Fun Size may be the only production from kid-centric studio Nickelodeon to also feature underage drinking (complete with red solo cups) and boob groping. The murky demographic for the movie ends up hurting the well-intentioned Halloween flick — it's not quite suitable for the young ones nor is it funny or wild enough for the Gossip Girl crowd which director Josh Schwartz (creator of the show) knows well. Instead we get a floundering trick or treat adventure that reduces the colorful twisted holiday to a meandering situational comedy.
Nick TV grad Victoria Justice (Victorious) stars as Wren a high school "geek" who finds herself unable to bag the guy of her dreams (who adores her) but finds a glimmer of hope in the big cool kids' Halloween party. Ready for a night out with her best friend April (Jane Levy) Wren thinks life is finally going her way until her Mom (Chelsea Handler) sticks her with her troublemaking little brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll) for the night. If chaperoning Albert wasn't already the worst thing in the world Wren finds herself in an even bigger dilemma when her brother wanders off into his own night of mischievous debauchery.
The "one crazy night" formula fits perfectly with Halloween but Fun Size struggles to find interesting material for its eclectic ensemble. Unlike many of the young actresses who have previously collaborated with Schwartz Justice seems unable to crack his voice and comedic style. She's too hip to too aware to play someone struggling with high school. The material doesn't serve her or Levy either; off-color jokes and a bizarre sense of entitlement turn them into two people you don't want to see succeed. Luckily for the audience during their sweeping search for Albert Wren and April cross paths with two true nerd-looking boys: Roosevelt (Thomas Mann) and Peng (Osric Chau) who along with feeling like real teenagers actually land a joke or two.
Interwoven into this speedy adventure — Fun Size clocks in at a little over 75 minutes giving little time to flesh out our teenage heroes — is Albert's encounter with a convenience store clerk named Fuzzy. The adults of Fun Size see the ten-year-old Albert as a parter-in-crime rather than a lost little boy. Fuzzy recruits him for a raid on his ex-girlfriend's house; after running away he meets a lady who brings him to a nightclub. At one point a sleazebag kidnaps Albert and locks him in his bedroom. If Fun Size were madcap it may all make sense. Instead things just happen — and it's not hilarious scary or even deranged.
Nick's '90s sitcom Pete & Pete created an amazing sense of weirdness and heart in its exploits of two teenage brothers. Anyone could watch and enjoy it. Fun Size has a beautiful look (the colors of Halloween are mesmerizing) and Schwartz as always has impeccable soundtrack tastes but when it comes to telling a story that feels both relatable and wonderfully weird — what Pete & Pete did so well — the movie falls flat. It's stereotype humor (the movie packs many a fat and gay joke) doesn't cut it — when paired to Nick's best efforts the movie lives up to the title: a bite-size portion of a bigger better cinematic sweet.
Wuthering Heights is an incredible experience director Andrea Arnold having taken the Emily Brontë novel and turned it on its head in her typically nervy bold style. There's little dialogue it's shot using available natural light and like her previous film Fish Tank stars an unknown actor whose presence commands every scene.
There is moping on the moors in Wuthering Heights but the muddy meditative experience that has almost nothing in common with its predecessors. There's no romantically brooding Olivier or pillow-lipped Tom Hardy here; this is not an experience for teen girls to swoon over. As children Catherine and Heathcliff are odd playmates. Once Mr. Earnshaw dies and Catherine's older brother Hindley takes over the household Heathcliff's life changes drastically for the worse. He's physically and verbally abused and banished to the barn to sleep with the "other animals." It's clear that this is a brand-new nearly incomprehensible world for Healthcliff and it's impossible to not feel empathy for him especially during an aborted attempted at baptizing him. As a teen his relationship with Catherine is magical despite (or because?) how much he risks to just play in the mud with her. An ominous indicator of their lifelong relationship is that she doesn't grasp why her playmate isn't as free as she is to do what she wants. She's sorry that Heathcliff gets beaten for ditching work to play with her but that doesn't stop her from encouraging him. As children they romp like puppies with just a hint of their budding sexuality; they're pure selfish id.
In many ways neither of them outgrow this selfishness. Even when she's married and pregnant Catherine feels Heathcliff betrayed her by leaving. Heathcliff's ruthlessness in his pursuit of revenge is equally childish; we see him torturing dogs that mirrors the actions of Hindley's grubby-faced neglected child. Is it nature or nurture? Is Hindley's child learning by watching the adults around him or should we believe the natural tendency of children is this utterly careless cruelty? Whichever it is there's no doubt that Heathcliff's disavowal of the past and insistence of living in the present — "There's only now " he tells her — has nothing to do with Buddhist mindfulness but a total disregard for how his actions affect others. His initial plan included suicide but this seems much more interesting.
Howson's performance as an adult Heathcliff is remarkable. He's not a sympathetic character — no one is in this film. Although it's not clear whether or not Arnold was specifically looking to cast a person of color for the role of Heathcliff the fact that Howson is black adds an extra layer of complexity to the drama. In the book he's described in such a way that indicates at the very least his ethnic background isn't white but Arnold ups the ante by putting a racial epithet in Hindley's mouth. This drives home the idea of Heathcliff's outsider status; it makes his "otherness" visible.
There's something gentle in Heathcliff's face that belies the nearly sociopathic anger within. When he first seduces Catherine's sister-in-law Isabella as part of his revenge on Catherine it's erotic in a way that makes the viewer complicit in Isabella's eventual destruction. (This serves as an interesting foil to Fish Tank and its ethically troubling but arousing sex scenes with Michael Fassbender and Katie Jarvis.) As the adult Catherine Kaya Scodelario puts in a good performance. Her Catherine looks angelic but is all hard angles underneath those lacy flounces. She is the wild shrieking woman to Heathcliff's cold silence and when she is finally quiet it's only because she's succumbed to the furor of their lifelong struggle.
Throughout Wuthering Heights we are put in Heathcliff's shoes. We see Catherine through his eyes and we understand what it feels like to ride on a horse behind her with her hair whipping in our face and the warm flank under our fingers. We are immersed in this sensual experience of being Heathcliff thanks to the magic of Robbie Ryan's cinematography. (Ryan has worked as a cinematographer on all of Arnold's films including her Oscar-winning short Wasp.) The handheld camera work is intense and occasionally nauseating but its immediacy is crucial to the film. Using available light occasionally works against it as some scenes are so dark it's hard to tell what's actually happening.
Wuthering Heights gives rise to an internal debate. If it was edited down more with less lingering shots of bugs crawling across leaves or birds twinned in the sky as obvious metaphors for Heathcliff and Catherine it would be an entirely different experience. Would it be better maybe more enjoyable easier to sit through? Or is that beside the point? Andrea Arnold's talent lies in pushing the viewer past their normal boundaries of what's romantic or beautiful. In Arnold's world a mother and daughter dancing in a kitchen to "Life's a Bitch" by Nas is as loving and joyful as Heathcliff's frenzied attempts to unearth Catherine's coffin. You either decide you're all in or you're not.
I’d like to start with the first shot of the episode. I think it’s really important, you know? The first shot on this ninth episode of the third season of Pretty Little Liars features a barista steaming milk at the damn coffee bar, but it kind of looks like someone is using a chainsaw on a hand. Aria and Spencer stroll in, ignoring the creepy steaming pagan milk ritual, and discuss the latest find on Maya’s secret video site: a snapshot of Maya’s wrist decorated by the mysterious stamp. We know the stamp from Emily’s blackout memories. The short story: Emily was found in a diner with her “girlfriend” sporting the stamp. Aria’s eyes are as big as possible, but Spencer is attempting to run away. Aria asks why Spencer isn’t all “Go Go Gadget” (amazing reference, Aria), and Spencer explains it is because she forgot to apply to colleges while rapped up in the Maya drama.
Now. That statement is a little extreme. Spencer forgot to hand in her early decision application to University of Pennsylvania, which can also be called UPenn or just good ol’ Penn. I feel like one character on every single teen soap needs to have Ivy League aspirations. Gossip Girl one-upped everyone by making every single character act as an extended metaphor of each individual school in the Ivy League (Jenny Humphrey was such a Cornell). Spencer is freaking out for absolutely no reason, but this mental breakdown drives a lot of the drama from this episode, so I accept her frantic facial expressions. Spencer decides that she is dropping the Velma act to be more like Daphne, but Aria points out that Spencer’s Scooby-Doo reference is kind of wrong since everyone in that animated gang looked for clues.
The Scooby reference was the perfect time for someone in Rosewood to talk about Buffy, but they forgot to do that and therefore I will never forgive anyone ever. Emily and Spencer are definitely huge Buffy fans; Aria watches casually, Hanna can’t stand it. Regardless, CeCe shows up and is all, “LOL Aria you forgot your phone by the register I’m hot I went to Penn come to a cool party with me because my friend Steven works in admissions I am 22 meet me at 7pm for the party love you mean it.”
Hanna is dealing with a lot because a.) Caleb is back, and b.) PornStarMom deals with a cop saying Hanna has five days to surrender her blood sample. PornStarMom calls Mariska for help, but, like, I think Mariska was busy. Hanna isn’t actually dealing with the blood sample drama just yet, but she should be. The cop has shown up to take Hanna’s blood sample. And what could possibly be more important than blood? SEX. Caleb and Hanna run into each other in the hallway at school, and have an extremely tense conversation over moody music. I watched PLL in HD this week and I was really digging Caleb’s forehead scar during this scene.
About 1.27 seconds after Caleb walks away, Hanna gets a text from A. A wants to meet Hanna in the Apple Rose Grill or Caleb pays. How much will Caleb pay? The Liars should be asking more questions at this point, they should text A back basically every five minutes. Hanna meets up with Spencer to discuss the text; Spencer is eating fruit while Hanna eats a boring salad, and I think both girls need a little protein in their lunch. Rosewood’s hot new (only?) lesbian duo, Emily and Paige, shows up. No one is telling Emily about Maya’s site, because everyone just wants Emily to be a happy, blissful lesbian for a little. It’s working, for now.
NEXT: Adult Truth or Dare!It looks like Aria skipped school to go on a really long search for Ezra, because Aria is never at school and always outside of Ezra’s apartment. Aria overhears a big argument… and meets Ezra’s little brother! Wesley! So cute! Such a Fitzgerald! I would really love for Wesley to woo Aria, but I feel like I want really twisted things for Ezra and Aria that no one else approves of. Oh well. Wesley is around because of some convoluted bulls**t over the car Ezra sold for all that sock drawer cash. Not important. Ezra is looking frazzled because he needs to buy the car back.
Wren (Hot British Doctor/HBD) calls Hanna. She ignores his call, which I don’t appreciate, but at least I now know how to spell his name correctly. Thanks, Hanna’s iPhone! Hanna can’t deal with the MASSUGAR.COM guilt, so she finally tells Emily about unlocking the website. Emily then goes home to watch every single Maya video and cry a lot and possible contemplate suicide and definitely contemplate renewed alcoholism. Hanna keeps blowing off her mother, so PornStarMom starts flirting with Ted the Pastor in the middle of the street; I stop paying attention and/or Ted wants to grab coffee soon. I didn’t realize that adults went on coffee dates, because I thought that was something you do only when you’re 22 and want to avoid talking to someone for more than an hour because the first date has real disaster potential. If you can’t tell, I love coffee dates!
The intentionally funniest scene of the night shows Spencer and Aria getting ready for CeCe’s party. Spencer wants to wear one of her “most collegiate-looking blazers,” which is the worst idea ever. Another PLL moment in which someone thinks a casual setting is an interview! Aria has big fashionista inspiration and picks out an outfit in warm speed, and then promptly sits on top of that outfit on Spencer’s bed. I hope Spencer owns an iron. Spencer then tells a really funny story about shaving off her father’s sideburns in his sleep for $200 when she was 10. It’s amazing. Still not sure how it was relevant? No less amazing.
The big Penn party? It’s at Noel Kahn’s cabin, but the party is actually thrown by Eric. Eric is Noel’s older brother. Hooray. The Kahn brothers both radiate that attractive awful douche thing. CeCe is a bad bitch, and I really wish she would be Jenna’s best friend instead of her mortal enemy. Also, both CeCe and Jenna were fighting over Nate only two episodes ago, and they’ve clearly moved on to new dates tonight. Slutty. To get into the party, the girls receive THE MYSTERIOUS WRIST STAMP!!! Aria is like, “STAMP ME.” She actually said that. Here we go.
Spencer brought her application to the party. Her Penn application. It really happened. It happened. It is a thing that happened. Steven from Penn isn’t at the party yet, so CeCe puts the application in a safe place. Or so she says? Not trustworthy, CeCe. There’s a lot of alcohol at the party, but Spencer and Aria turn down a drink. Good (underage) girls! They need to keep their wits about them. CeCe drinks her liquor straight, no mixer. CeCe drinks hard liquor only, possibly because she is counting calories, but I now bow down to the power of CeCe. Eric and CeCe then begin a game of adult Truth or Dare, which is kind of like scary Catchphrase because you only ask a bunch of serious questions without expecting any answers and make sexy eyes. Not really Truth or Dare, but I’m not complaining.
NEXT: Haleb is back!Noel waltzes into the party with Jenna on his arm. JENNA IS BACK! Noel states that Aria and Spencer have “so many questions, I wouldn’t mind a few answers.” I’m feeling the same way, Noel. Noel picks Aria to play the next round of Truth or Dare, and clearly there is about to be some serious real talk. This PLL version of Truth or Dare is actually incredible because it is hardcore rapid fire. Like, no one takes a breath and no one really answers the questions. PLL is usually slower and more deliberate with its juicy conversations, so I loved playing things quick and loose. I giddy giggled through all of this. Aria asks a lot of questions about Maya, Noel asks a lot of questions about Ezra. Again, no answers.
While Aria and Spencer are dealing with the Penn party, Hanna is meeting A at the restaurant. However, turns out computer genius Caleb sent the A message, just to show Hanna that he isn’t afraid to know everything about her scary life. Caleb clearly realizes that A is back. Caleb and Hanna talk things out in a dark alley, which evolves into the greatest make-out session. HALEB IS BACK. I love Wren/HBD so much but there’s something about Haleb. Something special about Haleb, indeed.
Enough sweet romance, back to the hard liquor party: Noel spooked Aria so hard that she wants to go home. Womp. Wesley picks up Ezra’s phone, and says he’ll pass along the message as soon as Ezra returns. Inside, we’re on a new round of the Truth or Dare: SPENCER VS. JENNA. It’s a beautiful thing. Spencer descends the stairs into the Truth or Dare lair with such conviction and such a convincing side hair swoop that I nearly fell off the couch. Spencer and Jenna begin the “Truth” thing, aka sling barbs at each other. Fast and furious. Jenna and Noel let slip that they did find Emily in the diner, not in the middle of the road. Why is Jenna lying? We won’t find out, because our ladies run out of time! Spencer accuses Jenna of being the gravedigger in front of an entire party, which is nearly social suicide.
In the Bedroom of Suicide, Emily is STILL watching Maya videos and crying. Maya believes Emily was Cleopatra in a previous life, which I don’t entirely agree on, but maybe it’s a lesbian thing that’s over my head. Suddenly, a wild Paige appears by just bursting into Emily’s dark, sad room. Obviously Emily is not ready for a wild Paige, so the two need to have a moment. Paige tells some dumb story about her grandpa’s butt and missing dead people, which suddenly turns really poignant. I couldn’t get past the fact that Paige did decide to wear her collegiate blazer on a Friday night, and paired it with some awful hoop earrings.
Wesley shows up to grab Aria from the party, since Ezra was taking too long. Is Wes old enough to drive? Meanwhile, Eric and CeCe emerge from some mid-party boning, which means Spencer was running around the party looking for CeCe and her Penn application since that face-off with Jenna. CeCe says that she gave the application to Steven during said face-off, but I don’t trust CeCe and I don’t trust giving a college application to someone at a notoriously sketchy Friday night hard liquor party in the woods with crazy wrist stamps. But maybe that’s just me. Wes continues to drive Aria home, and PLL drops the big drama…
Now, PLL drama usually has a creepy-goofy edge, but Wes’ unknown revelation brings in some severity at the end of the episode. Wes, assuming Aria already knows that story, lets loose that Ezra got a girl pregnant in high school… and Ezra’s Mother paid for the abortion. As soon as Aria is back in Rosewood, she confronts Ezra in the middle of the hallway of his apartment complex. Not the best place to fight about an abortion, but Aria is feeling a little crazy. Ezra tells the whole story: It happened the summer after he graduated from high school, Mother Fitzgerald eliminated the baby from Ezra’s future. The abortion was the root of the family break, Ezra adopted his abbreviated last name after turning down his inheritance, and nothing was ever the same. Ezra’s family is awful. Aria realizes that this drama is far bigger than her relationship with Ezra. She backs down. True love.
The episode ends with two weird things. First off, Spencer gets an email after saying Penn received her application. I don’t think Steven would have been able to process the application through admissions at roughly 11:00pm on a Friday night, so I think this is a hoax. Spencer is really happy, so maybe she did have some hard liquor at the hard liquor truth or dare party and isn’t thinking. Or maybe Penn just processes hand delivered applications as a bizarre pace. Secondly, A gets a key from a nice woman that loves cats. Cat figurines are all over the place. Cats cats cats. A cat lady! I have no idea! I loved this episode, I think we definitely need to keep CeCe involved from here on out. Your weekly post-PLL project/big question: Who would you play Kahn edition Truth or Dare with? I’d pick PornStarMom, only because I want to pretend to know all of her secrets but really just scare her into releasing her sex tape. Or something along those lines. Hanna still needs to figure out how to cheat on her blood test, so maybe you can thing up some witty scenarios for that as well.
[Image Credit: ABC Family]
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