PREVIEW: February 2022

One month of 2022 down, eleven to go…already!?! It has been a busy month in all aspects – my doctoral research and roles within the University especially! Nevertheless I saw a number of new releases and got a lot of blog content written. However, I am a bit behind on reviews, and the recent cinema visits that I still need to post reviews for are Belfast, Memoria, Parallel Mothers, Sing 2 and Sing a Bit of Harmony – I will get those posted in the next few days!

Upcoming UK cinema releases in February that I am planning to see include Cyrano, Death on the Nile, Dog, The Duke, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Jackass Forever, Marry Me, Moonfall, The Souvenir Part II and Uncharted. I shall endeavour to post reviews for all of these in February. I will also continue my weekly posts on The (UK) Apprentice Series 16 and my ongoing series looking back on the past UK and US series/seasons of Apprentice.

Thank you as always for visiting this blog, and for the month ahead I wish you Happy Reading and (most of all!) good health!

The Apprentice Series 16, Week 4: Fishing

The Apprentice (UK TV series)(title card).jpg

Task Summary

With Infinity having a two person deficit, Lord Sugar evened up the teams by moving Alex over from Diverse. He then set the task – the teams would split in half, with one half of each team going to Newquay to get a catch of the day from the sea themselves and turn it into a dish to sell to the public, whilst the other half would stay in London and sell their catch of the day and up to two other types of fish to a 5 star hotel and the trade. The team who makes the most profit will win – finally a profit-based task!

Over on Infinity, nobody wanted to be PM and Kathryn reluctantly said she would if nobody else wanted to, only for Amy to nominate Alex due to his corporate sales experience, despite her also having a background in that area. Alex accepted it and chose crab as their catch of the day due to it being an easy catch in Newquay and an easy seller with good profit margins, as well as monkfish tails and plaice to sell in London. Sub-team leader Amy went to Cornwall with Sophie and Stephanie, whilst Alex, Akshay and Kathryn met with their hotel, with the PM negotiating well on the monkfish tails and plaice, but forgot about the catch of the day…as did the others. The next day, Alex and Akshay did a highly professional job preparing the fish (whilst Kathryn stayed at the house due to being ill), but having not arranged a delivery time with the hotel they arrived at lunchtime, meaning that they had to knock a small amount off the price as it could only be used at dinner time, but were complimented by the chef on a job well done. When selling to trade, Alex started off the negotiations very well, only to be undermined by Akshay who jumped in and panic sold at a much lower price.

Out on the ocean, the Cornwall team caught a lot of crab, and upon returning to shore were tasked to make crab arancini, which Alex designated them as Akshay worked out that it had the best profit margins. However, despite being a fairly simple recipe it was a time consuming one, so they lost valuable selling time at Truro Farmers’ Market, and Amy decided they had to cut the price from £7.99 to £5 to boost sales, despite Stephanie being an excellent seller, whilst Sophie sulked and argued a lot.

Harpreet led Diverse due to her background in food (desserts, but still the same business principles of product and flavour selections, calculating profit margins and negotiating deals), and chose pollock as the catch of the day, with dover sole as the other fish. Sub-team leader Francesca (chosen due to her having fished a lot on family holidays in Cornwall) went to Newquay with Aaron and Nick, whilst Harpreet led her, Akeem and Brittany’s hotel negotiation, where she remembered the catch of the day and agreed to deliver by 10am. They made the deadline the next morning, but only by skimping on the prep of the final few pieces of fish, and the chef caught them out as they tried to hide them at the bottom – oldest trick in the book! As such they also had to knock some money off, and then when selling to trade Brittany managed to make a restaurateur feel insulted with her pricing, but they got some sales in.

Over in Newquay, Francesca caught a lot of fish, and eventually Aaron and Nick got the hang of it. They then made pollock tacos to sell at the Truro Farmers’ Market, with Aaron running a military operation in the food preparation and all of the team making good sales.

After three days of working with fish, the candidates returned to the boardroom for the results. Infinity made a profit of £116, whilst Diverse won with a profit of £312, and got to go on a cage dive at the London Aquarium for their reward.

My Thoughts on the Task

I felt bad for Alex as he could not turn down the PM role following Amy’s throwing him under the bus as he would be accused of bottling it if he had. Although reasonably decisive and having understandable logic behind his decisions (namely the arancini), he showed a lack of eye for detail in the hotel negotiation, even though he was good at negotiating the monetary aspect of deals. Alex’s preparation of the fish was genuinely outstanding, a faultless job, so I get the hotel chef being impressed, and the cynic in me wonders if Kathryn feigned illness to get out of the fish preparation. Speaking of whom, I cannot believe that she thought a rocket and garlic mayo garnish to add to the arancini counted as a salad – it added no extra value, and her rocket and garlic mayo cost £23 more than all the crab. As for the Cornwall team, Amy was a dreadful sub-team leader, switching top seller Stephanie (who I thought well of) out for herself so that she could (in her own words) “shift a couple of units” and prove to Lord Sugar that she can sell, whilst Sophie’s dreadful attitude makes me think that she will be the Series 16 villain.

As for Diverse, Harpreet’s dictatorial and condescending PM style was frustrating to watch – Nick was an effective dictator last week, but he was not condescending – as it is not a way to treat anyone, regardless of supposed seniority. Her eye for detail in negotiations was excellent, even if her pricing lacked quality, although what was most gutting to watch was their failure to fully prepare all the fish, given that they had done a very good job before they realised they were up against it timewise. Meanwhile, Brittany’s insulting a restaurateur with the pricing simply showed that the youngest candidate still has a lot to learn. As for the Cornwall team, Francesca was a good sub-team leader and genuinely outstanding fisherwoman, whilst Aaron was the typical ex-military candidate by running a military operation in the food preparation, and I will tip my hat to anyone who can chop multiple onions without their eyes watering. They also did a great job on the market stall. They absolutely deserved to win, but if the victor had been determined by fish preparation then Alex would have smashed it out the park.

Interestingly Lord Sugar said that Alex’s failure to sell the catch of the day to the hotel was “the worst failure” in the programme’s history. That had to be said for dramatic effect – unlike the food task of Series 3, they did not make a £220 loss selling cheese to the French, and unlike in the fish-related tasks of Series 4 and 11, the losing team’s profits were far more than £32.

Final Boardroom

Despite Alex, Lord Sugar and Karren Brady criticising Amy for throwing Alex under the bus, her unwillingness to step up, her poor sub-team leadership and lack of sales, Alex brought back Akshay and Kathryn, leaving Lord Sugar totally stunned. Two weeks running the American has dodged a bullet! Alex’s reasoning was that both of them made oversights in the meeting with the hotel, Akshay had done little and panic sold at much lower costs than he should have, whilst Kathryn’s unnecessary spending on the rocket and garlic mayo seriously reduced their profits. Akshay certainly fought his corner, but Lord Sugar made it clear that 4 consecutive losses, 3 final boardrooms and numerous accusations that he contributes little and can often be a detriment gave him a lot of reason to be concerned. However, he fired Alex for his costly mistakes on the task and not bringing Amy back.

lord sugar, the apprentice
Alex Short

I have to be honest, the moment Alex chose to not bring Amy back I knew that his time was up – her performance had received the most criticism and Lord Sugar clearly wanted her to be brought back. I think Lord Sugar’s firing decision this week was well-founded, and it was the right decision based solely on this task. Alex’s mistakes were (marginally) the most costly and Amy should have been in the final boardroom rather than Kathryn. However, when track records are considered, he has consistently worked harder than Akshay, been a better team player and is much less full of hot air. Although Akshay did not deserve to be in the final boardroom in Week 3, the allegations that he does not contribute have been too frequent, and he clearly has not learned from the rollicking he received in Week 1’s final boardroom. Assuming that Lord Sugar intends for it to be a final five making it to the Week 11 interviews once again, he simply does not have the flexibility to do a double-firing, otherwise Akshay would have gone this week. It was clearly a tight one for Lord Sugar – he made it clear to Akshay that he is on his very last chance, and so if he loses next week then he will be fired!

Thoughts on the Remaining Candidates

lord alan sugar with the apprentice 2022 candidates
  1. Aaron Willis – down-to-Earth, generally conducts himself professionally, he is increasingly speaking common sense and wisdom, and has good leadership skills and salesmanship.
  2. Akeem Bundu-Kamara – a hard worker who gets on with his allotted job to a good standard without making a big deal of it, and I am interested to see him in a PM role.
  3. Akshay Thakrar – boy does he know how to fight his corner in the boardroom, but if he does not win next week then I am almost certain that he will not make it to Week 6.
  4. Amy Anzel – started off well with her creativity, but she is giving off low-key series villain vibes and 2 weeks running where Lord Sugar was gobsmacked that the losing PM did not bring her into the final boardroom means she will have to do something outstanding next week.
  5. Brittany Carter – she is enthusiastic, her listening skills are getting better and she seems a genuinely nice individual, even if a bit naïve.
  6. Francesca Kennedy Wallbank – poised and articulate, she is a good leader, respected by her teammates and is yet to perform poorly in any areas.
  7. Harpreet Kaur – her enthusiasm is great, but she is not a natural leader, relying too much on being a dictator and condescending, and she comes across as quite arrogant.
  8. Kathryn Louise Burn – enthusiastic, already victorious as PM and has made some good suggestions in past weeks, but she is neither a great listener nor someone who is great with details.
  9. Nick Showering – pitching and negotiation are not his forte as he is a tad bumbling, but in a leadership role he is surprisingly assertive and delivers results, and given his background in finance I am surprised that he is yet to be seen calculating profit margins.
  10. Sophie Wilding – she was very lucky to still be in the competition this week, and her general attitude, particularly regarding her teammates (towards several of whom she has been two-faced), makes me think that she will become the Series 16 villain.
  11. Stephanie Affleck – seems to have settled in as she conducts herself well, and this week she proved herself to be excellent at selling to the public, so I am now keen to see her in a PM role.

FILM: Nightmare Alley (2021, Guillermo del Toro)

Nightmare Alley (2021 film).jpg

Neo-noir psychological thriller Nightmare Alley is adapted from William Lindsay Gresham’s novel of the same title, and distributed by Searchlight Pictures (a.k.a. Disney). In 1939, Stan Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) takes on a job as a carny, where he learns the art of executing a psychic act from Madame Zeena (Toni Colette), before leaving for New York with his lover Molly (Rooney Mara) to do his own act for the city’s elite. Two years later, psychiatrist Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett) susses that he is ultimately a fraud, regardless of how successful he is, but rather than expose him she proposes that they work together to exploit the grief of some of the city’s wealthiest and most powerful men for financial gain.

PROS

  • Directed with real passion for his art and vision, Guillermo del Toro once again proves to be a master at crafting atmosphere, taking a slow-burn approach in a number of scenes and creating a sense of suspense as we wonder what will happen to Stan, as we know that he cannot have a happy ending in an American studio release.
  • A generally good cast – Bradley Cooper brings brooding intensity and Cate Blanchett gives a captivating turn, whilst Richard Jenkins, Toni Colette and Willem Dafoe are the standout support.
  • A visually stunning film that feels like a del Toro piece through-and-through, with detailed production and costume designs giving the film excellent period authenticity, utterly striking music and a chillingly atmospheric quality crafted through the use of low lighting and cold exteriors.
  • As alluded to in the previous PRO, the cinematography by Dan Laustsen is utterly stunning, his shot compositions being breath-taking to look at despite having a visually dark quality, and his deft use of close-ups keeping the film character-focused.

CONS

  • A slightly disjointed and somewhat episodic narrative with several scenes which could benefit from being fleshed out more – this is a rare example of a film where 2.5 hours is not long enough (and actually it could work better as a miniseries).
  • The climax is stylistically very muddled and an example of the narrative being rushed in places and needing fleshing out, whilst the violence is far more gratuitous than in the rest of the film.
  • Whilst their performances are not bad, a number of supporting cast members are poorly utilised – notably Peter MacNeill, Mary Steenburgen and Clifton Collins Jr.

VERDICT: 7/10

Top 5 Tasks of The Celebrity Apprentice Season 4

Thecelebrityapprentice.png

Continuing my series of Apprentice posts to mark the long-awaited return for the UK Apprentice, it is now time to finish revisiting Season 4 of the American Celebrity Apprentice, under a far less controversial Donald Trump. Gosh, those were the days! Originally airing from March-May 2011, 16 celebrities entered to win money for the charities of their choice – they did 11 business related tasks, and at the end of each a minimum of $20,000 would be donated to the winning Project Manager’s charity. Of those 11, some naturally stood out more than others, being more interesting and (in some cases) entertaining. It is worth clarifying that these are my favourite tasks and, before writing on my Top 5, there are some which just missed out, so here is the…

Honourable Mentions

  • Pizza (Task 1): both teams grafted hard making and selling pizzas to raise money, and the food looked delicious. Plus Gary Busey’s “Pepperoni Profit” role was hilarious to watch.
  • Trump Hotel Collection Advertising (Task 8): despite A.S.A.P. PM Star Jones being most familiar with luxury hotel experiences, Backbone won as John Rich had the ingenious idea of drawing upon their own experiences of staying at a Trump Hotel during the competition.
  • OnStar Commercials (Task 11): creating commercials for the new OnStar Mirror, it was captivating to see what a force to be reckoned with the two man “Jonz” team were, whilst Meat Loaf playing to the doughnut-loving cop stereotype was very amusing.

5) ACN Commercials (Task 4)

Both teams had to create a commercial for ACN’s new video phone IRIS 5000, and the winner would be determined by votes of ACN representatives. Both teams utilised their celebrity in different manners – A.S.A.P. had Marlee Matlin sign over the video, whilst Backbone had the absolutely stacked Jose Canseco mince it up as a very stereotypical homosexual man (which was hilarious). The two teams did a very good job, and the result was the closest of the entire season – percentage wise it was a 53-47 split! Furthermore, NeNe Leakes’s clashes with Dionne Warwick foreshadowed how much she would go on the attack towards her teammates during the season’s run.

4) Hair Shows (Task 9)

Three men vs. four women on a task where each team had to put on a hair show promoting hair care products by Farouk Systems. Given that Lil Jon became PM for Backbone because he lost rock-paper-scissors to Meat Loaf, the men were at an obvious disadvantage right? Well…A.S.A.P. PM NeNe Leakes totally lost it at Star Jones for suggesting her as PM in front of everyone (including Farouk), and continued to verbally attack her throughout the task. Despite having poor reasons for becoming PM, Lil Jon deservedly won as he showed entrepreneurial spirit when Farouk briefed them as he identified the products’ USP – made in the USA. As such, he chose for them to go with a cosmopolitan theme that celebrated America, for which he got model and fired candidate Niki Taylor on board and was a fantastic MC himself. No surprise that Farouk preferred the men’s show to the women’s theme-less one.

3) Live Comedy (Task 10)

With La Toya Jackson and Meat Loaf as Backbone and A.S.A.P.’s respective PMs, the pressure was on – the former had to prove that Trump was right to give her another shot, the latter was anxious at the possibility of losing, which was made worse by the fact that for everyone it was a much bigger slog to fundraise for their Live Comedy Events, having already tapped out their biggest donors. Both teams put on great shows, with John Rich getting Jimmy Fallon onboard for Backbone’s, for which the TV host wrote a hilarious song about the iconic boardroom in Trump Tower, and Star Jones getting Tracey Morgan onboard for A.S.A.P.’s. The task results, however, showed just how much charity meant to the celebrities, as well as the strength of John Rich’s friendship with Meat Loaf. Seeing how worried Meat was at the prospect of a loss and losing the money he had raised for his cause to La Toya, John promised that – should Meat lose – he would personally match for the rock icon’s charity whatever A.S.A.P. had raised. A truly wholesome and utterly touching moment! Meanwhile, Star and NeNe Leakes’s feud finally ended when – at Star’s request – Trump got NeNe to swap teams with Meat, with the former quitting in anger, for which nobody sympathised with her (other than La Toya who was too sweet to do otherwise).

2) Children’s Book (Task 2)

For this task both teams had to create a book for 4-5 year olds and perform it live to a group of their target demographic, and they would be judged on originality, age appropriateness and creativity. Under Lisa Rinna’s leadership, the women of A.S.A.P. made a book about a lion who could not roar, with a theme of being yourself. Although they had an excellent show with Marlee Matlin signing the book’s words to the audience, their final book had tiny print which young children would struggle to read, while the theme was judged as too sophisticated for ages 4-5. Plus we saw beyond any doubt that Marlee would not let her deafness hinder her when she condemned Dionne Warwick’s attitude towards her for it. The men made a book about Little John finding his voice, and their live show was excellent – it was high energy stuff with great turns from Lil Jon, Gary Busey and John Rich, the hilarity of Jose Canseco in drag, and a great song. The judges felt that the book had met all three criteria, and as such the men won, and it was deserved given how well they had worked together and how good their performance was.

1) Art (Task 5)

Art selling tasks had only ever been done twice before on the US Apprentice iterations, and both times Omarosa had been fired. However, this time a fresh take happened on the art task as the candidates had to not only sell art but create it! Each team had to create art pieces and each candidate had to decorate a cap – the celebrity whose cap was deemed the best would automatically get $25,000 for their charity (La Toya won). In getting them to create art from scratch, this task was a magnificent celebration of creativity – for example, Gary Busey created a fascinating backstory for his bison painting, whilst La Toya Jackson made a moving piece using the final shirt worn by Michael, and iconic judge/boardroom advisor George Ross smiled at the sight of a basketball-utilising piece called “The Rodman”. There were some great moments of entertainment (Lil Jon’s MTV Cribs video in Team A.S.A.P.’s gallery – say no more!), but more than any task this one got to the heart of what Celebrity Apprentice was all about! Utterly fantastic PMs John Rich and Marlee Matlin both expressed sincere passion for their causes, whilst the former expressed sadness when the latter was delayed in getting her gallery set up. John’s contacts brought in over $500,000, and one had to feel bad for him that he was let down by Richard Hatch, who slashed the prices of his pieces to guarantee sales; whilst Marlee had multiple contacts donate $99,000 per piece! After they agreed to both PMs keeping their teams earnings for their charities, meaning that both causes got vast sums of money, the results were revealed – Backbone made a record-breaking $626,000…only for A.S.A.P. to learn that they had beaten that record with $986,000, which Trump then added an additional $14,000 to – an even $1 million. Over $1.6 million raised for charities in a single night – truly what Celebrity Apprentice was all about!

FILM: Scream (2022, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin/Tyler Gillett)

Scream2022film.jpeg

Slasher horror-comedy requel Scream is the fifth film in the franchise, and is distributed by Paramount. As the 25th anniversary of the original Woodsboro massacre approaches, another copycat killer comes out of the shadows in a Ghostface mask. Fearing that her status as the late Billy Loomis’s (Skeet Ulrich) illegitimate daughter has made her the ultimate target of this new killer, Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) seeks the help of former sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) to help her work out the killer’s movements and how she and her younger sister (Jenna Ortega) can survive.

PROS

  • Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett bring great energy and passion to the project, making for a well-paced film, whilst also helming some suspenseful long takes and very shocking death scenes in the murder mystery and their tribute to Wes Craven.
  • James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick’s screenplay features some excellent meta humour through which they provide good commentary on modern American cinema and fan cultures, as well as some intensity and very shocking moments of horror.
  • A solid cast who throw themselves into the film with palpable energy, and which features a good mix between fresh blood and returnees to the franchise – Courteney Cox especially stands out amongst the latter.
  • The chase and murder scenes are visually chilling due to vivid use of fake blood, shocking injury details and chilling night-time and interior shots by cinematographer Brett Jutkiewicz, whilst the phone calls with Roger L. Jackson as the voice of Ghostface also remain chilling.

CONS

  • Given that the film is meant to be a satire of the horror genre, particularly slashers and franchises, that evokes memories of the 1996 original, the decision to play much of the film straight simply does not work, primarily due to its incompatibility with the vast amounts of meta humour.
  • The climax is the messiest part of the film due to it being rather convoluted and featuring more farcical kills which feel out-of-place with the earlier ones, and they also feature too much dialogue that crosses the line between meta humour and full-on breaking the fourth wall.
  • As well as being quite predictable due to a formulaic screenplay and the sheer amount of references to the narrative structure and events of the original, a number of the kills are surprisingly gratuitous for a horror-comedy, particularly compared to earlier Scream films.

VERDICT: 6/10

Top 5 Candidates of The Celebrity Apprentice Season 4

Thecelebrityapprentice.png

Continuing my (sporadic) series of Apprentice posts to mark the long-awaited return for the UK Apprentice, it is now time to revisit Season 4 of the American Celebrity Apprentice, under a far less controversial Donald Trump. Gosh, those were the days! Originally airing from March-May 2011, 16 celebrities entered to win money for the charities of their choice – each task would result in a minimum of $20,000 being donated to the winning Project Manager’s charity. Of those 16, some naturally stood out more than others and with presences that I liked more than others. It is worth clarifying that these are my favourite competitors rather than those who did best (or showed the most competency). Before writing on my Top 5, there are some who just missed out, so here are the…

Honourable Mentions

  • La Toya Jackson – Entertainment Entrepreneur (6th/8th): a genuinely sweet and sincere presence in a team often replete with bickering, La Toya made Apprentice history – she originally came 8th when fired after Task 8, before convincing Trump to give her one more shot as she had been unable to defend herself in the final boardroom due to illness, and to serve as a replacement for Jose Canseco who had had to pull out to be with his father on his deathbed.
  • Hope Dworaczyk – Playboy Model (8th): only as low as 8th because Trump brought La Toya back, Hope was sweet, kind and innocent – a refreshing and marked contrast to many of her teammates.
  • Mark McGrath – Rocker/TV Host (10th): he brought great energy to his team and had an excellent dynamic with fellow musicians John Rich, Meat Loaf and Lil Jon that made for engaging viewing.
The opening, featuring all 16 celebrities.

5) Gary Busey – Actor (9th)

The Oscar nominee proved to be a very interesting candidate to watch as he had some very quirky ideas, and forget being on a different page to his teammates, he was in a different book to them. The Trumps and some of his fellow candidates thought that Gary Busey was brilliant in a unique and different way to any of the others, as some of his ideas were absolutely inspired and his creative decisions in some of the earlier tasks were considered worthwhile if outside-the-box. Plus his “Buseyisms” were absolutely charming to listen to. Unfortunately (due to his brain damage from 1988) Gary had difficulty focusing for more than short bursts and at times struggled to articulate himself, which caused increasing amounts of serious frustration for his teammates as the season progressed. However, that did bring out more than anything that he was a nice chap, as Gary was forgiving towards those who wronged him and did not resent his teammates for speaking ill of him in the boardroom. An altogether very interesting candidate to watch!

4) John Rich – Country Star (Winner)

Having donated to Trace Adkins’s team back in Season 1, it came as no surprise that the eventual winner of Celebrity Apprentice Season 4 was highly philanthropic throughout the competition. A fantastic contributor who worked very hard and brought a lot of creativity to each and every task, John brought in vast amounts of money for his teams through excellent use of his rolodex, and over the course of the season won over $1.26 million for his own cause – St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He won as PM in tasks 8 and 11, but lost as PM in Task 5, yet still broke records that week as his team raised $626,000 through art sales (over $500,000 of which came from his contacts!) – Marlee Matlin’s team just happened to raise $986,000. That task he also showed his belief in charity when he expressed concern for Marlee’s team when they were delayed in getting their gallery set up as he thought well of her cause and was sad to see their difficulties, and in Task 10 he told Meat Loaf that if he lost then he would match whatever money Meat resultantly failed to raise for his cause (Meat won, so John did not have to – but what a beautiful gesture!). Furthermore, John was a genuinely lovely guy who had a wholesome bromance with Lil Jon and formed close friendships with Meat Loaf, Marlee Matlin and Mark McGrath.

3) Lil Jon – Rapper (4th)

With the possible exception of Meat Loaf, Lil Jon was the loudest personality in the group and was not one for getting stressed or worried, but this – along with his permanent-wearing of sunglasses and teeth-grille – masked the fact that Lil Jon had a fantastic business brain which reflected his natural entrepreneurship. A hard worker full of creativity and a lovely guy who struck up a wholesome bromance with John Rich and great friendships with Meat Loaf and Mark McGrath, Lil Jon was a fantastic contributor on every task, with an energy and naturalistic quality to everything he did that was highly engaging to watch, and won as PM in Weeks 4 and 9. He entered the competition with two goals – raise money for a children’s home and prove wrong the negative stereotypes of rappers, and he successfully did both, which both Trump and John Rich praised him for. Furthermore, Lil Jon was a very humble guy as – in the interviews of the semi-final – he said that John Rich and Marlee Matlin should be the finalists due to having better skillsets and being superior fundraisers to him.

2) Marlee Matlin – Actress (Runner-up)

Marlee Matlin made it explicitly clear from the offset that she was a force to be reckoned with and that her deafness was not going to hold her back in the slightest, and she made some hilarious self-deprecating jokes about it – even expressing gladness that she did not have to listen to her teammates argue. A hard grafter who brought buckets of energy to her team from Day 1, the Oscar winner showed her team that they should not underestimate her or misjudge her when she put Dionne Warwick in her place for being condescending to her for her deafness. Most of all though, she was a phenomenal fundraiser, and in Task 5 she led her team to a record-breaking win – an art task in which they raised $986,000 that Trump then raised to $1 million for her charity, and Marlee (as well as being an outstanding PM) raised the most money with multiple contacts donating $99,000 each. Furthermore, in a team full of squabbling it was simply a delight to see her conduct herself with dignity and bring undeniably excellent ideas to the table, the fact that she was genuinely lovely best seen in her firm standing up for Gary Busey. Marlee went through the whole competition accompanied by her communication assistant Jack Jason – one had to feel sorry for him as he had to translate every massive argument that happened amongst her teammates to her.

1) Meat Loaf – Rock Star (3rd)

Coincidentally I had been thinking about writing this post two nights ago, and the next morning I woke up to see the news that Meat Loaf had sadly passed away. Whilst I will always remember him for his music, I will also forever fondly think of his fantastic stint on The Celebrity Apprentice. Despite being considerably older than the majority of his teammates, Meat was enormously respected from the start as he was a grafter, a very effective fundraiser and an altogether very nice fellow, excelling as both a contributor and a leader. He was most passionate about his charity (The Painted Turtle) though and won twice as PM in Tasks 2 and 10 – his passion came through in how tearfully happy he got when learning of his wins, and his worry at the possibility of losing Task 10. Meat had a huge heart for others and those aforementioned emotions nodded towards just how emotionally-driven he was. Whilst frequently positively so, there were a couple of times where he totally lost his temper – once at Gary Busey over a misunderstanding – but when he realised he was in the wrong he would deliver a sincere and emotional apology. The emotional range, his work on task and his heartwarming friendships with John Rich, Lil Jon, Mark McGrath and Marlee Matlin altogether made rock icon Meat Loaf a wonderful and fascinating candidate to watch.

FILM: Fear Street Part Three: 1666 (2021, Leigh Janiak)

Fear Street, Part Three - 1666 teaser poster.png

Based on R.L. Stine’s Fear Street novels, Fear Street Part Three: 1666 is the finale to Netflix’s slasher horror trilogy. When (in 1994) Deena (Kiana Madeira) reunites the severed hand of supposed witch Sarah Fier with the rest of her skeleton, she sees a vision into 1666, when the teenage Sarah (also Madeira) – living in the original settlement – was first accused of witchcraft after a pastor (Michael Chandler) possessed by an evil spirit killed 12 children, and Sarah became the obvious choice to accuse after her homosexuality became apparent. As Deena witnesses the events of over 300 years earlier, she may just be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together and glean the information needed to end the curse on Shadyside once and for all.

PROS

  • Director Leigh Janiak and her co-writers craft a well-paced, shocking and intense narrative, interwoven in which is a fascinating puzzle which we piece together and add to the pieces from the first two films to solve the fascinating mystery, which is followed up by an exciting 1994-set climax that evokes 1990s’ cinema (including Home Alone).
  • The cast do a terrific job, particularly Kiana Madeira who gives two emotionally-driven turns, as many of them play two roles with great energy and make both roles distinct from one-another, which reflects the fact that this instalment has the best characterisation of them all.
  • The production department do an outstanding job in recreating a 17th Century settlement in rural America, with wonderful amounts of detail in the production design and costume designs that is brought to screen with great love and care.
  • A visually chilling film, thanks to cinematographer Caleb Heymann’s great night-time shooting, claustrophobic use of interiors, a cold quality to the daytime shots of the 1666-set scenes, outstanding practical make-up effects and vivid use of fake blood.

CONS

  • At times the 1994-set climax does feel a little bit rushed (heck, it could easily be its own film with the right of fleshing out), whilst the sheer amount that characters are able to fight even when wounded does make it harder to suspend disbelief.
  • A few minor creative choices here and there towards the end suggest the possibility that the trilogy will become its own cinematic universe, which is just unnecessary given that this film could wrap everything up so easily and neatly.
  • As eye-catching as it is, the garish neon colours of the film’s climax are not in-keeping with the darker visual qualities of the rest of the film.

VERDICT: 8/10

FILM: Fear Street Part Two: 1978 (2021, Leigh Janiak)

Fear Street, Part Two - 1978 teaser poster.png

Based on R.L. Stine’s Fear Street novels, Fear Street Part Two: 1978 is the second in Netflix’s slasher horror trilogy. Having survived the ancient evil that attacked them in the first film, Deena (Kiana Madeira) meets with Ziggy Berman (Gillian Jacobs), who survived an encounter with the evil in 1978, in the hopes of gleaning information that could help defeat it once and for all. Ziggy tells her about how – as a teenager (Sadie Sink) at Camp Nightwing in 1978 – she witnessed the evil, believed to be the spirit of 17th Century witch Sarah Fier (Elizabeth Scopel), possess a camp counsellor (McCabe Slye) who then went on a murder spree, whilst Ziggy found the remnants of Sarah’s severed hand.

PROS

  • Along with her co-writer Zak Olkewicz, director Leigh Janiak crafts a well-paced, often energetic narrative that has some moments of genuine tension, a good sense of mystery and an interesting puzzle which we piece together alongside Ziggy.
  • A generally good cast, with a particularly emotional leading turn from Sadie Sink, who has good chemistry with Ted Sutherland, and all of the cast throw themselves into their roles with fantastic energy.
  • The chase and murder scenes are often quite chilling, thanks to cinematographer Caleb Heymann’s great night-time shots and use of shadows, and his claustrophobic use of enclosed spaces, as well as some vivid injury detail and effective practical make-up.

CONS

  • Leigh Janiak’s efforts to evoke nostalgia for 1970s/80s’ horror miss the mark as she tries to do a serious take on the most camp and humorous tropes and clichés of film such as the Friday the 13th franchise.
  • Particularly compared to the first film, some of the kills which take place are rather gratuitous in terms of their violence and fake blood use, whilst also trying to have the more humorous quality of some Friday the 13th kills.
  • There is some rather weak characterisation here as Leigh Janiak and Zak Olkewicz rely too much on the character-types of past decades without fleshing them out much beyond that.

VERDICT: 6/10

FILM: Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021, Leigh Janiak)

Fear Street Part One - 1994 (2021 film).png

Based on R.L. Stine’s Fear Street novels, Fear Street Part One: 1994 is the first in Netflix’s slasher horror trilogy. For over 300 years in the town of Shadyside, once-per-generation an ancient evil – believed to be the spirit of witch Sarah Fier – has possessed somebody who has gone on a killing spree. In the year 1994 another killing spree begins, and a group of teenagers realise that they will have to fight the supernatural entity if they are to survive, and their research motivates them to seek a way to defeat it once and for all.

PROS

  • Along with her co-writer Phil Graziadei, director Leigh Janiak creates a fast-paced and energetic narrative which has a great sense of mystery and becomes increasingly intense and the body count and number of visible threats both grow.
  • A good amount of the screenplay is dedicated to fleshing out the main characters, their personalities and relationships, which the central cast realise well, throwing themselves into their roles with great energy and having good, engaging chemistry with one-another.
  • In both the screenwriting and mise-en-scene, the film evokes great nostalgia for the 1990s – the soundtrack choices, the (now) retro video game set-up, AOL chat, and opening reminiscent of Scream, amongst other things broaden the film’s audience appeal.
  • The chase and murder scenes are intense and chilling, thanks to Leigh Janiak’s direction and cinematographer Caleb Heymann’s deft use of shadows and often enclosed spaces, vivid use of fake blood, good injury detail and excellent make-up for the killers’ supernatural qualities.

CONS

  • At times the narrative feels like a teen soap opera due to some subplots concerning character relationships and the way that some supporting characters conduct themselves.
  • Some potentially intense and terrifying moments are not as powerful as they could be due to almost goofy energy and some questionable editing choices.
  • It is hard to suspend disbelief in some scenes due to the fact that the teens are able to do a considerable amount of fighting despite being wounded and bleeding.

VERDICT: 7/10

The Apprentice Series 16, Week 3: Non-alcoholic Drinks

The Apprentice (UK TV series)(title card).jpg

A Sad Start

When the teams arrived bright and early at Mercato Mayfair to be set the task, Shama had a sad announcement to make. She remorsefully informed Lord Sugar, Tim Campbell, Karren Brady and the other candidates that, due to her rheumatoid arthritis, she had chosen to leave the process as whilst the mind was willing, the body was not, and it clearly pained her to say that. Lord Sugar expressed sincere sadness that Shama was having to do so and wished her all the best, and the other candidates were visibly sorry to see her go as they all liked and respected her.

By no means the first candidate to quit, but it was sad to see this happen. Shama conducted herself with dignity and brought maturity and wisdom to the girls’ team, had contributed well, was respected by her teammates and never once had her performance criticised by anyone, plus it made apparent on Apprentice: You’re Fired that she had continued working hard on tasks, even when in considerable pain – major respect for that!!! Furthermore, she had won both tasks. Unlike previous candidates who quit, her decision was not informed by bitter feelings over losses or criticisms, but purely because she was prioritising her health, and quite rightly so – as such, her decision has to be respected!

shama amin, the apprentice 2022 candidates
Shama Amin

Task Summary

With the boys having lost the first 2 tasks, Lord Sugar had already decided to mix up the teams and Shama’s departure did not change that. Akshay and Navid were moved to the girls’ team, whilst Brittany, Francesca and Harpreet were moved to the boys’ team. They were told to come up with team names, and tasked with creating a non-alcoholic drink (of the substitute for alcohol ilk), complete with branding and a QR code that would lead to an app, before having a launch event where they would pitch to retail buyers and then secure orders.

With Nick having been made PM by Lord Sugar after Task 2, he led Aaron, Akeem, Alex, Brittany, Francesca and Harpreet – who became ‘Diverse’ – and Nick (who has worked in the drinks industry for 15 years, currently as a financial manager) decided that he wanted a non-alcoholic vodka, lime and soda, much to the worry of his team – who realised instantly that they would essentially be making a lime and soda. Nick, Brittany and Francesca worked on the branding, whilst the others went to create the drink. To make the drink stand out, the team had to experiment with other flavours, and eventually make essentially a slightly fizzy lime cordial with a somewhat bitter and zesty aftertaste. Nick, meanwhile, kept his branding fairly minimalist – black text on a green background that gradually faded to white, and named the drink ‘Vodify’. The app was a selfie filter, which would leave the user’s face looking half-rough/half-refreshed to signify the difference between vodka/vodify after-effects. The next day, market research on the streets of South London presented mixed reviews, whilst after a confident pitch the retail buyers expressed mixed feelings too – the flavour was the big concern, and although there were several sales shown, they were all in the low-hundreds.

Led by cocktail bar owner Sophie, Akshay, Amy, Kathryn, Navid and Stephanie became ‘Infinity’ and went for a non-alcoholic ale. Sophie, Navid and Stephanie went to make the drink, whilst the others did the branding and app. Having already agreed to go for a mixed spices beer, the manufacturing team did not decide to add peach until after Amy’s (minimalist and old-fashioned) red, white and black labelling and branding for ‘Crafted and Spiced’ had already been completed, by which time it was too late to make any changes. The final drink had an overwhelming smell of peaches, a very watery peachy-ale taste and a very peppery aftertaste. The app was an explanation of how the drink was non-alcoholic in the style of a guidebook narrated by Akshay. Market research the next morning was overwhelmingly negative, whilst a very wooden pitch was followed by retail buyers expressing concerns with both the flavouring and branding. Some sales were shown, but some were for 50 units or less.

The next day, everyone returned to the boardroom for the results. A big sale had boosted Divere’s figures, and they sold 10,675 units, whilst issues with flavour and branding alike meant that Infinity only sold 2,480 units.

My Thoughts on the Task

Given how nice and calm he has previously come across as, I was gobsmacked by how dictatorial Nick was as a PM – whilst it is good that he is assertive and confident, it is concerning that he did not listen to his team. I felt bad for the manufacturing team as non-alcoholic vodka cannot be done, so Nick was barking up the wrong tree. Clearly he also wanted to impress Lord Sugar as he was very domineering on the (superior) app, despite Francesca having already proven to be better suited for it. Despite Harpreet being sub-team leader, Aaron was much more of a leader and quite impressive as he brought a lot of needed wisdom to the manufacturing and also conducted both market research and post-pitch sales very well. Nick’s pitch was good, but he put his foot in his mouth when negotiating with Asda, and the supermarket giant only ordered 300 units. Whilst it was not revealed who the big buyer was, it was fortunate that it happened as it would have been very close between the two teams otherwise.

Infinity were more disastrous as a team, which is a shame as – being a teetotal who enjoys alcohol-free ale – I liked their decision to go down the beer route over spirits. Amy did the branding and label design, primarily going with her own ideas and showing clear favouritism to Kathryn over Akshay, whilst the latter – though enthusiastic – was a little stiff in his work on the app. The idea of a vintage looking brown bottle with red, white and black labelling did not match with the idea of an innovative drink. Over on manufacturing, Navid was once again far too nice to let his voice be heard, and Sophie showed clear favouritism to Stephanie. Furthermore, the lack of communication between the two sub-teams spelt disaster – they ended up with a peachy drink with no peach mentioned on the label, and a label advertising mixed spices for a drink with no real hint of mixed spice (bar a peppery aftertaste). Sophie’s pitch was utterly dreadful – very wooden and lacking confidence – and the sales were concerning, although Akshay excelled by closing the largest deals. However, that did not change the fact that Infinity deserved to lose.

Final Boardroom

Despite Akshay having closed sales for nearly 2,400 units, whilst Amy had closed zero sales and been responsible for the much-criticised packaging and branding, Sophie brought back Akshay and Navid into the final boardroom, to which Lord Sugar was very surprised and even asked her if she was sure about that…which she was – girls sticking together then, I guess? Akshay was criticised by Sophie for having done nothing prior to the sales portion, based on what Amy and Kathryn had told her, to which he and Lord Sugar both pointed out that she had not been there and was too reliant on what her friends told her. Furthermore, Akshay pointed out his successful salesmanship and Sophie’s many mistakes. Navid also pointed out that Sophie had been unwilling to listen to him, to which she fought back that he had not contributed anything worthwhile. Lord Sugar was clearly torn as to who should go, but eventually fired Navid (with regret) for his lack of contributions and inability to make his voice heard in all three tasks.

the apprentice 2022 navid
Navid Sole

I understand why Lord Sugar stated that the firing was “with regret” as Navid was a genuinely lovely chap, but Lord Sugar’s reasons for firing him were totally understandable, as his unwillingness to be more assertive is not something that one looks for in a business partner. Reluctantly I say he should have been fired, but mainly because he was too nice for such a cut-throat process. However, if Navid had played the “make me PM next week” card then he may have been spared, as Lord Sugar was clearly contemplating firing Sophie for her on-task mistakes and bringing Akshay back instead of Amy – I am certain that a double-firing would have happened, had Shama not left the process. He told her that she would have to depend far more on her own observations rather than what her friends tell her going forwards, and then Lord Sugar told Akshay that the accusations that he did very little were still concerning and that his card was marked. That is 3 weeks running that a losing PM has gotten away with murder.

Thoughts on the Remaining Candidates

lord alan sugar with the apprentice 2022 candidates
  1. Aaron Willis – down-to-Earth, generally conducts himself professionally, he proved that Lord Sugar was right to spare him last week as he showed good leadership and salesmanship this week.
  2. Akeem Bundu-Kamara – clearly taking Lord Sugar’s criticisms from Week 1 on board, he has been getting on with his allotted job without making a big deal of it 2 weeks running.
  3. Akshay Thakrar – a good salesman, but his card is truly marked and he will need to do something very impressive in the next task or two to show Lord Sugar that he was right to spare him twice.
  4. Alex Short – conducts himself professionally, continues be a good team player as he cracks on with his roles and does not make a big drama out of it – the kind of candidate I always like.
  5. Amy Anzel – very experienced and creative, but clearly getting dependent on pre-existing friendships, she will have do something excellent in the next 2 tasks to make up for this week.
  6. Brittany Carter – she is enthusiastic, her listening skills are getting better and she seems a genuinely nice individual.
  7. Francesca Kennedy Wallbank – poised and articulate, she was a good PM and seems to be generally respected and liked by her teammates.
  8. Harpreet Kaur – her enthusiasm is great, and she seems to be getting better at listening, but she is not a natural leader, but came across as quite arrogant.
  9. Kathryn Louise Burn – enthusiastic, already victorious as PM and with a good head on her shoulders, but not a great listener and came across as a bit arrogant this week.
  10. Nick Showering – pitching and negotiation are not his forte, but despite being dictatorial he was a good PM who delivered results, and given his background in finance I will be interested to see him in a profit-based task now.
  11. Sophie Wilding – she was very lucky to still be in the competition, her favouritism and the attitude she displayed in the final boardroom make me wonder if she will be the Series 16 villain.
  12. Stephanie Affleck – seems to be settling in as she conducts herself well, but she is yet to do anything to really make herself stand out from the others.