HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: PUSHING DAISIES – GIRTH

pushing-daisies

MAIN CAST

Lee Pace (The Hobbit)
Anna Friel (Land of The Lost)
Chi McBride (Human Target)
Jim Dale (Pete’s Dragon)
Ellen Greene (Heroes)
Swoosie Kurtz (Mike & Molly)
Kristin Chenoweth (The Pink Panther)

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GUEST CAST

Barbara Barrie (Breaking Away)
Hamish Linklater (The Crazy Ones)

Image result for pushing daisies girthAs a child at the Longborough School for Boys, Ned never received any mail from his father. Suddenly, at Halloween, he finally received something: a preprinted notice that his father was moving. Ned ran away and went to his father’s new home dressed for trick or treating, to find him with a new wife and two twin boys. A farrier, Lucas Shoemaker, is working in a stable. A ghostly horseman, riding a flame-spitting horse, tramples him to death. At the Pie Hole, Chuck is putting up Halloween decorations, despite Olive’s insistence that Ned hates this specific holiday. Chuck wants to know what Olive told her Aunt Lily and Aunt Vivian. Olive still assumes that Chuck simply faked her death, and Chuck is relieved that Olive doesn’t suspect what really happened. Ned comes in and is taken aback by the Hallowe’en decorations. Olive plays coy about exactly what she has told, then hears about the death of Lucas Shoemaker. Olive goes to her safe deposit box and takes out the money necessary to hire Emerson to investigate Shoemaker’s death, believing it was murder. It turns out Olive used to be a jockey and competed against Shoemaker.
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Emerson takes the case and goes to the morgue with Ned and Chuck. They interrogate the toothless Shoemaker (with translations by Chuck, who once wore orthodontic headgear) who says that John Joseph Jacobs killed him… although the records say Jacobs died seven years ago. Shoemaker warns that Jacobs will kill again. They let Olive know and she gives them a list of other jockeys that might be in danger. Olive is leery about identifying Jacobs and then faints. Emerson goes to check out a jockey’s bar while Ned goes alone to the stable to look for clues and prods Emerson into taking Chuck with him. Ned admits he won’t even go to the stable, and an upset Chuck goes to the stable and tells Ned to do what he has to. Olive wakes up and tells them that Jacobs was the golden boy of racing until he competed in the Jock-Off 2000 and fell off his horse. Olive, the winner, and the other jockeys inadvertently trampled him. Emerson figures that someone is trying to avenge Jacobs. Olive figures that someone is going after the people who placed, in the order they came in.
Image result for pushing daisies girthAt the jockey bar, Emerson talks to the bartender, Pinky McCoy, while another jockey, Gordon McSmalls, warns about Jacobs’ ghost. Gordon says that Jacobs’ tomb has been broken open so Olive and Emerson go there and open the coffin. All they find inside is the skeleton of a horse… with no legs. Chuck and Digby go to the stable and find cracker crumbs, and Emerson surprises them. Ned goes to visit his old house. Chuck, Emerson, and Olive go to see Jacobs’ mother, Mamma Jacobs. She invites them in and says that she made peace with her son’s death. She shows them his ashes, explaining that she had his horse All the Gold secretly buried in Jacobs’ tomb. They’re unaware that someone is watching them through the heating vent. At Pinky’s bar, the ghostly horseman appears and tramples him to death. Meanwhile, Ned goes to visit Chuck’s aunts next door and ask them to tell them what they can about his father. Ned realizes that the pie they served him is from the Pie Hole (the strawberries die when they touch his tongue) and goes to leave, and Vivian tries to console him.
Image result for pushing daisies girthNed goes to Pinky’s bar where everyone else is, checking out Pinky’s corpse and finding cracker crumbs on the floor. Chuck gets Olive out while Ned and Emerson interrogate Pinky’s corpse. Pinky reveals he fixed races and asks them to apologize to Olive: he figures Jacobs is seeking revenge on him and Olive benefited. Olive explains that Jacobs’ girth had been cut by one of the other jockeys, causing him to fall to his death. The jockeys agreed to keep the secret and burn the saddle, over Olive’s objections.  Ned and Emerson go to find Gordon, the last jockey, while Chuck guards Olive at her apartment. Olive goes to get some booze in her bedroom but sees a horseshoe outside her window. She climbs up to the roof and sees John Joseph Jacobs. Chuck knocks him out briefly and they notice he’s two feet taller then he should be. Jacobs explains that he survived the fall but his legs were badly broken, so they transplanted his horse’s legs onto him. Jacobs has been living in his mother’s basement while he relearned how to walk. Olive tells him to get out and live and Jacobs agrees.
Image resultThe three of them go to Mamma Jacobs’ house and the women realize that Jacobs, being hypoglycemic, often eats crackers. They examine Jacobs’ supposed ashes and realize they’re from the burned saddle. Suddenly the horseman rides into the house. Emerson and Ned find Gordon and he mentions that Shoemaker confessed everything to Mamma Jacobs and gave her the ashes to prove what he was saying was true. The horseman removes her mask to reveal that she’s Mamma Jacobs. She’s seeking revenge for the fact her son’s career was ended. They run out of the house as Mamma Jacobs gallops after them. Ned and Emerson get to the house and hear them in the nearby woods. Chuck twists her ankle and Olive gets her to safety before luring Mamma Jacobs away. Ned grabs her just in time while Emerson clubs Mamma Jacobs with a shovel. Olive embraces Ned, who drops her to go to Chuck. Mamma Jacobs ends up in jail, while Olive gives the trophy cup and winnings to Jacobs. Ned and Chuck go to her aunt’s house and Ned says he knows about the pies. Chuck then dresses up as a ghost and goes up to the aunts for trick-or-treat.

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A great episode from a great series, it has enough plot twists and scares to keep you engaged throughout, a fun Halloween episode for this time of year.

REVIEW: PUSHING DAISIES – SEASON 2

CAST

Lee Pace (The Hobbit)
Anna Friel (Limitless)
Chi McBride (Human target)
Ellen Greene (Little Shop of Horrors)
Swoosie Kurtz (Mike & Molly)
Kristin Chenoweth (Bewitched)
Jim Dale (Carry on Columbus)
Field Cate (Space Buddies)

Anna Friel and Lee Pace in Pushing Daisies (2007)RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Missi Pyle (Mom)
French Stewart (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Autumn Reeser (Sully)
Diana Scarwid (Wonderfalls)
Peter Cambor (Forever My Girl)
Sy Richardson (Colors)
Sammi Hanratty (Shameless)
Rachael Harris (Lucifer)
Lee Arenberg (Waterworld)
Hayley McFarland (Lie To Me)
Graham McTavish (The Hobbit)
David Arquette (Scream)
Debra Mooney (Everwood)
Dana Davis (Heroes)
Hayes MacArthur (Life As We Know It)
Stephen Root (Barry)
Christine Adams (Black Lightning)
Fred Willard (Anchorman)
Kerri Kenney (Wanderlust)
Ethan Phillips (Star Trek: Voyager)
Josh Randall (Ed)
Patrick Fischler (The Finder)
Beth Grant (Childs Play 2)
Eric Stonestreet (The Loft)
Daeg Faerch (Halloween)
David Koechner (Anchorman)
Mary Kay Place (Youth In Revolt)
Orlando Jones (Sleepy Hollow)
Ivana Milicevic (Running Scared)
George Segal (2012)
Willie Garson (Supergirl)
Constance Zimmer (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Robert Picardo (The Orville)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Wendie Malick (The Ranch)
Nora Dunn (2 Broke Girls)
Wilson Cruz (13 Reasons Why)
Joey Slotnick (Nip/Tuck)
Josh Hopkins (Cold Case)

Anna Friel in Pushing Daisies (2007)There’s no mistaking Pushing Daisies for any other show on TV. Every episode features new supporting characters, new locations and new mysteries, but all of them fit into creator Bryan Fuller’s whimsical, playfully sideways universe. The show bundles romance and comedy with tragic undertones, and flavors it with musical numbers, synchronized swimming routines, magic tricks and murder.The show’s second–and sadly abbreviated–season features 13 episodes, each loaded with more ideas than other series turn out in a full season. By the time you finish The Complete Second Season DVD set, you’ll have walked the hexagonal offices of a honey empire, covertly played poker using a Chinese restaurant’s elaborate code, walked through secret passageways in a nunnery and witnessed a traveling aquatics show that actually makes a traveling aquatics show seem appealing.Anna Friel and Lee Pace in Pushing Daisies (2007)Lee Pace stars as The Pie Maker, aka Ned, who has a mysterious ability to bring the dead back to life by touching them. If he touches them again, they die. If he doesn’t return them to their eternal slumber within a minute, a life-form of equal size has to die in their place. In the pilot episode, he brought back the love of his life, his childhood friend Chuck (Anna Friel), damning the consequences. Now she lives with him in hiding near his the restaurant The Pie Hole, but they can never touch each other.Anna Friel, Chi McBride, and Lee Pace in Pushing Daisies (2007)While owning, operating and baking for a pie shop would no doubt be a taxing full-time job, Ned has a secondary source of income that takes up most of the show’s time. He temporarily wakes the dead for Private Investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) to uncover clues to murder mysteries. Of course, the victims–revived from a variety of comically gruesome deaths–never quite provide the information needed to easily solve the case, and Cod, Chuck, Ned and Olive (Kristin Chenoweth), the Pie Hole’s plucky waitress, have to fill in the blanks. The shows are generally based around one mystery, with overarching main threads stretch through the series. The writer’s strike owns much of the blame for the failure of Pushing Daisies, and for the relatively slow start to season two. The show was earning a respectable audience after its debut, but only produced nine episodes before pencils went down. ABC decided not to order any extra episodes after the strike, leaving the show off the air for nearly a year before. By the time it returned, it had lost much of its momentum, and failed to regain its audience, prompting a premature cancellation.Kristin Chenoweth in Pushing Daisies (2007)While the two shortened seasons combine to equal a full season’s worth of episodes, both feel fragmented. It’s apparent that the writers felt the need to reboot a bit and reiterate some points to ensure its audience was up to speed. And while the opening episodes of season two are entertaining, it takes about four episodes for the series to really start charging forward. Episode 5, “Dim Sum Lose Some” begins a fantastic five-episode arc involving Dwight, a sinister man played by Stephen Root with a friendly demeanor that makes his intentions all the more mysterious. Not just a great character in his own right, Dwight triggers an avalanche of story that leaves you longing for the next episode, even after no more are left. An old friend of Chuck and Ned’s fathers, Dwight wants to locate Ned’s, who abandoned The Pie Maker as a child and started a new family.Chi McBride and Debra Mooney in Pushing Daisies (2007)Dwight’s prodding leads Ned to finally meet his twin half-brothers (Alex and Graham Miller), who were also abandoned by Ned’s father. The sixth episode, centering around the twins’ mentor’s magic show, is one of series’ funniest, and features memorable guest appearances by Paul F. Tomkins and Fred Willard. But the twins, along with many other characters, never reach their potential. Due to the show’s premature end, it’s inevitable that all the story threads don’t tie up satisfactorily. Indeed, the final episode essentially ends with a cliffhanger before it awkwardly segues into a quickie ending that was cobbled together in the editing room. It’s a shame too, as the long-term story had become quite promising, especially the intriguing hints about Ned’s father and developments surrounding Chuck’s dead father. Unfortunately, fans of the show will have to be happy with what they have.

 

REVIEW: PUSHING DAISIES – SEASON 1

CAST

Lee Pace (The Hobbit)
Anna Friel (Limitless)
Chi McBride (Human target)
Ellen Greene (Little Shop of Horrors)
Swoosie Kurtz (Mike & Molly)
Kristin Chenoweth (Bewitched)
Jim Dale (Carry on Columbus)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Patrick Breen (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
Field Cate (Space Buddies)
Sy Richardson (Colors)
Sammi Hanratty (Shameless)
Patrick Fabian (Better Call Saul)
Riki Lindhome (The Lego Batman Movie)
Brad Grunberg (Get Smart)
Eddie Shin (Westworld)
Raúl Esparza (Hannibal)
Dash Mihok (Gotham)
Jayma Mays (The Smurfs)
E.J. Callahan (The Mick)
Carlos Alazraqui (Justice League Doom)
Hamish Linklater (Legion)
Christine Adams (Black Lightning)
Mark Harelik (Trumbo)
Joel McHale (Ted)
Jenny Wade (Wedding Band)
Paul Reubens (Batman Returns)
Molly Shannon (Wet Hot American Summer)
Steve Hytner (Roswell)
Grant Shaud (Lois & Clark)
Audrey Wasilewski (Red)

Lee Pace in Pushing Daisies (2007)Ned, a young boy, finds he can bring living things back from the dead with just a touch. The problem is, another touch renders the person dead permanently, and if he doesn’t off the victim again within a minute of their revival, someone else randomly dies. That little boy (played by Lee Pace as an adult) grows up to sell pies, live a lonely life and work with Emerson (Chi McBride), a private eye, to solve crimes by bringing victims back just long enough to finger the murderer. “Murder She Wrote” it’s not.Anna Friel, Lee Pace, and Riki Lindhome in Pushing Daisies (2007)If Ned’s life wasn’t odd enough, he learns that the only girl he ever kissed (at age nine) died on a cruise ship. Seizing the chance to see Chuck (Anna Friel) a last time, he reanimates her, but can’t bring himself to kill her again, setting up an unusual romantic situation, as they can’t touch without killing her.It also sets up a love triangle involving Olive (Kristin Chenoweth), a waitress at Ned’s shop, The Pie Hole, who pines for Ned, only to see Chuck wander into the picture and steal his heart. Fortunately, it’s easy to root for either sunny, silly Chuck or adorable, good-natured Olive in the race for Ned’s heart, as both offer him something good and would be happy with him.Kristin Chenoweth in Pushing Daisies (2007)The story of Ned and Chuck is the emotional crux of the series, as their connection and each’s personal tragedies and difficulties make the show real and relatable, but it’s the story of Ned and Emerson that moves the plot forward, as they investigate murders that send them on their adventures. Taking a noir approach to the crimes, the boys (and girls as well) hit the streets interviewing suspects and witnesses, getting themselves into some unusual predicaments. Pace, who impressed in Soldier’s Girl, is tops as the Pie-Maker, believable as a low-key detective, yet equally as good when reality is bent, making him into a superhero of sorts, while McBride is as enjoyable as ever, mixing great comic delivery with a solid sense of gravity.Dash Mihok, Anna Friel, and Lee Pace in Pushing Daisies (2007)The show’s surreal tone, which feels a lot like a day-time Tim Burton fairy tale (an appropriate feel, considering the show arrives from Bryan Fuller (“Dead Like Me,” “Wonderfalls”) and Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, The Addams Family)), is full of quirky touches, like a storybook-worthy, detail-obsessed narrator (whose words are repeated for comedic effect) and a pair of aunts for Chuck who are shut-in former water-show performers (Ellen Greene and Swoosie Kurtz (in an eyepatch!)) It feels like every turn brings something new to enjoy, be it a Hitchcock-inspired montage for Emerson, claymation side trips into Ned’s childhood or the incredibly talented Chenoweth breaking out into a song from Grease. Even the guest cast has a interesting, off-beat feel, featuring Jayma Mays, Carlos Arazraqui, Joel McHale, Molly Shannon, Mike White and a creepy/great Paul Reubens.Kristin Chenoweth and Chi McBride in Pushing Daisies (2007)Though there’s a great deal of comedy, and the mysteries are fun and interesting to follow, the show is, at it’s core, about emotion and romance, eliciting sadness along with the laughs, focusing a great deal on what people want and desire, and what they can and can’t have, with Friel’s reborn attitude acting as an excellent prism through which to view the idea of giving people an extra minute after they die. It’s not all roses and philosophy though, as an episode like “Bitter Sweets,” which chronicles a war between The Pie Hole and a new candy shop across the street, run by Shannon and White, is almost entirely story-focused (and is damn good to boot.) The season finale brings everything together, putting a decidedly solid cap on the first year, with an episode that balances the facets of the show perfectly before punching you square in the gut with a shocking climax. It’s a sign of the show’s versatility that it can move smoothly from drama to jokes to heart-breaking romance, without missing a beat. It’s also a sign of a seriously great show.

 

REVIEW: LIMITLESS

CAST

Bradley Cooper (Joy)
Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
Abbie Cornish (Sucker Punch)
Andrew Howard (Bates Motel)
Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies)
Johnny Whitworth (Ghost Rider 2)
Robert John Burke (Robocop 3)

 

Bradley Cooper in Limitless (2011)
Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), a struggling author suffering from writer’s block, living in New York, is stressed by an approaching deadline. His girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish), frustrated with his lack of progress and financial dependence, breaks up with him. Later, Eddie happens to run into Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), the estranged brother of Eddie’s ex-wife, Melissa (Anna Friel). Vernon, involved with a pharmaceutical company, gives Eddie a sample of a new “smart drug”, NZT-48. After taking the pill, Eddie finds himself able to learn and analyze at a superhuman rate and recall memories from his distant past, with the only apparent side effect being a change in the color of Eddie’s irises while on the drug—his eyes becoming an intense shade of electric blue. Under the influence, he cleans his messy apartment and writes ninety pages of his book. The next day, the effects having worn off, he seeks out Vernon in an attempt to get more. While Eddie is out running an errand, Vernon is murdered. Eddie returns, calls the police and then discovers Vernon’s NZT stash just before they arrive, taking it for himself. After giving a statement at the precinct, Eddie returns home and begins ingesting the drug daily. With the help of the drug’s amazing effects, Eddie spends a few weeks cleaning up his life—finishing his book, getting fit, and making friends with a group of young jet-setters, who take him on vacation to Europe, where he mingles with the rich. During all this, Eddie tests out his enhanced learning abilities; he becomes a proficient piano player in just three days, as well as becoming fluent in several languages.
Testing his analytical skills on the stock market, Eddie quickly makes large returns on small investments. Realizing he requires more capital, he borrows one hundred thousand dollars from a Russian loan shark, Gennady (Andrew Howard), and successfully makes a return of two million dollars. He increases his NZT dosage and begins to rekindle his relationship with Lindy.
Eddie’s prodigious success leads to a meeting with a finance tycoon, Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro), who as a test asks Eddie to advise him on a merger with Hank Atwood’s (Richard Bekins) company. Walking through Manhattan after the meeting, Eddie starts experiencing hallucinations and the sense of time skipping forward, noticing that several hours have suddenly passed of which he has no memory. As this effect recurs over the course of the day and night he finds himself at a nightclub, a hotel party, in a hotel room with a blonde woman (Caroline Winberg), and in a subway station where he easily subdues several muggers who attack him (thanks to the effects of NZT). When this series of blackouts finally ends, he finds himself standing on the Brooklyn Bridge at dawn, 18 hours having passed that he cannot account for. He slowly limps home. Later, Eddie sees a news report detailing the murder of the blonde woman whom he had presumably slept with, but he is unable to remember whether or not he was the killer.
Eddie meets with Melissa and discovers that she too had been on NZT. She informs him that when she attempted to stop taking it, she had experienced a severe mental rebound effect, as well as a limp like Eddie, and that there are several people who have died after stopping dosing. On his way home, Eddie is accosted by Gennady, who takes Eddie’s last NZT pill. Eddie visits Lindy and asks her to retrieve his backup stash, which he had hidden in her apartment. On her way back, she is followed by a man (Tomas Arana) who’d been stalking Eddie. He corners Lindy in a park and kills two random guys who try to protect her. Eddie tells her to take an NZT pill. The pill enables her to escape and she returns the stash to Eddie.
Eddie experiments with the drug and learns to control his dosage, sleep schedule and food intake to prevent side effects. He continues to earn money on the stock exchange and hires bodyguards to protect him from Gennady, who threatens him in an attempt to obtain more NZT. He buys an armored penthouse and hires a laboratory in an attempt to reverse engineer NZT. For his part in Carl Van Loon’s merger, Eddie is promised forty million dollars, and he hires an attorney (Ned Eisenberg) to help keep the police from investigating the deaths of both Vernon and the woman.
On the day of the merger, Atwood’s wife informs Van Loon that he has fallen into a coma. Eddie recognizes Atwood’s driver as his stalker. While Eddie participates in a lineup, his attorney steals Eddie’s whole supply of NZT from his jacket. Soon afterwards, Eddie discovers that his pills are gone and begins to enter withdrawal. He also learns that his bodyguards have been killed. But the severe effects of withdrawal cause him to hurry home when Van Loon questions him about his knowledge relating to Atwood’s coma. Gennady breaks into his apartment, demanding more NZT. He reveals that to increase the effect’s potency and duration he has been dissolving it in water and injecting it. Eddie stabs Gennady and licks up some of his pooling blood for the NZT it now contains. His increased mental acuity restored, Eddie kills Gennady’s henchmen and escapes. He meets with his stalker, surmising that Atwood employed the man to locate more NZT. The two join forces and recover Eddie’s stash from his attorney (who did not pass the NZT to his client).
A year later, Eddie has retained his wealth, his book (entitled The Dark Fields, the name of the book on which the movie is based) has been released, and he is running for the United States Senate. Van Loon visits him and reveals that he has absorbed the company that produced NZT and shut down Eddie’s laboratory. He offers a steady supply of the drug in return for power when Eddie eventually and inevitably becomes President of the United States. Eddie implies that he has had multiple laboratories working on NZT for the purposes of reverse engineering it, as well as being able to eliminate all of the negative side-effects. He states that he has found a way to wean himself completely off of the drug without losing any of his enhanced abilities. He turns down Van Loon and sends him on his way. He meets Lindy at a Chinese restaurant for lunch, where his Chinese language skills with the waiter invite skepticism from Lindy as to whether he is actually off of the drug
Limitless has such a breathtaking pace that you aren’t going to find the time needed to nitpick. Some of the action at movie’s end is resolved with little plausibility, but it’s too much fun to attack. At least the title of Limitless offers some truth in advertising.

REVIEW: TIMELINE

CAST

Paul Walker (Into The Blue)
Frances O’Connor (A.I.)
Gerard Butler (300)
Billy Connolly (The Man Who Sued God)
David Thewlis (The Theory of Everything)
Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Michael Sheen (Underworld)
Marton Csokas (Xena)
Rossif Sutherland (Reign)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)

Matt Craven (Sharp Objects)
Amy Sloan (The Heartbreak Kid)

MV5BMjE5MDYzMTQ5NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNjUzMzE3._V1_A directorial effort from Richard Donner (“Goonies”) is an adaptation of the Michael Crichton novel, where a machine that allows items (or even people) to be faxed from one place to another. Unfortunately, instead of sending things across the room or down the street, the wormhole has sent the objects back in time – to 1357 in Castlegard, France – right before a war is about to begin. Professor Edward Johnston (Billy Connolly) is revealed to have been the test subjec”, and is stuck in the past. It’s up to his son Chris (Paul Walker), Kate Erickson (Frances O’Connor), Andre Marek (Gerard Butler), Francois Nolastnamegiven(Rossif Sutherland) and a couple of soldiers to save the professor.

I do appreciate that the film’s big action scenes seem to have been done without the aid of much in the way of effects, but with character development running so low and performances so average (not to mention dialogue being weak), it’s difficult to be that involved with any of it.

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Timeline does have a moment or two (the bigger action sequences are technically well-staged) and a several moments that are so goofy as to be entertaining, but the film’s 116-minute running time is mainly good for pondering the kind of picture that could have been if more care had been taken with casting and the screenplay.