REVIEW: POISON IVY 2: LILY

CAST

Alyssa Milano (Charmed)
Johnathon Schaech (Legends of Tomorrow)
Xander Berkeley (justice)
Belinda Bauer (Robocop 2)
Camilla Belle (When A Stranger Calls)
Kathryne Dora Brown (Judging Amy)

Lily is a sheltered art student from Michigan attending college in California. She finds an apartment, and she soon notices her roommates, Tanya (a friendly lesbian artist who becomes a good friend to Lily), Bridgette (a cruel and taunting artist who initially takes an immediate dislike to her), and Robert (the silent but talented musician), all art students, aren’t quite normal. For the first time out of her village, she is still used to her protected life in Michigan and frequently calls her parents. One day she discovers a box of items belonging to Ivy, a girl she has never met before. In the box, she finds nude pictures of the girl and her diary. She is soon drawn to the content, also desiring for the girl’s sexual confidence and fearlessness. In class, she has trouble expressing herself, unlike Gredin, an attractive co-student and sculptor she soon starts dating. Meanwhile, she has found a job, babysitting Daphna, the daughter of her art teacher Donald Falk.Slowly, one step at a time, Lily becomes obsessed with Ivy’s letters and photos, attempting to take over her image. Soon enough, she cuts her hair, pierces her belly button and starts wearing more revealing clothes. Gredin grows even more attracted to her and it doesn’t take long before they start having sex. He is unamused by the amount of private time she spends with Donald, though, but she explains it’s because of the babysitting. She inspires Donald to perform art again, having noticed that he’s long been afraid to express himself. She agrees to pose nude for him, and also finds her own way to express herself in the meantime as well. During this process, he secretly falls in love with her, which has a great deal of impact on his marriage to Angela. However through the movie, it can be shown that Donald’s infatuation with her soon deepens to obsession.One day, Lily catches Gredin and Bridgette together. Feeling upset, she starts to rebel, thereby estranging herself from her friends. At a Halloween party, she enjoys the attention she is getting from men, and she amuses herself, until she sees Gredin intimately dancing with another girl. Trying to make him jealous, she kisses a masked guy, who turns out to be Robert. She eventually spends the night with Gredin, but he dumps her the next day, explaining she has changed too much. Meanwhile, Angela has found Donald’s drawing of Lily and thinks he has an affair with her. Donald, already depressed since he saw Lily kissing Gredin, takes it out on Lily. He later claims he is in love with her and tries to kiss her. She is initially unamused by his attempts, but they eventually heavily make out with each other, until they are interrupted. She leaves and soon reunited with Gredin.Not much later, she is invited for dinner at the Falk family and brings Gredin with her, which upsets Donald. When they are alone in a room, Donald forces himself upon Lily. She tries to stop him, but has no success. They are eventually caught in the act by Daphna, who runs away and is hit by a car (but luckily, in Gredin’s words, ends up “going to be all right”). Lily, traumatized by what happened that night, returns home and destroys everything that has to do with Ivy. She is surprised by a psychotic Donald, who attacks her. Gredin tries to save her, but Donald beats him up and even tries to stab him. She tries to run away by going to the roof. He follows her and eventually falls off the roof to his death. In the aftermath of the events Lily at first contemplates dropping out of the school and moving back to Michigan. However, in the end, Lily and Gredin say they love each other, and they finally decide to be with each other and Lily decides to stay in California.A Showcase for Alyssa Milano as she matured into a decent actress before she did Charmed. Not as good as the original but this one still holds its own.

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31 DAYS OF HORROR REVIEW: PATHOLOGY

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CAST

Milo Ventiglia (Heroes)
Michael Weston (Garden State)
Alyssa Milano (Charmed)
Lauren Lee Smith (Mutant X)
Johnny Whitworth (Ghost Rider 2)
John de Lancie (Star Trek: TNG)
Larry Drake (Firefly)
Alan Blumenfeld (Jingle All The Way)
Sam Witwer (Smallville)
Keir O’Donnell (Wedding C rashers)

The intro shows a camera recording faces of corpses, with their mouths being moved by medical students.

Med school student Teddy Grey (Milo Ventimiglia) graduates top of his class from Harvard and joins one of the nation’s most prestigious pathology programs. There, a rivalry develops between a group of interns and Teddy. They invite him into their group, which entertains itself with a secret after-hours game at the morgue of who can commit the perfect undetectable murder. Eventually the group’s leader, Jake Gallo, realizes that Teddy is sleeping with his girlfriend, Dr. Juliette Bath. When Teddy catches several members of the group in lies, he realizes that what initially seemed like vigilante killings are, in actuality, just innocent people murdered for sport.

Teddy’s fiancée Gwen arrives to stay with him in his apartment. Gallo, angered by Juliette’s infidelity, kills her for the next game. However, just as they are about to begin the autopsy on Bath (in the meantime plotting Teddy’s death), Gallo realizes that the gas has been left on in the room, resulting in a massive explosion as one of the group lights a meth pipe, killing everyone but Teddy who was not in the room. Gallo realizes what is about to happen and survives. Teddy is seen walking away from the explosion.

Later, Gallo manages to kill Gwen in what he believes to be the “perfect murder”. Upon completing his autopsy report on his murdered fiancée, Teddy is knocked out by Gallo and then is forced to trade verbal barbs with him. Teddy uses some of Gallo’s own rhetoric against him in reverse psychology fashion, after which fellow pathologist Ben Stravinsky frees Teddy and together they kill Gallo in exactly the same way that he killed Teddy’s fiancée. In the process, they vivisect Gallo.This is quite a good thriller if you can get past some of the implausibilities: for instance, how very convenient to have a fully functioning pathology lab that no-one knows about; and would you really bring your girlfriend to live with you when your mates are a bunch of psychos? .

REVIEW: DC SHOWCASE: THE SPECTRE

CAST

Gary Cole (Crusade)
Alyssa Milano (Charmed)
Jeff Bennett (Enchanted)
Rob Paulsen (Animaniacs)
Jon Polito (Barton Fink)

Foster Brenner, a successful film producer, is killed by a bomb hidden underneath the diving board of his swimming pool. Los Angeles Police Department detective Jim Corrigan, who was having a relationship with Foster’s daughter Aimee, starts investigating despite the case having been assigned to another officer. Jim interviews Flemming, Brenner’s butler, who shows him security footage of two men in ski masks entering the complex and placing the bomb. Jim asks if Brenner had any enemies, and Flemming replies that any man so wealthy and powerful has many. He tells him that several of Brenner’s longtime collaborators were excluded in his latest films and were very unhappy about it.

That night at a special effects warehouse, Drew Flynn sees the late Foster, who accuses him of his murder and transforms into the Spectre, who uses his powers to animate the models and animatronic film monsters to attack Flynn, and kills him with a gigantic gorilla robot. The Spectre confronts and kills Peter McCoy by controlling his car that repairs itself and crushes him, before taking a suitcase of money. Arriving at Aimee’s house undetected by phasing through the wall, Jim tells Aimee that she is good enough to be an actress in her father’s movies. Learning that Aimee was responsible for giving the correct access code for her father’s estate to Flynn and McCoy, Jim opens the briefcase with her father’s money. Aimee asks Jim that they will get together while she rummages the pistol from the desk drawer, but Jim refuses. Aimee fails to attack Jim, who transforms into the Spectre and kills her by engulfing her in a tornado of money, avenging her father’s death. Jim calmly walks away as the police arrive while they cannot see him. Jim narrates that his job is to root out evil, that he is justice and being the Spectre.332c4-dcshowcasespectre1Seeing as how The Spectre might not be as famous as Batman or as popular as Superman, it was probably a wise move for Warner to only make one short film in order to gauge viewers’ interest. The result was so spectacular, so oozing with style and boasting high end production values that it really is a pity Warner did not go all out to make a full length feature from the start. Having a mature narrative makes this short film accessible to even viewers who are not fans of animation as it plays out very much like a live action movie

 

REVIEW: COMMANDO

CAST

Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator)
Rae Dawn Chong (The Colour Purple)
Dan Hedaya (The Ussual Suspects)
Vernon Wells (Power Rangers Time Force)
James Olson (Amityville II)
David Patrick Kelly (The Crow)
Alyssa Milano (Charmed)
Bill Duke (Hoodlum)
Drew Snyder (Cruel Intentions)
Michael Delano (Ocean’s Eleven)
Chelsea Field (Masters of The Universe)
Branscombe Richmond (The Scorpion King)
Bill Paxton (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

Retired Delta Force operator Colonel John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is informed by his former superior Major General Franklin Kirby (James Olson) that all the other members of his unit have been killed by unknown mercenaries. The mercenaries, among them Bennett (Vernon Wells), an Australian ex-member of Matrix’s team fired for overt brutality in service, attack Matrix’s secluded mountain home and kidnap Matrix’s young daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano). While trying to intercept them, Matrix is also overpowered by the mercenaries.

It is revealed that Matrix is needed to carry out a political assassination for a South American former dictator named Arius (Dan Hedaya), who wishes to lead a military coup in his home country of Val Verde. Arius, who was deposed by Matrix in the course of one of his missions, has chosen the colonel because the current president trusts him implicitly. With Jenny’s life on the line, Matrix reluctantly accepts the demand. After boarding a plane to Val Verde, Matrix manages to kill his guard, Henriques, and jumps from the plane just as it is taking off. With approximately 11 hours’ time (the period of the flight), he sets out after another of Arius’ men, Sully (David Patrick Kelly). He then enlists the aid of an off-duty flight attendant named Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong), and instructs her to follow Sully to a shopping mall. Cindy first assumes that Matrix is a maniac, but after seeing him desperately trying to get his hands on Sully, she has a change of heart and henceforth assists him in his endeavor. After a lengthy car chase, Matrix catches up with Sully whom he drops off a cliff to his death. Taking a motel key from Sully’s jacket, Matrix tracks down and confronts Cooke (Bill Duke), a former Green Beret in Arius’ employ. He kills Cooke in combat and learns where Jenny is being held after searching Cooke’s car.

Matrix breaks into a surplus store to equip himself with military weapons, but the police arrive and Matrix is arrested. Cindy helps him escape with an RPG and, after commandeering a seaplane from a nearby marina controlled by Arius, Matrix and Cindy land the plane off the coast of Arius’ island hideout. Matrix instructs Cindy to contact General Kirby and then proceeds to Arius’ villa, where he embarks on a killing spree. Matrix stabs a number of soldiers, dispatches tens of Arius’ men with his machine gun, fights further opposition from within a shed utilizing gardening tools before then taking possession of the dead soldiers’ weapons and proceeding to the main building, shooting every single man he encounters on the way. Matrix then faces Arius man-to-man in a furious gunfight, and even though Arius has the high ground, Matrix outsmarts and shoots him dead.

Matrix locates Jenny in the basement of the villa, where she has fled, and encounters Bennett. After a fierce struggle during which each is injured, Matrix finally impales Bennett with a steam pipe, finishing him once and for all. However, Kirby arrives with a military detachment and asks Matrix to rejoin the Special Forces Unit, but Matrix declines with “No chance.” and departs the island aboard the seaplane with Jenny and Cindy.

The great thing about this film is that Arnold goes though at least 60 extras who are all shooting at him, they miss him and he kills them all. But it’s just fun to watch, as unrealistic as it is.  Commando is a great action film that anyone could at least get a good kick out of.

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: MY NAME IS EARL – CHRISTMAS EPISODES

MAIN CAST
Jason Lee (Mallrats)
Ethan Suplee (Chasing Amy)
Jaime Pressly (Mom)
Nadine Velazquez (Flight)
Eddie Steeples (Home Alone 5)
WHITE LIE CHRISTMAS
GUEST CAST
Brett Butler (Anger Management)
Blake Clark (50 First Dates)
Earl remembered always ruining Christmas for Joy, buying her useless presents for the Christmases of 2002, 2003 and 2004. He decided that he would win her a car to make up for his past mistakes, and entered a competition with Randy and Catalina to keep their hand on a car as long as possible, and whoever was the last to be touching the car would win it.The DJ, who names himself Johnny Bubblewrap announces that the competition is starting. However, Earl foolishly let go of the car to shake Randy’s hand, meaning that he was out. Randy promised not to let go of the car for him, and Earl left to cross another item off the List. He went to see Dodge and Earl Jr., as several years ago he and Randy had broken their bikes that Joy and Earl got them for Christmas. He went over to ask Joy what colors that would want, and as he did he met Buzz and Connie Darville, who Joy had told that Earl was fighting in the war in Iraq, and acted shocked to see him.
 Over the next few days, Earl pretended to be married to Joy after she said he would ruin Christmas if he told them the truth. One day while Buzz and Joy were at the mall with Dodge and Earl Jr., Earl brought the boys new bikes into the trailer. Inside was Connie, Joy’s mother, standing up – despite the fact that she needed a wheelchair. She admitted to Earl that she had a gambling problem and had been spending lots of money from the family business on gambling. Earl agreed not to tell anyone, so as to not ruin Christmas. Meanwhile, Randy and Catalina ended up as the last two on the car, but Catalina said she did not want to win it for Joy, she wanted to keep it herself. Randy was upset, as he wanted to help Earl with the List. Catalina ended up winning, but when the DJ asked for her Social Security number, he realized that she was an immigrant and she fled. Randy won by default and gave the car to Earl.
That night Earl saw Connie stealing the car he got for Joy. He went up to her and she said that she had to go to the Indian casino to gamble. Earl chased her on one of the boy’s bikes, but found her walking back. She admitted that she lost the car in a bet, and repeated her now trademarked phrase “Don’t you judge me”. Earl was angered, and when the two arrived back to the trailer they awoke Joy, Buzz and Darnell. Each secret was revealed; from Connie’s fake dialysis, to Joy and Earl not really being married, to Joy and Darnell. They argued all night as to whose secret was worst, but when the morning came and Dodge and Earl Jr. came out to see their new bikes, the arguing stopped and everyone had a good Christmas. Earl then felt that he could cross Joy’s Christmas off his List.
The first Christmas episode is a classic seeing Earl trying redeem himself after all the Christmas’s he ruined for his Ex. Also having to pretend to still be married to her whilst her parents are still in town. Brett Butler did a great job as Joy’s Mother.
Y2K
GUEST CAST
Silas Weir Mitchell (Grimm)
Timothy Stack (Raising Hope)
Earl decides to make up for #24, “Stole a red ‘Take-a-number’ machine” from a local Bargain Bag. He brings along Donny Jones, Joy and Darnell to help cross the item off. However, Randy runs into the store and takes the ticket machine from him, not wanting to part with it. Earl remembers back to why Randy did not want to part with it; in Christmas 1999 Earl stole presents from a house while Joy, Donny and Randy distracted the family with carols.
They go back to the Crab Shack, where Darnell explains Y2K to them, and says that life will not be able to continue without computers, all of which will break down. They all decided to stock up on supplies, and hide in Donny’s sister’s basement. As the timer hit midnight, all the lights in the house went out. They all thought that the Y2K myth was happening, but in fact it just happened because Donny’s sister had not paid her electric bill, and her electricity ran out on January 1, 2000. As the morning came, they planned to go out and loot, but found that there was no one in any of the streets. Donny worried everyone by saying that the computers had used them for fuel, and they ran back to Donny’s sister’s. They were unaware that there was a parade on New Year’s Day, which is where everyone was. They went to the Bargain Bag and each claimed their own section of the store. However, when they began to need things from the other sections, crime broke out. They managed to settle their disagreements by using the Take-a-number machine that Randy was so unwilling to give up in 2006. As they woke up on the morning after Y2K, they found the store filled with shoppers ready to take advantage of the new January deals. They snuck out sheepishly, confused as to why there were hundreds of people everywhere. Back in 2006, Earl managed to talk Randy into giving up the machine, and he crossed #24 off his List.
Although it is unusual to have a second Christmas episode in the same season as the first its still brilliant. The Gang thinking they are the only mortals left on earth is hilarious.
BORN A GAMBLIN’ MAN
GUEST CAST
Marlee Martin (Excision)
Gregg Binkley (Galaxy Quest)
Nat Faxon (The Cleveland Show)
Abdoulaye Ngom (VR Troopers)
Jonathan Slavin (Free Enterprise)
It’s Christmas time, and Earl is trying to make up for #146, stole gay Kenny’s lunch every day at fifth and sixth grade. He decides to make 246 bologna sandwiches for Kenny. Meanwhile, Randy is trying to find a way he can finally make his move on Catalina, finally building up the courage after his encounter with the cat lady. Meanwhile, Joy continues to pursue her goals of staying out of jail. Her deaf lawyer, Ruby, tries to teach her to control her anger in a courtroom. After a question that is designed to trigger an angry response (“And you’ve been a slut for how long?”), Joy has an outburst on Ruby’s translator, Doug. She calmed down, and Ruby asked another question through Doug that insulted Joy’s children, causing another attack. Joy was sent to a support group by her lawyer, but due to budget cuts in Camden County people with all different types of problems met in one session which, whilst less effective, was much cheaper. Joy was angered at being sent to such a session, but the group leader told Joy that she had a “disease” that was not her fault, the sound of which she liked. She went back and told her lawyer, and Doug suggested she tried some prescription drugs for her anger.
Earl went to take the sandwiches to Kenny, who had just broken up with his boyfriend. Despite being uncomfortable around homosexuals, Earl felt compelled to stay and listen to Kenny. He explained that he wanted to be more manly as it is what most men want these days, and asks Earl to teach him to be like him, as everything about him suggests manliness. Earl agreed to help him out. They started out by going to the Crab Shack, where Catalina was wiring some money back home to ensure that the men who visit her village each week don’t cut off her brother’s fingers. Whilst there, Earl noticed Rosie the bookie, and decided to invite Kenny to gamble. He placed a bet on a dog, and won several times, earing himself and Earl quite a sum of money. With the money he won, Earl bought some new tyres for the El Camino and decided that, as a manly task, Kenny could change them. He went over to Kenny’s house, where he found that he had lost everything in his house due to the gambling that Earl had introduced him to. He went to the support group that Joy attended, and the group leader figured out that gambling was Kenny’s way of numbing his childhood problems. The group leader then turned on Earl and asked him if he had a gambling problem, which he denied and quickly left to go and bet some more.
After winning all of Rosie’s money at the Crab Shack, Earl was still hungry for gambling. He was approached by a man who told him to go to a place in East Camden where there would be some gambling action at 2:00am that night. Earl went along and found himself at a chicken coop that was surrounded by many people, all betting on which square of the pen the chicken would excrete in. After the place closed, he found an overseas betting phoneline where he could bet on all kinds of things, including who would win the elections in the Congo, which once again he won. Randy meanwhile continued to plan for his big night with Catalina. He took her purse and tried to find things she liked; assuming that she was a fan of tic-tacs, keys and tampons as he found them there. He began to set up the motel room with bubble wrap on the floor, which he knew she liked as it reminded her of the shooting in her childhood. To keep her away, Earl took Catalina to the chicken betting pen. Whilst there, Earl saw Kenny, who admitted that he couldn’t stay away from gambling. Earl encouraged him to stay and gamble, but Catalina said she had to go to start her shift at Club Chubby, and stop by the Crab Shack to wire her money home first. Earl gave her his car keys and told her to go, saying he would wire the money on his way home. She stressed how important it was for the money to get there, but he ignored her and continued gambling. Earl felt confident that he would win once again, and made the decision to bet Catalina’s money along with his own. However, before the bet could finish Randy called Kenny and told him that Catalina had been found speeding because she was late for her shift at Club Chubby. She tried to run but already was in her stripper clothes, so did not get far. He also said that once they found out she was an immigrant, she would get deported. Earl realized it was his fault Catalina was late, and he rushed back to the motel, with all his winnings, to find an upset Randy alone in the room, waiting for Catalina who he knew would never come.
Whilst things did not work out for Randy and Earl, Kenny managed to face his problems and realized that the way to move on was to not copy Earl, but to talk about them. Joy tried her anger pills in the hopes that her “disease” would finally pass. Randy decided he wanted to tell Catalina how he felt, and set off for Mexico with Earl, who wanted to fix all the problems he had caused.
This episode is essentially a set up for the next South of he Border (Part 1 & 2), Earl accidentally being responsible for Catalina getting deported is heart breaking, but his decision to venture to Mexico to get her back is brilliant and leads nicely into the next two episodes.
SOUTH OF THE BORDER – PART 1 & 2
GUEST CAST
John Leguizamo (Spawn)
William Schallert (Green Lantern: First Flight)
Emilio Rivera (Bones)
Ray Santiago (Ash vs Evil Dead)

Catalina got deported back to Mexico when it was revealed that she was an illegal immigrant in the United States. Earl blamed his gambling as the reason she was caught. He and Randy are preparing to take their first plane ride to Mexico to rescue Catalina! Joy had been taking pills in order to relax for court. She was a new woman. Earl and Randy weren’t even able to recognize her with her new attitude. She even loaned Earl her luggage for their big trip. Darnell missed Joy’s feisty side, especially when it came to their annoying neighbors.Randy and Earl were surprised to learn that they needed to get passports to go to Mexico. Earl was having a difficult time keeping his eyes open for the picture. So, Randy put a picture of eyes over Earl’s eyelids in order to make the photo work. Randy and Earl were on their first plane ride. Earl had all types of questions for the flight attendant and he was annoying other passengers. He ended up getting himself and Randy kicked off the flight and then had to find another way to get to Mexico. Earl decided to see a doctor for a sedative to calm his flying fears.

When Earl’s sedatives wore off while they were on the plane, he and Randy were forced to leave once again. They had no choice but to take the bus to Mexico in order to rescue Catalina. At the bus stop, Earl wanted to get a taco, but Randy was too afraid of missing the bus. He tackled Earl and the two began to fight and Randy persisted to drag him onto the bus.Earl realized how much Randy loved Catalina and got on the bus. Before the bus could drive away, a man with a gun got on board and kidnapped Earl. The bus drove away and Earl was left with two men armed with guns

Randy took the bus to Catalina’s village. He took a sandwich and some flowers that he had found on a table. A woman embraced Randy, thinking that Randy carried her deceased son’s soul. After talking to the woman, she said she would take Randy to Catalina, so long as they got one night with the man who carried their dead son’s soul. Randy agreed. Darnell had to take care of confronting the new annoying neighbors since Joy was in the midst of her sudden streak of kindness. He decided to take them treats. Darnell got tired of all the questions the neighbors asked him, so he quickly fled their trailer. The people who kidnapped Earl happened to be Catalina’s uncle, Diego, and her little brother. When they learned that Earl wanted to rescue Catalina, they agreed to help him. Before that, however, Earl had to accompany the guys on their crime spree. Earl explained that he couldn’t commit crimes because of his list. He explained karma to Diego. Diego then said he would try to improve his karma.

While Earl was staying the night with Diego and his crew, Randy was staying the night with the family who had agreed to help him out. Both Randy and Early realized that they hadn’t spent a night apart in a really long time. Earl and Randy were united. While Randy went to go change, Earl walked around the village. Catalina spotted him, gave him a huge hug, and said she would marry him. Diego had told Catalina that Earl would marry her for American citizenship. Earl had no idea what Diego had done. Randy was hurt that Catalina was considering Earl as her hero. Earl wanted Randy to believe him the he had no idea that Diego was setting up a marriage proposal. Randy accused Earl of stealing his thunder. He had desired to be the hero! Darnell was tired of the neighbors taking advantage of Joy’s kindness. It wasn’t until one of them threw a stray beer can and it hit her son’s head that the old, not-so-tolerant Joy paid the neighbors a visit. She said her happy pills would completely wear off in three days and then she would return.  Earl fails the tests to marry Catalina and lets randy rise to the challenge, which he does and they are able to bring Catalina back to America.
A Great two-parter and is a good extension of the previous episode, it was good to see Randy take the lead go after the woman he loves. Joy being nice was funny and disturbing but was not long before she turned back to her true colours.
EARLY RELEASE
GUEST CAST
Craig T. Nelson (The Skulls)
Michael Rapaport (The 6th Day)
Raymond Cruz (Training Day)
Earl packs to leave prison, while Catalina, Darnell, Joy and Randy wait for him in the parking lot. Earl is shocked when Ron tells him that he’s not on the list of prisoners being released today, or the extra pudding list. In shackles, Earl confronts the Warden, demanding to know why he reneged on their deal. The Warden has a new deal: Earl scratches his back, it won’t itch, and he won’t throw Earl in solitary. Earl makes the deal, but knees the Warden instead of his shaking his hand, and is promptly led off to solitary.
The point of solitary is to break down a prisoner’s mental state by keeping him alone for 24 hours a day. Earl feels fortunate the state allows him prayer service once a week, and a shower and hour of recreation daily. Still, it’s not going very well since the Warden had him locked in a metal box with only a small hole to look out. Earl decides to stay in his cell and find better ways to fill his time, like charades and going crazy. Finally, on day 60, Earl caves to the Warden’s demand to get the prison ready for Christmas. Sensing Earl’s delicate condition, Randy offers to take him to the yard or let him lie down, wishing there were more options. Earl decides it’s time to bust out, and gets the old gang back together with Randy, Frank and Paco. Frank had made several failed escape attempts, and warns Earl not to disguise himself as too pretty of an infirmary nurse, or try to hide in a pile of discarded mattresses. While doing the Warden’s errands, Earl is inspired by a rat tunneling in the ceiling, and decides to vanish down the rat hole. In order to find where the rat hole leads, Earl and Randy break into the Warden’s office, where Randy draws the prison blueprints on Earl’s back. They can get through the ventilation system to the loading dock, but they’ll still have to make it past the front gate, where all vehicles are searched. Randy points out that not all the vehicles are searched. Ron refuses to search the local church van, because the last time he did, he got the runs for two weeks, and he’s not taking any chances.
Frank has made a zip gun with only one bullet, but Randy accidentally shoots it off. Franks melts down Earl’s bedsprings to make another bullet, and the escape plan gets underway. Catalina shanghais the church van, and Darnell and Joy disguise themselves as a nun and priest to sneak into the prison and hold a very loud church service. Randy follows Earl, Paco and Frank into the ventilation shaft. Sadly, Earl and Randy fall through the ceiling onto the Warden’s desk. Earl grabs the gun, and holds the Warden hostage. Randy plays video games while Earl tries to figure out what to do. Meanwhile, Paco and Frank escape to the loading dock, where Darnell has taken out a guard with a “Vulcan Neck Pinch”. When Darnell goes into the ventilation shaft after Earl, Paco and Frank steal Joy’s nun outfit, hijack the van and escape. Earl has taken the Warden’s clothes, but can’t bring himself to complete his Warden disguise by shaving his moustache, when Darnell falls through the ceiling on top of Randy. he Warden tells Earl that he will now spend his life in prison, when Darnell recognizes the Warden as a 1980’s porn star who once shot a movie in his apartment. Knowing that this information could ruin his wife’s career as well as his marriage, the Warden releases Earl, who passes Paco and Frank being returned to prison on his way out. Seems that when Paco caught a glimpse of Catalina on the road, he steered the van into a police car.
This was the episode many fans were waiting for finally seeing Earl released from prison, Once again the producers do Christmas in two halves there’s this episode and the following one that take place at Christmas which is nice because it gives you more to watch at Christmas.
BAD EARL
GUEST CAST
Giovanni Ribisi (Ted)
Alyssa Milano (Poison Ivy 2)
Gregg Binkley (Galaxy Quest)
Earl may have gotten out of prison, but the prison isn’t quite out of him. At his Welcome Home party at the Crab Shack, Earl tells Darnell he feels good, but truthfully, he doesn’t know how he feels. Karma has Earl confused, since doing good things hasn’t done him any good, and the only way he got out of prison was by doing something bad. Randy retrieved Earl’s List, but Earl decides to get his life back in order before getting back to the List. After losing their room at the Motel, Earl and Randy are forced to stay in the laundry room, which has a lot of other people sleeping in it. As an ex-convict, the only job Earl can get is a demeaning one delivering foreign food, and the uniform has him feeling grouchy. He’s surprised to deliver food to Ralph, who’s been living the good life, masquerading as an old man named Stan Johansson. After Ralph escaped from prison, Stan’s widow Doris took him in, and dressed him in her dead husband’s clothes. As long as he wears them, she thinks Ralph is Stan. Doris gets nervous with strange men in the house, so Earl and Randy have to keep sleeping in the laundry room. Hoping to make Earl feel better, Randy picks #205 off the list, because mistletoe sounds Christmas-y. A few years ago, Earl caused stripper Mistletoe to fall off the stage while fooling around with Randy’s laser pointer, leaving her needed to wear a brace for two years. Earl doesn’t apologize, and Randy reminds him that he usually uses his nice guy voice when he talks to people on the List. Earl doesn’t want Mistletoe to choose what he’s going to do to make things up to her while she’s pissed off at him. Still, she wants him to feel the humiliation of being laughed at on stage. Earl dons short shorts and tassels to do a shift at Club Chubby. Feeling stressed, he steps outside to smoke, only to see Ralph drive by in Stan’s hot convertible Cadillac, and this proves to be the final straw for Earl. Seeing Ralph living the high life while he is homeless and broke, Earl decides that if karma existed, something good would have happened to him by now. As a result, Earl gives up on karma, throws away his List and stalks off.
Earl, Randy and Ralph hang out at Club Chubby. Ralph smacks Catalina’s ass, but when Earl tries the same thing, she gets mad at him, since she expects more of him. Catalina doesn’t like the new Earl, but he claims that he’s reverted back to the old Earl, before the List. The guys go back to Joy’s trailer with a few strippers, since Joy and Darnell are out of town. Jumping around, they tip the trailer over. Joy and Darnell aren’t happy to find the trailer tipped over, and now Earl and Randy have nowhere to stay. Earl steals Stan’s clothes while Ralph’s in the shower. Now Doris thinks that Earl is Stan, and kicks Ralph out of the house in his underwear. He also throws out Randy, not wanting him to blow the scam, forcing him and Ralph sleep in the car outside of Doris’ house on Christmas Eve. The next morning, the whole gang shows up at Doris’ house for an intervention and everyone tells Earl (except Ralph, who thought they were teaming up to kick Earl’s ass) how much they preferred him when he was doing the list. Randy, in particular, gives a heartfelt speech about how much he enjoyed doing nice things and meeting interesting people when he was helping with the list and he now doesn’t like being bad again but wants good Earl back. Earl, however, doesn’t care and tells everyone how much he hates them for ruining his Christmas. In the commotion of the intervention, Ralph steals Stan’s clothes back. Wearing pajamas, Earl leaves in disgust. He decides to give up on karma, but running out into the road it catches up on him and he is run down by a car. Before passing out, Earl catches a glimpse of the driver. It’s Billie Cunningham, Frank’s ex. He remembered his feelings for her whilst in prison, and thought that finally, karma has brought him a good thing. As Billie goes to get help, she is hit by another car, and winds up unconscious in the road, lying next to Earl.
Dealing with the aftermath of being released from prison Earl decides to scrap Karma and we see how it ends up for him. Another good Christmas episode, the only downside is the cliffhanger ending.
ORPHAN EARL
Hal Landon Jr. (The Artist)
Eric Lange (Lost)
 Joy was about to go in to the Crab Shack when a scruffy guy approaches her asking for her $20 as he and his wife had run out of gas and his wife had to sell her hair for baby formula, Joy tells him it’s a sad story and if he came inside everyone would love to hear it but she tells his story so everyone would laugh at him this remained Earl of someone he conned.
A couple of weeks before Earl discovered Karma he and Joy saw an advert on TV about orphans in Africa Joy realized could make a fortune by scamming people and Earl, Joy and Randy went around telling people they were helping children in Africa.  After getting a $100 cheque Earl tells Randy who thought they were telling the truth that it was a scam.
Earl and Randy went to the house that sent them the cheque years ago to apologise to the owner Arthur Hill, Randy talks to Earl about writing a book about how non-food things taste.  When Earl talks to Mr. Hill he discovered that Joy was still carrying on with the scam and sent pictures of Earl Jr. just to get a $100 cheque from Arthur every month. At the trailer park Randy asks Darnell if he could taste his hair for his new book while Earl tells Joy it’s cruel to con Mr. Hill but Joy tells him if he told Arthur the truth he’ll ruin Christmas for the trailer park. Joy was so proud of her scheme that she bragged about it, so two of her friends Tammy and Sylvia made their own schemes to get more money from Mr. Hill, Earl tells Joy that it’s wrong but she wouldn’t listen. Earl talked to Randy wondering what to do about Mr. Hill’s money when Randy notices in the newspaper that Arthur died of a stroke, Earl shows the paper to Joy who sees that Mr. Hill leaved his money to the three fake charities Joy is excited but Earl tells her that he is going to cross Mr. Hill off his list by making sure she and her friends didn’t get the money.
Earl and Randy break in to Mr. Hill’s house to get his will to prove the charities were fake but Joy, Tammy and Sylvia were following them, Earl hears them when their van’s radio goes off and gives the will to Randy so he could walk to the office while the van follows Earl thinking he has it. Randy gets out of the car while Earl drives off but Joy jumps out and tells him to give her the will, then she and her friends went to Mr. Hill’s lawyer, Mr. Fischer, for the money but Earl who knew Joy would follow Randy had told Mr. Fischer everything. Mr. Fischer thanks Earl and after he leaves Mr. Fischer told Joy, Tammy and Sylvia that he could make their charities legal if he could have sex with Tammy and $5000, after getting the money Mr. Fischer gives them fake cheques and calls Earl to say he got the money. It turns out Earl had pulled a scam and Mr. Hill wasn’t dead Earl had just arranged for him to go on a vacation to National Rodeo Championships for a few days, the best way for Joy to think in was really was to make Randy think it was really so she would get greedy, Earl had planted a fake will in Mr. Hill’s house and Joy would get the will of Randy if he gave it to him. Mr. Fischer was actually the scruffy guy Joy made fun of and Earl would give the money back to Mr. Hill when he came back then told Randy that it was a scam.
When Mr. Hill return from his vacation Earl told him the whole story and gave him the money, Mr. Hill was upset so Earl takes him to the trailer park to laugh at the people there, to discover it now looked like a third world country. Tammy lost her pluming and her water heater busted, Sylvia lost her heating and her curtains caught fire while warming herself by the oven and Joy lost her refrigerator and flies started to fill her house causing her family to sleep outside. Mr. Hill gave Joy, Tammy and Sylvia cheques to repair the damage, Earl doesn’t understand why he’s helping the people that conned him but Mr. Hill told Earl that when helping those fake charities he thought he was helping people and that made him feel good, now he was helping people for real. Mr. Hill’s generosity had an effect on Tammy and Sylvia as they gave their money to charities on the street, Earl gave Randy a book with all his taste notes in it and got Joy’s refrigerator back for Christmas.
Season 4 put the show back on track and this episode is no exception a great story, with some great twists and turns, with a sweet ending.

REVIEW: FAMILY GUY – DVD SEASONS 1-5

Image result for family guy tv logo

MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Seth MacFarlane (Flashforward)
Alex Borstein (Power Rangers Zeo)
Seth Green (IT)
Mila Kunis (Black Swan)
Mike Henry (Ted)
Jennifer Tilly (Curse of Chucky)
Patrick Warburton (Scream 3)
Adam West (60s Batman)
Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST (VOICES)

Lori Alan (Wall-E)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Billy West (Futurama)
Joey Slotnick (Nip/Tuck)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Rachael MacFarlane (American Dad)
Alex Rocco (The Simpsons)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Dick Van Patten (Spaceballs)
Fairuza Balk (Almost Famous)
Charles Durning (The Sting)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)
Patrick Duffy (Dallas)
Victoria Principal (Blind Witness)
Will Sasso (Movie 43)
Sam Waterson (Law & Order)
Tara Strong (Batman: TAS)
Norm MacDonald (Billy Madison)
Candice Bergman (Gandhi)
Martin Mull (Sabrina: TTW)
Lee Majors (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Faith Ford (Hope & Faith)
Will Ferrell (The Lego Movie)
Jay Mohr (Cherry Falls)
Brian Doyle-Murray (Groundhog Day)
Robert Costanzo (Batman: TAS)
Michael Chiklis (Gotham)
Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men)
Gary Cole (One Hour Photo)
Luke Perry (The Fifth Element)
Adam Carolla (Wreck-It Ralph)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Thomas Dekker (Terminator: TSCC)
Haley Joel Osment (A.I.)
Leif Garrett (The Outsiders)
June Foray (Mulan)
Ray Liotta (Killing Them Softly)
Ron Jeremy (Orgazmo)
Alyssa Milano (Charmed)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Hugh Laurie (House)
Estelle Harris (3rd Rock From The Sun)
R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacet)
Majel Barrett (Star Trek)
Carol Kane (Gotham)
Dakota Fanning (Taken)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Meredith Scott Lynn (Legally Blonde)
Valerie Bertinelli (Hot In Cleveland)
Tony Danza (Who’s The Boss?)
Fred Willard (Anchorman)
Jennifer Love Hewitt (Ghost Whisperer)
Andy Dick (2 Broke Girls)
Jon Favreau (Iron Man)
Lauren Graham (Bad Santa)
Judy Greer (Jurassic World)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Peter Riegert (The Mask)
Drew Barrymore (Poison Ivy)
Jonathan Lipnicki (Jerry Maguire)
Gina Gershon (Bound)
Judd Hirsch (The Big Bang Theory)
Indigo (Weeds)
Stacey Scowley (Dollhouse)
Jane Carr (Treasure Planet)
Cloris Leachman (The Iron Giant)
LeVar Burton (Star Trek: TNG)
Jessica Biel (Stealth)
Nancy Cartwright (The Simpsons)
Alexandra Breckenridge (The Walking Dead)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: TNG)
Marina Sirtis (The Grudge 3)
Patrick Stewart (X-Men)
Gabrielle Union (Flashforward)
James Woods (Another Day In Paradise)
Carrie Fisher (Star Wars)
Mia Maestro (Alias)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man)
Sherman Hemsley (Lois & Clark)
Marion Ross (Happy Days)
Carol Channing (The Love Boat)
Jay Leno (The Simpsons)
Alexander Siddig (Game of Thrones)
Bryan Cranston (Argo)
Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride)
Kate Jackson (Charlies Angels)
Betty White (The Golden Girls)
Chad Morgan (Pearl Harbor)
Judith Light (Ugly Betty)

Out of the small animation boom that happened several years ago came “Family Guy”, one of the most hilarious and controversial shows that Fox has aired

For those unfamiliar with the show, it focuses on the Griffin family, residents of Quahog, Rhode Island. Peter (creator Seth MacFarlane) is the heavy-drinking father who works in a toy factory, Lois (Alex Borstein of “Mad TV”) is the calm leader, Meg (Mila Kunis of “That 70’s Show” and Lacey Chabert for the earlier episodes) is the insecure daughter, Chris (Seth Green) the chubby and dim-witted son, Brian (MacFarlane) is the alcoholic dog who talks and Stewie (creator Seth MacFarlane earned an Emmy for his voice work on the character) is the diabolical baby who is bent on world domination.The first two volumes of the show on DVD offers both the first season and half of the second seasons of the show and gives viewers who missed it another chance to witness some of “Family Guy”‘s most brilliant moments. “E. Peterbus Unum” has Peter breaking off from Quahog to form his own country when he finds out that his house is a blank spot on the map. When confronted after breaking the law, he gets out of it due to diplomatic immunity (“like that guy in ‘Lethal Weapon 2′”, says Peter). “The Son Also Draws” has Peter and Chris going on a Vision Quest when they lose their car at an Indian casino. When the trees start chatting with Peter, he asks, “If one of you falls, and no one’s around, does it make a noise?” The tree responds, “Are you kidding? Scott fell last week, and he hasn’t shut up about it since.” In “Death Is a Bitch”, Death (voiced by Norm MacDonald) comes after Peter after he fakes death to get out of paying his hospital bill. When Death sprains his ankle, Peter has to take over. “Da Boom” has the family searching for food (they dismiss a potential house after they find out Randy Newman is there, singing about everything he sees) after information hears about the world nearly coming to an end after Y2K turns out to be true.

“Family Guy” remained remarkably politically incorrect throughout its original run, but most of the jokes were rolling-on-the-floor funny because they were throwaway, including one exchange between Peter and Brian: “Brian, there’s a message in my Alpha Bits. It says “OOOOOO”!”. “Peter, those are Cheerios.” Every episode of the show was packed with such minor gags, most of which were successful and unexpected. The show’s voice talent, especially MacFarlane, Kunis and Green, handled the material with perfect comedic timing.

This second DVD volume of the series includes second half of season two and all of third season of the series, along with the controversial episode, “Wish Upon a Weinstein”, where Peter tries to get Chris to become Jewish because he believes he’ll be successful if he does. The plots of season three still get laughs fairly often, although I don’t think they reach the inspired heights of earlier episodes, such as the one where Peter’s house became its own country or lead his family towards a twinkie factory after the apocalypse.

Still, there are certainly some highlights throughout many of the episodes. In “Peter Griffin: Husband, Father…Brother?” Peter takes Chris to an Irish Heritage Museum to learn more about his heritage, where both find out that, before alcohol, Ireland was a futuristic utopia. “Mr. Saturday Knight” has Peter working at Quahog’s Renaissance Faire as a jouster when his boss accidentally dies at dinner. His competition is the Black Knight, brilliantly voiced by Will Farrell. “Thin White Line” and “Brian Does Hollywood” have Brian overdoing his new job as drug sniffing police dog, then running off to Hollywood and ending up with a job directing porn (at the adult awards in the episode, John Williams is one of the composers nominated for Best Original Score). In “Lethal Weapons”, Peter uses Lois’s newfound fighting skills to drive out New Yorkers who come up to Rhode Island just to stare at the leaves changing color.

Rude, crude and often hilarious, “Family Guy” saw fit to offend just about every group, but did so in a way that was sharp, funny and wonderfully absurd.Often brilliant, extremely witty and darkly hilarious, “Family Guy” was unfortunately cancelled after season three Fox bumped it around six or seven different time slots. Although this third season wasn’t as consistent as the first two, it’s still hilarious and fans of the show should definitely pick up this terrific set. thankfully a few years later the show would return for a fourth and become a constant.

Back on the air after an unprecedented un-cancellation, “Family Guy” had a slight bit of leeway in its return. Fans were rabid for some new episodes, while the network that had cancelled it once wasn’t likely to do so again and risk being considered foolish twice-over. As a result, there was a chance to experiment and try something new, and expand the horizons of the show. Or, they could choose to keep doing the same thing they did before, which is exactly the choice they made.

In a way, it was the smart choice. Why mess with a good thing, when you could keep making the kind of show the fans fell in love with and bought rapidly on DVD. The un-PC content is still in place, along with the pop-culture references, cut-aways and nonsensical characters. Call-backs to old favorites, like Herbert the old molester and the evil monkey were good, but the shows tended to settle into ruts. A love of musicals is appreciated, but is it funny every time a character breaks into song, as in “Jungle Love”

This set has some very good episodes in this set, starting with “Petarded,” which sees Peter declared mentally retarded. The ways he takes advantage of this status is classic “Family Guy” material, while the musical montage here, involving phone calls all over town, is actually quite funny. Plus, the appearance of the Greased-Up Deaf Guy gave hope that the creators still had that sense of the bizarre in them.

But if any moment stands out among this run, it’s the supermarket scene in “Breaking Out is Hard to Do.” When Chris is pulled into the “Take On Me” video by A-Ha, it’s a perfect blend of what this show does best, combining nonsense, the ’80s and some neat animation. The lead-in, the punchline and the execution of the whole scene is handled so well that it might be one of the show’s most memorable ever.If there’s a real reason for fans of the show to own this set, it’s provided in the extras. According to the commentaries, there are scenes included that were produced for the show that the creators knew would be cut, but did them with the intent of including them on DVD. I’m not certain what scenes were added, but there are several lines that would have been questionable for network TV. Also included are uncensored audio tracks that were bleeped on TV. It’s certainly a welcome change having the series presented as they were intended, instead of chopped up as so many shows are on DVD.

Among the 14 episodes in this set is a number of funny moments, normally involving either Lois or Chris, though neither enjoys a spotlight episode. Instead, Peter powers a couple of inspired shows, starting with “PTV,” a sharp rebuttal of the FCC’s assault on broadcast standards. As a fan of entertainment for adults, the crippling of language by the government certainly needs to be skewered. Peter’s revolutionary instincts crop up again in “The Father, the Son and the Holy Fonz.” It delivers an entertaining parody of religion, as Peter forms a faith based around Henry Winkler’s “Happy Days” character, with about as valid a basis as most religions.
comedy. There’s some good stuff in here, culled from the 14 episodes, including some subplots that were cut. They are joined by three featurettes that look behind the scenes of the show. The first is a simple one, as supervising director Peter Shin shows how to draw Stewie. Straightforward, but a bit interesting. “A Director’s Life: Debunking the Myth” spends almost 15 minutes looking at the job of the directors on the show, explaining in detail what they do to make the series go. It’s rather good and shows how much goes into making animation.

I enjoy sitting down with a set of “Family Guy” episodes, thanks to the voices and rather lush animation, another great set thou some fans might be confused with the season box sets not watching the actual seasons but once you figure out the numbering its

REVIEW: MY NAME IS EARL – SEASON 1-4

MAIN CAST

Jason Lee (Dogma)
Ethan Suplee (Mallrats)
Jaime Pressly (Mom)
Nadine Velazquez (War)
Eddie Steeples (Raising Hope)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Leo Fitzpatrick (Bully)
Gregg Binkley (Galaxy Quest)
Dale Dickey (Iron Man 3)
Carson Daly (Josie and The Pussycats)
Trace Adkins (The Virginian)
Silas Weir Mitchell (Birds of Prey)
Kathryn Joosten (Desperate Housewives)
Tracy Ashton (Stuck on You)
Jesse Heiman (ChucK)
Dax Shepard (Zathura)
Montel Williams (Golden Shoes)
Giovanni Ribisi (Avatar)
Abdoulaye NGom (VR Troopers)
Missi Pyle (Dodgeball)
Timothy Stack (Cast Away)
Chloe Grace Moretz (The Fifth Wave)
Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)
Kristina Hayes (Expelled)
Beau Bridges (Stargate SG.1)
Niecy Nash (The Soul Man)
Blake Clark (50 First Dates)
Brett Butler (Anger Management)
John Ducey (Sabrina: TTW)
Jon Favreau (Iron Man)
Jeremy Howard (Accepted)
Lindsay Hollister (Bluberella)
Jessica Cauffiel (White Chicks)
Mark Christopher Lawrence (Chuck)
Patricia Belcher (Bones)
Adam Goldberg (Deja Vu)
Christine Taylor (Zoolander)
Samm Levine (Veronica Mars)
Ben Falcone (New Girl)
Timothy Olyphant (Go)
Malcolm David Kelley (Lost)
Juliette Lewis (Some Girl)
Clint Howard (Apollo 13)
Max Perlich (Blow)
Geoffrey Lewis (The Devil’s Rejects)
Miriam Shor (Bedazzled)
Shailene Woodley (Divergent)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Burt Reynolds (Boogie Nights)
Judy Greer (Jurassic World)
Marlee Matlin (Reasonable Doubts)
Jonathan Slavin (Free Enterprise)
Beth Grant (Wonderfalls)
Jenny McCarthy (Two and a Half Men)
Johnny Sneed (The Heartbreak Kid)
Christian Slater (True Romance)
John Leguizamo (Kick-Ass 2)
Jimmi Simpson (Date Night)
Ray Santiago (Ash vs Evil Dead)
DJ Qualls (Road Trip)
Bob Clendenin (That 70s Show)
Norm MacDonald (Dr. Dolittle)
Kurt Fuller (Ghostbusters 2)
Sean Astin (The Goonies)
Ben Foster (The Punisher)
Craig T. Nelson (The Incredibles)
Dee Wallace (E.T.)
Raymond Cruz (Training Day)
Alyssa Milano (Charmed)
Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly)
Mike O’ Malley (R.I.P.D.)
Tamala Jones (Castle)
Shawn Hatosy (Alpha Dog)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Paris Hilton (Bottoms Up)
Kevin Sussman (The Big Bang Theory)
Michael Pena (American Hustle)
Jon Heder (Blades of Glory)
Bonita Friedericy (Chuck)
Deborah Ann Woll (Daredevil)
Nancy Lenehan (Sex Tape)
Mindy Sterling (Austin Powers)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Suzy Nakamura (8mm)
Brandon Soo Hoo (Tropic Thunder)
David Arquette (Scream)
Katy Mixon (Mike & Molly)
Jenna Elfman (EdTV)
Brooke Nevin (The Comebacks)
Scoot McNairy (Argo)
Michael Pena (American Hustle)
Joel David Moore (Julia X)
Courtney Gains (Children of The Corn)
Jane Seymour (Smallville)
Jason Priestley (Tru Calling)
Eric Lange (Lost)
Neil Hopkins (The Net 2.0)
Eric Allan Kramer (The Incredible Hulk Returns)
Morgan Fairchild (Chuck)
Danny Glover (Earthsea)
Curtis Armstrong (New Girl)

 

When I heard that Jason Lee has going to be starring in a new TV series, I was psyched. Ever since his star-making turn in Mallrats,  Earl (Lee), a 250-time loser and minor criminal, won $100,000 on a scratch-off ticket, and was promptly hit by a car. While healing in the hospital, he learns about karma from Carson Daly (on TV) and decides to change his life by making a list of all the people he’s wronged and making it up to them. It’s a simple concept.Earl’s family and friends, including his brother Randy (Ethan Suplee), his ex-wife Joy (Jamie Pressly), her husband Darnell the Crabman (Eddie Steeples) and his friend Catalina (Nadine Velazquez), are alternately positive and negative influences as he tries to fulfill his debt to karma. Randy, a dopey man-child, helps his brother as much as he can, but because he’s not too bright, he tends to screw things up. That’s ok though, as he may have the purest intentions of anyone in the show, since he’s unable to truly be underhanded. The only person purer than Randy is Darnell, otherwise known as Crabman. Even more innocent than Randy, he lives a simple life and is a simple man. That he’s married to Joy, a woman to whom no level of evil is out of reach, shows what he can put up with in life and remain good-natured. She’s also incredibly funny, as Pressly does the best work of her career, playing this trailer bitch to the max. She’s balanced by Earl and Randy’s pal Catalina, the highly sexy maid at their hotel. Though she’s good at heart, there’s an inherent darkness in her that shines through with solid comic timing.Though there’s not a lot of story that progresses from episode to episode, the theme of the list ties everything together nicely. Whether he’s helping a suicidal man find a reason to live or giving his mom the Mother’s Day she deserved, Earl spreads his “golden rule” message, making the show one of the few TV comedies today where there’s a positive message but not a ton of cheese. There are episodes that have as much heartfelt sentiment as any “very special effort” just without the melodrama. Instead, the series is very real in the way it depicts people. They are neither all good or all bad. They just are, and they do what they need to to get by. Darnell isn’t ruled by a strict code of ethics. He just does what feels right. Earl has a thread of bad-guy in him, but he believes in the concept of good. The writers have managed to create some of the most complete sitcom characters in recent history, as one can see in “Dad’s Car,” when Joy’s love for her kids is revealed.There’s something special in this show that you only see in truly great ensemble casts, and that’s memorable supporting characters that aren’t your average “wacky neighbors.” It’s almost guaranteed that a laugh is coming when Crabman or Catalina are on screen. Even one-time characters, like Earl’s clingy ex-girlfriend or the many fantastic guest stars, make the most of their screentime by integrating seamlessly with the regulars, creativing a cohesive universe, giving you more reason to come back and visit with your friends in Camden County.It’s not just the writing and acting that’s top-notch though. The choice of music is often inspired, with pop and rock songs helping the show reach new emotional and comedic heights, including a beautiful use of “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket” in the season finale. Today, you expect soundtracks with such popular, well-known songs to end up replaced on DVD, but it seems that these shows are presented with  the music intact. Just as creative are the inventive visuals, which help tell bigger stories in the small amount of time the show has. It’s the small details like this that show the kind of effort that goes into the series.

The second season of the show didn’t mess with success, maintaining the things that worked so well for the series, including a very funny cast, a well-developed dynamic and a style that’s unique and energetic. What did change was part of a natural evolution, as the show’s smaller stories, which make up Earl’s karmic quest, are joined by a larger, season-long arc surrounding his ex-wife Joy (Jaime Pressly) and her effort to get revenge on a local store for refusing her return without a receipt. Not exactly the brightest bulb, she decides that the scales will be balanced if she steals one of the store’s trucks. Unfortunately for her, worst-laid plans are especially susceptible to failure and things spiral well out of her control, as, when she’s inevitably caught, it’s her third strike, which would mean a prison term, thus setting up Earl and his friends’ attempt to keep Joy out of the big house. Of course, this isn’t exactly a crackerjack squad of schemers, so things certainly don’t go smoothly, which makes for a hilarious running subplot.Despite the overarching Joy in Jail plot, the show doesn’t lose sight of its core concept: Earl and his list. As he knocks off item after item on the record of bad things he’s done, we get to meet more of the residents of Camden County, including the members of a circus freak show, a French exchange student Earl ran out of the country and an aging rocker. There are also a few familiar faces to help, including his gay friend Kenny, the lovably laid-back Crabman (Eddie Steeples, one of the TV’s most underrated actors) and Earl Hickey. Yep, after realizing he wrecked his own life, Earl adds himself to the list and spends a few episodes taking care of his own business.Earl’s not the only Hickey in the spotlight though this season, as his adorably simple brother Randy (played wonderfully by Suplee) is increasingly a focus on the show, even getting a few love interests, including the gorgeous and hilarious Catalina (Nadine Velazquez.) A huge part of what’s so beautifully and positively human about the series emanates from the good-hearted Randy, who, in many ways lives to be loved, especially by Earl. It’s that personality that makes an episode like “South of the Border,” in which Randy feels wronged by Earl, and the hurt overwhelms him. In Suplee’s capable hands, a character that might otherwise be a cartoon, is fully realized and truly real, as “Larceny of a Kitty Cat” shows, in exploring how Randy reacts to heartbreak, with the help of “Strangers with Candy” star Amy Sedaris.Sedaris is one of many guest stars who are seamlessly integrated into Earl’s world, including Christian Slater, Roseanne Barr, Judy Greer, Jenny McCarthy, John Leguizamo, Kathy Kinney, Mike O’Malley, DJ Qualls, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Charles S. Dutton, Sean Astin and John Waters. Each one works great in the context of the series, especially returning guests like Beau Bridges (as Earl’s dad,) Giovanni Ribisi (Earl’s insane friend Ralph) and Tim Stack (portraying TV’s Tim Stack in a great meta joke) and repeated guest star Marlee Matlin, who’s fantastic as Joy’s deaf lawyer (along with her interpreter Jonathan Slavin.) But none of them were as fantastic or as inspired as the addition of Chubby, the owner of the local strip club, dry cleaner and rib restaurant. Considering Lee’s use of the phrase “Reynolds style” in films and Earl’s glorious ‘stache, getting Burt Reynolds to play the utterly mental Chubby was brilliant, as was his performance in “Jump for Joy,” the Catalina-centered episode that will make any hetero man a fan of “Jump Around.” But even better than that, was the appearance of Chubby’s son in “Two Balls, Two Strikes.” If Reynolds’ casting was inspired, there is no phrase to describe the choice of Norm MacDonald to play his son, considering MacDonald’s famously bad “SNL” impersonation.It’s this kind of decision-making that makes the series so original and fun, and its seen frequently throughout the season. “Buried Treasure” takes the old “Rashomon” concept and recasts it into a series of mini episodes of “Earl,” using the show’s style (and iconic opening) to great result, while “Our ‘Cops’ is On” takes the popular police show and brings it to Earl’s neighborhood. Though the concept is pretty consistent from episode to episode, there’s no such thing as your average installment of “Earl,” as each is a 20-minute masterpiece of comedy and creativity, starring one of the finest comedic casts working today.

By putting Earl behind bars for almost half the season, the series proved it was bigger than its concept, as the situation let him be the man he’s been for two seasons, while changing him organically, as he adapts to prison life. Admittedly, his time in jail isn’t too different for him, with the warden (a marvelously inept Craig T. Nelson) taking Karma’s place, as Earl helps him out in exchange for an early release. But the warden isn’t quite as generous as his cosmic benefactor, so life isn’t quite as rewarding, which pushes Earl back toward the dark side. Not to spoil anything, but Karma’s not a big fan of Bad Earl, and let’s him know so, quite forcibly.

Things aren’t all bad for Earl though, as his pals, including his dense brother Randy and Joy’s husband Crabman, help him out when he really needs it, which this season is for an extended period of time that sets up one of the show’s more unique conceits, as Earl finds himself in a fantasy sitcom world that’s genuinely amusing to enjoy. Earl also meets a special new lady in his life, when he falls for Billie (Alyssa Milano) the girlfriend of his prison pal Frank (Michael Rappaport.) Though we’ve seen Earl on the short end of the relationship stick, this new girl tests Earl’s patience, as well as what he believes he is all about. To say that Billie is a bit on the confusing side, is a massive understatement, as her mood swings and mindset change with the breeze. That said, we have rarely seen Earl under these conditions, it makes for some genuine comedy. The two-part season finale, which pits Billie against Earl’s list brings everything back to center.

One of the best parts about the show is the world in which these characters live, which has been enhanced by repeat guest stars and unique episode concepts. In addition to Nelson as the warden, new arrivals to Camden County include Vincent Pastore, Jane Lynch, Paris Hilton, Jon Hader, John Henson and Shawn Hatosy, some of whom fit in better than others.  Meanwhile, returning this season as guests are Giovanni Ribisi, Tim Stack, Beau Bridges and DJ Qualls, who help make Camden County feel real. Thus, when the show goes back to the well for a two-part “Cops” episode, this time titled “Our Other ‘Cops’ Is On,” it just makes sense that this town could be captured twice by the cameras of the popular police show, and feel no shame about it.Though the unique situations in this season make for some great episodes, the best would have to be “Creative Writing,” which finds Earl taking part in a creative writing class in prison. Though Earl struggles with the inspiration to write, it quickly spreads to his friends and family, which results in ridiculous fantasy scenes, including an animated sequence, Randy’s spy fantasy, a telenovela starring Catalina and, best of all, a smooth R&B jam from Crabman. It’s the show’s ability to bounce between the more realistic adventures of Earl and pals and sequences like these that makes it such a treat to watch a show on a regular basis, because you never know what you’re going to see next.

The season continues to see Earl visiting others he’s wronged from his past, including one episode that involves his own parents (“Monkeys Take a Bath”). In the episode, Earl and Randy decide they want to apologize to their sensitive childhood neighbor (played by David Paymer). While the two thought the neighbor moved because of their teasing, he actually moved because of an affair with Randy and Earl’s mom. When Joy finds out, she approaches Earl’s mom, first calling her a hypocrite, then wondering why they couldn’t have gotten along if they were both so similar. Of course, Joy gets a negative – and, not surprisingly, familiar – response.
Later in the season, “Nature’s Game Show” offers up another darkly amusing gag as a twister (and the show’s attempt at showing a twister coming through is about the most hilariously cheap portrayal of a twister I’ve seen in ages) passes by the town, resulting in a “commonly accepted rule” coming into play: the rule of “finders keepers”, as townsfolk scatter to pick up whatever they can from the items that have been blown around by the twister.However, one of the biggest highlights of the season comes in the second half, with “Darnell Outed”, a 2-parter that starts with Earl trying to help Joy get on the new reality show, “Estrada or Nada”, starring the former “C.H.I.P.S.” actor. Upon seeing the ad for the show, Earl proclaims to Randy, “We truly live in the golden age of television.” Shortly after, Earl introduces Joy’s audition tape for “Fear Factor”. While Pressley has offered up some very funny performances during the four seasons of this series, this is certainly one of the best, even offering up a few genuinely touching moments. The episode sees Joy getting humiliated, which also results in Darnell’s witness protection program cover being blown. The second half has Joy (who renames herself Goldie) and Darnell finding themselves in a new life in the ‘burbs. Upset that he couldn’t make Joy’s dream of being famous come true, he sets off to find her – by mailing himself and Randy to Joy’s new forwarding address. A few episodes later, Earl and Randy have to explain to Mr. Turtle (who has had a long journey) what happened.
My Name is Earl remains a great series and the series certainly goes out on a high note with this terrific fourth and final season – there’s not a bad episode in the bunch, and a few are particularly funny. It does end on a cliffhanger so be warned.