We've come to expect a certain level of WTF-ness from The Vampire Diaries, which it so reliably delivers. So even though we knew going in that the next few episodes would be very mythology-heavy, it was a little startling to realize there would not be a major OMG moment in season 4, episode 10, "After School Special." A guy did come back from the dead, but that seems to happen like every other week in Mystic Falls. Maybe we're just getting greedy — or at least I am — because we did get a ton of Rebekah being a super badass and a cute tribute to The Breakfast Club. Nothing to complain about, really.
Starting from the beginning: It's been more than a year since I last recapped an episode of TVD. How are we feeling about this whole opening montage thing? It's a little cheesy, but in a fun, nostalgic way. Plus, it's incredibly helpful when it's been a month since the last new episode. It's no diary-writing voiceover (and that's a good thing), so I vote win.
Bonnie's dad has come back to town to become the newest Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher mayor. Why was he dumb enough to say yes after six people before him declined the job? We didn't find out this week, but we do know he's in on the supernatural conspiracy with Sheriff Forbes.
Damon, Matt, and Jeremy spent their episode being sweaty and fighting each other in an attempt to buff Jeremy up before he slaughters more vampires (to reveal more of his hunter's mark). Tank top karate Jeremy is definitely the best iteration of Elena's lil bro so far. And Matt was in a tank top too, so I'm assuming they started a club where they do bicep curls together and eat pizza, like the Ninja Turtles but at a lake house instead of a sewer. No sleeves allowed.
The main story this week revolved around newly un-daggered Rebekah, who rounded up Elena, Stefan, Tyler, Caroline, and Creepy Professor Shane and compelled them to hang out in the library so she could figure out what the heck was going on and how to get to the vampirism cure, and also to torture them because this is like the millionth time she's been daggered. Girlfriend still hasn't been to a dance. How will she ever learn that they're really awkward occasions with lame DJs that eventually devolve into groups of girls crying in the bathroom for no reason? Kol came back to help her, and she compelled April to be her lapdog, telling her the truth about all the town's supernatural goings-on. How does Matt go seasons without finding out and this bitch knows the truth after a few episodes? This has been your gentle reminder that April is still a thing. For now.
Rebekah didn't realize that Elena and Stefan broke up, but she was delighted to find out and even more delighted to discover that Elena had gotten together with Damon afterwards. "My brother slept with Elena. Kind of puts a damper on things," said pouty Stefan. Rebekah also compelled Elena to confess why she slept with Damon. Turns out, she loves him! And she thinks Stefan's boring. Way harsh, Tai.
Oh! Before everyone was corralled into the library, Shane gave Bonnie a gift. "It's beautiful," she gushed. "It's human bone!" he replied, creepily, because he is creepy and that is a very creepy gift to give someone!
Since Rebekah couldn't compel Shane, she tortured some information out of him. "Silas will raise the dead. He will bring back every last soul who died on his behalf," said Creepy Shane, creepily. Then he died, but Bonnie had accidentally tied him to April in some sort of protective spell (she almost died too — we were so close), so he came back to life, though it is unclear how. Vampire blood? Crazy ring? Evil voodoo magic?
In the end, just before releasing everyone, Rebekah offered to erase all of Stefan's memories of Elena, and he accepted the offer without much hesitation. But since Rebekah was just messing with him, she totally didn't do it. But Stefan did call her later and offer to team up so they can search for the cure together. Elena called Damon, who'd teamed up with Klaus to search for the cure, to tell him that she loved him. He seemed excited, but obviously he's still wary of everything now that he knows about the sire bond.
What did you think of the episode? Too much exposition and not enough action? Or a perfectly fine balance of action and explanation and I should stop being so greedy and expecting glorious mass murder set to gorgeous Christmas music in every episode?
Follow Jean on Twitter @hijean
[PHOTO CREDIT: Bob Mahoney/The CW]
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Welcome back, and prepare to stuff your stockings with another installment of Naughty or Nice. To this point, the parallels between the Christmas films chosen for this feature have run the narrow gamut from easily recognizable to painfully obvious. This week, however, we’re asking you to stretch your brain tinsel a little further and consider this pair of strikingly divergent cinematic holiday offerings.
Nice: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
Dir: Shane Black
Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan
Plot: During the Christmas season, a petty thief, while running from police, is accidentally discovered by a casting agency and sent to Hollywood to test for an upcoming detective film. When the studio decides to improve the authenticity of his performance by assigning him to shadow an actual private eye, the crook-turned-thesp gets much closer to the seedier side of Hollywood than he ever expected.
It’s hard to employ the term "masterpiece" without a resounding rebuff from the cinephile masses. Though I agree that overuse has lead to a dubious reception of the word, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang can only be adequately described as a masterpiece. It is a masterful modern twist on film noir and pulp detective stories. The story struts adeptly through a handful of clever and intriguing twists, and it proves to be as comical as it is violent. Both Downey, Jr., and Kilmer hand in tremendous performances.
Shane Black, in his directorial debut, gives us a Christmas genre film worthy of the likes of Lethal Weapon, for which he wrote the script all those years before. Black spent the '80s and '90s establishing himself as one of the most talented and interesting screenwriters in the industry. Yet somehow, it wasn’t until 2005 that he finally found himself in the director’s chair. If nothing else, this film instills no small amount of confidence that his reunion with Downey, Jr., for Iron Man 3 will be something truly special to behold.
Where Black’s Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang script excels is in its refusal to take itself too seriously. That’s not to say the comedy drowns out the crime thriller boiling underneath, but its self-aware playfulness is what defines and sets apart the film. For one thing, it uses Christmas as a spotlight to completely lampoon L.A. culture. The “typical Hollywood” Christmas parties attended by our East Coast hero are hilariously satirical monuments to pretension and vice. But Black also takes jabs at movie conventions and the conception of “film rules,” with the narrator constantly correcting himself, and the flashbacks in which he shouts at extras to clear the shot, standing as truly brilliant.
Naughty: The Magic Christmas Tree
Dir: Richard C. Parish
Cast: Chris Kroesen, Valerie Hobbs, Darlene Lohnes
Plot: A witch gives a young boy a ring containing magic seeds. When planted on Thanksgiving, and when an ancient spell is recited, the seeds grow into a Christmas tree with the ability to speak and the power to grant wishes. The greedy young boy wishes to have Santa Claus all to himself, throwing the world into utter chaos.
To call 1964’s The Magic Christmas Tree one of the worst Christmas movies of all time would be to drastically undersell its colossal ineptitude. The Magic Christmas Tree is the type of movie that defies all preconceived notions of the measurable depths of B-movie failure. Every possible component of the filmmaking process is executed spectacularly incorrectly. The movie even seems to invent new filmic constructs at which to then fail. As a mere amuse-bouche for this cinematic stink feast, the witch is not able to move out of her chair, because they weren’t sure how to frame both her and the little boy in the same shot. She is therefore one of the most awkwardly stationary magical beings in cinema.
The sound of your head-scratching can be heard all the way across the cyber sea. Why compare these two films that have seemingly nothing in common? For that matter, why would anyone subject themselves to something as intellectually draining as The Magic Christmas Tree? There is something to be said for the fact that magic factors heavily into both films. The use of magic in the Naughty selection speaks for itself; in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Harry has always aspired to be a great magician. In fact, the lightning-quick hands he developed during his years practicing prestidigitation save his life more than once. Also, the best moments in both films actually have nothing to do with Christmas; be it a stakeout gone wrong in Kiss Kiss or a so-idiotic-you-can’t-help-but-laugh runaway lawnmower in Magic Christmas Tree.
However, the strongest thread that unites these two gems is that they are precisely that: gems. Both of these films suffer from obscurity. However, where Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’s obscurity is an unfortunate travesty, The Magic Christmas Tree’s is wholly earned. It is not surprising how this 48-year-old bargain-basement family film is not readily on the lips of the general populous, but it is mind-boggling how Kiss Kiss was able to fly so far beneath the radar when it was released. Sure, Downey had not yet donned the iconic iron suit, but it’s not as if he was a nobody before appearing in a Marvel property.
The fact remains, both films demand to be seen, but for entirely different reasons. Again, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang should offer at least a partial barometer for what we can expect of Iron Man 3’s performance nuances. And Magic Christmas Tree is a film so magnificently awful that it actually legitimately dazzles. Either movie would make a suitable centerpiece at your holiday party.
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros.; Youtube]
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A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.