OMG U GUYZ THEY R BACK!!! For one night only. The past two seasons, Pretty Little Liars gave us fake Halloween episodes that ultimately really didn’t have anything to do with the rest of the drama. I mean, there was Alison wearing the worst Lady Gaga costume in the history of Lady Gaga costumes. (I would know – I once sang “Pokerface” with a really bad Gaga on Halloween in a West Village McDonald’s for free fries.) This season, we open with Mona in the insane asylum, singing a song probably cut from Sondheim’s Into the Woods because it’s pure horror. Mona is wearing a zipper hoodie, which I think provides 17 potential ways to kill someone and therefore should not be asylum-appropriate attire. Mona is talking about how much she loves Halloween (duh) while painting a papier-mâché head (double duh). She then hands over three pills and three bullets to a masked A creature lurking in the corner – the best Halloween present ever! Trick or treat!
Flash to the Liars, who seem dressed for Halloween already and walking among the densest Halloween decorations in the history of suburbia. There are a lot of fake cobwebs hanging from the trees, which I’m super okay with because that is my favorite holiday decoration. Aria is wearing striped tights, Spencer’s hair is killing it, and Hanna looks like an extra from a club scene in Basic Instinct. No one can see Emily’s body because she’s hiding slash not bringing up the death of Nate. I’m pretending to judge everyone’s look, but really I was squealing because it was so amazing to see these four together and wearing their standard fare. Also, a character that no one has ever mentioned before is dressed up as Skeleton Alison. An example of high class in Rosewood! Cue the newly blood-soaked title cards!
Spencer makes it home and suddenly Garrett is already inside. Ooookay, Garrett, take it easy. Garrett is dropping off flowers for Mariska, but then says a bunch of confusing words that ultimately mean he’s really there to talk with Spencer about something important. Toby enters through the backdoor via apparition, because the Hastings household is basically an open breezeway for the town’s entire teenage population, and Toby promptly kicks Garrett out. Ouch, talk later, bud. Toby’s nose is looking extra flat these days, Spencer calls herself a “modern post-feminist,” and Toby gives Spence another hug where he keeps his eyeballs as creepy as possible behind her back.
Hanna did not make it home, because she went to see Caleb at the hospital; the two are macking in the storage closet, and PLL is suddenly a prequel to Grey’s Anatomy. Remember when that show was good and Izzie wasn’t having sex with a ghost and planes weren’t crashing and Meredith was trying to drown herself during a ferry crisis? Aria also didn’t make it home, as she’s off to Fitz’s apartment. Fitz can’t make the massive Ghost Train party – he has to head to Philadelphia for a big work meeting. Fitz is also giving some creepy eyeballs here and there – does he have secrets? And it does feel like we’re desperately trying to get our girls alone, no? No one knows/cares if Emily makes it home. Oopsie.
Fast-forward to the Ghost Train, and the girls come dressed as movie characters – Hanna is Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch, Aria is Daisy from The Great Gatsby (Aria is rude to Hanna about book vs. movie, and I also very much wish she had picked a character from To Kill A Mockingbird), Spencer is Bonnie to Toby’s Clyde, aaand Emily is Barbarella. Emily as Barbarella is, like, the most amazing thing, only everyone gives her and Paige literally the most unenthusiastic welcome when they walk through the cloud of smoke that seems to be the train’s door. There’s also someone wearing Evil Doll Mask, and Jenna dressed as Trampy Pirate featuring a hilariously awesome eye patch. Does Jenna have balls, or DOES JENNA HAVE BALLS. She could have gone for Elle Drive from Kill Bill, but I’m not in charge.
Meanwhile, at the crazy farm, Mona has escape. Surprise, surprise. As everyone is on the train, only the characters we know make it to the “performance car,” a.k.a. the Adam Lambert show. Adam is dressed as a vampire and vamping as hard as humanly possible, reminding us that he didn’t actually win American Idol. I miss crying over American Idol winners. Hanna is dancing like she is the greatest person in the world (newsflash: she is), and Aria is dancing like she’d rather be literally anywhere else; the two together equals the best dance duo on television. There’s a great shot where we linger on Evil Doll Mask wallflowering in the back corner. There’s also a shadowy Phantom of the Opera-esque figure grabbing Hanna’s butt. Jason appears from the smoke door as James Dean from Rebel Without a Cause, which is a really great look for him. I don’t remember what he talked about because I never remember what Jason talks about.
Adam has been singing for 47 minutes to waste a lot of time in the middle of this episode, which allows Hanna to knee Phantom in the crotch before finding out that Phantom is actually Caleb. They kiss a lot. If you thought Phantom was anyone other than Caleb, do you not understand how to watch this show? Adam is also doing this weird maybe flirting thing with Aria because she is clearly depressed about not having Ezra around; the train is really loud, and Aria has to write ARIA in the window fog so Adam can understand her wonky name and continue to homoflirt. He does not comment on the size of her eyeballs. Next thing we know, some Creepy Sparkly Jester is dropping roofie into Aria’s drink while Emily and Paige kiss forever and ever in the back of the train. So much kissing on this haunted train. I need to visit more trains. There are a lot of homosexual agendas on the Ghost Train.
Evil Doll Mask kidnaps Spencer, and it’s… Garrett! Garrett suddenly reveals that he has always cared about Spencer, which is confusing and kind of funny. Garrett is also talking 93 times faster than his normal slow police talk, so we know to listen up. Garrett tells about the night Ali died: Garrett and Jenna took a shortcut through Ali’s backyard, and accidently ran into Ali; after Ali had a bitchfight with the then-blind Jenna, Garrett pretended to kill her with the field hockey stick. Jenna, being blind, thought Garrett actually did the deed. Garrett also saw Alison and Aria’s Father exchanged clipped word in the yard. Spencer runs to get the other girls so they can also hear Garrett’s story, but Garrett has made it very clear that he only wanted to tell Spencer and then disappear forever…
When Spencer goes to find Aria, we notice that the ARIA in the window fog now only reads… A. Welp, Aria is gone. Spencer gets a text — “Guess who’s not gonna make it to the end of the line” — and the girls realizes that A is 100 percent still alive and well and playing games. Uh oh. I did notice that Spencer has a really nice Halloween-themed background on her cellphone, and I hope that app is not terribly expensive. We see that Aria is trapped in a big-ass crate in the luggage compartment of the train as the girls start to search the full train. I kept getting distracted during all of these scenes because Spencer just looks SO. DAMN. GOOD.
Let’s take a short break from the Ghost Train to award Worst Halloween Sub-Plot in the History of Halloween: Hanna’s Porno Mom and Church Pastor are dressed as Raggedy Ann Hot Nurse and Doctor with Exorcist Vom on His Coat, and have built a creepy fake laboratory in the foyer. I would not let me children step foot inside that house. Whatever. Porno Mom keeps seeing a little girl who is clearly from 1742; the little girl is always talking about her mother, and Porno Mom keeps saying, “Here’s the phone to make a call — wait in this random room of my house and I’ll be back in three hours.” Naturally, the little girl is a ghost (or something) and disappears (or something). The ghost girl is cold and I kept thinking, “Molly/Ashley/Laura… you in danger, girl!” Porno Mom and Pastor Doctor drink some wine and discuss signing on for Paranormal Activity 5. The end. All of these scenes made me wish I was watching the Boy Meets World Halloween Scream parody.
Back on the train, Hanna is frantically telling Caleb that A is around, except there is an imposter pretending to be Caleb. That Phantom mask is sneaky. When Hanna pulls off the Phantom mask, the creepster is wearing a shiny latex mask of Alison’s face, which is possibly the most disturbing image this show was pulled. Bravo. On the other side of the train, Creepy Sparkly Jester is choking Spencer to death till Paige shows up and saves the day by scaring off the Jester and stealing one of the Jester’s long red fake nails. Paige tells Spencer “it was a pleasure” saving her life, which comes off way more pseudo-sexual than BFF giggly. Aria, still trapped in her wood case of emotion, is pulling some Houdini magic while rocking the crate. If Aria watched Kill Bill a few more times and also received soapy Japanese training à la Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke, she could have broken out of the crate with her knuckles. Aria also finds out that she is trapped in the box with Garrett’s dead body. YEP, GARRETT IS DEFINITELY DEAD, so there’s the episode’s big murder. Yikes. Lucy Hale is really fantastic through all of this, because when the Liars finally rescue her crate from falling off the back of the train, Lucy brings the trauma. Garrett’s corpse is scary.
The train is stopped due to, you know, murder, and the Liars realize that A is killing off the little “club” that these boys all belonged to while at Rosewood, the people that were around Alison the night she died. Ezra shows up to embrace Aria, and she can’t believe that she has a beautiful boyfriend, even if they dated illegally for an incredibly long time. Noel Kahn and Toby get in a macho shoving match, and Toby throws Noel against a giant ice tub of sodas that had been taking up the entire train for the entire episode. This tub was really distracting. Seriously, I was so thirsty for a chilled soda. Regardless, Noel breaks the ice tub after one of Toby’s hearty slams AND A BODY BAG SPILLS OUT FROM THE ICE. Party favors for everyone! It looks like Alison’s body bag, which was stolen from her grave at the opening of the season. Jason looks… upset. Mona, back in her insane bed, looks very happy. She has the demented Alison latex mask beneath her bed. Uh OH. 279 points for Team A.
The episode ends with a brief reference to De Palma’s Carrie, which I don’t understand at all. There’s a hand reaching up out of the dirt in Alison’s backyard? Is that Alison’s backyard? Was Alison buried alive? Nothing logical can come from all this, other than the reminder that Stephen King’s Carrie novel does not end with the infamous scene from the movie. I love Carrie so much. Hooray, useless facts! PLL returns in full on Jan. 8th, which feels really far away. This Halloween special was more eventful than normal, but we still got a lot of filler. However, that filler consisted of lame 18th century ghosts and a belting homosexual vampire glam band, so no one is allowed to complain. I’m planning on dressing up as Little Edie this Halloween, so maybe the Liars will invite me out since I’m practically a movie character. Right? Fingers crossed.
[Image Credit: Eric McCandless/ABC Family (2)]
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Let's face it the world of Hollywood pirating — with its peglegs eyepatches shoulder parrots and bounty of other swashbuckling tropes — is pretty silly. Even a high seas adventure like Pirates of the Caribbean has the ridiculous Jack Sparrow to help it hobble along. Pushing the comedy can only work in pirate movie's favor and Aardman Animation's Pirates! A Band of Misfits goes all out seizing the absurdity with a flare only British sensibilities could conjure. The film is a treasure trove of design and technical wizardry but for those less interested in the intricacies of stop motion animation Pirates!'s simple story packs plenty of low-key laughs that viewers all ages can pick up.
The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) is at wit's end. While he's enjoyed his time leading a ragtag group of wannabe pirates including Albino Pirate (Anton Yelchin) Pirate with Gout (Brendan Gleeson) Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate (Ashley Jensen) and his number two Pirate with a Scarf (Martin Freeman) a lifestyle of eating ham and barely making ends meet is losing its luster. When Pirate Captain shows up to the annual Pirate of the Year submission day he's once again outdone by Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) who rides in on a whale full of gold. Driven by competition Pirate Captain reassembles his crew hits the open waters and begins a new wave of pillaging. It's all for naught until the pirates cross paths with Charles Darwin (David Tennant) who identifies Pirate Captain's "parrot" as an extinct dodo bird. Suddenly the pirates have a new (and lucrative) calling: science.
There's an unexpected intelligence to Pirates!. The movie based on a children's book of the same name centers on Pirate Captain's mid-life crisis delves into the world of 18th century science and pegs Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) as the mastermind bad guy behind the elimination of the pirate occupation. That gives the accompanying adults plenty to chew (and laugh) on but director Peter Lord doesn't stray away from an ol' fashioned slapstick routine. There's a marvelous stray bathtub sequence halfway through the film a wild ride through Charles Darwin's old tudor house that's a true spectacle. But even a simple gag involving baking soda and vinegar exploding sud bubbles is expertly crafted and executed by Lord.
The stop motion technique never feels limited in Pirates! even with a great deal of walking and talking scenes. Gideon Defoe's script is elevated by the vocal performances; Grant is perfectly cast as the faux-burly Pirate Captain while Martin Freeman's perfected "timid skeptic" routine from The Office and Sherlock is once again on full display. The Aardman team continues to have a knack for gesturing their puppets uniquely natural and human. Even with all the enormous pirate ships detailed cityscapes and dazzling action Pirates! is at its best when it focuses on the sillier calmer moments.
The tangibility of Pirates! A Band of Misfits comes through in its physical stop-motion animation techniques but also its genuine heart. There's a rare reality to the storytelling even at its most fantastical. While the film doesn't hit the same emotional chords as some of Pixar or Dreamworks' best you would need an X-marked map to find a Hollywood cartoon as sweet and heartfelt. So don't walk the plank on this one — board with kids in tow immediately.
The film follows the same tired action genre step by step. Ex-con and single dad O2 (Tyrese Gibson) is trying to go straight for the sake of his young son Junior. But when the kid is kidnapped in what seems to be a typical carjacking O2 has to pull out all the stops to get him back. Turns out O2 had some nefarious dealings with a gang overlord named Big Meat (The Game) who likes to hack off people’s body parts with a machete. And now Meat wants some payback taking for ransom the only thing O2 cares about in the entire world [sniffle]. So what’s a guy to do? Pit rival gang leaders against each other hook up with a beautiful street hustler (Meagan Good) rob safety deposit boxes and get caught in an extended car chase that’s what. "It's either all or nothing " realizes O2. Very prophetic. Waist Deep has got some great character names--Meat O2 Coco Lucky Junior. Too bad most of the performances can’t live up to them. Tyrese (Four Brothers) does try his best though as the hunky O2 making a convincing albeit a tad stiff attempt at playing a father who’s whole life is his son. Good (Roll Bounce) gets to wear tight sexy clothes and strut around as Coco O2’s accomplice and eventual love interest as they rob banks Bonnie and Clyde style. Larenz Tate (Crash) plays Lucky O2’s unreliable cousin who actually isn’t lucky at all caught between a rock and hard place. And then there’s Meat played by big-time rapper The Game in his feature debut. With a battered face and covered in tattoos The Game certainly looks like one mean badass wielding a mad machete. Thankfully he doesn’t have to do much more than that. Here’s a few words of advice to would-be actors who want to play effective bad guys: Less is more. It’s movies like these that really give South Central L.A. a bad rep—shoot-outs in the middle of the street in broad daylight the carjacks the depravity the sad stories of little kids getting shot. It’s not exactly a warm and fuzzy place. Of course actor-turned-director/co-writer Vondie Curtis-Hall (best known for his numerous TV guest spots) doesn’t want it to be showing the grit in all its glory and collecting a cast from the area who could lend some credibility to the surroundings. But Hall needs a few more lessons in how to craft a well-thought action movie. The script is hackneyed beyond the usual taking bits not only from Bonnie and Clyde but also Thelma and Louise Boyz N the Hood--and even a little Shawshank Redemption. Hall’s camerawork is also too frenetic at times almost dizzyingly so with unnecessary close ups and choppy sequences. That isn’t to say some of the gun play and car chases aren’t exciting enough. There just seems to be a lack of experience overall.
As Love Actually begins we are told that perhaps the world isn't such a dire and hateful place that "love actually is all around." Around London anyway. The film explores no less than seven different romantic scenarios within the bustling British capital--all of which interconnect and eventually resolve on Christmas Eve. There's the newly elected dashing Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) who is smitten with his secretary the earthy Natalie (Martine McCutcheon); Karen (Emma Thompson) whose husband Harry (Alan Rickman) has strayed with his seductive secretary Mia (Heike Makatsch); Sarah (Laura Linney) the American wallflower who has a crush on her colleague Carl (Rodrigo Santoro); Jamie (Colin Firth) who falls for his pretty Portuguese housekeeper Aurelia (Lucia Moniz)…there are lots more but you get the gist. As love goes things may not get tied up neatly in brightly colored packages for everyone but there's still enough good cheer to spread around.
Showcasing some of Britain's finest actors Love Actually doesn't have a bad banana in the bunch. Floppy-haired Hugh Grant turns in an endearing performance and proves there isn't a romantic comedy he can't handle. He has an uncanny knack for connecting with any actress he happens to be romancing; in this case it's the adorable McCutcheon best known for the hit British TV drama EastEnders. Rickman and Thompson are quite good as the couple whose long-term marriage is beginning to crack; Thompson especially does a nice job trying to hide her pain while being a happy mom. Linney too shines as Sarah who glows with excitement when she finally gets what she so ardently wished for. Veteran stage and film actor Bill Nighy (Underworld) however steals the show as a carefree aging rock star desperate for a comeback. His Billy Mack smacks of Mick Jagger Keith Richards and Rod Stewart all rolled into one.
"I'm worried that we don't have the word 'massacre' in the title " writer/director Richard Curtis fretted to Entertainment Weekly referring to how horror-loving American audiences might not take to his new romantic comedy that is already a huge hit in Britain. True perhaps a romantic comedy starring a multitude of A-list British actors might not bring in the required masses. But who cares about the money (did I just say that)? Curtis who has written some of the best romantic comedies of the last decade including Four Weddings and a Funeral Notting Hill and Bridget Jones' Diary steps behind the camera for the first time here and is able to give each story a unique point of view from the lovesick to the wacky. There actually may be too many stories in Love Actually but it's a small gaffe. Love Actually is a refreshing good old fashioned warm and gushy movie that takes your mind off the bad things for the holiday season and Curtis should feel confident about his directing debut.
As the opening song belts out fast cars champagne and caviar are what professional basketball player Jamal Jeffries (played by Miguel A. Nunez Jr.) is all about. In fact Jeffries is so taken by his own success that he doesn't sign autographs but uses a stamp. His Dennis Rodman-style antics however reach a breaking point when he strips during a game in front of millions of fans and flings his jock strap into the seats. The stunt gets him thrown out of the league and before he can say "slam-dunk " Jeffries loses his house his cars and his girlfriend. Desperate to work again at the one thing he does best Jeffries comes up with the mother of all schemes: He shaves his legs dabs on mascara and tries out for the women's league--and it works. But as he builds friendships and gains the trust of the women on his team he feels torn between his obligation to his team the Banshees and his need to return to a normal life. If you've seen the 1982 comedy Tootsie you know exactly how this film plays out. Surprisingly Juwanna Mann is not crammed with bad slapstick humor but is an entertaining twist on an old classic with a delightfully sweet storyline.
Nunez (Nutty Professor II: The Klumps) not only pulls off the Jamal/Juwanna character with ease but he pretty much steals the show here. His character comes off as endearing rather than obnoxious because he takes his role as a woman seriously and is never condescending about playing in the women's league. Nunez also delivers some great one-liners the best being when he is fighting off advances from the gold-toothed Puff Smokey Smoke. Vivica A. Fox (Two Can Play That Game) plays Michelle a fellow player whom Jeffries develops feelings for. Although it's hard to buy the sweet and almost delicate Fox in such an athletic role she pulls it off--but there is not all that much chemistry between her and Nunez. As Jeffries' crass sports agent Lorne Daniels Kevin Pollak (3000 Miles to Graceland) is seedy with just the right touch of humanity so his character is not completely despicable. The most cartoonish and unlikable character is Tommy Davidson's (Bamboozled) Puff Smokey Smoke. He has some funny lines but is too far-fetched to be believable.
Jesse Vaughan who directed a season of In Living Color makes his directorial debut with Juwanna Mann. Judging from the trailer I thought the film would be a low-brow comedy with a lot of overdone men-in-heels humor. I was instead pleasantly surprised by the film's storyline which--although it is a complete take on Tootsie--is short sweet and non-offensive. While some characters like Puff Smokey Smoke are a bit over the top Nunez's Jamal/Juwanna character is never clownish and well developed enough that you can't help but feel for his/her predicament. Some scenes appear to have a Klumps influence like the scene in which Jeffries is playing cards with his aunt and a gang of her senior friends but the overall effect is a moderately funny film peppered with some slightly funnier moments. Newcomer Bradley Allenstein had the sense to deliver a sweet comedy screenplay that was short enough and knew when to quit.