Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
Even without having read Mark Helprin's novel Winter's Tale, I have the unshakable feeling that Akiva Goldsman's film adaptation does not do the story justice. Speckled throughout the moreover colorless movie are hints of an intriguing idea — a fantasy epic about an angel-demon bureaucracy coexisting with the human race throughout the span of 20th century New York City, operating within the parameters of a didactic miracle-granting system — an idea that doesn't come close to its full potential. In 118 minutes, we barely scratch the surface of the world in which an apparently immortal Colin Farrell finds himself. We see him cavort with Russell Crowe, a malicious gang-leader with netherworld origins, seek guidance from a mystical Pegasus, and carry out his destiny as the savior to a mysterious red-haired girl. But we never truly understand why any of this is happening. Not that it gets particularly confusing; on a plot level, it's all quite simple. But that's the problem — it shouldn't be.
The central conceit of the film is that everyone is put on this Earth with a divine "mission" to uphold. Farrell's gives us the narrative of Winter's Tale, introducing the various rules and officers of the supernatural regime along the way. Abandoned as a baby and brought up under the criminal regime of a Manhattanite from Hell (Crowe), Farrell ascends from orphan to petty thief to horse whispering renegade to whimsical lover of a dying Jessica Brown Findlay to ageless messiah... all without much clarity on the nature of the story (or stories) he's occupying, save for two ham-fisted scenes of exposition — one with Graham Greene (not the dead author) and one with Jennifer Connelly, who shows up halfway through the movie for some reason.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
The world that Farrell is woven into has so many bright spots: we're on board for miracle quests, a magic-laden New York City, flying horses, and one of the biggest stars in Hollywood giving a cameo as the epitome of evil. Everything we see is fun, but it all flutters away as quickly as it arrives. We don't want quick bites of the way angels and demons do business with one another on the streets of Manhattan, we want the whole meal. A more thorough exploration of Helprin's world wouldn't just be doubly as interesting as the thin alternative we're offered in Goldsman's adaptation, it'd also fill in all the comprehensive gaps in Farrell's emotional throughline
We don't really understand so much of what happens to Farrell. Even when we're offered tangible explanations, we have no reason to understand why the Winter's Tale world works in such a way that Farrell might survive a 300-foot fall, develop amnesia, or sustain youth for a full century. What's more, we don't understand why Farrell's tale as a cog in this mystical machine is any more important than anyone else's. Or, if it's not, and we're simply asked to watch him carry out his quest as a glimpse into the vast, enigmatic system that Winter's Tale is ostensibly founded upon, we ... we don't understand enough of that world itself.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
We're never invited close enough to any of the movie's attractive features for them to matter. So even when the movie does offer entertaining bits — in its fantastical elements, its detail of New Yorks old and new, or Farrell's admittedly charming romance with Findlay — we're not engaged enough to really connect with any of them.
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Still, the flying horse is pretty cool.
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British rockers the Arctic Monkeys are leading the pack at this year's (14) NME Awards after landing eight nominations. The Fluorescent Adolescent hitmakers are in the running for the coveted Best British Band trophy, alongside the likes of Foals, Palma Violets, Biffy Clyro, Disclosure and Two Door Cinema Club.
The band is also up for Best Live Band, Best Album for AM, Best Track for Do I Wanna Know?, Best Music Video for Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?, Best Fan Community, Music Moment Of The Year for their headlining stint at Glastonbury, and frontman Alex Turner received a special nod for Hero of the Year.
California sister trio Haim is also tipped for multiple wins - the group is up for six awards, including Best International Band.
Other acts leading the way include Queens Of The Stone Age, Lily Allen and Arcade Fire, who all boast three nominations each.
Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke and Harry Styles are up for the Villain of the Year title, while Styles' band One Direction will go head-to-head with the likes of The Wanted, Muse and 30 Seconds To Mars for Worst Band.
The ceremony will take place at the Brixton O2 Academy in London on 26 February (14).
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Screen Gems
We can divide the incoming audience of Kimberly Peirce's Carrie remake into three categories. First, dutiful fans of the original — just about any modern day cinephile, or regular human being who was at least a teenager in the mid-1970s. A collective who might be expecting, based on a passage of four decades and an insightful director like Peirce, something altogether different than Brian De Palma's horror classic. As much as we might have loved the old version, we're not heading to theaters to see it reproduced with Chloë Grace Moretz standing in for Sissy Spacek.
Second, we have the group who never got around to De Palma's Carrie, or at least who do not remember it with any particular fondness, but who hold Stephen King's novel in high regard. A group who might expect the epistolary form of the narrative to translate to screen in some inventive way, telling Carrie White's story the way that King did back in his early days.
Finally, the youngest of the lot: those who never saw, never read, maybe even never heard of Carrie, but who are flocking to theaters out of love for the young Moretz and in hopes of a good scare. These are likely to be the participants most satisfied — although it is the goal to approach every new feature film as a work independent from all predecessors and source material, anyone who has seen the '76 Carrie will have a hard time eviscerating the connotations from his or her head while watching the new venture.
Just shy of a shot-for-shot remake, Peirce's Carrie doesn't come through on many of the progressive tones or innovations than might arise from connotations with the film's director. When the film does deviate, those in the know will wonder why — why the transformation of the Billy Nolan character (played here by Alex Russell, previously by Jon Travolta) from lowly dufus into a criminal mastermind? Why the changes in Carrie's understanding of her classmates' ultimate misdeed (we won't say more, just in case you're in Category 3), or in her scenes at home to follow? To those who can't seem to get De Palma off the mind, it'll be difficult to justify these very few changes... especially in light of the overwhelming presence of his shadow cast by the new movie's decision to operate in such conjunction with everything we saw in the '76 version (even including the comic relief "gettin' ready for prom" scene).
But even those without a Carrie on their shoulders will feel that this film lacks the gravity it intends. The glossy feel of this Hollywood high school robs Carrie White of her desperation, her classmates of their cruelty, and the climax of its authentic severity. The only place where Carrie does knock its powerful material out of the park is with Julianne Moore, whose Margaret White is so impressively chilling, so embedded in darkness and fear that she's genuinely difficult to watch. But in the otherwise "campy" world of this Carrie, Margaret and the third act darkness just feels dreadfully unpleasant, and to no identifiable end.
What is Carrie saying and doing with all this horror? Unhooking itself from the clasps of dramatic weight, genre fun, and cinematic tribute, the film floats freely without much of an identity. Although the material is enough to get you through the movie, and the performances decent enough to at least see where a new life might have been breathed into a more inventive script, you won't leave Carrie without much in the way of answers. Just one big question: "Why did they bother?"
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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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