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 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: LEGION – SEASON 3

Legion (2017)

Starring

Dan Stevens (The Guest)
Rachel Keller (The Society)
Aubrey Plaza (Child’s Play)
Bill Irwin (Sleepy Hollow)
Navid Negahban (Homeland)
Jeremie Harris (Fargo)
Amber Midthunder (Roswell, New Mexico)
Lauren Tsai (Summer Dream)
Hamish Linklater (The Crazy Ones)

Lauren Tsai in Legion (2017)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Harry Lloyd (Game of Thrones)
Stephanie Corneliussen (Mr. Robot)
Keir O’Donnell (Wedding Crashers)
Jemaine Clement (Men In Black 3)
Jean Smart (Watchmen TV)
Jason Mantzoukas (The Good Place)
Vanessa Dubasso (Sex School)

Dan Stevens and Rachel Keller in Legion (2017)Legion’s closing credits resurrect the musical cue that began the montage depicting the life of David Haller way back in the very first episode: “Happy Jack” by The Who, a song almost fairy-tale-like in its simplicity, about a man who responds to the cruelty and alienation of the larger world with a smile, who refuses to let it get to him and maintains his positivity regardless of what he may encounter. Back then, it seemed like an ironic choice, as we watched a boy become a man in a series of slow-motion tableaus depicting what a troubled, damaged mess his world had become. Now, much like the finale to which it serves as a coda, it almost feels too earnest and pat, a not wholly earned note of sincerity at which any possible challenge is barely hinted. Yes, Legion went out with a profound optimism and sense of hope for the future, ending even its most underserved storyline with a bit of deus ex patriarch that rescues our protagonists from darker fates and opens them up to a potential future in which anything is possible. We few, we happy few.The sense of uplift and moral simplicity argued for by the ending is so genuine, it feels churlish to point out the ways in which it might be compromised. And yet the world created by Legion has been so murky and full of messy ambiguities, so touched by the very notion that nothing as simple as “a clear answer” could ever sufficiently account for any philosophical or existential question about what it means to live a good life, that to suddenly end on a note that tries to sweep the board clean and say “Let’s do it all over, but better” with hardly an implication of the too-broad generalities implied (and some conclusions not even related to David’s reset that similarly make everything okay) comes across as rushed, at best. After an entire season of David trying to undo his entire life—and restart everyone’s existence in the process—he succeeds. Rather than killing Farouk, he comes to terms with his nemesis, and with a smile and handshake, they initiate a do-over of the past few decades, while Switch looks on approvingly. It’s not quite the Wayne’s World “mega-happy ending,” but it’s not far off. No one dies. Everyone grows, or begins again, seemingly of their own choice. And yet.This uneasy conclusion might be best embodied by the climactic performance of Pink Floyd’s “Mother” when it looks as though Then-Farouk has captured David on the astral plane and bound him in a straitjacket, the ancient mutant finally responding to David’s insistence that, “I’m a good person, I deserve love,” with a firm, “No. You don’t.” David screams, and suddenly we’re treated to the song, David singing to his long-distant Gabrielle, asking her all the worried questions about his life that had never been answered before. But the song allows her to reply, and suddenly (so we’re meant to understand) David is filled with love, with the feeling of safety and warmth that had been missing. She assures him that she’ll always be there—we even see Gabrielle singing this to baby David, as Syd stands freeze-frame beside her, fighting the Time Eaters—and it’s all the succor adult David needs to break free from his straitjacket and turn the tables on Then-Farouk, just before Xavier and Now-Farouk stop him and explain that, hey man, war isn’t the answer, it’s the problem.Now, this might be a case where “Mother” fits effectively enough into what Noah Hawley and company wanted to convey. After all, it’s a song where a scared young man asks his mother for reassurance, and she’s there to say everything is going to be ok. That’s a tall order, and it works wonderfully in the show, as David’s (or Legion’s, really) other selves cut loose in an exuberant mosh pit of release, a sense of being freed. Because Farouk’s scornful reply to David’s cry for love is only an affirmation of what the troubled psychic secretly suspected this whole time—that he wasn’t worthy of love. Now, with his mother assuring him that his most fundamental need is met, he can break loose of internal and external bonds. But you’d have to be pretty naive to look past the meaning of the lyrics: This is a song about seeking reassurance in a world of uncertainty and danger, but the source of that reassurance and authority is also putting their own fears into him, and building a protective wall so high that it might prevent him from ever growing and connecting with others. It’s a dark double-edged sword, in other words, and leaving aside the Cold War metaphors, it could be read as saying that even with a mother’s love, the next iteration of David is going to end up troubled in a wholly different way. That would be a bleak reading.Nothing in the rest of this episode really supports that read, however. It’s a happy ending if ever there was one, where even our most malevolent and violent characters realize the error of their ways and band together for a peaceful resolution. I couldn’t have imagined Legion capable of crafting an ending like this, especially during the turbulent times of the past two seasons, so there’s a cathartic sense of uplift here that even my criticisms of this hasty conclusion can’t drag down, which is nice. It’s like watching World War II end with soldiers from both Axis and Allied sides joining hands and singing “All You Need Is Love.” You know it can’t last, but it’s a hopeful thought embodying the best of humanity.Legion (2017)Yet it’s still too pat in places. This is especially apparent in Switch’s storyline. Lauren Tsai did her best with a seriously underwritten role, but the character was never really more than a small collection of tics standing in for a whole person. The premiere hinted we might get a fuller portrait of Jia-Yi—the monotony of her routine, her longing for adventure, the fear of her father’s roomful of robots that infected her sense of self—but aside from a nightmare sequence and a few lines here and there, Switch never developed into anything more than a plot device. It’s why she could be pushed and pulled by David and Division throughout the season, and nothing she did ever seemed out of character—because there wasn’t enough character there for her actions to go against. So when her father literally appears out of nowhere, and reveals that she’s a “four-dimensional being” who simply needed to shed her human skin (and her baby teeth) in order to ascend to a higher plane of existence, it’s an airless reveal, with no gravity to the outcome. I’m glad Switch didn’t just end up ripped apart by Time Eaters—that would have felt unnecessarily cruel, but it also would have felt of a piece with the show we were watching up until now—yet it doesn’t pack much emotional weight.Wally Rudolph and Aubrey Plaza in Legion (2017)At least the conclusion of Kerry and Cary’s arc gives them a simple ending that feels both earned and justified narratively. Cary’s last-second suspicion that the two of them joining together again (to create “twice the temporal identity”) would confuse the Time Eaters enough to fight them off was one of those abrupt “oh, okay” explanations you just have to roll with, but it was undeniably stirring. Similarly, watching Kerry age as she fought doesn’t necessarily make sense on a logical level, but it felt emotionally true—all her years of protecting the “old man” finally catch up to her during what she assumes will be her last stand. And when they embrace at the end, him no longer “old man” but “brother,” it’s poignant and profound.Hamish Linklater, Navid Negahban, and Amber Midthunder in Legion (2017)Still, all of this means everything and nothing, right? Because here comes the do-over. Meaning, all of this gets erased (well, Switch presumably remains a higher entity), so the progress may or may not be in vain when the new iterations of all these characters develop. Not everyone, perhaps—the assumption here is that Then-Farouk won’t return to being a monster, the glasses of enlightenment passed to him by Now-Farouk remaining in his consciousness, just as Gabrielle and Xavier will presumably remember this strange sequence of events that led to them recommitting to a life together, caring for their child. (Also, hi: When did Now-Farouk become this mellow, enlightened chap? Wasn’t he psychically raping Lenny, over and over, as recently as last season? It speaks to the idea that season two of Legion didn’t think its next season would be the last.) Regardless, it still creates a tonally odd ending, in which ends somewhat negate means. To wit: If David had killed then-Farouk, would it have changed anything about the reset, other than one less powerful psychic in the world? He had already received the reassurance of affection and security from his mother, after all, implying she had now committed to loving her son. Even with a season that has been at least in part about the importance of doing right in the absence of any greater meaning (to cite my analysis from a previous episode, if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do), it’s hard to feel the same emotional stakes we would’ve, had this whole story not been building to a “once more, with feeling” reboot.But Syd and David’s final scenes do convey some of the melancholy ambiguity of this otherwise very happy ending. “I bet you’re gonna turn out extraordinary without me around,” he tells her. “Yeah, I am,” she says, and in the space between that exchange lies everything that hurts about this goodbye. Because it entails Sydney losing her second childhood, the one that means so much; it means she loses all the pain that David caused her, but also a defining experience which, as she told her younger self, is the linchpin of life: “You fall in love. And that’s worth it”; it’s the disintegration of self that, just a few episodes back, she was worried would hurt. But as she makes clear, there’s a more innocent soul who deserves a better chance than any of them: Baby David. Syd agrees to give up everything that has happened to create her, the strong and powerful woman she has become, because that’s a life lived. And someone else now needs the same opportunity to get the kind of better childhood that she received from Melanie and Oliver.Dan Stevens in Legion (2017)Legion is ultimately a show about the need to make simple, fundamental choices in the face of overwhelming confusion. (That opening crawl about how “what it means is not for us to know” is a bit disingenuous—they’re writing this damn thing, after all—but certainly in keeping with the show’s themes.) We rarely know the best thing to do in any given situation, but we usually have an idea of what the right thing to do would be. Or one of the right things, anyway: There’s a universe of options out there, and despite our general helplessness when confronted with the forces of history, we have enough agency to choose safety and love. We can choose protecting others, rather than leaving them exposed to the vicissitudes of fate. And we can sure as shit not choose war. But we do all this against a backdrop of our lives that is never as orderly and coherent as time would make it seem. This is the firmament of Noah Hawley’s worldview. It’s one he arguably makes most clear in his novel, Before The Fall: “Because what if instead of a story told in consecutive order, life is a cacophony of moments we never leave?” The opportunity to tell a story like Legion must’ve seemed like a gift to someone who understands life in this way, a chance to really discuss our existence in the manner it’s experienced: disjointed, fragmented, curling back in on itself and returning to key moments over and over, in different ways, until we have enough to call it our story. Such a messy, expressive stab at meaning surely deserves a happy ending. Or at least the attempt at one. So David, and all other Davids out there (because you—we—are legion in number): Be a good boy.k

REVIEW: UGLY BETTY – SEASON 4

Starring

America Ferrera (Real Women Have Curves)
Eric Mabius (Resident Evil)
Judith Light (Transparent)
Michael Urie (Uptown Girls)
Becki Newton (How I Met Your Mother)
Ana Ortiz (Ralph Breaks The Internet)
Tony Plana (Lone Star)
Mark Indelicato (Dead of Summer)
Daniel Eric Gold (War of The Worlds)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Lynn Redgrave (Kinsey)
David Rasche (Men In Black 3)
Yaya DaCosta (In Time)
Alec Mapa (Doom Patrol)
Ralph Macchio (Cobra Kai)
Kristen Johnston (Mom)
Hamish Linklater (Legion)
Jamie-Lynn Sigler (The Sopranos)
Grant Bowler (Lost)
Adam Ferrara (Rescue Me)
Dylan Baker (Spider-Man 2)
Brooklyn Decker (Battleship)
Adam Rodriguez (Roswell)
Sarah Lafleur (Earth: Final Conflict)
Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family)
Fisher Stevens (Hackers)
Patricia Velasquez (The Mummy)
RuPaul (EDTV)
Katrina Bowden (Sex Drive)
Carol Kane (The Princess Bride)
Dana Ivey (The Addams Family)
Donna Murphy (Spider-Man 2)
Freddy Rodríguez (Planet Terror0
Ashley Jensen (Sherlock Gnomes)
Christopher Gorham (2 Broke Girls)
Bryan Batt (Scream: The Series)
Luna Lauren Velez (Oz)

After four years and 85 episodes, the braces came off and Ugly Betty, the fish-out-of-water PA from Queens, finally became Betty Suarez, publisher of her own magazine in the UK.Vanessa Williams and America Ferrera in Ugly Betty (2006)The first nine episodes focussed mainly on self-contained storylines. Betty’s struggles to establish herself in her new role as a junior editor as ex-boyfriend Matt, now her boss, is petty and mean to her. An emotionally vulnerable Daniel Meade is drawn into a cult as he tries to deal with Molly‘s death. A ludicrous murder side-plot involving Nico Slater, which triggers Wilhelmina leaving Mode.Ana Ortiz and America Ferrera in Ugly Betty (2006)A few ongoing plots are also teed up. Amanda starts to think about her future. Claire Meade sets off in search of the son, Tyler, she had with Cal Hartley but was forced to give away. Hilda hooks up with Bobby Talercio, an old high school flame. Each of these becomes significant down the stretch, but are only touched upon initially. London Calling, starts to set up the finale, as well as giving us a sentimental excuse to welcome back Christina and ex-boyfriends Gio and Henry.America Ferrera in Ugly Betty (2006)The final episode gives us the closure we had all been waiting for, and does so with style. Hello Goodbye is as much about discovery as it is about departure, with every character getting their turn to take a final bow. Hilda, married and no longer tied to the Suarez house by her salon, gets her dream move to Manhattan. Justin finds contentment with Austin. Amanda finds her father. Daniel steps down as co-editor-in-chief to pursue the opportunity to find himself. Wilhelmina finds redemption, her lost love Connor and then, suddenly, without the need for scheming, she finally achieves her heart’s desire: Mode – a direct result of her altruistic act of saving Claire. Marc is shown the path to becoming creative director by Wilhelmina, and finds love and the possibility of a real relationship with Troy, after a lovely reversal where Justin returns the favour by turning into his mentor.Eric Mabius and America Ferrera in Ugly Betty (2006)There is one touching moment at the farewell party where we linger on Betty, Marc and Amanda – the triumvirate who have always been the beating heart of the show – dancing joyfully together, all previous bitchiness put aside as their friendship is finally affirmed.It was a fitting end, and one which suited the series better than the ending of its Colombian parent, Betty la Fea, would have done, where Betty marries Daniel’s equivalent, Armando. Betty has come a long way since she first walked through the door at Mode

REVIEW: MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT

CAST

Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Eileen Atkins (Paddington 2)
Marcia Gay Harden (Mona Lisa smile)
Hamish Linklater (Legion)
Simon McBurney (Allied)
Jacki Weaver (The Voices)
Erica Leerhsen (Wrong Turn 2)
Catherine McCormack (28 Weeks Later)

Colin Firth, Eileen Atkins, and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)In 1928, a globally famous illusionist, Wei Ling Soo, performs in front of a crowd in Berlin with his world-class magic act. As he walks off stage the film audience sees that he is actually a British man named Stanley (Colin Firth). He berates his employees and is generally curmudgeonly towards his well-wishers. In his dressing-room, he is greeted by old friend and fellow illusionist Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney). Howard enlists Stanley to go with him to the Côte d’Azur where a rich American family, the Catledges, has apparently been taken in by a clairvoyant and mystic, Sophie (Emma Stone). In fact, the son of the family, Brice (Hamish Linklater), is smitten with Sophie, and his sister Caroline (Erica Leerhsen) and brother-in-law George (Jeremy Shamos) are concerned Brice is considering proposing marriage. Howard says that he has been unable to uncover the secrets behind her tricks and he admits that the more he watched her the more he believed she really has supernatural powers. So he would like Stanley, who has debunked charlatan mystics in the past, to help him prove she is a fraud.Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)Howard and Stanley travel to the French Riviera, but Stanley is soon astonished by Sophie’s ability to go into a fugue state and apparently pull out highly personal details about him and his family. Stanley witnesses a seance in which Sophie communicates with the deceased patriarch of the American family. A candle floats up from the table and Howard grabs it to try to discern what trickery is at play, but is astounded to find no apparent subterfuge. Stanley begins spending time with Sophie. He takes her to visit his aunt and they drive a convertible along the picturesque rocky corniches.Colin Firth and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)When Stanley and Sophie visit his aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins), Sophie is seemingly able, after holding aunt Vanessa’s pearls, to somehow relate secret details of Vanessa’s one great love affair. This finally convinces Stanley of Sophie’s authenticity and he has an emotional epiphany, feeling that his lifelong rationalism and cynicism have been misguided. When caught in a rain storm, they end up at an observatory that Stanley had visited as a child. After the rain subsides, they open the roof up and view the stars.Colin Firth and Simon McBurney in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)At a Gatsby-esque party, Stanley and Sophie dance. As they walk together later that night, Sophie asks him if he has felt any feelings for her “as a woman”. Stanley, who has admired her talents as a mystic and is grateful to her for opening his eyes to a new worldview, is taken aback and admits that he has not thought of her that way. She leaves upset. The next day Stanley holds a press conference to tell the world that he, who spent his life debunking charlatan mystics, has finally come to find one who is the real deal. The reporters drill him with questions, but the grilling is interrupted when he receives news his aunt Vanessa has been in a car accident. Stanley rushes to the hospital, and in an emotional scene in a waiting room considers turning to prayer for solace. That is, if he now has come to believe in divination and mysticism, perhaps he should believe in God and prayer. He begins to pray for a miracle to save his aunt, but is unable to go through with it. The rationality that has been his whole life comes back and he rejects prayer, the supernatural and by extension, Sophie and her powers. He decides once more to prove she is a fraud.Colin Firth and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)Using a trick seen earlier in his stage act, Stanley appears to leave the room but stays to overhear Sophie and Howard discuss their collusion in what has been an elaborate ruse. He discovers that Sophie was able to know so much about him and his aunt because she and Howard collaborated to fool Stanley. Sophie was indeed a charlatan tricking the rich American family and was quickly discovered by Howard. Rather than unmask her and stop the ruse, he enlisted Sophie to help him one-up his best friend and rival, Stanley.Hamish Linklater and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)Stanley is initially angry at Howard and Sophie but decides to forgive them. In a conversation with his aunt Vanessa, who has recovered from her car accident, Stanley admits and fully realizes that he is in love with Sophie. He finds her and asks her not to marry Brice, but marry him instead. Sophie is taken aback and finds his haughty, awkward proposal unsuitable. She tells him she still plans to marry the wealthy Brice. Returning dejected to his aunt Vanessa’s, Stanley further admits that he fell in love with Sophie at first sight, and, saddened, is then surprised when Sophie, who had arrived before him, knocks a spirit knock. He proposes, she accepts with a spirit knock, and they kiss as the film ends.Colin Firth and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)Not a classic Woody Allen but a very pleasant and lightly humorous film that older audiences in particular will enjoy.

REVIEW: FANTASTIC FOUR (2005)

CAST
Ioan Grufford (Ringer)
Jessica Alba (Machete)
Chris Evans (Captain America)
Michael Chikilis (Gotham)
Julian McMahon (Bait)
Hamish Linklater (The Crazy Ones)
Kerry Washington (Save The Last Dance)
Kevin McNulty (Tin Man)
Pascale Hutton (Sanctuary)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Gina Holden (Flash Gordon 2007)
Peter Bryant (Dark Angel)
Laurie Holden (The Walking Dead)
Andrew Airlie (Fifty Shades of Grey)
Michael Kopsa (Dark Angel)
Jason Schombing (Sanctuary)
David Richmond-Peck (V)
Colin Lawrence (Stargate SG.1)
Lorena Gale (Battlestar Galactica)
Daniel Bacon (Stargate SG.1)
Nicole Muñoz (Defiance)
Physicist Dr. Reed Richards is convinced evolution was triggered millions of years ago on Earth by clouds of cosmic energy in space, and has calculated that one of these clouds is soon going to pass near Earth. Together with his friend, astronaut Ben Grimm, Reed convinces Dr. Victor Von Doom, his former classmate at MIT and now CEO of Von Doom Industries, to allow him access to his privately owned space station to test the effects of a biological sample of exposure to the cloud. Doom agrees in exchange for control over the experiment and a majority of the profits from whatever benefits it brings. Reed brings aboard his ex-girlfriend and Von Doom’s chief genetics researcher Susan Storm and her ex-astronaut brother Johnny.
The quintet travels to outer space to observe the cosmic energy clouds, but Reed miscalculates and the clouds materialize ahead of schedule. Reed and the Storms leave the shielded station to rescue Ben, who had gone on a spacewalk to place the samples. Ben receives full exposure in outer space, while the others receive a more limited dose within the station. Back home they soon develop superpowers: Reed can stretch his body like rubber, Susan Storm can become invisible and generate impact resistant force shields, Johnny Storm can engulf himself in fire and fly unaided, and Ben becomes a rocklike creature with superhuman strength and durability. Meanwhile, Von Doom faces a backlash from his stockholders because of the publicity from the space mission, and has a scar on his face that came from an exploding control console on the station.
Ben’s fiancee Debbie cannot handle his new appearance and leaves him. Ben goes to brood on the Brooklyn Bridge and accidentally causes a traffic pileup while preventing a man from committing suicide. Ben, Reed and the Storms use their various abilities to contain the damage and prevent harm. The media dubs them the Fantastic Four. They move into Reed’s lab in the Baxter Building to study their abilities and seek a way to return Grimm to normal. Von Doom, himself mutating, offers his support but blames Reed for the failure of the spaceflight, which has lost him his company.
Reed tells the group he will construct a machine to recreate the storm and reverse its effects on them, but warns it could possibly accelerate them instead. Meanwhile, Von Doom’s arm has become organic metal, giving him superhuman strength allowing him to produce bolts of electricity, and he begins plotting revenge. He drives a wedge between Ben and Reed, who has rekindled his relationship with Susan Storm. Using the machine, Von Doom restores Ben to human form, while accelerating Von Doom’s condition, causing much of his body to turn to metal. Von Doom knocks the human Grimm unconscious and captures Reed.
Now calling himself Doctor Doom, he puts on a metallic mask to hide his disfigurement, tortures Reed and fires a heatseeking missile at the Baxter Building in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat Johnny Storm. Sue confronts Doom but is outmatched. Ben arrives to assist her, transformed into the Thing again by reusing the machine (speaking his signature line, “It’s clobberin’ time!”). The battle then gets spilled into the streets and The Storms combine their powers to wrap Doom in an inferno of intense heat, and Ben and Reed douse him with cold water, inducing thermal shock and freezing Doom in place. In an epilogue, Grimm informs Reed that he has accepted his condition with the help of Alicia Masters, a blind artist for whom he has developed feelings, and the team embraces its role as superheroes. Reed proposes marriage to Sue, who accepts. Meanwhile, Doom’s statue-like remains are being transported back to his homeland of Latveria when the dock master’s electronic manifest briefly undergoes electromagnetic interference, suggesting that Doom is still alive.
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This is a fun movie and I liked it. It had a solid origin story, some good action, and pretty good SFX. Each character was clearly defined

REVIEW: THE CRAZY ONES

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CAST
Robin Williams (Jumanji)
Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy)
James Wolk (For a Good Time Call…)
Hamish Linklater (Pushing Daisies)
Amanda Setton (Beauty and the Beast 2012)
NOTABLE GUEST CAST / RECURRING CAST
Kelly Clarkson (American Dreams)
Gail O’Grady (Superboy)
J.D. Walsh (Two and A Half Men)
Saffron Burrows (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Josh Groban (The Muppets)
Brooke Lyons (2 Broke Girls)
Brad Garrett (Garfield)
Ashley Tisdale (Scary Movie 5)
Missi Pyle (Dodgeball)
Kurt Fuller (Superhero Movie)
Sarah Baker (Mike & Molly)
Marilu Henner (Vamps)
Joshua Gomez (Chuck)
Alan Rachins (Showgirls)
Fred Melamed (A Serious Man)
Barry Shabaka Henley (The Terminal)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Brian Stepanek (Young Sheldon)
Cheryl Hines (Son of Zorn)
Steve Talley (The 100)
Jessica Chaffin (The Heat)
Tiya Sircar (Supergirl)
Robin Williams was finally back to doing what he’s always done best — off-the-cuff riffing on whatever subject you put in front of him. He’s brilliant. While America’s sense of humor has changed a bit since Mrs. Doubtfire, Williams’ ability to turn his incredible sense of humor into a source of drama  shows that as an actor, he’s gone from silly to serious and come back out the other side with a remarkable ability to showcase the two simultaneously and sensitively.
Sarah Michelle Gellar is perfectly cast in her role, as a foil for Williams. Her ability to  see the serious and important sides of absurd and silly situations is exactly what Williams’ character needed to have the truth of his tragicomic situation highlighted.
This show isn’t going to appeal to everyone — it’s paced like Scandal, has the emotional volatility of the Newsroom, and the pop culture references of Franklin & Bash. The problem is that it’s billed as a zany comedy/Mad Men with Robin Williams, but the truth is that it’s actually a very dramatic story hidden beneath zaniness, and a lot of people are going to have a problem with that.
Sadly the show lasted one season and not long after we lost Robin Williams. It’s a good show to see just how good he was as an actor.