The episode opens with Aria’s Mom teaching Hedda Gabler to the Liars. This is a really highbrow metaphor for the girls, but it makes me expect great things. Like, Hedda Gabler on ABC Family? Maybe just a desperate plea for Emmy attention, but I’m on board. Also, this high school doesn’t only teach To Kill A Mockingbird! I feel like the Liars probably didn’t read Hedda Gabler. Whatever. Aria’s Mom also thinks that people dance for the security cameras at Wal-Mart the night before an exam. Which is a lie — everyone dances for the security camera at the closest grungy supermarket these days. Ugh. Aria’s Mom is always behind.
Emily receives a necklace of teeth that reads DEAD GIRLS CAN’T SMILE. But dead girls CAN smile, if you turn their mouth that way. However, they will look bad if you pull out all their teeth. Emily has a panic attack, everyone runs out after her to have a bathroom powwow. If my memories from high school are correct, you are not allowed to do that. I feel like our four Liars are in charge of the school, you know? The necklace falls into the toilet because everyone is being stupid, and Spencer does the most stupid thing because she triggers the flusher sensor thing. Spencer messes up even after Aria warns her about the sensor. Is Aria passing Spencer for smartest Liar? Probably not, but anything can happen on this show...
Aria’s hair looks better when she puts it in a ponytail and lets her top mom layers frame her lemur face. Yes, I am still obsessed with Aria’s hair because it looks the worst. After the necklace of human teeth is lost forever into the Rosewood toilet system, our ladies decide to double attack Mona and Garrett to get more information. Suddenly, a wild Jenna appears wearing a RIDICULOUS voodoo necklace and still pretending she is blind! The most blind ever, because she is running into people now. Oops. Aria is the only one that realizes how Jenna is now the blindest, further solidifying her smart status. Gold star, Aria!
Emily was absent from school all of April. Was she drunk? How did she miss every day of school in April? Didn’t her friends say something? Was it because of Maya? Couldn’t they help out the token lesbian with good hair? Aria thinks it’s really smart for Ezra to be Emily’s tutor on the English exam — another smart move for Aria. AND THEN BIG SOMETHING HAPPENS: MEREDITH ARRIVES. Meredith as in the graduate student that Aria’s Dad slept with! She is actually Jody Sawyer from Center Stage disguised as a crazy home wrecking bitch, which means I like her and hate her at the same time. Meredith wants a teaching position at the high school, and says she won’t put Aria down as a reference. That comment is not even funny/cute/scary, only dumb. Meredith is hot and dumb.
NEXT: Do you suffer from Ambiguous Loss?
Hanna is still visiting Mona in the loony bin, and Mona still looks dead. Remember that weird Halle Berry film, Gothika? It is really bad. Do not watch it. But I think of it whenever I see Mona. Hanna is sharing the latest gossip with Mona, and then she SNAPS. Like, Hanna starts screaming about peach pie and braiding back hair and she throws a chair. Mona sits as stone cold as ever.
Hot British Doctor is lecturing Hanna about crazy people, which is weirdly sexual. (They should bang?) I know Hanna is with Caleb, but Hannah and Caleb have the same haircut now and that’s weird. Basically everyone should be in love with Hot British Doctor (HBD, from here on out). HBD mentions this thing called “Ambiguous Loss,” in which something is gone but yet still here. Sounds very medical, and by that, I mean it sounds like he made it up.
Spencer is hanging out with Toby and notices that Jenna’s life as a blind person is questionable. Duh. Spencer thought to use a search engine (probably Bing), and realized that Jenna’s camp ended Aug. 23. Where’d she go? Clearly Spencer is the one closest to the Nancy Drew here and solidifies her status as Smart One! Toby suddenly tries to have sex with Spencer. As in, he starts giving her a massage and then pulls her shirt up to expose her entire back and starts kissing and Spencer is not wearing a bra and vigorous making out and we see Toby’s weird hip tattoo again and is this show Fifty Shades of Grey? I forget how to use periods/punctuation when high schoolers have almost-sex on television! Mariska (Spencer’s Mom) comes back and it is over. Mariska’s hair looks bad. Mariska sucks.
Back at school, Aria finds a weird earring in her locker. We flash back to when Ali was alive, which means we see my favorite Aria: Rebellious Aria with the pink extension! Ali looks like a midget hooker, and the two are hunting for evidence of Aria’s Dad having an affair with Meredith; Ali finds an earring, so the two decide to trash everything and make it look like Meredith wants to ruin Aria’s entire family. The trashing looks like so much fun, because Ali and Aria write on the walls with lipstick and throw papers. This is one of the best things PLL has ever done. It is like a food fight but with actual damage. Ali also calls Meredith a “vindictive home-wrecking bunny boiler,” which is a burn I am using every day for the rest of my life. Anyhoo, flashback ends and Aria reveals that the earring is the keepsake Aria dropped in Ali’s casket. GRAVE ROBBING.
Aria passes Jenna on her way out, and Jenna says that she recognizes Aria because of Aria’s ringtone. ARIA’S RINGTONG IS RANDOM BEEPS. Jenna, try harder. Jenna wants Aria to play in a recital with her? What? That doesn’t make sense. Jenna is arranging pistachio shells in a weird crop circle. Aria blatantly lies and runs away. Jenna lowers her sunglasses — the universal sign that her eyeballs work — and starts casting an evil spell on Aria. I love Jenna.
NEXT: Where’s Hanna’s Mom?
Mariska bans Spencer from the jail! Garrett is bad! Spencer is wearing an ugly tennis dress! Garrett has evidence that proves… stuff? He says he is innocent! People lie! Medial records don’t! I believe most of this, but I also feel like someone on this show (umm, A) could 100 percent forge medical records. Garrett gives nothing up. Mariska is now Garrett’s lawyer. Something is fishy. Spencer is frazzled.
Everyone’s mother is being really rude this season and we are already two episodes in! Is that the theme for this season? Maybe all the moms are A? Hanna’s Mom is absent the entire episode, which means she is either filming porn somewhere or having sex with that police officer the entire week. Caleb thinks that Mona spends her time in the psych ward “making ashtrays and pooping in a stall without a door,” which sounds mildly boring but not that awful. Hanna mentions that she needs to see Mona because she is suffering from Ambiguous Loss! HBD! Hanna is like a doctor now. Hanna does Mona’s makeup at the hospital/jail. It is really sweet. Hanna deserves a pig cupcake. Mona also whispers her first line from the crazy house: “You’re still received them, aren’t you?” A!!! Mona also steals tweezers from Hanna and pulls something out of her finger. We’re crossing over into Black Swan territory!
Back at the hospital, HBD and Caleb are having a pissing contest over Hanna. HBD mentions Ambiguous Loss, and Caleb realizes that Hanna lied to him. Caleb is a really good boyfriend and Hanna is a bad girlfriend! Ambiguous Loss is everywhere and A is kind of M.I.A.ish this episode. I like the flip, because I learned about Ambiguous Loss and Ambiguous Loss can be used as an excuse for almost anything. I think.
Aria’s Dad is the worst character on this show, taking the spot left open from when Emily’s Mom used to cry in the soup cabinet about her daughter’s lesbian tendencies, when he forces Aria to apologize to Meredith about the office trashing. STUPID. Meredith is a blonde whore! She has evil eyes. Aria confesses because A sent her the worst A text ever, and it wasn’t that hard to tell the truth. Meredith hangs out in a Rosewood coffee house that has not existed before this very day, which makes sense because Rosewood just invents new stores when characters need a new meeting place. Aria finds out that the earring from her dad’s office does not belong to Meredith. That is not a mystery but more just Aria forgetting about the manipulative character traits of her evil dead friend.
NEXT: Jenna has eyeballs!
Emily is listening to pump-up jams before her exam… and… touching herself? She makes a scary orgasm face and then the exam starts. Emily sees the first page and does the classic “I KNOW EVERYTHING” face. She’s enjoying herself. However, as the exam nears the end, Emily has a flashback to the blue car that has been haunting her since… last episode. The flashback comes because some girl in the classroom acts as a trigger. At first, I thought Emily was going into a hazy lesbian fever dream. However, the woman driving the creepy car was JENNA!!! WITH EYEBALLS!!! NO SUNGLASSES!!! BLACK GLOVES!!! Again, Jenna is the best. Emily doesn’t finish the test. But she only had like seven minutes left when the flashback arrived, and she still had roughly 28 questions left. So… I don’t know if she can blame the car kidnap memory returning, you know?
Aria’s Mom sees that Emily is going to flunk, so she decides to fill in the answers for the questions Emily missed. Amazing. Ezra, as Emily’s concerned tutor, comes to talk to Aria’s Mom about the exam. Aria’s Mom gives the wink treatment to Ezra, basically saying I WILL DO ANYTHING SO SAVE EMILY. Ezra and Aria’s Mom have secrets now. Adults lying along with the Liars is perfect.
The episode ends with the girls having another bathroom party and screaming about everything that has happened this episode. They’re all talking on top of each other and no one is listening. Aaand then Jenna stumbles in! The girls hide in the stalls. Jenna fills up a water bottle. Jenna finds Aria’s evil-not-Meredith earring on the bathroom sink. JENNA TAKES OFF HER SUNGLASSES BECAUSE SHE CAN SEE. The Liars see everything from the slits in their bathroom stalls. Brilliant.
Aria is “ready to hang a sign: ‘Bitch can see!’” Spencer decides to wait because they can use the information to their advantage. Spencer is the smartest. Spencer wins. Aria gets close because that is a good sign.
Ultimately, I really hope A is controlling everything that ever happens in Rosewood and it ends up that A is the Mayor from Buffy. Like, the same actor that turns into the giant worm during graduation. This IS season three, and I like the parallels. Little Red Riding Hood is shown in a hunting shop with a lot of knives at the standard “clue” to cap the episode. What will happen with those knives? Are their knives in Hedda Gabler? Would you do the makeup for your crazy friend that tried to murder you and probably had a lot of knives? Are any of you readers suffering from Ambiguous Loss? Don’t play with sharp knives. See you next week.
[Image Credit: ABC Family]
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In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
How much did them country folks dislike Garth Brooks' soul patch? Well, take a look at the Academy of Country Music nominations. The scorecard reads something like this: Garth Brooks -- zero; 'N Sync -- one.
Is 'N Sync a country act? Can you chew bubble gum and tobacco at the same time? Do the Backstreet Boys know about this?
Frankly, we don't know. We just know this: The boy-band popsters of 'N Sync got more props out of the 35th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards than country mega-mega-star Garth Brooks. In nominations announced Wednesday, 'N Sync nabbed a nod for outstanding "vocal event" for their collaboration with Alabama on "God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You." Brooks nabbed the aforementioned nothing.
The snub was for Brooks' foray into multiple personalities, a k a "In the Life of Chris Gaines," the hat-act's 1999 concept album. For the uninitiated, the "Chris Gaines" thing featured Brooks assuming an alter-ego (Gaines), adopting a pop/rock sound and sporting (egad!) a wig and soul patch.
Tim McGraw, who sports a hat and a goatee but not a soul patch, was rewarded for his good ol' country fashion sense with nominations in five categories, including Entertainer of the Year. All told, McGraw stands to lasso seven trophies, because in the best song and best single categories he's nominated as both the performer and producer.
Wife Faith Hill and Grammy-winning country trio the Dixie Chicks were the other top multiple nominees, with five nods apiece.
The awards are scheduled to be presented May 3 in a CBS telecast from Los Angeles' Universal Amphitheater.
Here's a complete rundown of the nominations for the 35th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards:
Entertainer of the Year: Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Sawyer Brown, Shania Twain.
Top Male Vocalist: Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Collin Raye, George Strait.
Top New Male Vocalist: Gary Allan, Chad Brock, Brad Paisley.
Top Female Vocalist: Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Jo Dee Messina, Shania Twain, Chely Wright.
Top New Female Vocalist: Jessica Andrews, Julie Reeves, Chalee Tennison.
Top Vocal Duo or Group: Asleep at the Wheel, Brooks & Dunn, Dixie Chicks, Lonestar, Sawyer Brown.
Top New Vocal Duo or Group: Montgomery Gentry, Shedaisy, Yankee Grey.
Top Vocal Event of the Year: "A Country Boy Can Survive (Y2K Version)" (with Chad Brock, Hank Williams, Jr., George Jones); "After the Gold Rush'' (with Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt); "God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You'' (with Alabama, 'N Sync); "My Kind of Woman'' (with Vince Gill, Patty Loveless); ''When I Said I Do'' (with Clint Black, Lisa Hartman Black).
Album of the Year: "A Place in the Sun," Tim McGraw; "Breathe," Faith Hill; "Cold Hard Truth," George Jones; "Fly," Dixie Chicks; "Ride With Bob," Asleep at the Wheel.
Single Record of the Year: "Amazed" Lonestar; "He Didn't Have to Be," Brad Paisley; "Please Remember Me," Tim McGraw; "Ready to Run" Dixie Chicks; "Write This Down," George Strait.
Song of the Year: "Amazed," Lonestar; "He Didn't Have to Be," Brad Paisley; "Breathe," Faith Hill; "Choices," George Jones; "Please Remember Me," Tim McGraw.
Country Video of the Year: "Breathe," Faith Hill; "He Didn't Have to Be," Brad Paisley; "How Do You Like Me Now," Toby Keith; "Ready to Run," Dixie Chicks; "Single White Female" Chely Wright.