TV criticism, news and views at Sketchy Details

Nerd Adjacent: New Genre Shows for Jamie Lee Curtis and Billie Piper

jamieleecurtis Nerd Adjacent: New Genre Shows for Jamie Lee Curtis and Billie PiperDon’t you just love it when well-loved genre actors have new shows created for them? Two fan favorites are coming back to TV in new genre shows that should showcase what they do best with a new spin.

Jamie Lee Curtis, arguably the quintessential scream queen, will be leading a new show for ABC Family tentatively called The Final Girls. It’s an original horror series where Curtis will play a mentor to young women who have gone through horrific acts of violence. She trains them to make a positive change in the world after the evil they endured.

Curtis’ character is described as mysterious, meaning the character probably hides what, exactly, transformed her. The Halloween series forces you to remember at every turn that Laurie is THE Laurie and almost defines her by her adversity. Having the know-how but not the baggage will be an interesting spin on the character type.

Face Off 5.05: Dear Mom

faceoff5.05rj 200x300 Face Off 5.05: Dear Mom

RJ [click for full]

This week on Face Off, the 11 remaining contestants were tasked with creating original mother earth goddesses. They were also supposed to draw inspiration from their own mothers in the design, but very few people actually took that approach.

You already saw what I would do on the show with this challenge–the first time I would actually do that design concept for a makeup with Sketchy Details @Home. Now let’s take a look at what the actual contestants did.

Do we need to talk about RJ? He was the clear loser. Not only did he not actually complete the challenge (no mother earth goddess in the design), he did a bad makeup. The colors were terrible. Even if you buy the kitsch approach, this was the challenge to do a beauty makeup and RJ went full-Halloween mask. I’ll miss him since I loved his aesthetic. He just let his own experience on the show get in his way.

Sketchy Details @Home #5: Down to Earth

This week on Sketchy Details @Home, we’re responding to episode 5.5 of Face Off. The contestants had to create an original earth goddess/Mother Earth character pulling in inspiration from their mother. Most chose to ignore the second set of instructions, so I did, as well.

Watch the episode, then click through for all the behind the scenes gossip.

Face Off 5.04: Under the Crust

faceoff5.04challenge Face Off 5.04: Under the CrustThis week on Face Off, the 12 remaining makeup artists finally competed in their first solo Spotlight Challenge. They had to create original underground monster/prisoners inspired by random things in randomly assigned underground rooms. I already explained my problems with the design of the challenge in the new Sketchy Details @Home episode, so let’s get right to the makeup.

This wasn’t a hit or miss challenge; this was a hit, miss, or muddy the waters with odd choices challenge. The contestants mostly seemed as lost as I was watching the show. A lot of the designs were just weird and not in a good way. It looked like a lot of Halloween masks walking across the stage, especially with the costuming.

The judges and I mostly saw eye to eye this week. Our top and bottom looks were the same. We just didn’t necessarily agree on the final ranking.

Sketchy Details @Home 4: Underground Horror

This week on Sketchy Details @Home, I pull inspiration from season 5, episode 4 of SyFy’s Face Off. The challenge was…strange. The contestants had to choose two random elements from a manufactured underground cave/jail system to create an original character that could live underground. It was never actually explained that way. They just kind of wandered off and started sketching. Then there were anatomy books and encyclopedias that were used for reference in the workshop that had nothing to do with the caves and they lost me for good.

I tried to think of a way to add the random element to this episode, but I wound up taking a new approach. I combined elements of the top 3 looks into an original character for my yard haunt. I also pulled heavy influence from the Oods on Doctor Who, my favorite creature design of the new series because Lovecraft, that’s why.

Watch the episode, then click through for the behind the scenes gossip.

Face Off 5.03: Mother Goose and All Her Friends

On season 5, episode 3 of Face Off, the 14 remaining makeup artists had two challenges that couldn’t be further apart from each other. I already covered the Foundation Challenge earlier today with the new episode of Sketchy Details @Home. In short, the contestants had to make original demons inspired by Insidious: Chapter 2, including a gender flip from male model to female demon.

The Spotlight Challenge was a new spin on one of the show’s mainstays: design makeup that won’t make children run away screaming. The contestants had to pair up and choose a Mother Goose nursery rhyme to bring to life. The result was supposed to be whimsical, not terrifying, and almost everyone had to redo their design after meeting with Michael and Mackenzie Westmore in the workroom. Worst of all, it would be a double elimination and the worst pair would go home.

This season, thanks to the veterans versus rookies twist, has a lot more horror-friendly artists than usual. Frank, Tate, Alana, Roy, and Laura all excel at darker makeup challenges. That’s not even counting the rookies who mostly cite iconic horror films as their point of inspiration or describe their style as dark, creepy, or scary. This group doing cute makeup could have been a disaster.

Sketchy Details @Home 3: Something Insidious

The third episode of Sketchy Details @Home is up and it’s a doozy. Inspired by Face Off Season 5 Episode 3, I took a nasty black velvet painting found at a yard sale and turned it into an original demon worthy of Insidious.

I mention it in the video but it bears repeating: the demon isn’t the draw of Insidious; the ghosts are. Like most of the contestants, I combined the ghost aesthetic with some unusual demon imagery and came out with something that made me very happy. This sucker is going to the centerpiece of the night club yard haunt green room, which the trick or treaters will pass through to get their candy.

Watch the video, then click through for all the behind the scenes gossip.

Face Off 5.02: It’s Alive

This week on Face Off, the remaining makeup artists were teamed up to create original futuristic Frankenstein’s Monster and Bride combinations for Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights.

You know this challenge was right up my alley for the new episode of Sketchy Details @Home. In four days, I did all of the pre-building and detail work (but not full assembly) on my Monster drummer and his beautiful Bride as the band logo for the night club. Once the E6000 glue dries on the Monster, I can drill holes in the back of the frame to run lights through, cover the inside of the shadowboxes with this really cool Halloween scrapbooking paper I picked up at Michaels, and attahch it to the black box that will function as the Monster’s body behind the drum kit.

Mary Lambert’s Same Love, or, The Only Thing You Need to Know about the 2013 VMAs

Here’s the only important topic of discussion from last night’s VMAs. Her name is Mary Lambert and this was her breakout moment.

marylambertvmas Mary Lamberts Same Love, or, The Only Thing You Need to Know about the 2013 VMAsIf you’ve heard the wonderful song “Same Love” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, you already know who Mary Lambert is. She wrote the chorus of that song in under two hours and recorded it. She’s a singer/songwriter and poet from Seattle

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis went onstage last night to perform “Same Love” live. When Lambert sang the first chorus, there was this brief moment of silence in the crowded Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It’s almost as if the audience didn’t expect the lovely young woman in the gold gown to be part of the performance.

Watch: Writers Cabin

What would happen if some of the most noted showrunners of our time were kidnapped and forced to collaborate on a brand new television series? This is the basis of Leigh Lahav’s latest animated video “Writers Cabin.” In 90 seconds, Lahav takes down everyone from Dan Harmon to Lena Dunham. The jokes are short and tight, zeroing in on a major trope in the writer/showrunner’s work or career and turning it on its head.

SyFy’s Heroes of Cosplay: Holding Out for a Hero (Or a Clue)

heroesofcosplayfun SyFys Heroes of Cosplay: Holding Out for a Hero (Or a Clue)

Play tunnels + foam = super fun cosplay

There are two minds of cosplay at conventions. The crowd I run with does it for fun. You choose a character you want to dress as all day, hang out with other fans, and do anything with photos or contests because it’s fun. So long as you aren’t hurting anyone or breaking the rules, you’re cool. Have fun.

The other thought is that you need to cosplay based on what you look like. Bigger people need to cosplay as bigger characters. A fat Superman is a distraction because it’s not accurate to the character and proves the cosplayer is clueless as to what their limitations are. These people will tell you to your face in front of a crowded show floor that your cosplay is bad and give you a bulleted of better characters or mistakes you’ve made with no shame.

The second episode of SyFy’s Heroes of Cosplay tackled this issue head on and it wasn’t pretty. Chloe Dykstra, host of Nerdist’s Just Cos, was invited to dinner with some award-winning cosplayers on the eve of her first contest. They looked on in horror a Chloe expressed that cosplay is something fun for everyone. If you want to dress as a character, dress as the character.

Face Off 5.1: What a Twist & Sketchy Details @Home

Face Off recaps are back at Sketchy Details and better than ever. Why? They’re multimedia now. I’ve spent three seasons telling you what I think of the contestants designs from the comfort of my computer screen. Now I’m going to show you.

Sketchy Details @Home is my new art/craft/pop culture vlog that launches with response videos to the new season of Face Off. Each week, I’m going to reinterpret the challenge on the show into something I can do on a similarly short time frame. Spoiler alert: a lot of the videos are going to be Halloween-related. I’m behind on my build and have too many characters to make to just sit back and put other projects up front.

I actually started the first project yesterday in anticipation of putting the episode up today. That meant I did not have enough time to create the full figure, only the head, and I’m very happy with how it turned out. I went with a faun since it fit in with the inspiration for my home haunt this year.

Second Annual Cinefessions Summer Screams Challenge – Sketchy Details’ List

Cinefessions is running their Summer Screams Challenge for a second year. Basically, you try to watch as many sci-fi and horror films/TV shows as you can in June. There are categories that you earn points for, theme weeks that give you extra points, and even bonus projects like series completion and reading books that earn bonus points. To participate, you have to create a list to check off you progress on a blog (like mine below) and contact Psymin/Branden by e-mail (psymin1[at]yahoo[dot]com), on Twitter, or with a link in the comments at the Cinefessions announcement page.

Last year, I managed to take 3rd place by cramming a mind-numbing amount of horror into the last week. Can I actually win the contest if I watch eligible films and TV shows every day? I plan to find out.

Feature films are 1 point. Half hour TV shows are 0.5 points. Short films totaling one hour are 1 point. Double points for matching the theme week. 1 point per line. Year in color designates theme week.


Week 1: Sci-Fi/Horror (1-9 June)
Week 2: Disasters (10-16 June)
Week 3: 1970s and 1980s (17-23 June)
Week 4: Found Footage (24-30 June)

  1. Trinity Blood Ep. 1 & 2 (TV, 2005) IMDB
  2. Trinity Blood Ep. 3 & 4 (TV, 2005) IMDB
  3. Cube (Film, 1997) IMDB
  4. Trinity Blood Ep. 5 & 6 (TV, 2005) IMDB
  5. Trinity Blood Ep. 7 & 8 (TV, 2005) IMDB
  6. Re-Animator (Film, 1985) IMDB
  7. The Purge (Film, 2013) IMDB
  8. Trinity Blood Ep. 9 & 10 (TV, 2005) IMDB
  9. Trinity Blood Ep. 11 & 12 (TV, 2005) IMDB
  10. Trinity Blood Ep. 13 & 14 (TV, 2005) IMDB
  11. Trinity Blood Ep. 15 & 16 (TV, 2005) IMDB
  12. This Is the End (Film, 2013) IMDB
  13. Frailty (Film, 2002) IMDB
  14. Is This a Zombie? Ep. 1 & 2 (TV, 2011) IMDB
  15. Friday the 13th (Film, 1980) IMDB
  16. Friday the 13th Part 2 (Film, 1981) IMDB
  17. Friday the 13th Part III (Film, 1982) IMDB
  18. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (Film, 1984) IMDB
  19. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (Film, 1985) IMDB
  20. Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (Film, 1986) IMDB
  21. Equilibrium (2002) IMDB
  22. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) IMDB
  23. Titan A.E. (2000) IMDB
  24. Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997) IMDB
  25. Halloween (1978) IMDB
  26. Santa Sangre (1989) IMDB
  27. The Fly (1986) IMDB
  28. Escape from L.A. (1996) IMDB
  29. The Blob (1958) IMDB
  30. The Theatre Bizarre (2011) IMDB
  31. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970) IMDB
  32. The City of the Dead (1961) IMDB
  33. Jigoku (1960) IMDB
  34. An American Haunting (2005) IMDB
  35. American Grindhouse (2009) IMDB
  36. The Mystery of the Marie Celeste (1935) IMDB
  37. The Howling: Reborn (2011) IMDB
  38. May (2002) IMDB
  39. The Initiaion (1984) IMDB
  40. The Moth Diaries (2011) IMDB
  41. Far Cry (2008) IMDB
  42. Frogs (1972) IMDB
  43. Paranorman (2012) IMDB
  44. Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait (2007) IMDB
  45. Origin: Spirits of the Past (2006) IMDB
  46. The ABCs of Death (2012) IMDB
  47. Elfen Lied Ep. 1 & 2 (2004) IMDB
  48. Elfen Lied Ep. 3 & 4 (2004) IMDB


Watch a sci-fi or horror film from each specific sub-genre:
X Cyberpunk Film (Equilibrium, 2002)
X Dystopian Film (This Is the End, 2013)
X Italian Giallo Film (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, 1970)
X Psychological Horror (Cube, 1997)
X Slasher Film (The Initiation, 1984)
X Space Opera (Titan A.E., 2000)
X Splatter Film/Gore Film/Torture Porn (Jigoku, 1960)
X Supernatural Horror/Ghost Film (Frailty, 2002)
X Vampire Film (The Moth Diaries, 2011)
X Zombie Film (Re-Animator, 1985)

Watch a sci-fi or horror film that stars one of the following actors:
X Bruce Campbell (Escape from L.A., 1996)
X Christopher Lee (The City of the Dead, 1961)
X Sigourney Weaver (Snow White: A Tale of Terror, 1997)
X Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, 1978)
X Michelle Rodriguez or Donald Sutherland (An American Haunting, 2005)

Watch a sci-fi or horror film that fits into the following categories:
X Watch a Documentary (American Grindhouse, 2009)
X Watch a Hammer Horror Film (The Mystery of the Marie Celeste, 1935)
X Watch/Listen to a Film’s Commentary Track (May, 2002)
X Watch a Film that is on Scott Weinberg’s Top 100 Sci-Fi Films List (The Fly, 1986)
X Watch a Film Directed by Uwe Boll, Ed Wood or Herschell Gordon Lewis (Far Cry, 2008)
X Watch a Film that Contains a Killer Animal (Frogs, 1972)
X Watch a Film that Contains an Evil Doll/Puppet (The Theatre Bizarre, 2011)
X Watch a Film that is Currently in the Criterion Collection (The Blob, 1958)
X Watch a Film that is on Roger Ebert’s Great Movies List (Santa Sangre, 1989)
X Watch a Film in 3D, or One Originally Released in 3D (Paranorman, 2012)
X Watch a Film on the BFI 100 European Horror Films List (Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, 1970)
X Watch a Foreign Film with Subtitles (Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait, 2007)
X Watch an Animated Film (Origin: Spirit of the Past, 2006)
X Watch an Anthology Film (The ABCs of Death, 2012)
X Watch a Remake or a Reboot (The Howling: Reborn, 2011)

Optional (for an additional 15 bonus points):
X Complete a Horror or Sci-Fi Film Series with at Least Six (6) Entries

  1. Film One (Friday the 13th, 1980)
  2. Film Two (Friday the 13th Part 2, 1981)
  3. Film Three (Friday the 13th Part III, 1982)
  4. Film Four (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, 1984)
  5. Film Five (Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, 1985)
  6. Film Six (Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI, 1986)

X Watch a Movie in Theatres (The Purge, 2013)
X Read a Book Based On, or Inspired By a Horror or Sci-Fi Film, or a Book About the Horror or Sci-Fi Genres (Fear Without Frontiers, Steven Jay Schneider)

Viewing Points: 65

The Checklist: 30/30

Optional: 3/3

Total Points: 110

The Staying Power of Yugioh

When I first heard about Yugioh in the 90s, I thought it was a ridiculous concept. It seemed like the worst kind of commercialism. It pandered to children. It was an anime and manga series designed to promote a real life card game and toy series. I can be very cynical and I immediately dismissed the entire franchise on face value.

Then I saw some people playing the card game at my school and it caught my interest. I headed over to the local toy store, picked up the Pegasus and Yugi starter decks for my brother and me, and forced him to play the game. It was pretty darn clever. The game played a lot faster than Magic the Gathering and featured a huge variety of characters from the start. Each new set expanded the possible playable characters rather than just strengthening what was already available. It was, and still is, a pretty novel approach to building a trading card game.

yugiohyugiyami The Staying Power of Yugioh

Yami and Yugi team up through the power of the Millenium Puzzle

From there, I backtracked to reruns of the anime series (the 2000 version is the one that was released in the US; the 1998 version did not get broadcast here) on Saturday morning. I kind of fell hard for the show. Yugioh, in the initial manga and anime run (counting the 1998 version, as well), played heavily on Egyptian mythology. The main character, Yugi Moto, becomes possessed by the spirit of a pharaoh after solving the Millenium Puzzle, an artifact from his reign in Egypt. The pharaoh, Yami Yugi, takes over Yugi Moto’s body whenever he plays any of the modern adaptations of the ancient shadow games.

This actually puts the games in their original dangerous context. Unsurprisingly, 4Kidz–the US anime distributor that lost all of their licenses after butchering One Piece–sanitized the show beyond recognition. If you lose a match in the shadow realm, you die. Period. Your soul is trapped in the shadow realm with only a slight chance that you can be resurrected. 4Kidz said you were asleep and removed all of the menacing violence from the show.

Beyond the violence, Yugioh had a surprising amount of depth in its original run. The Egyptian mythology is only one level. There’s an interesting play on psychology with the relationship between Yugi Moto and Yami Yugi. It’s not a coincidence that they share a name; Yugi Moto has to use Yami Yugi to become a self-actualized person and a championship game player. The lessons he learns from Yami allow him to function in the world. There’s also commentary on international relations, gender politics, science v. religion, and a whole slew of other subjects. You just wouldn’t recognize it in the 4Kidz release.

yugioh5ds The Staying Power of Yugioh

High tech duels on fast bikes in Yugioh 5D’s

The series has rebooted itself three times already. The first, GX, reset an almost identical story in a dueling school. Some of the most powerful TCG cards got their start in this run but the substance was lacking. 5D’s went heavy on the sci-fi with high tech motorbike racing and a lot of Western genre tropes stacked together in interesting combinations. Zexal reinvented the series with another intriguing concept, focusing on the lives of the characters in the cards before they became part of the game.

Somehow, Yugioh has managed to stay in the public eye for 17 years in Japan (about 14 in the US) and it’s more popular now than it’s ever been. Even if the anime and manga aren’t selling as briskly, the TCG has grown bigger than you can imagine. The game is popular enough to have multiple leagues–Dragon Duels for children under 12, Hobby League for casual play, Yugioh Championship Series for the competitive players–and many play styles. New sets are released four times a year with various specialty sets in between. The eligible pool of cards is adjusted every few months to re-balance the game among all the available cards.

Even with the high cost of remaining competitive, Yugioh keeps growing. It’s not unheard of to spend hundreds of dollars on a deck to be competitive at the large YCS tournaments. The TCG sets are released a few months after the Japanese OCG sets, allowing US players to plot their new strategies and drive up demand (and prices) before the cards are even available here.

Around 2008 or so, Konami (the current card game developers) began revisiting old archetypes from the original run of Yugioh. They turned under-used characters like Ninjas and Six Samurais into YCS-winning mainstays with just a few cards. They’re constantly looking back on the history of the game to play on nostalgia and change the meta–the much argued about rankings of decks and viable cards in the competitive scene. A new set introduced a few cards that could make Harpies, one of the oldest game archetypes, into a championship deck for the first time.

Well, tournament-winning deck for someone not named Robert Gannon. When I do play, I play my own spin on Harpies and my deck has been largely unchanged since 2003. I’m flexible enough to adjust the strategy on the fly to deal with deck the archetype is weak against and practiced enough to honestly say I lose more by my own mistakes than to an opponent’s strategy.

yugiohharpie The Staying Power of Yugioh

Harpie Ladies spawn and power up really fast once you lock the field

The most compelling part of Yugioh for me is the diversity. There is so much variety in the game that everyone can find a strategy that suits them. I’m a control freak who likes to lock down the field and power up in any TCG I play. Harpies have let me do that for about a decade. Other people like to go for one turn kills or massive combos that end the game quickly. Still others really go out there, aiming for victory conditions like deck outs (where your opponent no longer has any cards to draw) or winning on a tie breaker (if a match is not finished in 40 minutes, everything is decided in 3 turns). You can be inspired by type, combos, archetype, special summoning, spells, traps, or the minutia of the rules. How you play is up to you and every style of play can win with the right player.

This is where the staying power comes in. Konami keeps the game fresh with new cards and basically a new legal playset every few months. Players adjust to the meta, swapping in key cards or finding new territory to explore. Sometimes you succeed and sometimes you fail. You don’t know unless you play and you don’t play this game unless you’re really interested in it. Children compete against adults on a pretty level playing field. The rules are simple but the combinations and strategies are very open-ended and rely a lot on the luck of the draw.

14 years ago, I would have never imagined calling myself a fan of Yugioh, let alone a Yugioh player. I am. I don’t get to compete as much a I’d like to because of the cost of entry, but I find a way. This post was initially going to cover the YCS event in the Meadowlands, NJ two weeks ago. It’s literally down the street from me. I wound up getting caught up with work and pulling out. I wish I could have made it since my deck runs very well against the deck style that dominated the Top 32 final rounds.

One thing I know for sure is that, for the foreseeable future, there will always be another tournament to go to. Even if it’s at my local card shop or in the backroom of a convention, I’ll be able to pull out my deck and roll to see who goes first. A lot of TCGs have come and gone since Yugioh made its international debut (I miss you, Kingdom Hearts). Yugioh just happens to be the one that stuck well enough to break the world record for most TCG cards sold.

Thoughts on Yugioh? Share them below.