TV Binge: Sugar Rush (Season 2, 2019)

Check out the 1st Season of Sugar Rush review HERE.

Sugar Rush (Season 2, 2019)

sugar rush

Host: Hunter March
Judges: Candace Nelson & Adriano Zumbo

A baking competition with 4 teams, 3 rounds, 2 cakes and 1 winner of $10,000. – IMDB

Season 2 of Sugar Rush is here. With a quick 50 mins episode length and 6 episodes for the whole season, Sugar Rush is the perfect type of TV binge. It can be done in a day if you don’t have any other things planned or to do . Just like the previous season and the very on point synopsis on IMDB for the show, this is a professional baking competition which starts with 4 teams who compete in elimination format in 3 rounds to become the final winner of $10,000. Who makes the decision is between the two judges and the guest judge who may or may not be baking saavy but they are eating saavy (meaning they know how to eat and that’s really what is important here since baked goods isn’t only for expert tasting but for normal people too). Some examples of guests this season are Nick and Vanessa Lachey as well as Jacques Torres.

For those who haven’t seen Season 1, here’s a quick little rundown of how the competition is structured. There are 3 rounds to the competition. The first 2 rounds is cupcakes and confections respectively to be completed within 3 hours. Whatever time you save from those three hours adds on to the final cake round which also has 3 hours. The topics for each round is announced as you complete the previous round after the judges taste. The only trick here is that elimination of one team happens after each round as well. What changes in season 2 is two elements. The first is more relevant to the competition structure and that is all round 3 keep going. When Round 2 finishes, the final round topic is given as well as 3 additional hours. In that sense, the clock never stops making it embrace that time element much better and gives less down time where the other team doesn’t stand around waiting for their time to start like in Season 1. The second element is that the judges now all stay in the room while the competition is going on and does commentating which is great compared to the first season where they would leave and come back at the tail end. These little things keeps the process of the competition more engaging.

Other than one or two odd guest choices, Sugar Rush really does a good job in keeping up with the hype of the first season and polishing the structure and concept behind it which works better this time around. It had 2 less episodes from the previous season so its a quick one to binge through. The themes here also are pretty fun from starting with current popular baking trends to more thematic ones like science and love, they choose guests that match their theme while also having focus on both technique and visual appeal. Hopefully, Sugar Rush gets a Season 3 because I’d be down for it.

 

Advertisements

TV Binge: On My Block (Season 2, 2019)

You can find the first season HERE.

***If you haven’t watched the first season and intend to, spoiler alert!!!***

On My Block (Season 2, 2019)

On My Block s2

Creators: Eddie Gonzalez, Jeremy Haft, Lauren Iungerich

Cast: Sierra Capri, Brett Gray, Diego Tinoco, Jason Genao, Jessica Marie Garcia, Peggy Blow, Julio Macias, Danny Ramirez, Paula Garcés, Lisa Marcos, Reggie Austin

A coming-of-age story about four bright, street-savvy friends navigating their way through high school in the gritty inner city of South Central Los Angeles. Dealing with the danger of getting their friend out of a gang and friends turning into romance, danger is constant. – IMDB

Picking up after a cliffhanger ending in Season 1, Season 2 of On My Block resumes in the aftermath of the shooting that went on at Olivia’s Quincinera party. Suffice to say that On My Block lost one of the characters. The second season of On My Block is much more serious than the first one. It is about healing and picking up the pieces for everyone whether physically and mentally. Some like Monse (Sierra Capri) is trying to hold the group together as they all heal from the trauma; Ruben (Jason Genao) is healing physically and mentally in dealing with the event and losing someone he loves; Cesar (Diego Tinoco) is healing from guilt and the fact that he is dead to his brother (Julio Macias) and have no home while Jamal (Brett Gray), in his nervous personality, is stressing out how to share the news of finding the RollerWorld money and then, as a group, how to wash the money so they can now split it among the friends and use it.

On My Block

The second season of On My Block takes a shift in tone. While it still keeps the essence of each of these characters, the events of the first season has changed them. However, its a good thing because it was an inevitable stage of development that each of the characters needed to go through. In reality, its easy to see how each of their change makes sense. Each of them have their own burdens and have their own story. What  makes this season very bingeworthy is the fact that the show remembers to zoom into how certain relationships (friendship, love, bromance) is emphasized on further because its hard to not find that one person that is there or understands more than the next. The group is still a unit and they find their way back to each other all the time one way or another. Its that extra focus that adds a lot of depth to each of these characters.

The strength of the show is in how it treats each of these 4 young characters and Sierra Capri, Diego Tinoco, Jason Genao and Brett Gray bring them to life exceptionally. They give them each of their unique characteristics and they are characters that we want to see survive through all the difficult situations and choices they need to make. However, what makes them beautiful is that they remember that these are still teenagers and still give them some shenanigans that make them reflect their age and lack of experience in the real world. What makes it also very special is that its hard to tell who does a better job because as much as the story seems to focus on Cesar’s carryforward situation and he goes through possibly some of the biggest struggles here, his situation affects Monse’s decisions also while she struggles with her personal choices. At the same time, we can ignore that Ruben is also going through a lot and he has a whirlwind of situation as he tries to heal and move on which is much more inner process and we can’t forget Jamal, who doesn’t seem to be grounded in the other struggles but as the one that creates a lot of the comedic moments, has his share of glue that brings together the group because of these things that don’t feel as important.

On My Block

While the story remains strongly focused on these four friends, this season gives a lot more room for other supporting characters. The first season spent a lot of time for Olivia (who we now know is not part of the show) and Ruben’s grandmother played by Peggy Blow, who still has a focus and remains one of the most entertaining characters of the show. What did get a lot of attention this time and that gave her a new angle is Jasmine, played by Jessica Marie Garcia. There is a lot of potential for this character to grow because we’ve only seen one side of her in the first season and this season, she is given a whole new area to develop as she finds her bond in Ruben as she has a more positive outlook and happiness to her character that we see is one of her unique traits and makes her have something to teach these four as well. Other than that, we also see some more of the family members as they get extended appearances from Ruben’s mom to Monse’s father and of course, carrying from the first season, Cesar’s brother.

Overall, On My Block might not be quite the light and fun bingeworthy season that the first season one as its heavier in its themes. However, what makes it still be as great as the first one is that it takes the step to give these characters a lot of depth and growth from the things they have gone through and create bonds between each of them. I didn’t mention a lot of the bonds but a few fun ones do pop up and they also give the series a nice change in pace. If you have been watching this series, Season 2 will not disappoint and it’ll leave you looking forward to (hopefully) Season 3 (as I am right now..and waiting for the new that there will be one).

TV Binge: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 3, 2019)

You can find the previous season TV Binges post below:

Season 1
Season 2

A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 3, 2019)

a series of unfortunate events

Cast: Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, Presley Smith, K. Todd Freeman, Lucy Punch, Dylan Kingwell, Allison Williams, Kitana Turnbull, Max Greenfield

After the loss of their parents in a mysterious fire, the three Baudelaire children face trials and tribulations attempting to uncover dark family secrets. – IMDB

The third and final season of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events has now progressed to be the most dark of the three seasons. Rightfully so because the books also get quite dark in the last 4 stories. Its adapted well to the novels in a similar timeline. As with the previous few seasons, small changes have been made in each story but essentially to work up to an ending which feels much more exact than the one presented in the novels. Whether that is a good or bad thing is truly up for debate at this point based on your preference.  It keeps up with the vocabulary focus and the educational element and the clever puns used as well as keeping our narrator by Patrick Warburton ever so interesting and quirky to watch.

A series of unfortunate events s3

The final season takes us for some dangerous rides through some odd locations as the Baudelaires now approach the whereabouts of VFD and what it is about. While previous seasons have been quite dangerous already, this one definitely takes a turn as all the characters: the Baudelaires and Count Olaf and his crew all have a decent amount of development. Its been a long time waiting to see how his minions play in the story because they have only been supporting characters at this point. As the story winds together, its good to see that the final season takes into account all these characters and gives them some resolution and ending, making sure that they were not disposable and had a key part (whether small or big) to the entire story. What works even better is how it makes sure to now pull in why Lemony Snicket decided to do all this and while we’ve already seen Jacques Snicket, here the mystery unravels further. All this works to round out what has already been presented as over the last 2 seasons, there has been a lot of questions and so few answers. The writing and storytelling has always been the strength of the show and it maintains it here.

a series of unfortunate events s3

Moving on to the characters, The Baudelaires have all grown comfortably into their roles, whether it is Malina Weissman or Louis Hynes as they are the older kids who pass their characters’ birthday during this and the last season giving us a perspective of time for the series especially for the maturity and development of their characters, Violet and Klaus respectively. This story giving them somewhat of a love angle as well, inevitable with the amount of people that they do end up meeting along this series of unfortunate events. However, nothing quite beats having a much more understandable Sunny who is still a toddler but now we can get a good idea that she has some great linguistic skills as if you read the subtitles and whatnot, its another languages version in some cases (or maybe I’m hearing things). With that said, Count Olaf has had the darker development as each season progressed and in this season, he is the smartest that we have seen him and we start seeing his own motives which are more than just for the money. On top of that, as we would expect, some new characters appear and they include Kit Snicket (Allison Williams), the Denouement Brothers (Max Greenfield) as well a lot of familiar faces reappearing as well.

The third and final season of A Series of Unfortunate Events does a great job at wrapping up the series. It makes some choices especially in the ending that might not sit well with some people however, I thought it was pretty clever to add their own twist. Plus, its nice to see that they thought about all the characters that came into the Baudelaires lives that mattered and did a little mention for them.

TV Binge: Sugar Rush (Season 1, 2018)

Sugar Rush (Season 1, 2018)

sugar rush

Host: Hunter March
Judges: Candace Nelson & Adriano Zumbo

A baking competition with 4 teams, 3 rounds, 2 cakes and 1 winner of $10,000. – IMDB

Netflix seems to be having all those cooking shows covered with it having focus on chef’s via Chef’s Table (review), food culture documentary with Ugly Delicious, then amateur baking competition with Nailed It! (review) and professional cooking global competition with The Final Table (review) and during the summer, it covered some professional baking competition with Sugar Rush.

This show is all about time being the biggest factor where the first two rounds done in a quick way will save up time to add to the final round for the cake round. The setup goes as such where 4 teams of two start the competition. The judges give the first two rounds theme and requirements at the beginning over a 3 hour cooking time. The first is a cupcake, the second is a confection. When all four teams have completed the cupcake, the judges deliberate on who gets eliminated while the teams make the confections. After the confection round, the judges share who gets eliminated and the final two teams hear the theme of their cake round as well as how much total time they have. The team with more time starts first whereas the second team watches and waits for their cue to start.

Looking at the structure of Sugar Rush, it sure seems like a brutal feeling for the teams especially in the first two rounds. Mostly because sometimes a team can be fast and be almost even done their confection but then be eliminated. Its quite sad to see but then the teams all do show a great deal of creativity and skills and that is best showed off in a restrained time frame. It is about finding a balance and weighing the risks with each creation. For that, the structure is solid and possibly one of the competitions that I don’t have many issues in that regards as it feels engaging to watch especially with time as the element which, bar a few baking technical issues, the teams fate was related to their own ambitiousness and how much time they had left.

If we look at the judges and the host along with its guests throughout the eight episodes in the first season, they have quite a few known names. Probably not related to baking directly but more “everyday” people instead of the judges who are experts in their own fields whether in baking or cupcakes or confections or sweets in general. Of course, “everyday” because who would call Betsy Johnson an everyday person, right? Just a quick example. However, it adds this normalcy to the show making it focusing not only on the taste but also the creativity behind the projects feeling like there is this well-rounded look at each baking creation. Candace Nelson and Adriano Zumbo also complement each other well enough. At the same time, I personally thought Hunter March did a great job at being an energetic and dynamic host for the show. I went away remembering the unique way he emphasized “ten thousand dollars” so that was really fun.

Overall, Sugar Rush is a fun baking competition. There are some great pieces made here. These are professional bakers with most of them having their own business or working in the industry one way or another. The judges are experts in their fields whereas the guests are also quite good with their critiques and comments and had a good mix of being part of the industry and some more celebrity and different fields. Its a nice balance of each human element. In terms of structure, it truly embraces the time element being its biggest factor and keeps that in mind. Time also adds this nerve wracking element to any competition as its always present but this one also gives a bit of control to how much time is saved in the hands of its competitors which is a nice twist.

Definitely looking forward to a second season of Sugar Rush and hoping it happens although I don’t recall seeing any news as of yet. If you do know whether its happening that I missed, do tell me in the comments. 🙂

Christmas 2018: The Holiday Calendar (2018)

The Holiday Calendar (2018)

The Holiday Calendar

Director: Bradley Walsh

Cast: Kat Graham, Quincy Brown, Ethan Peck, Ron Cephas Jones, Genelle Williams, Ali Hassan, Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll

A struggling but talented photographer inherits an antique holiday advent calendar, the contents of which seem to predict the future. Will this magical calendar lead her to love this holiday season? – IMDB

I’m going to be honest that I really only gave this one a chance because I really like Kat Graham in The Vampire Diaries. However, I wasn’t as much of a fan of her in Honey 2 so while I don’t know what The Holiday Calendar was about, I decided to take a chance anyways. I do want to say that on one side, I did work for what it was trying to deliver but if you really don’t have much tolerance for these kind of Hallmark films, then it might not be for you. I’m just going to lay it out so you don’t waste your time. I say this because The Holiday Calendar does nothing special. Everything you predict will probably happen right down to who she ends up being with in the end and even how she pieces together the “magic” calendar to the things she missed to leading her to the one. However, while being predictable isn’t particularly a good thing, there is enough fun bits here to make it enjoyable. Its heartwarming and talks about family and dreams and careers and taking chances and not just romance.

The Holiday Calendar

While the antique calendar itself has something of a spirit here in the background with a lot of presence because the film flows with what pops up in the window everyday, the movie does benefit a lot from Kat Graham who does a great job as Abby, a girl who is stuck at a day job that pays her bills but scared to live her own dreams. There’s this really fun element to her character and her friendship with Josh (Quincy Jones) has a lot of sweet moments to it also. Surprisingly, the parts that I liked the best are the ones where Abby talks to her grandfather because there is a lot of genuine and good bits to it all. The family moments and the picture moments and those bits also add to the experience.

The only thing I did feel about The Holiday Calendar is that there is this turning point moment in the middle which felt kind of awkward. It was this weird epiphany moment that kind of felt out of spot but it didn’t really last too long before things got back on track. If you like Hallmark holiday films, this one is pretty alright. Its pretty predictable but also has a nice heartwarming element and emphasizes on more than romance but also on family moments and a lot of Christmas-y moments.

TV Binge: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 2, 2018)

It sure feels like a long time that I have been working on this TV Binge. A really long time! If you missed the Season 1 TV Binge post, you can find it HERE.

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 2, 2018)

a series of unfortunate events s2

Cast: Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, Presley Smith, K. Todd Freeman, Lucy Punch, Nathan Fillion, Sara Canning, Patrick Breen, Sara Rue

Stepping right off from Season 1, the Baudelaire Orphans now have gone through a bunch of odd guardians. Each one failing because of the horrible Count Olaf and his mischief or simply because they were some shady or clueless characters. Some cases even a mesh of the two components. It was filled with dark humor and a rather formulaic way of the Baudelaires always getting away. Entertaining as always but still the idea of the episodes always followed a same pattern. Unlike a lot of viewers, the first season took me a little while to get into. With where it left off in Season 1, this Netflix Original has established itself and its tone along with the characters so we should be in for a fun ride in Season 2.

Fortunately, we do get exactly that. Filled with more clever vocabulary lessons and random narration from Patrick Warburton in the oddest locations, the Baudelaires set off for a second season that is much more sinister and dangerous than the previous one. While the tone of the show hasn’t changed much, the events are more brutal. This is still a family show so the camera always cuts away from the potentially disgusting bits. Before we get ahead of ourselves too much, Season 2 covered Books 5 to 9 in the series: Austere Academy, Ersatz Elevator, Vile Village, Hostile Hospital and Carnivorous Carnival. Structured much like the first season, each book adaptation is separated into two parts. We get some new characters introduced (and in some cases, taken away). Honestly, I like this structure, it gives it a somewhat nice slice of moment. You can choose to binge watch the entire series if you want but you can also watch it like separate stories as the Baudelaires escape Count Olaf with less and less leeway leading to a nail-biting cliffhanger.

Overall, Season 2 is pretty strong. I got involved and immersed a lot quicker. It helps to see each of the characters grow more mature and smarter. The Baudelaires end up gaining a lot of coy and street smarts to pair with their natural intelligence. They each get their own spotlight, even little Sunny. The series remembers to be fair. As they get smarter, Count Olaf also devises much more intricate plans that give us surprises and each part as its own twists and turns that work to its advantage.

For things I loved/liked a lot in Season 2:

New Friends

A Series of Unfortunate Events

At the end of season 1, we stopped when we saw the Quagmires, now landing in the first six episode of this season. Quagmires and Baudelaires learn about their similarities and they are both brave and resourceful in their own ways. Call them the dynamic foursome if you will but the bonds they create in Austere Academy carries them to save these loyal friends for the next two stories in Ersatz Elevator and Vile Village. Its a nice change in pace to have them here. While most of the credit does go to following closely to the source materials pacing, it is nice to see these four work so well together. In these extreme situations, it is important to have allies.

New Villain

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Lucy Punch joins the villainous Count Olaf troupe  as the wealthy woman who is the student of Count Olaf and his girlfriend, Esme Squalor. She is packed with all kinds of accents and characters. Honestly, she is a joy to watch on screen. I’ve only seen her do weird odd roles in other movies before so its quite the breather to see her really embrace this role and take it in a wonderfully entertaining and wicked direction, especially in Hostile Hospital. She adds just a little bit of extra wickedness to Count Olaf which changes the game a little from the silly henchmen & henchwomen in his ragtag troop.

New VFD Members

a series of unfortunate events

VFD and a mysterious sugar bowl, along with the reveal of the narrator’s identity all get a part in Season 2. It adds depth and context as well as some answers to the million of questions stirring in our minds that are left unanswered for both the viewers and the Baudelaires. Nathan Fillion adds his charming self as Jacques Snicket who ends up recruiting Olivia Calaban, a librarian who tries to help the children and is smart enough to be suspicious. Olivia Calaban is a wonderful character played by Sara Rue and is eventually recruited into VFD. She has some of the answers but being new, she is more passionate about the mission that Jacques Snicket teaches her. They are a great team and as we learn about the VFD, we see that its a chase to figure out how everything pieces together.

New Locations

a series of unfortunate events

A Series of Unfortunate Events has been very location-based so far. In the first season, we had some incredibly imaginative locations belonging to an array of odd characters. In Season 2, we continue on with this trend. We see the Austere Academy and the orphan’s shack. In Ersatz Elevator, we move to a wealthy penthouse location as well as the various fishy (literally) restaurants. Then we move on to the Vile Village where crows migrate from one location to the next at a set routine. Hostile Hospital is a incomplete half hospital with one of its wings still in construction limbo and of course, the most fascinating of all, is the rundown circus of Madame Lulu’s Caligari Carnival. The production design and tone and lighting all add to the environment of the series.

Overall…I kept it quite to the point in this one. I still love the young cast playing the Baudelaire Orphans. They are fantastic. Neil Patrick Harris is great as Count Olaf. The success of Season 2 despite its episode formula is the depth of the story. We learn more, the characters develop further and the situation gets more dire and dangerous. It has all the great points of the first season and adds a little more, just enough to keep us curious but still unveiling a bit more to give the story some context. With the fantastic ending and the brilliant pacing in Season 2, I can’t wait for Season 3 (which should be the final season if they follow the progression of the books).

TV Binge: Mindhunter (Season 1, 2017)

What do you know? Back to back TV Binges this week! To be honest, I have so many TV series that I finished but never have posted from way back in January so I’m making my way sporadically through it as I see the inspiration to write it up. So here we are with the next one as I finish up a book and get a recipe post together!

Netflix series have been rather fun for the most part and since I love Criminal Minds and the behavior analysis thing, we had our eye on Mindhunter for a while so we finally got through it fairly quickly!

Mindhunter (Season 1)

mindhunter

Creator: Joe Penhall

Cast: Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Hannah Gross, Anna Torv, Cameron Britton, Joseph Cross

In the late 1970s two FBI agents expand criminal science by delving into the psychology of murder and getting uneasily close to all-too-real monsters. – IMDB

Before Criminal Minds hit us with their engaging Behavior Analysis Unit cases, there were these guys here that established the team that opened the path of learning about behavior analysis of the criminal mind. With that said, Mindhunter is one of the most exhilarating, entertaining and impressive shows to be on the Netflix Originals circuit and I’ve been definitely impressed with quite a bit of them. The cast stands out and the way the show is done also works really well. It is very smart to not bombard the show with a myriad of characters and keeping a few main ones so that we can truly see their character development and notice how their relationship, regardless of work or love, does change and grow. While there are cases to solve for this team and it shows up here and there, it never feels like that is the absolute highlight rather than just the way the two FBI agents are approaching each situation that they encounter.

mindhunter

The core characters are the leading FBI agents, Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany). Part of the show’s dynamic is in this duo. Being least experienced, Holden tends to be more rash and make less thought out decisions while Bill tends to anticipate how to play more with the FBI guidelines and has his own bag of experience to make it work. It is in these clashes of approaches and the desire to achieve the same end goal that fleshes out their characters so well. Especially when other elements are taken here like Holden’s girlfriend Debbie (Hannah Gross) who doesn’t always have the biggest role but challenges him on some of his thoughts and calls out his crap because she doesn’t stand for particularly the change in personality as the show progresses. And of course, another key link is when they bring in Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) who brings another strong character.

Mindhunter

The best part of the show however do go to the duo’s time chatting up with serial killers as they try to get them to talk about their kills and find a connection in why they do it or a pattern of character traits. Its pretty amazing because as they talk to them, you can see a change in personality also particularly with Holden. The credit does go to Jonathan Groff for delivering on the subtle complexities of this character and his development along with a fantastic script for the show. It can’t be denied that the highlight of the show was the conversations with Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton). The depth and unspoken uneasy vibe with this portrayal was so amazing. An absolute showstopper performance.

There’s a lot to love about Mindhunter. Its well-written for starters. Its thought-provoking and deep with its material it tackles. And they get together a great cast that delivers on these complex characters and gives them a lot of meaning development and arcs. We are definitely waiting for Season 2.