school.

One night, with some help from Elizabeth (Mena Suvari), Beau, and the exterminator from “Smoldering Children,” Vivien, Ben (as the Rubber Man), and Moira (using her old form, and her seductive, younger form) launch an all out assault to scare Stacy and Miguel out of the house. The showcase for a real life haunted house works……but there’s a problem upstairs with Gabe and Tate.

Tate is still heartbroken over losing Violet, and Tate noticed a connection between Gabe and Violet during Violet’s visit to his room. Tate’s solution to help Violet? He’s going to kill Gabe, so Violet can have another companion. Luckily, Violet shows up to say good-bye to Tate with one last kiss, and Gabe uses the distraction to escape the Murder House with his parents. After the kiss, Violet disappears again, leaving Tate alone.

Remember Nora (Lily Rabe) and the stillborn twin? Well, Charles (Matt Ross) made a mistake, because the baby took one breath before his death. But Nora can’t handle the responsibilities for being a mother. Enter Vivien. Vivien is the biological mother, but Nora uses her deal with Tate as an excuse to keep the baby.

Still, Nora can’t handle the child. She scolds Vivien (oddly enough, a delusional Nora mistook Vivien for one of her servants), and she calls the baby a “weakling.” Vivien remains calm, and Nora agrees to a deal with Vivien: Vivien will give an exhausted Nora a temporary break to take care of her child. After Vivien’s talk with Nora, Vivien asks Moira (old Moira) to be the godmother for the baby, and Moira gladly accepts.

After the fiasco with The Ramos Family, Tate approaches Ben for advice. Naturally, Ben is disgusted with Tate, and he diagnoses Tate as a psychopath. Tate apologizes for raping Vivien, murdering Chad and Patrick, hurting Violet, murdering the kids at Westfield High School, and burning Larry alive. Ben reminds Tate he’s not a priest, so Tate’s confession is worthless to him. But Ben offers a Tate a solution for his problems: Tate needs to apologize to the innocent victims directly. They need to forgive him first. Then, the healing process can begin.

The story jumps to Christmas night, and the house is empty again. Together, Vivien, Ben, Violet, Moira (old Moira), and the baby celebrate Christmas together after they decorate the tree as a team. Tate is stuck outside with Hayden. Hayden pushes Tate to forget about Violet and move on, but Tate is still in love with Violet, and he’ll wait “forever” for Violet’s forgiveness. The Harmon’s story concludes with the entire family (and Moira) standing around the Christmas tree to celebrate a peaceful and happy future at the Murder House.

The Harmon Family accepts and embraces their roles as protectors, but Ben had the PERFECT chance to escape with the baby. Although, you could say Ben’s death is a better option for him. Let’s face it, Ben was DEVASTATED and depressed without Vivien and Violet. Do you really think he’s the best choice to raise a child? Oh, and there’s the Antichrist problem, because you know, Ben is raising a child, who’s full of pure evil.

Instead, Ben is with his wife and his daughter for all eternity, and you can see the happiness in Ben’s eyes after the Christmas celebration. Also, to give an extra tidbit on Marcy’s life after Ben, Vivien, and Violet, Marcy adopted Hallie, the dog. And Marcy is stuck with the Murder House after The Ramos Family‘s sudden departure. She’s forced to sell at another reduced price, and the tour guide for famous homes in LA hurts Marcy chances with the story of Vivien and Ben’s deaths, and Violet’s “disappearance.”

Nora? Well, Moira was right, when she said Nora didn’t have one “motherly bone” in her body. It’s strange, because I wanted to feel some sympathy for Nora, as this broken woman, who made too many mistakes in her past. But Nora showed her true colors again in the basement with Vivien. The nasty, hateful, snobbish, and condescending Nora resurfaced, and it’s hard to feel any sympathy for Nora’s dark side.

And kudos to Ben for giving Tate some advice for his problems. Ben could’ve ignored Tate, and turned his back on him, but Ben offered some advice for someone, who needs A LOT of help. I said this before, but I have a hard time believing in Tate as this malicious person. He’s someone, who makes a lot of stupid mistakes, and yes, he needs to serve some form of punishment for his crimes. But Tate needs some guidance and proper direction, because his childhood was a  mess.

What happened to Constance and the baby? The timeline jumps three years into the future. Constance visits her hairdresser, Helen, and she uses another cover story for the baby. Constance accepted the role of a mother/guardian for Michael (the Antichrist), the son of distant cousins on her mother’s side. The parents died in a tragic highway accident, and Constance rescued Michael from a childhood in an orphanage.

After the tragedies (Addie’s death, Beau, Tate’s death, etc.) and all the suffering (Hugo’s affair with Moira) in her life, Constance finally understands her role in the world: Everything was a test to prepare Constance for raising the Antichrist (or Michael). Constance is a survivor, and she has what it takes to guide and take care of Michael.

But there’s a big problem at home. Constance returns to her home to find a trail of blood leading to Michael’s room. In Michael’s room, Constance finds the babysitter’s mutilated dead body. Michael has spots of blood on his face, and he’s sitting in a rocking chair with this big smile on his face. Constance kneels to Michael, and she says “now what am I gonna do with you?” Constance takes some time to comfort Michael, and the screen cuts to black to end the first season of American Horror Story.

Constance’s speech about her duties as a mother for Michael is something to admire, and Jessica Lange nailed the delivery as always. You can feel all the emotions pouring out of Constance. The sadness, the heartbreak, the happiness, and the relief. After so many years of searching, Constance found her purpose in life, and she embraced her role as Michael’s mother.

It’s hard to (or almost impossible) top Birth’s emotional roller coaster after Vivien’s death, but Afterbirth is a satisfying season finale, and they give you everything a fan could ask for in a season finale. Afterbirth provides more than enough closure, a few happy endings, and they tie up all the loose ends here. And there’s a diabolical cliffhanger with a sinister Michael smiling after the babysitter’s murder. Constance as Michael’s mother is a debatable choice for a number of reasons, but when you stop and think about it, Constance is the ideal choice to raise Michael, and she’s the only one, who can handle him.

I alluded to this earlier, but there’s a hole in logic with Michael. Again, Vivien, Ben, and Violet never heard Billie Dean’s explanation for the prophecy, so they don’t know about Michael’s future as the Antichrist. To add to that, Constance never told Vivien and Ben the truth about Michael. Is there a chance Constance was afraid of retaliation from Vivien and Ben? Vivien, Ben, and Violet working together to stop the Antichrist at all costs is not out of the realm of realistic possibilities, but I’ll look the other way for one simple reason: Constance will do ANYTHING to protect (remember, Constance offered the twin fathered by Ben to Chad and Patrick, but she gave explicit “off limits” instructions for Tate’s twin) her grandson.

The nine months intro is very eerie with hindsight. Ben wanted to believe in the Murder House as a symbol of hope, but the Murder House was a symbol of pain and misery for his family. The Murder House destroyed Ben’s family in the living world, but there’s a tricky catch 22 dilemma here. The Harmons suffered brutal deaths in the Murder House, but they have a second (or third?) chance at happiness together in the afterlife…..and it’s happening at the Murder House. When it’s all said and done, he should’ve been more careful, and Ben learned a hard lesson about buying a cheap haunted house.

Rating: 9/10

Well, that's a wrap for the first season of American Horror Story! Barring any unforeseen setbacks or hurdles, I'll post my final thoughts on the season tomorrow. The day is clear for the most part, so I'll keep my fingers crossed! lol.

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Friday, May 9, 2014

American Horror Story- Murder House- Episode 11- Birth

**This review contains spoilers**

Synopsis: In 1984, a young Tate Langdon follows his toy truck into the basement at the Murder House. During Tate’s expedition in the basement, Tate’s mother, Constance (Jessica Lange) sleeps on the couch with a stack of past due bills on the table.

In the basement, Thaddeus (or The Infantata) scares and attacks Tate, but Nora (Lily Rabe) appears to protect him. Nora stops Thaddeus’ attack, and Nora teaches Tate a trick to fight the malevolent spirits at Murder House. If a ghost appears for an attack, Tate needs to shout “GO AWAY!”, and the ghosts will disappear. After the close call encounter with Thaddeus, Nora comforts a frightened Tate in the basement.

In the present, Tate (Evan Peters) changes his mind about the deal with Nora. Tate is trying to protect one of Violet’s brothers, because he doesn’t want to take a chance of ruining his relationship with Violet. But Nora won’t take no for an answer. A determined Nora wants to be a mother again, and she will take one of Vivien’s twins, with or without Tate’s help.

Violet (Taissa Farmiga) is running out of time and options to explain the complications and hurdles for her suicide, as Ben (Dylan McDermott) prepares for the trip to Florida. Violet is dead, and she can’t leave the house, but Ben forces Violet into the car for the trip to pick up Vivien (Connie Britton) at the hospital. Unbeknownst to Ben, Violet reappears in the house after Ben passes the stop sign on the streets.

At the hospital, the doctor explains a complicated and deadly dilemma for Vivien’s pregnancy. The dominant twin (or the “Alpha,” Tate’s twin) is draining all of the resources and nutrients from the weaker fetus. In time, the dominant twin’s needs will lead to the death of Vivien’s weaker twin. The doctor urges Ben to postpone or cancel the trip to Florida, but Vivien refuses.

Violet awaits Ben and Vivien’s arrival at the house, but Chad (Zachary Quinto) and Patrick (Teddy Sears) have other plans for the twins. After Chad and Patrick renovate the nursery with their own special touch, Chad announces his plans for the twins: Chad and Patrick will steal the twins from Vivien. After the first birthday, Chad and Patrick will smother the twins with pillows, because Chad wants “cute” babies “forever.” To add to the problem, Nora is anxious to steal Vivien’s twins, and Hayden (Kate Mara) is lurking in the shadows, waiting for the perfect chance to sabotage Vivien and Ben’s plans for a happy and peaceful second chance.

Violet turns to Constance and Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson) for help. Billie Dean offers a solution to stop the evil spirits at the Murder House with an ancient Roanoke spell, but Violet needs personal possessions from the spirits to make the spell work. With Tate’s help, Violet needs to secure Patrick’s ring and Chad’s expensive watch, and to complete the spell, Violet will burn the watch and the ring, and shout “Croatoan” to banish Chad and Patrick from the house forever.

Violet tries to explain the consequences for a death at the Murder House to a confused Ben, but Ben and Violet run into a bigger problem with Vivien. In the car, Vivien experiences uncontrollable labor pains, and Constance shows up to help Vivien into the house.

Time is running out, and Vivien is stuck in a tight spot, because she can’t refuse the Murder House‘s helping hands. Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross) returns to deliver the baby with some help from Nurse Maria (Rosa Salazar) and Nurse Gladys (Celia Finklestein), and Constance gives Ben a last minute pep talk about helping Vivien. Ben and Vivien cling to a shred of hope for escaping the Murder House with the twins to start a new life in Florida, and Chad crushes Violet with a devastating secret……….

Review: Poor Vivien. She pushed and pushed, but resiliency wasn’t enough to save her here. Vivien and Ben lose the weaker twin (the twin fathered by Ben) to a stillbirth. After the death of the first twin, Charles quietly presents the deceased infant to Nora, and Nora takes the child without hesitation.

Vivien is weak and exhausted, and the arrival of the second twin (the evil twin, or the Antichrist fathered by Tate) takes a disastrous turn for the worst. The evil twin enters the world as a healthy baby, but Vivien’s body suffered too much damage during birth. Charles tries to save Vivien, but he can’t stop the bleeding. An apologetic  Ben pushes Violet to hold on and fight, but Violet appears to steer Vivien in a different direction. Violet urges Vivien to let go, but Vivien doesn’t have a choice. The birth of the evil twin caused severe hemorrhaging, and Vivien dies after Ben’s desperate pleas.

I know I’ve been hard on Vivien throughout the season (Vivien hiding an affair with a married man from her past), but Vivien’s death is an easy pick for a memorable and sorrowful moment in Birth. Think about everything Vivien endured this season. The miscarriage, catching Ben in the act during his affair with Hayden, the break-in (“Home Invasion”), Tate’s rape, Ben committed Vivien, and on top of that, she’s carrying the Antichrist. Whether you love her or hate her, you have to admit Vivien suffered until the very end.

It’s an emotional send-off for Vivien. During the birth of the first twin, there’s a sequence, where they jump back and forth between the past and the present with flashback footage of Violet’s birth. You’ll see another heartfelt moment during the “Will she stay or die?” tug of war between Ben and Violet, and it’s easy to understand both POVs. On one hand, Ben wants Vivien to stay in the living world. He wants to prove himself to Vivien. He wants to prove he can change, and Ben desperately wants a second shot at a happy life with Vivien. Violet is lonely in the afterlife at Murder House, she misses her mother, and Violet is hoping for a second chance to apologize to Vivien for all the years of rebellion and disrespect.

Connie Britton did a good of expressing Vivien’s fatigue and strong sense of defeat towards the end. Vivien was battered physically and emotionally, and she finally reached a point, where she had to let go, and Vivien joins Violet in the afterlife at Murder House. And kudos to Dylan McDermott for selling Ben’s heartbreak over Vivien’s death with an unnerving look of shock, and a few tears.

The Roanoke spell? Yeah, it’s bogus nonsense. Violet followed Billie Dean’s instructions step by step. She burned Chad’s watch in the fireplace, and Violet shouted “Croatoan!” over and again. At first, Chad flinched and convulsed…..but Chad was humoring Violet with an over the top performance.

Violet is out of options to stop Chad, Patrick, and the rest of the evil spirits at the house, and Chad rips Violet’s heart into pieces, when he reveals the truth about Vivien’s second twin and Tate’s rape. A furious and heartbroken Violet confronts Tate about the rape. Tate tries to apologize, and Violet professes her love for Tate, but she rejects the apology. Tate begs for a second chance, but Violet uses the “GO AWAY!” trick to silence Tate, and Tate disappears. Vivien shows up to ease  a sobbing Violet’s pain, she admires Violet’s bravery, and Vivien reassures Violet as a support system and a shoulder to lean on in her time of need.

Violet‘s “go away” decision with Tate was a tough one, because she found her soul mate in Tate, but Tate crossed the line and a point of no return with Vivien and the second twin. Is Tate remorseful about about his crimes? Well, Tate whimpers and his face quivers with welded tears during the confrontation, and you can feel the sadness in Tate. After all, Violet is on a short, short list of people, who took the time to bond with Tate, and Violet wanted to help him.

Still, Tate had to answer for his crimes at some point. We’re talking about a guy, who murdered a group of innoncet high school kids, he murdered an innoncet Chad and Patrick, he burned Larry Harvey, and he raped Vivien. Maybe he’s oblivious, maybe Tate has a few screws loose, or there’s a good chance Tate is a good person with a big heart, but he makes one too many catastrophic mistakes as a klutz. BUT Tate needs to serve some form of punishment for his crimes. You can only ask for so many free passes or mulligans, and Tate exhausted his supply of second chances a long time ago.

It’s all about Vivien’s birth and the fight to protect the twins from the evil forces at Murder House here. Birth packs a powerful emotional gut punch with the shock of Vivien’s death, and Violet’s decision to banish Tate from her life at the Murder House. Violet had to punish Tate, and Violet is the only person in the world, who loves Tate, so she made the tough choice to cut ties with him forever.

It’s a strong show before the finale, and you’ll see a handful of top notch performances from Taissa Farmiga, Connie Britton, Jessica Lange, Dylan McDermott, and Lily Rabe. And a big thumbs up for Zachary Quinto. It’s easy to forget about him in American Horror Story’s first season for a few reasons. Chad and Patrick are limited to sporadic appearances, this season’s cast is loaded with talent, and Jessica Lange steals the show 90% of the time.

Quinto brings a consistent A game with his performances as Chad. Chad is this vindictive and sassy nuisance with a nasty mean streak, and he’s hell bent on destroying happy lives, because Chad loves to play the role of a spoiler. Chad is the one, who told Violet the truth about Tate, and in Halloween Part 1, Chad is the one, who made the subliminal suggestion for Vivien to check Ben’s phone bill for calls from Hayden.

The tension for “who’s going to steal the twins?” throughout this episode is unreal, because EVERYONE is a suspect (including Constance). Oh, and Moira (Frances Conroy) has a brief cameo here. She sheds a few tears at the sight of the new baby, but her screen time is too short for a significant impact on this episode.

If you’re looking for lots of blood and gore in this episode, you’ll be disappointed. Birth takes a restrained approach to the extreme stuff. It’s a wistful and touching show, and the final scene is a good example for Birth’s somber tone. After Violet banishes Tate, a dead Vivien appears to console Violet with a hug. Violet is full of tears, and Violet tells Vivien she’s “sorry” Vivien lost the baby (the first twin). Vivien’s response? “But I didn’t lose my baby.”

Also, Birth takes some time to explore the relationship between Nora and Tate with the intro. Nora is the one, who taught Tate the “go away” trick, and as a child, Tate confided in Nora as his real mother. But Tate chose Violet over Nora in the end, and she eventually turned her back on him, but Tate tried to help Violet in her mission to protect Vivien.

And it doesn't last long, so if you blink, there's a good chance you'll miss it, but they show a brief glimpse of Thaddeus as The Infantata during the 1984 flashback. Thaddeus' pale and ghoulish complexion is genuinely creepy, but it's hard to feel any feelings of shock for The Infantata's debut first look, because The Infantata takes a backseat to a stack of prominent storylines (the birth of the twins, Violet working with Tate to stop Chad and others, the end of Violet and Tate's relationship, etc.) and Vivien's death.

There’s only one episode to go, and we have a lot of unanswered questions. What’s going to happen with Ben? Violet and Vivien are dead, and Hayden is determined to ruin his life, so Ben is all alone now. Will Ben raise the evil child with no help? Or will Ben leave the Murder House to start a new life by himself? What’s going to happen with the evil twin, who survived birth? Constance took the baby from Vivien and Ben to clean him off in the kitchen…but she never returned. Will Vivien confront Nora about the stillborn twin in the afterlife at Murder House? Deal or no deal,  that’s Vivien’s child, and you have to believe she’ll put up a fight for him.

Constance wants a grandchild, and you can’t forget about Hayden. She wants Vivien’s baby, but she’ll have to fight Constance for control, and Ben is the X factor, because Ben is the only reliable and logical choice for a parent. And you can’t ignore the elephant in the room with the Antichrist problem. For now, he’s a seemingly harmless baby, but what’s going to happen, when the second twin grows and develops?

Rating: 10/10

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Friday, May 2, 2014

American Horror Story- Murder House- Episode 10- Smoldering Children

**This post contains spoilers**

I know I said I would finish off Murder House in April, but some unexpected things changed in real life. Oddly enough, the changes kicked in after that post. lol. Nothing serious, just a lot of time consuming stuff, and I don't know how it happened, but this weird foot injury threw a monkey wrench in a lot of my plans.

Finishing Murder House is a day to day thing for the time being, and I'll try to wrap things up as quickly as possible, and I'll put the finishing touches on this review series with my final overall thoughts in a separate post. Now let's get to the review!

Synopsis: In 1994, Constance (Jessica Lange) returns to the Murder House with her son, Tate (Evan Peters) and her daughter, Addie (Jaime Brewer) to start a new life with Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare). Larry had plans to leave his wife, Lorraine (Rebecca Wisocky) and their two daughters, Margaret and Angela, but an enraged Lorraine committed suicide by locking herself in a room upstairs, and Lorraine started a fire to kill herself and the girls.

Larry refused to ignore his obsession and never-ending love for Constance. One night, Larry and Constance celebrate the return to the Murder House and their new union as a family with a grand dinner and a honey roasted ham as the centerpiece, but Tate breaks his silence before the dinner. Tate isn’t buying Larry’s nice guy act, and he’s disgusted with Larry and Constance’s relationship as lovers. Tate knows Larry murdered Beau (Sam Kinsey) under Constance’s orders, and Tate scolds his mother, because he will never be Constance’s “perfect son.”

One morning, Tate prepares for the shooting at Westfield High School with cocaine and an array of guns. But Tate surprises Larry at his job with a can of gasoline and a match before the shooting. A befuddled Larry temporarily ignores Tate to finish his work. Tate takes advantage of Larry’s defenseless position, and without hesitation, Tate dumps the can of gasoline on Larry, and Tate uses a lit match to burn Larry in his office. After the attack on Larry, Tate casually walks away to complete his mission.

In the present, Detective Granger (Charles S. Dutton) and Detective Barrios (Malaya Rivera Drew) surprise Constance with a visit at her house. Granger and Barrios show Constance the grisly pictures for Travis’ (Michael Graziadei) mangled corpse. After his death, Travis is labeled the “Boy Dahlia,” and Travis accomplishes his goals for success with posthumous fame.

But a heartbroken Constance doesn’t care about headlines and news reports. Constance immediately suspects Larry as the culprit for Travis’ murder. Constance believes Larry murdered Travis out of jealously, but Larry tells Constance the truth: Larry moved the body out of the Murder House, but he didn’t kill Travis.

Constance is stuck in a seemingly inescapable dilemma, because Granger and Barrios suspect Constance as the murderer after a talk with the local shopkeep, and Constance drops her unregistered gun in front of the detectives. They need a face for the popular Boy Dahlia case, and Constance is the perfect fit to complete an infamous story about a crime of passion and betrayal.

Meanwhile, Ben (Dylan McDermott) visits Vivien (Connie Britton) in the asylum. Ben tells a devastated Vivien the truth about her pregnancy: Ben is not the father of both twins, and the Rubber Man is the second father. Ben believes Vivien’s story about the rape, and Ben promises to fight for Vivien’s release, but Vivien refuses to take one step inside the house after her release. Ben supports a fragile Vivien, and Ben won’t stop until he uncovers the identity of the Rubber Man.

At the house, a cop visits Ben with an unsettling report about Violet (Taissa Farmiga): After sixteen consecutive absences at school, Ben is one absence away from a trip to juvenile court. Ben tries to help Violet during a self-imposed exile inside her room, but Ben runs into another problem with an unexpected infestation of flies.

Ben scouts boarding schools for Violet’s fresh start. Tate is terrified at the thought of losing Violet forever, so Tate reawakens his alter ego as the Rubber Man to stop Ben’s plans for relocating Violet………

Review:  “Let it go, Larry! She doesn’t love you!”

I almost stood up and shouted every word above during this episode. It’s obvious Larry will do ANYTHING to capture Constance’s heart, but Constance doesn’t share Larry’s feelings. Need proof? There’s a scene, where Constance surprises Larry at his apartment to confront Larry about Travis’ murder. Larry throws himself at Constance with another “I love you” speech, but Constance responds with “that’s your problem.”

It’s funny, because towards the beginning of the season, I wanted to feel some sympathy for Larry. After all, here’s another guy, who succumbed to the evil forces at the Murder House, and the evil forces forced Larry to burn his family alive. But any feelings of sympathy for Larry disappear, when the truth behind Larry’s lies are exposed. For starters, Larry wasn’t a victim of a fire. Tate set Larry on fire. On top of that, we’re talking about a guy, who willingly kicked his wife and two daughters to the curb for Constance.

The relationship between Constance and Larry? Well, there is no real relationship. A delusional Larry believes in a happy relationship with Constance, but Constance is just using Larry, and he’s a doormat for Constance to wipe her feet on. She used Larry to murder Beau, and she used him to move into the Murder House again after the fire.

Towards the end, Larry visits the Murder House to hide Travis’ belongings. At the house, Larry runs into Lorraine, Margaret, and Angela. Margaret and Angela are playing tea time with Travis, and Larry promises vengeance on Constance for ruining his family. But Lorraine isn’t buying  into Larry’s pleas for forgiveness. Lorraine reminds Larry he’s the one, who willingly turned his back on the family, and Larry made a willing choice to start an affair with Constance. Larry begs and begs for a second chance, so Lorraine issues an ultimatum. You want forgiveness? You want to show me and our daughters you’re really sorry for what you did? Okay, “prove it.”

Larry’s solution to his problems? Larry takes the blame for Constance, and he confesses to the murders for his punishment. That’s right. Larry kills two birds with one stone with his confession. Larry clears Constance’s name, because Granger and Barrios were determined to pin the murder on her no matter what. And with the jail sentence, Larry can serve his time for abandoning Lorraine and the kids.

But it’s not over yet. As a prisoner, Larry requests one last visit from Constance before a transfer to Illinois to serve the rest of his sentence. The sight of Constance isn’t enough, because Larry wants Constance to tell him he loves her. He doesn’t care if it’s the truth or a lie. Larry wants to hear the words “I love you” out of Constance’s mouth. Larry puts his hand on the window, waiting for a response from Constance. Constance touches Larry’s hand from the other side…..but she pulls away at the last second, and an ungrateful and cruel Constance walks away from the visit, leaving Larry all by himself with no comfort.

Larry was more than willing to live a lie in his own fantasy world, but Constance wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. Larry needed Constance’s lies for comfort during a lonely life sentence, but Constance flipped one more proverbial middle finger to Larry in the end. Yeah, Constance is ruthless and nasty, but I’ll say this again, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for Larry, because he’s too gullible and foolish. Fool me once? Shame on you. Fool me twice? Shame on me, and if you sucker me or stab me in the back after that, then I’m just an idiot for not learning my lesson.

So what’s going with Violet? She’s missing school, she locked herself in her room, and Ben has plans for a non-negotiable trip to a boarding school. Violet promises Ben one more shot at public school, but Tate stops Violet before her departure one day. Tate convinces Violet to agree to a suicide pact, but Violet backs out at the last second. Violet tries to run…..but she can’t leave the house, and you know what that means. Violet is dead (remember, if you die at the Murder House, you’re stuck on the property forever).

Remember Violet’s failed suicide attempt in “Piggy Piggy”? Well, Violet swallowed too many pills, and unfortunately, Violet succeeded in her attempt at suicide. After her death, Tate hid Violet’s rotting corpse in a crawlspace to spare Violet the shock and all the pain from dying , and Violet’s dead body is the magnet for the flies. Oh, and Tate murdered the exterminator after he discovered Violet’s body, because Tate was trying to guard the secret from Violet.

Violet is dead, and Ben is on a mission to catch the Rubber Man, but the Rubber Man surprises and attacks Ben after a shower. During the fight, Ben pulls off the mask to see Tate’s face, but Tate incapacitates Ben with a beating and a rag with chloroform.

For now, Violet confides in Tate as her only companion in the afterlife at the Murder House, BUT Violet doesn’t know about Tate’s alter ego as the Rubber Man, and she doesn’t know Tate is the one, who raped Vivien, and Tate is the father for one of Vivien‘s twins.  And what about Ben? Will he retaliate for Tate attacking Vivien? Or will Ben ignore Tate for the time being to focus on Vivien? For the first time in a long time, you get the feeling Ben and Vivien are on the same page. They’re focused on the twins, and moving out of the Murder House at all costs, but the evil forces (Chad, Patrick, Teddy, Hayden, Nora, etc.) are determined to sabotage Vivien’s plans for a clean escape with the twins.

It’s hard to say anything meaningful about Malaya Rivera Drew and Charles S. Dutton. They’re pursuing Constance, but in the grand scheme of things, they’re stuck in bit parts, because they’re taking a backseat to Constance, Larry, Ben, Violet, and Tate. 

Murder House closes another chapter with Constance and Larry’s story, and any man, who crosses Constance Langdon learns a hard and lasting life lesson. Remember Hugo? Constance refused to bury Hugo with his “lover” (young Moira, Alexandra Breckenridge), so Constance chopped Hugo into pieces, and Constance served the pieces of Hugo’s body to a pack of dogs as a meal, because Hugo was as worthless as “dogs***.” Also, the gruesome flashback with Constance feeding a dismembered Hugo to the dogs? Nasty stuff.

Smoldering Children is a progressive and satisfying episode, and they tie up a lot of loose ends with Travis, Constance, and Larry here. We’re only one episode away from the finale, they’re moving the pieces in a big puzzle to set up the finish, and we’re still in the pins and needles stage, because you don’t know what’s going to happen with Vivien, the twins, and Ben. Will they allow a delivery for the twins at the Murder House?  Will they have a choice? What happens if they run out of time for a safe delivery? And what’s going to happen, when Violet explains the complications attached to her death? 

Rating: 8/10

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