All My Movies: 21 & 21 Grams

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I just realized I should have watched 10 Things I Hate About You first in all of this back-to-back watching...but I will save that for 'Ten' Things I Hate About You, as that's where it's currently filed in my DVD collection.

Anyway, I spent the weekend watching films related to the #21.

Starring: Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth
Co-Starring: Laurence Fishburne, Aaron Yoo, Liza Lapira
Times Watched: 3
Genre: Drama / Caper
Rotten Tomatoes / Metacritic: 35% / 48

The Road To Ownership: 21 had an enticing premise when it was released in theatres, so I actually made the effort to see it. I enjoy a good caper film, the young student twist separated this from other Vegas-bound films. I ended up scoring it at Blockbuster, previously viewed, for only $10.

The Plot: Ben (Jim Sturgess) has just turned 21 (curious, because the bar he visits on his 21st birthday seems to be a place he regularly frequents) and is on the verge of his dreams coming true. A perfect student at MIT, he has been accepted to Harvard Medical. The only thing standing in his way is money. Enter Kevin Spacey, a professor of his named Mickey that leads a team of geniuses to take down various casinos in Vegas with a cleverly crafted card counting strategy. But for every new perk in Ben’s new life – he gets the hottest girl in school, parties in Vegas every weekend, and has hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash – there is a threat, including a security manager that is trying to save his business with hands on policing of the casino floor.

The Good & The Bad:
After watching this movie for a third time, I started to notice its little flaws…such as the aforementioned 21st birthday gaffe, or the fact Ben carelessly leaves wads of cash lying around when he in fact should be doing *something* with them (Harvard doesn’t accept rolls of Benjamins). Ultimately this movie is best enjoyed the first time you watch it – the pacing of the film is kind of plodding once you’ve experienced it more than once, with interjectors of Ben’s old life distracting you from the escalating tension and excitement of his new one. Compared to other Vegas capers (namely the Ocean’s series), there isn’t enough fun Vegas moments to make it super rewatchable.

Also, I really, truly hate the ending of this film (or climax). It’s a bait and switch on several levels and it’s grating to not have things work out the way they logically should have (or perhaps just the way the audience would want / expect them to). In fact the entire Laurence Fishburne character and plot line drives me nuts.
There’s definitely a lot of fun to be had as the film puts you in the mindset of “maybe *I* can do this!” and shows you the supposed tricks of the trade that the actual MIT blackjack team used. Incidentally it should be noted the book this movie is based on is a work of semi-nonfiction, with many parts dramatized (much like James Frey’s infamous works), and that there was some controversy over the fact the blackjack team was mostly Asian, while the film’s cast was mostly white. Although I’m usually not a fan, the voiceover montages actually make up some of the best parts of the film. There are also a lot of fun buddy scenes with Ben’s character and his two nerdtastic friends.

Best Scene: It’s tough…instead of one single scene I’d say I quite enjoy Ben’s first visit to Vegas, which comprises several scenes. It’s a bit of a rush for the viewer.

Worst Scene: God, anything with Laurence Fishburne’s character. I’ll go with the one where he’s threatening Ben. It’s so overwrought, and the payoff later on falls flat.

Best Character: Kevin Spacey's Mickey Rose (or Rosa) is really good - classic evil deadpan Spacey. I also like his nerdy chubby friend.

Worst Character: Do I have to say it? Laurence Fishburne's character!

Soundtrack of Our Lives: This movie has a fantastic soundtrack of indie pop chart toppers, kicking off MGMT's 'Time to Pretend' during the opening credits.

If You Like This You’ll Also Like: Logically, the Ocean’s 11/12/13 series is probably the best set of Vegas caper films ever. Although 12, not so much.

Overall Grade: 3/5

21 Grams
Starring: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Benecio Del Toro
CoStarring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Danny Huston, Carly Nahon
Times Watched: 1
Genre: Drama
RT / Metacritic: 81%/70

The Road To Ownership: The boyfriend brought this to our amalgamated collection of films. I believe he’s seen it 3 times as of last night’s viewing.

The Plot: Told in a linear fashion, the plot is pretty straightforward. Cristina (Naomi Watts) is a former drug addict turned suburban mom, when her husband and children are accidentally mowed down by a former ex-con named Jack (Benecio Del Toro) turned Jesus worshipper. At the hospital, Cristina makes the tough decision to give her husband’s heart to a gravely ill man named Paul (Sean Penn). He in turn seeks out the donor of his heart, learns about Cristina’s family, and tries to comfort her. The two end up in a romantic entanglement, at the centre of which is a heated plot to kill Jack. There are a bunch of other subplots – Jack’s guilt and family struggles, Paul’s wife Mary trying desperately hard to have a baby, and Cristina’s return to substance abuse…but that’s the gist of it. The twist is that NONE of this happens linearly. Not entirely anyway…the film does end where you expect it to end, but there are flashes forward and backward throughout.

The Good & The Bad: Hilarious! The whole movie I kept on thinking about how this movie reminded me of Babel, and it turns out they’re done by the same guy. They both have a similar intertwining, scattered narrative with a gritty feel and shooting style.

Anyway, 21 Grams is disorienting at first. It’s easy enough to puzzle where the story meets up, and relatively easy to follow the time jumping, but not so much on the direction the plot is headed in. The story gets more clear as time goes on, and ultimately the movie wouldn’t have been half as interesting had it been told linearly, but seriously…sometimes I wanted to just have everything laid out properly.

There are great performances turned in here by all three leads, in particular Naomi Watts, who well deserved her Oscar nod the year the movie came out. It’s also a fun guessing game towards the beginning to figure out where specific moments will fall into the timeline (i.e. Paul at the liquor mart with Cristina for example). I never felt myself getting weepy – the film is too scattered to let you get as fully invested as you could – and I knew more or less how things were going to end, but the film still managed to surprise me.

Still, I find Inarritu’s movies a little tedious. 21 Grams reminded me of all the Oscar films I watched this year that I basically felt like I never wanted to watch again, although unlike 21, I think repeated viewings might make for a fun test to immediately properly place each scene in the timeline.

Best Scene: Cristina’s final crazy breakdown with Paul in the kitchen about life not going on was pretty heartbreaking. It served as a relatively believable catalyst for the remainder of the plot.

Worst Scene: I had issues with fully understanding Jack Jordan the character. Maybe it’s because Benecio Del Toro bothers me as an actor…I can’t get past his distinct look or something. He seemed like a bit of a Christian fundamentalist, but not. I hated the scene with his children at the dinner table hitting one another. Also I didn’t get all the Sean Penn stalking around like a maniac with a gun scenes.

Best Character: Naomi Watt's performance is compelling, but it's partially because the character is equally so. There is a big cognitive leap from her being a junkie to being a suburban housewife to the state she's in by the film's end. I had the most questions about her.

Worst Character: Sean Penn's wife! Her singular obsession with having a child was a bit aggravating, especially during the big reveal with the abortion.

Soundtrack of Our Lives: Music is pretty sparingly used throughout, so not much to say really.

If You Like This You’ll Like:
Babel, definitely. They are incredibly similar, without being alike at all.

Overall Grade:

- Britt's On

I Keep On Fall-in

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I don’t want to talk about Lost anymore. I have alternating feelings of contentment and furious frustration…I guess I’m not as invested in the show in some ways because I really only invested a year and a half of guessing and wanting answers, unlike the poor saps that first started watching the series in 2004. I also generally enjoyed the series enough that although the ending was far from satisfying, it didn’t totally ruin the show for me…until I start taking what’s revealed (or not) in the finale and applying it to my unanswered questions from the entire series and coming up short. Way short.

What was that about being done talking about Lost? Oh right. Well my PVR is blissfully nearly empty, other than the last run of Parenthood episodes (I’m about 5 or 6 behind), a few of TSN’s great 30 for 30 documentaries for the boyfriend, and a few more installments of the incredible ‘Life’ series currently airing on Discovery. A few of my perennial summer shows are starting next week – Little Couple! Toddlers & Tiaras! – to keep me entertained between my movie project and finally finishing Arrested Development…but I can’t help but think of next fall.

So far, none of the prospects for fall 2010 are enticing to me. I’m sure Entertainment Weekly will have an excellent fall TV preview issue that may make me reconsider, but as someone feeling more tapped into the biz these days (I blame it on the aforementioned subscription) I watched the fall scheduling carefully and was mostly disappointed. If anything, I want to shed a few shows off my weekly viewing. In some cases the decision has been made for me – bye Lost & Flashforward! - In others, the decline of some long-time favourites has led me to seriously contemplate deleting them off my PVR.

Namely, Desperate Housewives. I lamented the death of Edie a year ago, and the show has continued to spiral down. Whenever they so much as mention season 1, whether through Rex Van de Kamp’s illegitimate devil spawn or the obligatory Mary Alice Young flashback, I wince at how far the show has fallen. Season 1 of DH was an inspired, satirical take on suburbia. They eschewed the term ‘soap opera’ saying it reminded them of bad lighting and serial drama (especially for daytime soap starlet Eva Longoria). After a stumble in season 2 the series came back around, but it never fully rebounded from the Applewhite horror. Now the show is a parody of itself, with words like ‘madcap hijinks’ springing to mind when I describe the current plotlines.

The over the top drama of the last couple of years in particular (take this season’s horrid ‘mysterious new resident’ yarn re: Angie the eco-terrorist as a key example) has even seemed to take its toll on the actors that once made this show what it was. Felicity Huffman’s strangled delivery of lines while her newborn baby was being strangled by an umbilical cord in the midst of being held hostage by the season’s serial neighbourhood strangler pretty much made me want to throw a book at Felicity’s head and tell her to ask to get written off the show. Career suicide!

While Teri Hatcher moving off the lane because she couldn’t pay her bills was an inspired (however randomly handled – where is Susan’s strip club money???) reflection of the real issues in suburbia these days, the show is notorious for wiping the slate clean and I don’t anticipate this will be a particularly permanent set-up.

The final nail in the coffin for me with the finale was the big cliffhanger – someone’s child isn’t really their child. Oh the possibilities with that one…none of which I care about. This is a classic soap opera gag, and not one I care to see on my weekly primetime supposed sharp-eyed satire on suburban living. Between plane crashes, tornadoes, bombs, and stranglers…I’ve had it with Desperate Housewives and will be deleting the program from my PVR. I threatened to do it at the start of this season, and nothing that happened this year convinced me to do otherwise.

The other big red alert for me when it comes to ‘Should I stay or should I go?’ is how much I anticipate watching the show. Reality series obviously have the best advantage here because the potential for spoilers is dramatically higher. But there are a number of scripted shows I watch that also demanded my attention this year – Lost of course, and also (surprisingly) Life Unexpected. While I would let episodes of Gossip Girl (still amusing enough to keep watching), One Tree Hill (if it doesn’t end this season I might delete it for a follow-up season), and Saturday Night Live pile up, I couldn’t get enough of LUX. I tend to champion one series each year (Mad Men! FNL!) and I think I may purchase S1 of Life Unexpected just to convert more people to my cause.

Another show that’s on the bubble? Parenthood. I picked it up to watch my beloved Lauren Graham in action once again, and I’ve been meaning to blog on it for about a month now but um, I’m pretty behind as mentioned. I’ll give the point form version of that entry. Watching Parenthood is like watching the Cameron Crowe movie ‘Elizabethtown’. Not a whole lot happens, you find most of the characters mildly annoying, there’s a guy who works at a shoe company but it doesn’t really factor into his everyday life, and there’s a sweet enough soundtrack and interesting enough character interactions that you actually kind of dig it. Particularly when you have the option to watch episodes in a mini-marathon, as I’ve been doing in chunks over the season.

Here’s my thoughts – I do enjoy the show and crave watching more once I pop an episode in. Peter Krause and Monica Potter drive me batshit crazy with their helicopter parenting and weird suburbanite obsession with their sex lives. Lauren Graham is still adorable but I pine for the days of Gilmore Girls, when her daughter was much cuter. I want Erika Christensen’s husband to have more of a personality and life, and I enjoy the drama related to the slutty zen mom. Craig T’s wife is also a zero on the personality scale, and has zero connection with her children. I surprisingly love Dax Shephard’s storyline with Jabar, although I wonder whether Reed from the OC will ever return.

My conclusion? I will watch the backlog of episodes I have on my PVR before I come to a decision. Parenthood might be too sleepy to compete with my PVR’s 60 gig download limit during peak television season, but I’m not totally sold either way yet.

Another bubble show? Dancing with the Stars. I watched it for the first time this season out of casting curiosity more than anything and generally enjoyed it. Kudos for finally giving Nicole Scherzinger a vibrant, sweet personality compared to her typical vacant demeanour! The show is cheesy, drawn out, anti-climactic, and I fast forward about 45% of each episode, and 95% of each results show…but if the casting is as good as it was this year I will probably tune in again next year. After all, I’m only watching 60% of three stupidly overdrawn hours of weekly programming! Plus, at least the right person won (although many have speculated this is the first season that didn't feel like a high school popularity contest).

One final show in contention for elimination. ANTM. I’m sort of sick of it. I don’t really care about whether the models succeed after the show…I’m just kind of done with the format of the show in general, I feel like it reached its creative peak a long, long time ago and doesn’t really have anything to offer me. Someone I’ve really liked from the beginning hasn’t won in something like 7 or 8 cycles…that’s probably a sign. Also the fact that I can't for the LIFE of me figure out what this cycle's winner was named and therefore can't post a photo of them...KRISTA! That's her name. Well too damn bad, I just uploaded a generic ol skool photo of Tyra with a sign.

Till then, I’m off to ride into the blissful summer scheduling of one or two shows per week.



Sideways To Heaven?

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Well last night was the Lost series finale, and I imagine the blogosphere and the internet blew up after it. I ended up having to watch it till 2 in the morning because my PVR decided the ONE time it really wanted to f*** up my recording was for the Lost finale. Thank god for what we call 'timeshifting', owing to the fact I actually have ABC on two different channels. I resolved myself to not look at anything online until I got my thoughts out about the finale.

Obviously if someone didn't want to spoiled, they should stop reading NOW.

I am a sucker for cast reunions (see: the Gilmore Girls series finale), and on a show where nearly everyone has died, it was a great moment to have the majority of the cast together at the end, while still having an explanation for why not *everyone* was there ('Not ready' / 'Not enlightened').

My theory is that the moments of island enlightenment happened when our castaways encountered the person (or a memory of the person) that made them feel like they were no longer alone. I was surprised that Kate triggered Jack, as my theory was Christian would trigger it, and was happy that the creators acknowledged this by letting the full weight of the island hit Jack once he touched his father's coffin. Also that they put the couples together that should have been together at long last, which was a nice little shipper shoutout.

In fact in general, I was satisfied with the resolution of the sideways storyline, although I certainly have some questions...more on that in a moment. I sensed for a long time now that whatever was happening in Sideways world was a bittersweet means to an end, especially as the romantic relationship enlightenment moments piled up on top of each other. Sawyer and Juliet's little crossover moment was particularly nice, and I was surprised at how happy I was for Sayid and Shannon to be reunited. I did make the wry comment that the creators basically took the ending of Titanic - where Rose ended up with the people she spent the most important moments of her life with, preserved at the age she was most...happy?

On the flip side, I'm not as jazzed about the resolution of the island world. I felt like we skipped about thirty chapters in the story from Hurley's reign to Hurley's death (alongside Ben). I wasn't surprised that Hurley ended up taking over, and I was delighted that Ben finally got a place of leadership that he rightfully deserved. It was a wonderful redemption arc to see him as Hurley's #2.

The whole MIB thing kind of fell flat in this final episode. I felt like things were so obscured about what the giant cork / well thing would do, that it was sort of meaningless to discover it would make the MIB human. Desmond's involvement in this whole thing was kind of pointless, and let's face it, the cork looked like a giant carrot. The fight scene and ninja punch between Locke and Jack was sort of cool and dramatic, but I sort of felt like I knew the outcome before it began. Of course Locke/MIB would perish, and of course someone would die in the process.

Jack's death was more or less expected in some ways, the moment he took on island guardianship with the caveat that he should do it 'as long as he can', but it still broke my heart a little that the creators did what they wanted to do from the beginning and killed Jack. It was a touching moment intermingled with Vincent and the cast reunion in the Sideways world.

I'm not sure how I feel about the characters that got off the island. Again, the jump from that moment when Jack sees their plane to the reveal in the Sideways world, I felt like we'd missed so much in their lives. I wondered if maybe they'd all died because Lapidus couldn't get the plane to safety, but I sincerely doubt it. I moreso wonder what life was like for our survivors back on earth, knowing this time there really wasn't a way or a reason to go back to the island.

Finally I think the thing I'm most disappointed in was the lack of resolution regarding: what is the island? That question encompasses so much re: mystical properties, what is the light, how are some people aware of it, etc. and I felt like they sort of left that by the wayside to have a plot-centric arc play out (they are finally free to LEAVE the island) instead of letting the mythology play out after the haphazard episode 'Across the Sea' laid out so much for us.

Two final notes about the Sideways world. The creators always insisted the island wasn't purgatory. It was neat that they sort of flipped that idea on its head and gave us a vision of what purgatory would be like for our castaways.

Second, I like that the Sideways world represented the two elements that have always been key to the show (even if under different guises) - free will and destiny. The castaways apparently *chose* to build the Sideways world, but it was their *destiny* to find one another within it, but their *choice* to let go and move on.

I said to my boyfriend last night that in general I'm delighted I watched the show all the way through. I only started watching Lost at the end of 2008, at a welcome time in my life when I had no money (just bought my house!) and needed something to do. I powered through the first four seasons in a matter of months before S5 started. Although S4 & S5, and to a degree S6, somewhat disappointed me, I still appreciate all the moments this show gave me, all the characters I've grown to love, and 120+ hours of pure, mind-bending's over. But it STILL ain't over. Beyond that, I loved being part of this momentous occasion in pop culture history.

Now...for my list of questions. Some of these are directly related to last night's finale, some of them are just general unresolved questions I'd like solved:

- What *is* the Sideways world exactly? We glimpsed it for such a short period of time that I wonder how long these characters had been living in it, mindless of their pasts. I considered it was perhaps some sort of wish fulfillment paradise, but yet not all of our characters were exactly that much better off from their island selves.

- Some of our castaways and some various other characters encountered mortal peril in the Sideways world. What happens if you die in purgatory?

- Everyone was at the same age as we saw them when they first arrived on the island, yet Christian explained that everyone was dead, some long before him, some long after him. How did they all converge on this specific moment in the Sideways world at the same time? For example, if Hurley actually lived for 500 years or something ridiculous, did all the other characters stay stuck in some sort of unconscious loop until he died also? Or does time not really exist over there? I guess thinking back to Juliet's death and the moment she had with Sawyer, perhaps in your real time death you get to your island enlightenment moment in the Sideways world...regardless of what time you get there, that moment will always be waiting for you to happen.

- How did Boone find island enlightenment?

- What happened to Richard? He seemed to finally be aging (Just as MIB was mortal) by the end of the series, but we never saw him in the Sideways world. Is it because he wasn't an integral part of these character's lives?

- Was Miles at the castaway reunion? He was definitely *in* the Sideways world but we never saw a moment of island enlightenment. Ditto to Lapidus, minus seeing him in the Sideways world. Then again, Lapidus was a total joke of a character...

- Where were Michael and Walt? We were promised a glimpse of Walt at some point in last night's episode, but, I didn't save it because I don't to rewatch that damn reunion and actually cry one of these times to see if he's there. Is Michael not there because he's stuck on the island?

- Kids: What will happen to Jack's faux son as Jack moves onwards? Where was Des & Penny's baby? Will Sun & Jin have their baby? Do people age in this world???

- How did these castaways 'construct' this place?

- Is there a reason we've never been re-associated with Mr. Eko? Even Ana Lucia and Pierre Chang showed up!

- I presume Eloise Hawking was island enlightened at some point, although it's curious that she was since we're told this place was constructed by *Our* castaways so they could find the people they spent the most important parts of their lives with. The majority of castaways never encountered Eloise, and those that did saw her briefly in the 1950s or back on the mainland. So characters like Eloise, Richard, Charles weren't in the church, but Ben and Penny curiously were.

- What is the island and who created it? We've finally been told it was in fact a construct of reality (which it certainly should have been for the people who were able to 'find it' and 'leave it'), but yet we still know nothing about it.

- What was the true nature of the light? Where did the light go when Desmond pulled the cork? What was the effect (beyond the island being destroyed) of the light disappearing? How did Jack recork the empty vessel and have the light regenerate?

- Why did MIB and Richard feel mortal repercussions for the light disappearing? Was the light the fountain of youth or something?

- Did Jack and Hurley inherit any sort of mystical island powers? If so, why did they still seem so mortal next to Jacob & his magic touch?

- How long did Hurley's tenure last, and what did he do with the island? Who did he pass it onto (future series sequel)?

- Will someone ever not need to guard the island now that MIB is no longer threatening it?

- Was Charles Widmore really a bad guy / was he trying to get to the light?

- Did Hurley get candidates of his own?

- What happened to Rose, Bernard, and Vincent? Did they merely live out their days to island enlightenment?

- What happened to the castaways that escaped once and for all? What kinds of lives did they lead?

- Where is the island now and can it ever be found again?

- Did Hurley and Ben die on the island?

I could go on, but my main questions have been laid out above. As for the general unresolved issues I'm most curious about that I think everyone is curious about:

UNRESOLVED (pre-finale)

- What made Walt so special (other than the fact he was going through puberty and had to be jettisoned off the show)?

- Why were three of the castaways sent to 1977 while Sun was left behind? (Probable theory: Sun was never a candidate, nor were Lapidus or Ben obviously)

- Was the hatch / button pressing linked to the glowing light? Ditto to time travel?

- Dharma food drop in S2. Not really a big issue of mine, but it's pressing enough that I imagine an answer would be nice.

- What's up with the Hurley bird? Another throwaway reference...perhaps it was just a clue that the island had always identified Hurley as its future leader.

- Pregnancy issues...I like Jeff Jensen's take on this, that Jacob giveth & Jacob taketh away. Ben was never supposed to be leader of the Others (and gateway to Jacob as island leader), and the fertility issues began around the time of his tenure. Since he deemed this group of people who believed in Ben to be unworthy, he took away their ability to procreate so their society would end.

- Horace Goodspeed's cabin. Just everything related to this. The theory is the eye belonged to the MIB.

- The MIB's name. Mothereffer I'm ticked they never revealed that. Did he really not have a name? If so, fine, tell me, but if he has a name and you concealed it for no reason, gah! Then again, finding out Big's name was pretty disappointing on SATC.

- Room 23. Why?

- What were the rules Widmore and Ben referred to?

- How much awareness was their off-island about on-island activities. Between Ilana's bodyguard crew, Sayid's assassinations, and the freighter crew, what does the world know about the island and why do they want to go there / why do they NEVER tell us why they want to go there?

Well folks. That all she wrote. Again, I'm grateful to have been a part of this momentous series. I'm feeling better about the ending today than I did last night (after I hesitantly turned off the TV and said "But...but...I don't get it"), although still a little disappointed that the major series-long arc regarding the island was downplayed in favour for resolution of the Sideways storyline in bittersweet happily ever afters for everyone.

There are still many questions to be answered (clearly), but I'm glad no new ones will be added to the mix. Sigh. Another show like this will never exist. Not really.

- Britt's On

All My Movies: 17 Again

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When the boyfriend and I merged DVD collections we had a number of overlaps, which actually happened to be some of our favourite films. We of course, also brought in the totally diverse boy meets girl genres of films – action, drama, and adventure from him, rom coms, romances, and obscure comedies from me. It recently occurred to me that in the year and a half we’ve been living together I’ve barely touched his additions to our collection. And so I present the alphabetical journey through our collective movie library.

Starting with a movie I rewatched recently by coincidence, because a friend of mine hadn’t seen it yet.

17 Again
Starring: Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon
Co-Starring: Michelle Trachtenberg, Matthew Perry, Sterling Knight, Melora Hardin
Times Watched: 4 as of my last viewing (to the horror of my parents)
Genre: Comedy / Romantic Comedy

The Road To Ownership:
I was invited at the last minute to the premiere of this film via my sister. It was the weirdest and BEST premiere ever, but with very low attendance owing to the last minute invite. We got goodie bags with Zefron buttons and white boards and Joe gift cards. Plus there were catered desserts. It was just bananas.

Because the boyfriend works for a radio station, he gets to order DVDs, and we often siphon off one for our own collection. The only way he could order 17 Again strangely was to get a two-pack with St. Trinian’s (more on that later).

The Plot: Mike (Matthew Perry) is a disgruntled middle ager that is given the opportunity (unwittingly) to revert back to his seventeen-year-old self to fulfill some sort of spirit quest. He lives with his former high school best friend, the uber nerdy Ned (Thomas Lennon), who poses as his father in order to get closer to his high school principal. The film is basically the story of Mike trying to figure out what it is he’s supposed to do as a teenager – from helping his children to reconnecting with his soon-to-be ex-wife, mixed in with a fair bit of humour about a grown-up in a teenager’s body.

The Good & The Bad: This movie is genuinely hilarious and cute. Sometimes it borders on creepy (Mike dancing with Leslie Mann’s character and his sexual showdown with his daughter played by Michelle Trachtenberg), but for the most part Zac Efron does an excellent job of convincingly playing an adult who is mystified by his teenage freedoms.

The core story is pretty hilarious, but the real scene stealer is Thomas Lennon’s Ned, who easily has some of the funniest scenes and storylines throughout the film.
The only thing I wish is that there was a bit more time spent with Mike acting weird around the teens. There are a few choice scenes – his first day at school, the sex ed class, and the bowling alley – but there could have been much more.

Best Scene: I’m pretty partial to the scene of Ned and Mike trying to figure out how he became a teenager again. “A vampire wouldn’t tell. A cyborg wouldn’t know.” Also Ned and Mike going through his photos before meeting with the principal kills me every time.

Worst Scene: I find the scene between Mike and his daughter at the big house party pretty disturbing and squeamish, as opposed to funny. Also I’m not a Michelle Trachtenberg fan so it’s pretty mortifying to see her act out being a ‘lion’ and prowling after her teenaged father. I was also never really a big fan of the cafeteria basketball scene – it fell flat compared to some of Mike’s other fatherly advice smackdowns throughout the movie.

Best Character: Ned! Hands down.

Worst Character: Michelle Trachtenberg's obnoxious throughout.

Soundtrack of Our Lives: There isn't a lot of memorable tunes here, other than the great inclusion of a Kooks song at the end over the closing credits.

If You Like This You’ll Also Like: “She’s The Man” starring Amanda Bynes reminds me a LOT of this movie. The whole juxtaposition about what the audience knows about a character and how they act unusual in pretty normal situations, plus the general level of campiness, is great.

Overall Grade: 3.5/5

I should note that my grading scale is probably going to peg a lot of films in the 3-4 ‘star’ range. Using the scale, here’s a general overview of what each point value means:

5 Stars = It’s totally awesome and amazing, and has likely racked up many viewings by myself. It’s more likely to be an award winner, or at least universally loved, than lower ranked films. Chances are it’s one of my favourite films ever.

4.5 Stars = It’s a fantastic film that I’d easily recommend, but maybe isn’t something I’d put in my ‘Favourite Movies of All Time’ list.

4 Stars = I loved it, or at the very least, I respect what an excellent film it is.

3.5 Stars = I really like this movie, but it’s not one of my all time favourites and may not be universally revered.

3 Stars = I like this movie well enough that I’m happy to have it as part of my collection.

2.5 Stars = It was a decent movie, and not an entire waste of my time to watch. It may not be my cup of tea in terms of genre or some other major element.

2 Stars = It was okay. I probably wouldn’t watch it that often.

1.5 Stars = I didn’t particularly like this movie. Major plot, character, casting, writing, or some other overall element of the movie likely downgraded it to this point.

1 Star = I didn’t like it. And I probably won’t watch it again.

Anything below that and you can bet it’ll probably be hitting the ‘sale’ pile soon. I should note that I do have a ton of free DVDs in my collection that I haven’t watched. We’ve sold off quite a few DVDs that way because once we watch them and realize it’s a 2.5 star or less film, it’s probably not worth owning. I’m looking at you Semi-Pro.

Till next time,

- Britt’s On

Two More Heroic / Villainous Thoughts

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Two final Survivor-esque comments I forgot to make while making my fantasy non-‘Favourites’ draft.

#1) A finale’s worth of curious editing finally made sense in the Heroes vs. Villains finale. Obviously at some point, likely once Russell secured himself a spot in the H vs. V finals, the production crew alerted him that he indeed did NOT win Samoa. Which explains his teary-eyed appearance at the Samoan finale before the votes were even close to being revealed. It makes sense that they did this from an editing standpoint – it was no skin off their back to let Russell know at that point in the game that all his bravado throughout the season was for naught. It also probably rattled Mr. Samoa 2009 enough that it led to his final tribal demise that we witnessed last night. It did make for some GREAT editing though, as no one thought Russell would have made it to the end of H vs. V based on his lemon-sucking mug at the Samoa finale.

That being said, I feel like I’m unravelling a mystery of Lost-esque proportions. Here are my remaining questions:
- If Russell knew he hadn’t won Samoa prior to entering the final tribal, why didn’t he adjust his strategy a bit more going into it? I suppose the argument could be made he really doesn’t get it with his ‘no apologies’ stance, but for someone who *seemed* aware going into final tribal that he hadn’t won, you’d think he’d ask himself “why not?’
- How much did the players really know or talk about Russell’s past exploits on Samoa? Going into it, Colby was the only one who seemed perplexed at the inclusion of Russell. ‘Stranger Danger’ he called it, and rightfully so. You’ve got a guy no one has heard of be cast on an all stars season before his season even airs? Yeah that’s cause for concern people.
- Beyond that, why didn’t we get to see more of Russell acclimating himself with the castaways? Other than rounding up Parvati and Danielle and throwing the gauntlet down with Rob, we never got a sense of the castaways getting to know one another this season (another problem with having so many uber familiar faces), especially Russell. Where was the big reveal about him being a millionaire back home? I know that for some people, a friend of mine included, they hadn’t tuned in for some time, so not knowing anything about Russell (among other castaways) was a bit unnerving and probably would have coloured their opinions of them even more!
- Although we didn’t see a clip of Russell acknowledging that he didn’t win Samoa until the final episode, I wonder when he was actually told. My theory is once he got to the final 3, as I said, for editing, but for editing purposes…how is it possible that he never talked about his ranking prior to this? He continually said lots about being the King of Samoa, but he never ever said he guessed he won it because of those bozos poor performance. His arrogance implies he thought he beat them, but he never said it. Weird.

#2) Beyond all of what I’ve just said, I have to say the final tribal lacked some of the arguments it could have included. Perhaps the topic of personal wealth was left off the table because we had two past winners and Russell ‘Moneybags’ Hantz in the house…but then why bring two former winners to the end with you (thus negating Jerri’s chance to make a ‘poor me’ case) and not bring that up even once?

Other moves that should have been touched on to convince the jury:
- Parvati’s double idol play and concealing an idol from Russell should have been more focused on
- Sandra convincing Russell to drop Coach
- Russell playing up the poor me card to JT and company and taking it through to the first 5 on 5 tribal
- Parvati being able to make the same sneaktastic moves at Russell but still have the respect of the jury (i.e. of the villains that played with these three for the whole game, Parvati scored 75% of their votes, and Courtney’s was just a throwaway…sour grapes Heroes?)
- Russell taking down his formidable villainous (heroic!) opponent Rob by convincing Tyson to vote out himself essentially

Oh the list goes on. I just felt like there wasn’t a lot of supportive arguments going on, other than Sandra’s “I did what I had to and look where I am bros” and a few lacklustre responses from Parvati. Although it bears repeating her statement of being the best all around player this season was dead on.

Sigh. That’s all I’m going to say about this season, consider the book closed. On to fresh blood, and hopefully less bitter juries.

- Britt’s On

And the winner is...

9:07 AM Posted In , , Edit This 0 Comments »
Sandra?!?! Colour me surprised. Oh right, I'm talking about Survivor here.

I predicted this final three to be one of the most compelling, and I was right – just as I was also right that Russell would not win no matter what. I have to say, major kudos to two past winners for making it to the end and being the only ones really in contention to win this thing all over again.

I was wrong however, on who the jury would pick between Sandra and Parvati. Although I gave the edge to Parv, Sandra ended up taking the win by a decent-sized margin. I pointed out that Sandra’s strength, that she used quite well in the final tribal, was that she did try to make big moves but it was the Heroes that ultimately hindered them. Although Russell was all sour grapes about rewarding Sandra’s failures (a slightly fair point), the Heroes at least got that her failures were their failures and rewarded her as a result.

That being said, I think the majority of people out there are in agreement with me that Parvati probably really should have won. She did play the best overall social, strategy, and physical game. Her and Sandra were incredibly different actually, Sandra playing the complete opposite and being all scrappy on her way to the top. But both of their arguments did hinge on a similar point – they had to work extra hard to get to the end. Sandra, because her alliance was decimated (although once it was she sort of floated to the end), and Parvati, because no one wanted to work with her from day one onwards. I have to admit that Russell made one of the splashier plays that saved Parvati (i.e. hidden immunity idol and the ouster of Boston Rob), but overall the fact Parvati could get to the end and get votes over Russell speaks volumes about her gameplay.

I was a bit disappointed Sandra won although I still give credit where credit is due, and it did make for an exciting final episode. I laid out my argument to the boyfriend, after he agreed with Probst’s claim that this was indeed possibly the best season ever, about why it was NOT the best season ever. Namely that despite the increased focus on ‘What’s going on at camp?” with the endless combined reward and immunity challenges, we really didn’t get to see any new character development.

What was brilliant about Fans vs. Favourites was the cast represented people we’d seen a fair bit of (i.e. they were all former jury players) but not tons of, because there were no former winners or anything in the mix, other than runner-ups Amanda and Ozzy. Putting this ragtag group of castaways on the same season was a stroke of brilliance because it allowed some players that probably should have gone farther in their original seasons the chance to shine apart from the winners of their past seasons (Parvati and Cirie in particular took top honours here).

The same can not be said about Heroes vs. Villains. As I said in my last Survivor post, the fact there were so many threepeats, many of who had played recently, did kind of screw up the casting this time around.

So here I present to you my fantasy casting for the show. The only rule I set up for myself was that no threepeats are allowed UNLESS the last season they played on was All Stars. Therefore our Guatemalan contender Stephenie and all of the Fans vs. Favourites cast members wouldn’t be allowed. Also I took out all concerns about who they asked, and how each of these characters played out on the show. I was going for people I wanted to see more of, not how they actually turned out this season (because no one, save for Jerri, was really reinvented).

Heroes Tribe
Colleen – America’s original sweetheart, it would be so interesting to see someone that isn’t so high profile outside of their season back on the show. That being said, Stephenie’s comment regarding pre-game friendships was very revealing about how an original castmate like Richard or Colleen would have done on the show.

Jenna – Who doesn’t love Jenna Morasca, S6 Amazon winner? However, dear gal that she is, Jenna stayed home to be with her boyfriend, S3 Africa winner Ethan. She played a heroic, scrappy game towards the end and managed to get six of seven jury votes. Although a threepeater like Colby and Jerri, I was ready to see more of Jenna.

Shambo – Although I was kind of ambivalent about her on the show, Shambo is one of those characters that is way more awesome after the fact (much like Coach, or ANTM’s Jade). Apparently they asked her back as well but the back to back seasons put a crimp in those plans.

Sugar – I never liked Sugar and I probably never will, but I’d still have casted her to represent Gabon well enough. Plus she made for a no-tears-lost first ouster.

Elisabeth Hasselbeck nee Filarski – this would have been as close as the show ever got to having a celebrity edition. I think it would have been interesting to have such a high profile person on the show, although she probably would have been ousted early, not really being one to keep her head in this kind of game at this point.

Colby – Despite his pitiful performance, I would have been happy to see Colby come back, even in my fantasy casting. His fallen hero story arc was relatively compelling although I wish they’d gotten into it more than they did during the actual show, and not just Colby’s final spot on emotional explanation at the reunion about the lack of adventure for him this time around. He definitely embodied hero, and should have been there.

JT – Another person who had a disappointing return (but how could he not?) that I’m still glad participated. He made for good television at the very least with the whole idol debacle. Plus I heart him. He reminds me of a down south version of the boyfriend.

Rupert – So the male heroes casting was pretty acceptable obviously. Rupert, being the all around lovable teddy bear big guy, was deserving of returning to the show on premise. On the show however, I got irritated with him throughout and kind of wished he wasn’t around, but were I casting and not knowing what was to happen, I would have brought him back.

Tom – I’m not sure if I’d have rather seen Ian or Tom from Palau come back. I wasn’t a fan of Tom, I thought he was a bit of an arrogant prick, but I think he’s just one of those aggravatingly good guys that gets under people’s skin because they probably couldn’t be that ‘good’ no matter how hard they tried. He played a disappointing (unsurprisingly) game this year, but again, on paper he was a perfect casting choice.

Yul – Definitely one of the greatest heroes, he actually did what Russell would do just a few seasons later, but with charm and grace that made him the winner over physical dominator Ozzy. That is, he propelled his underdog tribe of four to the finals in one of the most blissed out races to the top ever. Funny how that works.

Almost made the cut?
Ethan Zohn – dude has cancer so I knew he wouldn’t be returning, but Ethan played the prototype of the game JT would take on a decade later. He’s not the most fascinating player of all time but he’s certainly one of the most likable.

Bob – the lovable, crafty teacher from Gabon may have been an interesting addition, but I’ve already got enough cast members from a relatively unremarkable season, so Bob got the axe.

Villains Tribe
Russell – guy definitely deserved to be there and will go down as the greatest villain of all time. Even Boston Rob and Parvati know how to play the game and get votes at the end.

Tyson – should have gone farther. Tyson was someone who had potential to develop into a new character, much like some of the Fans vs. Faves, or at least be a more involved player, but he screwed himself.

Shane Powers – apparently they asked Shane and he turned them down. In case you forgot, Shane was the chain-smoking, totally bananas psychopath from Exile Island (with Cirie and Danielle) that used a piece of wood as a Blackberry. It would have been nice to see him break down again, although the game would have claimed him early on methinks.

Todd Herzog – the China winner was a formidable villain with style. Russell could have learned a thing or two about how to be a ruthless player and still win. Plus I imagine Todd would have been the only one wily enough to take down Russell.

Kenny Hoang – I see Kenny as a female Cirie. An unassuming player that is actually diabolically clever. I would have liked to see more of Kenny amongst the big boys this season – I imagine he would have gone far if he were able to do okay in the challenges. Hm, I’ve just created a really weak tribe of gangly boy types though.

Jerri – I was actually pretty stoked to see Jerri back and was definitely a cheerleader of hers throughout the season. She had a great redemptive arc that removed the black mark of All Stars from her record. Beyond that, she was one of the great female villainesses and totally deserved to be there.

Courtney – Although she never stood a chance, I would have liked to have Courtney on the show for the same reasons I liked Tyson. They made great commentary and facial expressions throughout.

Corinne – Another person that was apparently asked back and turned it down. Corinne was the bitchiest witch that ever set foot on the show (pretty much), completely reaming out her competitors in confessionals and to their faces in Gabon.

Laura – I’m trying to fill out the Samoa crew a bit. Laura wasn’t a huge villain, but she was certainly vilified while on Survivor. She probably would have supplied more compelling drama than Danielle or Sandra, plus a Laura vs. Russell showdown take two would have been epic. As stated, Russell had a massive advantage going into this game in that no one had seen him play – I imagine Laura would have put a major crimp in his gameplay. Plus I could see her and Corinne getting along.

Erinn – Another person who wasn’t really villainous so much as vilified. I didn’t want to have too many people from Tocantins, but I think Erinn could have replaced Danielle. Alternatively, I think Candice should have been put on the villains tribe. She probably would have been Russell’s Natalie-mark.

Almost made the cut?
Coach – wasn’t really a villain ever, but you just wanted (and still want) to see more of the guy. Would probably have been served better by appearing on a season that wasn’t as themed as this one.

Boston Rob – I was quite happy to see BR again, and although his rivalry with Russell was fantastic, it sort of messed with the great redemptive arc Rob has had off the island re: Amazing Race and Amber.

Richard Hatch – another person they apparently wanted back but couldn’t be released owing to his jail sentence. Hah. I was ready to see more of Richard amongst these new age players – Boston Rob was a good proxy though. Because of that, I imagine he would have flamed out disappointingly early.

Brian Heidek – I hate this guy. That’s why he’s not on my fantasy cast. But he was a serious villain – just not a likable one like Todd Herzog.

Dreamz – Who doesn’t hate on Dreamz after he stole Yau-Man’s free car and STILL nailed him to the wall in the finals? I mean, he was in the right strategic mind to make that move, but it totally earned him legions of haters. Although he’s someone I dislike, unlike Brian, he played a flaky game and shouldn’t have been in the finals and therefore not on this all star edition of the show.

Randy – So many male villains! Randy was a one note disappointment. It worked on Gabon because it was mind-boggling fun to ask yourself week after week how it was possible for him to still be there, but this time around it fell flat. There were other more strategic players I would have rather seen quite frankly.

I've heard rumblings that they're planning to follow the format of back to back seasons in the same destination, with another All Star (or semi-all-star) edition on the horizon. I've heard and seen many suggestions for what they'll do, but I think it'd be in their best interest to create a cast like Fans vs. Faves that leaves out some of the BIG names for the ones we're ready to see more of. The characters that left a little too early.

Some suggestions I've seen and liked:
- Bringing back all the winners (although kind of effed now that Sandra won twice)
- Bringing back everyone that got second place
- Bringing back everyone that got voted out first
- Bringing back the first jury member from each season

And well...who knows. Who knows what those crazy kids will do next. It's bittersweet to see some of our faves play for the likely last time - Rob and Parvati, ye shall be missed - but overall a good season.

I'm ready for a few more all-star free seasons to be honest. It's time for some new characters!

Till then.

- B

Last Woman Standing?

1:18 PM Posted In , , Edit This 0 Comments »
Whee! We are in the final stretch of one of the greatest seasons of Survivor of all time. Yet something doesn’t feel quite right. As eagerly as I’ve anticipated watching each episode, I sort of feel like the entire show was on hyperspeed or something weird.

After mulling it over, I think it comes down to the fact that I really felt like I knew the cast too well already, and the few characters that weren’t recent players / three-timers I didn’t really care to get to know again (Sandra, Candice, and Danielle). Comparing this to other all star editions, All Stars was cool because it was the first time they’d done something like that, and they did a couple of interesting change-ups – such as the four tribes to start things off. Fans vs. Favourites was the coolest though because it brought back a lot of new favourites (Ozzy, James, Yau Man, etc.) but not necessarily the most expected cast. Because there were just 8 or 10 or whatever favourites, I felt like they became new characters on their own right which was cool.

Many people have griped about the three-timers and I have to agree, it put a damper on this entire season and building new dynamics and relationships and characters, although some of our heroes and villains were deservedly so from the three-timer camp (Parvati!). I just think they could have either waited a bit longer to do another all star season, or brought in more characters that hadn’t done an all star edition yet. I know they wanted to bring back Shane Powers from godknowswhat season and uber bitch Corinne from Villains, but they both declined sadly. The cast just could have used some fresh blood I think, or perhaps some more blood from the earlier seasons so Colby et al weren’t quite so outmatched by the craftiness of the newer players.

Overall though, I still really liked this season. I need to see the final episode before ranking where it goes in the overall line-up, but I’d probably put it in the top ten, maybe the top five.

As for our FINAL FIVE! Let me break it down:

Colby – has a snowball’s chance in hell of making it to the final three. I don’t imagine anyone (other than maybe Russell, but even he probably isn’t hedging his bets to win against Colby) would use him to further themselves in the game at this point. Plus even if he made it to the final, he wouldn’t, or shouldn’t win. He’s been useless, to the point where his own tribe acknowledged it.

Jerri –Dalton Ross’ and Jeff Probst’s blogs have two differing opinions on the curly haired one. Probst reflected where my head was at – that Jerri stands a great chance at the end for having not pissed off a lot of people but still making it to the end. However Dalton makes the solid point that she hasn’t done anything significant on her own (other than swim in yay, win an immunity and a reward, and flip when required), and typically speaking the all star juries are a little more respectful of good gameplay. Or they’re a little more pissy, I don’t know.

Parvati – this girl won me over this season. I really didn’t like her in her first season, I was ambivalent about her on Fan vs. Faves (although fully agreed with her big win), and at first was dreading her return this season, but ultimately the fact she has kicked so much damn ass for the second time in a row makes me want to give her a big huge high five. People knew she was a massive threat (although maybe not, as a past winner), yet she’s still here. She’s played a really good social game once again, if not better than the previous time as she has actual fans and friends on the jury (Amanda, Danielle, Courtney, etc.), and she let Russell be the front man for their line-up of hits. She’s been an awesome physical player, often contributing to her team’s wins, and taking a few immunities home when it counted. She’s also been a smart strategic player, letting Russell be the villain while she spun the web. Plus the use of the double idols was brilliant and basically got her to where she is. Team Parvati, she deserves a second million at this point!

Russell – many people, myself included, have soured on the self-proclaimed King of Survivor. Although he played an incredible game last year and totally deserved to win, his bragging this season fell a little flat, as did his pandering to Parvati. I think playing with the All Stars was more of a wake-up call to him than he’d like to admit, plus he also had the massive advantage of no one knowing his season. That being said, he HAS made it to the final episode once again, a feat not easily accomplished, and he has made his trademark Russell mind-reading moves to get what he wants (to a point). That being said, he’s still an ugly little player and he has even less of a chance winning this season than he did last season, if he manages to make it to the finals.

Sandra – of the two past winners, Parvati has played the better game. However, Sandra deserves credit for still being here! Her alliance broke down pre-merge and yet she outlasted people that were part of the original Villains alliance, partially through some crafty spinning of her own (re: Coach’s ouster, and keeping this last idol out of anyone else’s hands). She is fearless, and she has tried to make some big moves that were derailed by other people (Candice!), yet she’s made the moves she needs to in order to get to the end. So kudos. Parvati and Sandra’s late-game allegiance was a smart one for both players as past winners, but it’s a bit of a toss-up as to who would win when they go head to head. While Parvati has more game-playing credits to her name, Sandra might win the heroes votes for the time(s) she tried to throw a lifeline out to them.

So here are my predictions, for each final 3 match-up.

Colby – Russell – Jerri: The most unlikely match-up. Jerri would probably win. She’s less evil than Russell but a better player than Colby.

Colby – Russell – Parvati: In this case, Colby might win because people are embittered with Parvati and Russell as a duo. I think Russell & Parvati in the end would be an ugly match-up that would only serve to highlight their villain sides, and Colby might just end up looking like the good guy.

Colby – Russell – Sandra – Sandra would take this, for similar reasons to Jerri.

Russell – Jerri – Parvati: I think Jerri might win this as well, with the rationale that the world hates Russell, Parvati and Russell as a duo would KO one another, and between Jerri and Parvati, the gal’s already got a million.

Russell – Jerri – Sandra: Tough call, and one of the two most compelling finals we could potentially see (if Parvati were surprisingly ousted via Russell). I think a lot of it would come down to: how did Jerri and Sandra handle the ousting of Parvati, and who comes off looking better? My money would be on Jerri, hiding behind Russell.

Russell – Sandra – Parvati: Another one of the top three most compelling final match-ups, I think it would be a tough call between Sandra and Parvati as past winners that are considered less evil than Russell. I’d put my money on Parvati though, as I think Russell might do his part to beat down Sandra in front of the council, but not be able to with Parvati quite so much.

Sandra – Parvati – Jerri: In my opinion, the most likely final three (aside from R-S-P), and the most interesting. You’ve got two past winners who have each made bold moves yet showed loyalty when it counted, and one chick that has come a LONG, favourable way from the day she started, and her past seasons. Jerri might win simply because she hasn’t, and Parvati would be cast as the top villain in this schema which could hurt or help her case. It’d be a nail biter if this is the end, and Parvati’s all gal alliance will once again have served her well.

Well kids, till Sunday’s finale…

- Britt’s On

The Reality Is

10:47 AM Posted In , , , , , Edit This 0 Comments »
Awhile ago a friend of mine (actually several) were horrified when I suggested one of the defining trends of the first decade of the 2000’s – much as mod represents the 60s and bad hair the 80s – would be reality television. But really, in a decade that was all about technological advancement and the wide-reaching fingers of the internet, the emergence of reality TV – despite a return to more basic television production – was a natural evolution of entertainment. We are the generation of ‘instant’, with word of mouth and online news rapidly, virally spreading messages in a matter of mere minutes. We don’t expect, we demand to know the ins and outs of our celebrities’ lives.

But yet…as we begin a new decade, it seems the honeymoon is over with reality TV. The market has become increasingly saturated, and a huge number of reality shows are starting to become stale, and in some cases, are leaving the air (sianora ‘The Hills’).

Consider the increasing absurdness of America’s Next Top Model, a show that once promised lucrative rewards in high end magazines and advertising campaigns, which now continually ‘breaks the rules’ of the modelling industry, and ultimately produces models that are hardly at the top of their game (save for Cycle 6’s Danielle and Cycle 1’s Elyse).

Or the lack of pulse-pounding intensity that once dominated The Amazing Race. Although the show still gets props for pushing the envelope in where they send their contestants, what challenges they have to do, and is still an incredible feat to pull off season after season, it’s ultimately become a little lacklustre over the last few years. Part of it is casting – some generally unlikable and improbable teams have continually made it to the end over the last few years, while fan favourites (if there are any) have continually been eliminated a few legs shy of the finish.

In fact TAR suffers from same-ism that ANTM tries extremely hard to fight – if you look at the history of the series, five of the fourteen winning teams are young, fit males (six if you count the mostly male Linz family on the family edition), two of the teams were brother/sister couplings that generally breezed through the race, and the rest were couples that generally won quite handily. In fact, the last time I remember being really excited during a TAR finale was the adorable hippies TK & Rachel in Season 12. There have been no successful parent/child, or of course, all female teams, and it’s frustrating!

Project Runway has also suffered from two relatively ho hum seasons. Last year’s ill-advised trip to Los Angeles resulted in the worst season to date, with three blasé designers in the finale. Don’t get me wrong, I actually liked all three designers, but I felt like they were better suited to be picked up to design new lines for Club Monaco than Barney’s. This past season wasn’t quite as boring, but it felt like you could pick the final line-up from the earliest weeks, and none of the final three collections were quite as awe-inspiring as past years. It almost felt predestined - as per, how could Emilio ever get past the hardware challenge with the atrocious pink string (literally) bikini he sent down the runway is beyond me...other than the judges wanted to see him in the finals (to be fair, he did do really well before and after this challenge but still).

I liked Seth Aaron Henderson’s stuff, and I quite liked him, but I still wasn’t mesmerized by it. A credit to the Canadian edition of the show – despite the fact it was pretty obvious Sunny would win the last season, I literally had no clue who would go home, or even who would be in jeopardy each episode. That’s good editing.

There are exceptions to the rule. After a couple of lacklustre seasons following the incredible Fans vs. Favourites, Survivor bounced back in Samoa thanks to the devilish casting of Russell Hantz, and followed it up with another great all stars instalment, Heroes vs. Villains. I feel like H vs V has let me down only slightly in that it’s almost sped by too fast, and maybe came on the heels of another all star edition a little too soon (as per the endless complaints about how many third-timers were on the show this time), but in general it’s been a great, surprising season, although many of my favourites are gone.

Also Dancing with the Stars continues to dominate, thanks in large part to the boomers that keep it going. I tuned in as a regular viewer for the first time this season thanks to the actually quite recognizable cast compared to other seasons, and I’ve enjoyed it. I fast forward through about 25% of each episode’s fluff, and about 80% of the results shows, but I’ve liked watching the stories unfold, the relationships, and the progression of the dancing. Great, great casting this year that gives this show a new breath of life. I don’t imagine it will last forever – as this post proves, these shows are running their course, but as a late follower, I’m thinking it’s a big pile of cheesy fun. Plus Nicole Scherzinger has finally made herself a relatable, interesting character rather than a vapid pop tart!

Anyway one can only guess what the next decade will bring us beyond these granddaddies of the industry. I’m a big fan of reality television – not so much on the afterboom of minor celebrity – and I hope it doesn’t disappear altogether. It will be a sad day when Jeff Probst isn’t gracing my screen on a weekly basis.

Till next time,

- Britt’s On

Not The Last Of Lost

11:40 AM Posted In , Edit This 0 Comments »
I haven’t written about Lost in a long while, and I suspect I’ll have much to write about it over the next while. Season 6 has been a bit of a mixed bag. The flash sideways were a welcome change / mystery next to the flashforwards of season 4 and the time jumping of season 5.

That being said, two things are disconcerting about this final season. First, that they’ve introduced this new mysterious plot device this late in the game without answering some pretty big questions (did the bomb actually go off, for example). Second, that the creators have gone on record saying they feel their only obligation at the end of the series is to explain how the two timelines converge. I’m not alone in saying, um, no.

Lost is a tricky show in that the reveals kind of demystify the thing, and not in a good way. Just as the infamous episode ‘The Man Behind the Curtain’ showed, seeing the true nature of Ben’s lack of power kind of castrated the character from being as delectably diabolical as he had been up to that point.

So I get the executive producers’ fear of revealing too much, because then you’ll just kind of be like…well that was lame. At the same time, I don’t like the idea that the creators feel like all they have to do is resolve this season. I guess they have answered a bit already – that Jacob drew the castaways to the island by touching them in order for them to potentially replace him as guardian of the…what exactly? The smoke monster? The goodness of humanity? The island itself (why)?

I am ambivalent about so much of the series at this point, as are many people. While the mystery is still a thrill, it’s also a frustration. I recently read the Wired Lost package of information, including an interview with Lindelof & Cuse, and they commented that a show about people living on regular ol’ deserted island would have gotten very old, very fast.

I agree, but only to a point. The science fiction elements of the series are what make it so compelling – but so are the characters and their stories that hooked us in the first place. To that end, the concept of survival is kind of non-existent at this point. When was the last time we saw the castaways actively involved in the process of looking for food, building shelter, or even resting for godsakes! These things just kind of happen now, in the cracks between the action-driven sequences we’re consistently exposed to.

I also feel like it’s a bit late in the game to be introducing the elements of on-island suspense that we’ve been seeing lately. Almost every cliffhanger to date has been wrapped up neatly within the first quarter of the next episode. The castaways were marched away at gunpoint in the last episode, and easily freed within minutes in this week’s “The Candidate” episode. I suppose it was a plot device to get Jack and co. on the Hydra island with the sub, but it still feels like we’re being cheated with faux dramatic endings rather than resolutions.

So far I’m not disappointed at the time I’ve invested in the series. It’s still wildly entertaining and puzzling, but I feel like there will be a collective whooshing of deflated air if the series ends as weakly as people are anticipating it to at this point. That being said, Lost does have the best finales in town…I imagine this season will be no different! It’s just got to be a little better than best.

Here’s hoping!
- Britt’s On

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