Welcome back to the Next Action Star, the show that's full of action and full of star . . . power. Or something. I don't really know, yet. Previously, we were treated to a sneak peek of the audition process and got our first glimpse of the top 30.
The Real Nitty-Gritty
Tonight's show opens to a shot of the Hollywood skyline and a swirl of various quotes from contestants who may, or may not, have passed the audition process. This cacophony of images and sound rises into a dizzying crescendo, and suddenly, we find ourselves at the official Next Action Star Cocktail Party. Yep, the top 30 are all here, glammed up and scoping out the competition over drinks and chit-chat. Several contestants make their way over to the camera for some confessionals explaining what "edges" they think they have over the others, and we learn that Santino and Matt T. from Miami Beach are old friends. Corinne tells us that she didn't know that she would have to "act" for this competition. Um . . . yeah.
But enough of all this schmoozing! It's time for some action, confound it! Right on cue, our hostess of the show, Tina Malave, enters the scene. She says that she's here to help navigate the contestants through the arduous tasks that await them, not to mention explain everything that's going on to all of us here glued to the tube. Tina, in turn, re-introduces us to Victoria Burrows, a casting director who was a judge on the previous show. Victoria tells the contestants that they're all winners, all special in some way, and so on and so forth . . . clearly trying to butter them up before they all start action star boot camp.
Well, as we all know, when hosts and judges bust in on a par-tay, something will happen soon. Thank goodness. So it goes here--our contestants are about to receive instructions on their first test. For, in a mere 48 hours, the finalists will be cut in half (no, not literally) and half will be sent packing. At the end of the evening, Tina hands each of the contestants a script, and they will each be paired with a partner with whom they must later perform the scripted scene.
The pairs are: Corinne/Sean, Dan/Julielinh, Mark/Mae, Scott/Jeanne, Mélisande/John, Linda/Matt M., Matt S./Michelle, Krista/Harold, Viviana/Reggie, Santino/Laura, Brittany/Greg, Todd/Melissa, Jared/Justine, Young/Somere, and Eileen/Matt T.
Victoria and Tina then send the contestants downstairs to the lounge for much food, drink, pool-shooting, and general merriment before they disperse and work on their scenes. So they think. Really, this is just another test to see if these action stars can hold their liquor like James Bond.
Do You Wu Shu? I Do.
Many of the contestants stay up through the wee hours of the night, working their scenes to be good 'n ready tomorrow. They go so far as to do a bit of blocking work, running frantically around the hotel beds, and diving behind the desks. Very action-packed practicing, you know. Corinne smacks Sean with the script when he can't decide what to do. I wondered if he was going to run out of the room, screaming "police brutality!" at the top of his lungs, but he doesn't. He is a potential action star, after all. They finally lie down for a bit of rest. But hey--what do you know . . . it's already time to get up for the 5:30 A.M. call time in the lobby! This truly is like boot camp. Bummer. Surprisingly, we find no diva-esque tardiness from anyone, and everyone is packed into vans to be shuttled off to their first assignment.
They arrive at the Hollywood National Studios, and everyone is excited to find that martial arts training awaits them, including me. There's just something stirring about the beautiful deadliness involved, and, not to mention, it's just cool to wield katanas and nunchaku and stuff . . . and beat up people creatively with your own two hands . . . and feet. Their instructor is the renowned Eric Chen, who is a master specializing in Wu Shu. This is the graceful form of martial arts that has been popularized by such films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Mr. Chen begins by teaching them the attention stance, which involves placing your hands together, one in a fist and the other open. No, this does not represent "what did the five fingers say to the face." The fist represents warriorship, while the open hand represents intellect. Put together, it means "I'm going to use my brain before I fight." Get it? Once again, I'll never understand how Vin Diesel managed this sort of thing.
The contestants then get to work, learning Wu Shu moves and tumbling across the giant mats. Many find that it's a lot harder than it looks. Jeanne tells us, "It's not as easy to be agile as I'd thought!" At the end of the lesson, Mr. Chen lines them up and evaluates their individual performances. This is a turning point in the show, as the focus shifts completely to a particular individual for the first time. Everyone accepts their evaluations--both compliments and constructive criticisms--with grace and respectfulness. With one exception. Viviana feels the need to tell Mr. Chen that she disagrees with his critique that she lacks confidence. The room falls into a deathly still, can-hear-a-pin-drop silence.
Now, first of all, I can tell you that you never, ever talk back to a martial arts master. It's extremely disrespectful, and he can probably kill you in 40 different ways--in the blink of an eye--with his bare hands. Secondly, all that he said was that she slightly lacked confidence, and that she needed to "go for it." Is that so harsh? Nooooo . . . some people just feel that they always need to have the final say. Mr. Chen responds with something very diplomatic and polite, while the rest of the contestants are completely floored that Viviana felt the need to say something. "I thought he was going to beat us all up!" exclaims Mark.
Great Balls of Fire!
Remember the scripts that everyone was given last night? It's time for the screen test, at last. The name of the scene is "Run & Gun," which describes it pretty well--the duos will be playing a reporter and a cameraperson, waiting for something to go down outside a warehouse. When they start "filming," unseen villains spring into action, assaulting the duo with gunfire and grenades. The pair must run around the set, get a few lines correct, dodge the dust hits scattering about them, and jump past the blazing Fiery Infernoball™. Sounds like fun, doesn't it? So let's see what they can do . . . it's time to bring it, and kick a$$! *kick*
Jared & Austene are the first pair up, and deliver a good opening performance. The judges, who are back, agree that Jared, especially, shone. Eileen makes an impression when she pretends to lick Matt T.'s "wounded" finger during their scene. Hooray for kinkiness and questionable medical care! Dan executes a gravity-defying leap past the explosion machine, but neither he nor his partner Julielinh stood out. John and Mélisande get brownie points for ad-libbing some playful banter before the director yells cut.
Now we get to see a big jejune lump of the contestants, some doing better than others. We hear the line "If it bleeds, it leads" and various mutations of it umpteen times, and watch several gals and guys, alike, make weird squeaky noises as they run the gauntlet of fake bullets and fire. We watch the judges giggle uncontrollably at their attempts--it's so good to know you're loved, huh? The contestants who have already performed sit in a room and enjoy a spot of lunch while watching their other buddies get blown up on a nearby monitor.
At last, we come to the final performance of the day, which just so happens to be Viviana and Reggie. I can already tell that Viviana will overact all of this scene because she overacts everything. Including the confessionals. It's really quite strange. They get off to a smashing start backstage. . . . Viv is wearing a shirt many sizes too small and is spilling out all over the place, and she doesn't want to wear a larger-sized shirt. Reggie tells her to just do it--it doesn't mean that she's fat. The two take to the set, and the scene starts rolling.
Reggie's cameraman character: "We're supposed to report the news, not make it!"
Viviana: "I forgot my lines."
The contestants backstage are flabbergasted! Jaws drop open at every side, and you can hear it clearly, though no one speaks, "Oh! You got served!" Viviana finally remembers, and they tear through the scene at full tilt. At the final explosion, the rest of the contestants cheer wildly, and that's a wrap. Reggie, aka Fanman, and Viviana are both pleased with their individual performances, and both tell us adamantly that they don't want to be departing Hotel Argyle, unless it's to move into the mansion. We know they don't want to be spending time in Hotel California anytime soon. But it's all in the judges' hands, now. Ten wannabe action stars will be leaving tonight. (Memo to hostess lady . . . half of thirty is not ten.)
Time to Say "Cheerio"
It seems that most of the contestants are a bit nervous, and all of them pack up their bags, just in case. We see some confessionals describing how they thought they did, and you can notice in the background that many of them are not always terribly organized, with clothes and so forth strewn about. But enough of the other 29, this is clearly the Viviana show. She over-dramatically tells us, "I think I should move on, because my heart was out of blood." What the heck does that mean!? To me, that would mean that you are dead. How oxymoronic . . . you can't move on if you're dead. Unfortunately, she seems to have at least one judge's vote. "I couldn't take my eyes off her," he says. Yeah, we know what you couldn't take your eyes off of, buddy.
Well, the time has come to reveal the results . . . who is moving on to the next round? Receiving the coveted scripts (meaning they are moving on) are: Mark, Jeanne, John, Corinne, Harold, Mélisande, Matt M., Mae, Todd, Michelle, Jared, Linda, Sean, Somere, Greg, Laura, Young, and Krista. At this point, there are two scripts left, and one will go to a guy and one will go to a girl.
Everyone looks around uncomfortably . . . will Reggie get the break that he so desires? And the final two are . . . Santino and Viviana! Huzzah . . . we get to see her manic dramatics for another week. The contestants get ten minutes to say goodbye, and that, my friends, is a wrap. Stay tuned next week for romance, punches, more explosions, tears, fears, jeers, and, of course, Viviana.
I'll be back. Until then, you may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org