All My Movies: Accepted

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Starring: Justin Long, Jonah Hill
Costarring: Blake Lively, Lewis Black
Times Watched: 2
Genre: Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes / Metacritic: 37% / 47

Road To Ownership: I distinctly remember being at Blockbuster with two friends and buying some other previously viewed movies, and needing another one to get the best deal. My friends debated whether I should get this one or not, but I needed a fourth and I hadn’t seen it and I kind of wanted to, so yeah.

The Plot: The unfortunately named Bartleby Gaines (Justin Long) is a bit of a Ferris Bueller-type schoolboy conman, but his street smarts and general averageness do not get him accepted into college. Shamed, he invents a fake ‘baby sister’ school to the prestigious ‘Harmon College’, where his best friend Schrader (Jonah Hill) has been accepted. His parents are so thrilled they hand over the $10K in tuition, which Bartleby uses to actually lease and renovate an old mental hospital to look like a university. Soon, several of Bartleby’s friends also plan to attend the faux school, which is followed by legions of others that have also been turned away from every other school. The South Harmon Institute of Technology (yes, S.H.I.T.) is an educational utopia, where kids learn about life, make up and teach their own classes, and mostly spend their days partying. Things aren’t all rosy though – Schrader’s frat-brothers-to-be are hell bent on taking down and exposing SHIT so their prestigious college can have a glorious entranceway built.

The Good & The Bad: There is a genre of movies out there that I like to call lazy comedies. It’s sort of how other animation studios release lazy computer animated films next to the brilliance of Pixar and the humour of Dreamworks. Accepted falls into the Lazy Comedy category, along with films like ‘Euro Trip’ or ‘Drillbit Taylor’. The casting isn’t quite as star-studded, the plot is okay with gaping holes, the characters are incredibly one-dimensional and contrived, the film is full of campy stereotypes, and the humour comes and goes in waves.

There are actually a ton of laughs in this film, the majority of which come from Jonah Hill’s nerdtastic BFF Schrader. Justin Long plays the (unbelievably old-looking for a college freshman) only guy with half a brain in the film, and goes from obnoxiously winking at the camera to having a few genuinely funny moments to being kind of creepy and self-serving. Blake Lively has a totally thankless and surprisingly deglammed role (you would NEVER see Serena Van Der Woodsen in a Target tank top), and Lewis Black, for all his over the top animated action, manages to deliver a few laughs when you get past his cartoon-ish demeanour. There’s also a pretty extensive ‘community’ cast of characters (including Twilight’s Kellan Lutz). However stereotypical they are, it’s nice to see the same minor characters get a few lines each to give the school the feeling of a living, breathing, student ecosystem.

The laughs alone don’t carry the film to greatness however. The huge gaping plot contrivances start to pile up as the film goes on, especially as you think to yourself, ‘Why isn’t anyone questioning anything? I guess there’s a reason none of you were accepted into college…I mean, really!’ Also the last quarter of the film abandons laughs and goes right for dramatic sentimentality, which is totally lost on the ragtag feeling in the rest of the movie.

Also, let me be the first to point out that this film is actually a remake of the 90’s classic ‘Camp Nowhere’, wherein a bunch of kids who all the face the same fate of heading to horrible summer camps decide to create a fake summer camp instead, fooling their parents and hiring a slightly random person to oversee the camp. Alternatively you could also argue it’s an expanded version of Old School, wherein the characters are fighting for an entire campus, not just a frat house.

Best Scene:
Pretty much all the scenes with Jonah Hill are gold, but I particularly die laughing when the skeleton falls out of the ceiling when they're first investigating the school, and Schrader's response.

Worst Scene: Bartleby fighting for accreditation and his sappy, ridiculous speech. Just, no.

Best Character: Jonah Hill’s Schrader kind of carries the film, and does awesome here. Gotta love a guy who dons both a sperm and hot dog costume in the same film.

Worst Character: As annoyingly slapstick as Bartleby’s dad is, I have to say I really despise the character of ultimate dumbass-turned-chef Glenn. His “I’m so dumb” line readings drive me nuts because it’s like watching high school drama, and he’s NOT FUNNY. Ever. Although I do appreciate his t-shirt.

Soundtrack of Our Lives: Other than a couple of random covers, including a punk take on The Beatles ‘Eleanor Rigby’, the only slightly memorable moment was Green Day’s ‘Holiday’. The rest of the film is mostly generic music beds and the odd bit of pop punk.

If You Like This You’ll Like: Euro Trip, Road Trip, Old School…and Camp Nowhere.


All My Movies: About A Boy

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It seems like all I’m doing in here lately is ‘All My Movies’ posts, but it’s been quiet on the media scene lately. I do intend to post on Toy Story 3 and the rise of the EP at some point soon though.

About A Boy
Starring: Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult
Costarring: Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz
Directors: Chris Weitz, Adam Weitz
Times Watched: I’m going to guess at least 6-7
Genre: Comedy / Romantic Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes / Metacritic: 93% / 75

Road To Ownership: I got this previously viewed at some point…possibly when I had mono in high school.

The Plot: Will is a bit of a louse – he lives off the royalties of his dad’s one hit holiday wonder, spends his days being pampered while using and abusing the ladies, and is generally regarded as extremely shallow. One day he figures out that single mothers are an easy mark, which leads him to a parent support group where he makes up having a kid. It’s there he meets a woman named Suzy, and at a playdate for the single mothers group, Suzy’s friend’s weird son Marcus. The movie is also told from Marcus’ perspective – he’s a lonely, beat up on young boy that puts up with all the weirdness in his life to make his eccentric, maniacally depressed, granola crunch mother happy. Marcus figures out that Will is lying to Suzy and uses that as a way to hang out with the supremely cool Will to escape the rest of his life. Meanwhile Will is challenged to figure out how to stop being a blank slate and actually be a worthwhile person – so he can attract the woman of his dreams, and be something to Marcus.

The Good & The Bad: Who would have thought the Weitz brothers (of American Pie and Twilight fame) could create such a charming movie? I hadn’t watched this film in awhile, but as I rewatched it yesterday I fell in love with it again. I remember when I first saw the posters for it, I thought – sweet, new Hugh Grant rom com with a cute kid! Marcus is in fact obnoxious and truly weird, and not your cutie pie movie star kid, and the movie isn’t exactly a traditional Hugh Grant rom com – and that’s what makes it work. Grant is playing his proto-typical aloof but self-doubting cool guy, but the movie is more about that character on his own (a self-described island) versus his relationship with Rachel Weisz’s character, which only comes into play about 2/3rds of the way in. Along with Notting Hill, this is one of the only movies where we get to see Grant out of his element, and it’s lovely and charming.

Along with Bridget Jones Diary and Love Actually, I think AAB is one of the few British films that really manages to capture the quirkiness of British comedy but still have widespread appeal to North American audiences. There are many quintessentially British plot points and humour, but it still works in translation. Another thing I love about this movie is the sense of community it creates. Although we only meet the majority of minor characters a handful of times, you still feel like there is a world that the main characters in habit, and the connections in it work. Marcus’ schoolmates, the SPAT support group, Imogen’s parents, and so on all work to create a fully realized sense of place.

The performances are also good in the film. The kid that plays Marcus sells it perfectly – there has always been that weird kid that’s so easy to pick on – but he gives it depth by linking his odd behaviour to his mom’s self-imposed state of disaster. Toni Collette as Marcus’ mom is also fantastic. It’s the first movie I remember seeing her in, and she plays the self-involved manic depressive good-thinking mom perfectly. Rachel Weisz is totally adorable in this film, and her appearance in it is what I always picture when reading the Confessions of a Shopaholic books back in the day. And Hugh Grant, as I mentioned, gives one of the best performances ever by not reluctantly falling into a romance, but instead reluctantly evolving as a character from the self-imposed cad that he is for much of the film.

I also would like to credit the filmmakers for some decent cinematography and stylistic choices – the Marcus slow walk to Will’s home with the intense, jagged music, the little montage of Will’s ex-girlfriends telling him where to go, and the constant rotating parallels between Marcus and Will’s lives all make for an excellent bit of storytelling and visual humour (see: the frozen scenes of the soccer ball and the apple, the ‘telling the truth leading to more questions’ moments, etc.). Great use of voice over throughout. I will note I've never read the book, but I fully intend to - but this latest viewing made me feel like the movie was probably a pretty solid adaptation of the book based on the use of V/O.

Best Scene: This is a movie that is good through & through – so many funny bits – but I always get the giggles when Hugh Grant strolls out strumming a guitar at the talent show.

Worst Scene
: Typically speaking the worst scenes in a film are the ones where I want to yell at the characters to just explain things in a certain way that makes sense! When a film balks at making logical, linear sense, I get very snippy. Case in point: the scene with Hugh Grant admitting to Rachel Weisz that Marcus is not his son. Why not just explain it as you have to us, the audience, throughout the film! That you came into his life at a very fragile time, his mom was suicidal, and you took it upon yourself to be a bit of a mentor and unofficial father figure in his life. He’s a friend of the family, etc. etc. Simple! I would buy that! That scene and subsequent bailout of the Will/Rachel (yes, her name is Rachel in the film) relationship drives me nuts.

Best Character: Hugh Grant is great in this movie, so by default, Will.

Worst Character: Although acted perfectly, Toni Collette’s ‘Fiona’ drives me up the wall. I know I’m being unsympathetic to manic depressive single moms, but her selfishness throughout the movie is painful.

Soundtrack of our Lives: One of the BEST parts of this movie is the soundtrack. With a few notable exceptions – Killing Me Softly and Mystikal’s Shake Your A— - this movie’s entire soundtrack is the product of amazing musician Badly Drawn Boy, score and all. The film is wholly unified and made that much better from the fantastic score and soundtrack. It’s easily one of the top 3 soundtracks of all time. Buy it!

If You Like This You’ll Like
: Depends what you like about it. ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ has Toni Collette and the same quirky family charm. ‘Bridget Jones Diary’ is one of the few quintessentially British films out there that parallels this one in awesomeness, where it’s really about the character with the romance as a bonus. ‘Notting Hill’ is tied for best Hugh Grant performance in terms of departures from this typical role.

Final Grade
: 4/5. There are just too many good things happening here not to reward it as such!

All My Movies: 40 Year Old Virgin

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40 Year Old Virgin
Starring: Steve Carrell, Catherine Keener
Costarring: Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Jane Lynch, Romany Malco, Lesley Mann, Elizabeth Banks, Cat Dennings, Mindy Kaling & more!
Times Watched: 3-4
Genre: Comedy, 'Dude' Comedy, a tinge of Romantic Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes / Metacritic: 85% / 73

Road To Ownership: I remember watching this movie for the first time on a first date way back when. My boyfriend brought it to our combined movie collection.

The Plot: Andy (Steve Carrell works in the service department of a Best Buy-type electronics store. His motley band of coworkers recruit him to play poker one night, where it's revealed Andy is in fact a virgin, at the age of 40. The guys - really the entire staff of 'Smart Tech' - immediately band to together and make it their mission to get Andy laid. What follows from there are two somewhat separate storylines: the first are just a bunch of misadventures in Andy's evolution from ultimate nerd to reluctant sex god, while the second involves Andy's pursuit of a woman (Trish, played by Catherine Keener) who owns a store across the street from Smart Tech.

The Good & The Bad: This is the first in what has come to be known as 'Apatowian' films, and fittingly so - it marks the first time Director/Writer/Producer Judd Apatow is at the helm with all three hats on in movie world. It also results in the most focused and well-rounded of Apatow's films - with a fairly linear plot that still allows for plenty of hilarious meandering. The laughs are a plenty here, and if you can get past the extreme sexualization of women, it's pretty easy to join in. Each character has supremely funny scenes, and the setting of the electronics store makes for a surprisingly hilarious backdrop for the main action of the film. There is also a surprising romantic comedy element - although not as heartfelt as the sneaky romantic nature of other 'dude comedies' out there, it gives the gals in the audience something to appreciate other than the sex, sex, sex that dominates the film. What's also great is how far the hugely familiar cast has come since the movie. Watching it today provides more delight than when it first came out in some ways because you get to see all these popular comedic actors in one big happy family.

Best Scene: Tough call! This movie has a surprising number of randomly hilarious scenes. See: Steve Carrell getting waxed (also known as the only thing that kept me together as I thought about it while trying not to break out in sobs while watching Toy Story 3). Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen's 'You know how I know you're gay?'. Steve Carrell in the book store 'Do you like to do it yourself?'. Steve Carrell and Leslie Mann's drunken car ride. Any moment with Jane Lynch! Paul Rudd hating the music DVD! Speed dating!

I might go with the waxing. Not because I think it's the funniest moment in the film, but because I've heard Steve Carrell actually got waxed and everything in that scene happened once and once only, hence why the reactions on ALL of the actors are so priceless. It's like watching an SNL sketch!

Worst Scene
: Leslie Mann throwing up shellfish sandwich on Steve Carrell is pretty gross. The rest of the scene is funny though :) I also hate the scene with Kat Dennings over-screaming at her mom. It hurts my ears.

Best Character
: Jane Lynch as store manager Paula! Can I say I was on the JL train from the moment I saw this movie? Cause I was. She has always been my favourite part of this film - her delivery and comedic timing was perfect, and I'm so glad she's rocking it out on Glee now. Her Guatemalan lover singing a football song? Brill!

Worst Character: I'm not a big fan of Romany Malco's character in this film, and tellingly, he's the least popular of this crew. I felt like he got way too much airtime for being by far the most misogynistic creeper of the dudes.

Soundtrack of our Lives: Other than a couple of random, surprisingly 90s-esque bar tunes, the main musical highlight is the final musical number to the 'Age of Aquarius'. "MYSTIC CRYSTAL REVELATIONS..." Hilarious, but musicwise, this movie is a fail.

If You Like This You'll Also Like: Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall


All My Movies: 3:10 To Yuma

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3:10 To Yuma
Starring: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster
Costarring: Logan Leman, Dallas Roberts, Peter Fonda, Vinessa Shaw, Gretchen Mol
Times Watched: 1
Genre: Western
RT / Metacritic: 88%/76

Road To Ownership: Don’t ask me! I think sometimes the boyfriend looks at previously viewed DVDs and just snaps some up that he thinks he’ll like or wants to watch or wants to buy just to get the special deal with. I’m guilty of the same thing, but not as often as he is.

The Plot: Dan Evans and his two young boys are out to settle the score with some debt collectors when they come across the notorious thief and posse leader Benjamin Wade. A series of chance encounters and a desperate bid to do well by his family leads Dan to join a small contingent of folks that are leading Benjamin Wade to the town of Contention, where he’s set to put on the 3:10 train to Yuma prison. Of course, Ben’s posse is having none of this and both Ben and his gang of ruffians will do anything to get him free.

The Good & The Bad:
I know I watched movies out of order – 40 Days & 40 Nights should have come first – but thank god I did because I got this amazingly random Easter egg. The chick that plays Josh’s ex Nicole is the same chick that basically unintentionally leads to Benjamin Wade’s capture after a bedroom encounter! Vinessa Shaw. The whole time she was on the screen I kept on thinking…is that her? It has to be her…it’s totally her?

Anyway moving on. I wasn’t really looking forward to watching this movie, but I didn’t hate it either. The dialogue was certainly more interestingly written than the last action flick we watched (300) and the characters more snappy. Part of what made the film enjoyable was the cast. In my books it was all-star but really obscurely so. Alpha from Dollhouse! Keamy from Lost! A kid that looks like Jack’s kid from Lost but is really from Percy Jackson & The Olympians! Tucker from the original 90’s Flash Forward / Get Over It! Nicole from 40 Days & 40 Nights! Luke Wilson! Seeing these characters in such wildly different scenarios from where I knew them was a treat. That being said, many of them felt like bumps in the road (McElroy in particular) compared to the ultimate tension between Ben, Dan, and William.

The movie is reminiscent of several films – most notably it’s kind of the Western answer to ‘No Country For Old Men’ (re: the main character running into a situation he shouldn’t that ultimately leads him down a tragic path), and ‘Road to Perdition’ (re: doing everything you can to stand by your family, with your son following in your footsteps). Something about it reminded me of another film as well but I can’t put my finger on what – I’m sure I’ve seen another movie about the strange dynamics between the captor and captive. It’s not quite as whizzbang tense as other films I’ve seen, but the pacing is solid enough that you feel uneasy throughout about the ultimate outcome.

The boyfriend and I agreed that the ending didn’t feel quite right. The evolution of Crowe’s character felt a little bit topsy-turvy and underdeveloped, although he played a surprisingly excellent viper of a villain – calm, smooth, and cocky masking a vicious underlayer, and a realistic one under that. The other performances were decent, but sometimes it was hard to separate the actors from the other places I knew them from (in particular, Keamy had a pretty horrid southern accent).

I liked, or should I say tolerated, this movie more than I thought I would, but I’m sceptical that I’ll ever watch it again. One thing I will point out is that I found the entire movie, particularly in the beginning, to feel jarringly modern. The language, delivery, and even content of the script felt very 21st century, which took away from getting invested in a Western film and its timeline. See: the opening scene with Dan’s wife discussing how they should be making financial decisions together. Isn’t this the 19th century?

Best Scene: The movie is sort of one big continuous flow, so it’s hard to single out specific scenes that were standouts. I liked the final opportunity Ben gave Dan, and how Dan rejected it but still made it happen in a different sense. Understanding Ben’s motives and willingness towards the end was interesting as well, but that didn’t come from one scene – it was many little bits.

Worst Scene: I got irritated by the stupid guy in the wagon getting torched and giving up the info on Contention. It wasn’t a badly acted scene, just kind of an obvious one from a plot standpoint that was full of holes, including the gang telling Charlie they should give up and him insisting they were going onwards anyway. Also I would NOT have wanted to be the person who had to pretend to be Wade in the wagon. Why wouldn’t they leave the damn thing unlocked for him?

Best Character: I surprisingly liked Russell Crowe’s portrayal of Benjamin Wade, jaunty hat and all.

Worst Character: Although he plays a creepy mercenary better than anyone on the planet, the guy who portrayed Tucker (and Keamy on Lost) had a bad accent, so he takes the cake here. I also felt like Ben Foster’s ‘Charlie’ was a little overdone sometimes.

Soundtrack of our Lives: I liked the opening score a lot – the sort of mystic zen meets Western desert guitar strumming. It sort of took on typical Western scoring from there.

If You Like This You’ll Like: Films on a similar theme like No Country for Old Men and Road to Perdition. Also the bevy of modern-day westerns out there, like The Assassination of Jesse James.


All My Movies: 40 Days & 40 Nights

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40 Days & 40 Nights
Starring: Josh Harnett, Shannyn Sossamon
Costarring: Paulo Costanzo (love), Maggie Gyllenhaal
Times Watched: I'll say about 5?
Genre: Romantic Comedy / Dude Comedy
RT / Metacritic: 38% / 53

Road To Ownership: Back when DVDs were stupid expensive - like $40 a pop - my dad used to grab us them at an awesome used DVD store in Toronto. Although I'm really not sure if this came from there or not, I think I spied a Blockbuster previously viewed label on it. So I probably bought it. I do remember quite distinctly seeing the movie in theatres.

The Plot: Matt is shattered after his dream girl breaks up with him...which causes him to bang anything that moves? But he starts to feel empty and vacuous, so he decides to take a vow of celibacy for lent. 100% celibacy - no kissing, touching, nothing, including self-relief. Enter Erica, the cutesy urban chica he meets at the laundry mat shortly into his vow. What follows from there is a will he / won't he last the 40 days and 40 nights, and how will Erica cope with the whole scenario?

The Good & The Bad: The reason why I even keep this movie in my collection is not because it's particularly good, or funny (I barely cracked a smile last night), but because it's *quintessentially* 90's. There is a great (no joke) Ashton Kutcher / Amanda Peet vehicle called 'A Lot Like Love' that captures the spirit of 90s movies, but this movie IS 90s. Matt and Erica work at 'dotcom's', they visit and design 'web pages', and 'everything is on the internet'. These hipster 20-somethings love their coffee shops, are sexually liberated, and have that quirky but hip 90s style down to a pat. Plus Shannyn Sossamon is fricking gorgeous in this film - it makes me want to chop my hair off and start donning paperboy caps and full length cargo skirts.

Now, watching this movie for the first time in probably about four or five years, the humour was really lost on me this time around. In fact, the entire movie is so implausible, it's the truly laughable part! If you can let go of literally how ridiculous every single scene is, and how there is absolutely no reason for Erica to be interested in Matt after all his freakiness throughout the film, then perhaps you'll buy into the bizarro romance at hand here, but seriously! The plot jumps and skips with absolutely no sense.

This movie is also sort of a precursor to the 'dude film' that has dominated the 21st century so far. There is plenty of T&A, and a shitload of inappropriate workplace behaviour, and tons of sex jokes and incidents. In fact the movie paints guys as sex-crazed maniacs and girls as walking sex bombs. It's just intensely bizarre and random.

For me, the 90s element saves the film from total destruction, but it's really not a 'good' film, at all :) Josh Hartnett at his hottest though.

Best Scene
: Tough call. I enjoy Erica and Matt's initial laundry non-date, and I always laugh at Matt fondling Mrs. Butterworth on the last day of his bet. In general the scenes with his coworkers and the bagel guy are quality.

Worst Scene: Toss-up between Matt's sea of titties dream at the end or the orchid-gasm between him and Erica.

Best Character: I actually enjoy Josh Hartnett's performance in this movie. Shannyn may be gorgeous, but her character would drive me nuts if I actually knew her. I also love Paulo Costanzo in general, and kind of am in love with Gleen Fitzgerald, despite his horrible taste in jackets.

Worst Character: Jerry, the boss at this supposed dotcom. He decides to go on a vow of celibacy as well and just turns really, really creepy. Not funny.

Soundtrack of Our Lives:
Chockful of 90s alt rock, including Semisonic's 'Chemistry' and Everclear's 'Everything is Wonderful Now'.

If You Like This You'll Like: Hm. Modern-day comedies about sex that are a lot more clever, like 40-year-old virgin or Knocked Up.


Updated to add: Wait what? This movie is apparently from 2002? But it feels so 1999! Ah well I guess we were still quite naively getting used to the internet at the turn of the Millennium.

Sex and the City and Degrassi

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I just finished Candace Bushnell’s latest book, The Carrie Diaries, which was conveniently tied in with the launch date of the second floppy movie…which I’m putting off seeing. I’ve just heard too many bad things about it (other than lots of “I surprisingly liked it!” facebook statuses) to make me that excited for it. People keep on talking about how ‘hilarious’ it is, but I have a hunch these are the same people who laughed at the line about ‘Charlotte poughkipsed in her pants’ in the first movie, a line I thought was horribly punny and a plot element I thought was totally unnecessary.

I have problems with the first film, too many to list, but there are also things I liked about it that stayed true to the series. I understand that with a 30 minute show it’s easy to tie things together on a centralized little theme, while expanding that timeline to 5x its length makes it more of a challenge – hence the veering off into a bunch of little pointless subplots that sorta only kinda impacted the main story for each character. I fear the second film is more of those subplots and pratfalls than the emotional resonance and genuine humor that emerged with the original show.

Anyway back to reading. CB’s (did you ever notice Candace Bushnell = Carrie Bradshaw?) latest book is an origin story for Carrie in her senior year of high school. Contrary to what little was revealed about Carrie on the show – her mother died when she was a tween and her father is raising her and her two little sisters (on the show her father left her and her mother, no siblings mentioned). She’s a funny, brainy, pretty virgin that’s fixated on her future and defiant of convention, while her friends are running around being typical high schoolers. Basically it sets up a lot about who Carrie will become and why she is the way she is. Some of it is very heavy-handed, some of it is clever nods.

I’m surprised Bushnell wanted to do, or chose to do an origin story. Admittedly the premise was delectable for many – if Bushnell has been blockaded about writing about Carrie’s present (which has been extensively documented on screen), why not open up a new chapter in her past? The book opened up all sorts of questions for me though, ones that would be hard to answer because the show and book present different versions of Carrie’s youth.

That being said, whether Bushnell continues to write the misadventures of a young Carrie or not, I’m curious to see whether this becomes a film, as a way to reboot the franchise (produced by SJP with a cameo of course) on the screen as well. Or for that matter, a TV series of Carrie’s early days…fascinating, although I think it could run away with itself without a clear framework, like what’s laid out here.

If that does happen, I am nominating Degrassi The Next Generation’s Charlotte Arnold, who plays uber-ambitious queen bee Holly J Sinclair – for Carrie. Charlotte Arnold is easily my favourite actress / character on the show right now, she’s been fantastic as a super bitch, mega loser, practical romantic, and ambitious role model. Although it’s a bit hard to picture her with Carrie’s curls, she has enough of a resemblance, suitable voice, and a strong set of acting chops to pull off this iconic role.

I think there might be some outcry if The Carrie Diaries is made into a movie, but I honestly would be curious and happy to see it come to fruition. Again, there are certainly problems to resolve regarding the continuity of the two, but I’m all for it!

Till the day comes when Carrie graces our screens with dignity and interest again…

- Britt’s On

Pretty Little Liars Premiere

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It’s summertime, which means my television has dried up in terms of new content. Shows with multiple mini-seasons per year like The Little Couple and the abominable but addictive Toddlers & Tiaras are back, as well as the always brilliant Friday Night Lights, but other than that I swear I turn on my PVR and a tumbleweed crosses my screen. Let me tell you, I cannot *wait* for Degrassi to reboot itself in a near-daily format in about a month’s time.

I decided to PVR another new show, since Canada’s MuchMusic has started airing more and more television and less and less music, turning itself into a sad MTV clone. Lame! MM airs Degrassi these days which is doubly lame because it doesn’t broadcast in high-def even though the show is in high-def. Well, they also happen to be the only channel broadcasting ABC Family’s new program, ‘Pretty Little Liars’.

By pure coincidence it was like a perfect storm of hype managed to make its way into my peripheral. A friend on read the book and liked it. I recognized Lucy Hale, whose career I’ve been passively following for the last five years post-American Juniors, in the glossy print ads. And I happened to see a little blurb on it the day it premiered.

I finally got around to watching it last night, and, although I had trouble sleeping for a myriad of reasons, this show did not help one bit. It had an eerie creepy feeling to it that reminded me of ‘The Craft’ for some reason (I blame the autumnal colouring and Lucy Hale’s supposedly ‘goth’ wardrobe), as well as a bad film I’ve seen too many times call ‘The In Crowd’ starring er, Susan Ward from Sunset Beach.

Basically the premise is this: five girls were best friends, but in that catty, frenemies kind of way, at least when it came down to their ringleader Allie and her manipulation of them. One night the girls are drinking and Allie goes missing. Shortly after Aria (Lucy Hale) left town to go to Europe because her dad (Chad Lowe) went on a workplace sabbatical. The story picks up one year later, with the anniversary of Allie’s death and the return of Aria. Immediately Aria realizes things are not how she left them – the remaining three friends have drifted apart.

Emily is questioning her sexuality as she befriends the new girl that moves into Allie’s family’s old home.

Hannah (hey, it’s Carson from the fourth Bring It On!) has gone from being the chubby one to the it girl with a kleptomania problem and a newly single mom.

Spencer is crushed when her always perfect big sister steals away her converted barn/loft for her and her boyfriend Wren (a dreamy British med student).

Aria, feeling detached from her hometown and former friends, engages in a random hookup with an education student, who ends up being her new student teacher in high school.

As each of the girls enter dangerous territory – theft, affairs, relationship drama – they all get mysterious messages from ‘A’, presumably Allie. But by the end of the first episode they’ve supposedly found Allie’s body and held a final farewell. The remaining foursome are still jumpy however, not just because they get a simultaneous text from the grave, but because there are many other secrets binding them together and driving them apart. Including ‘The Jenna Thing’, which happens to be the title of the second episode, and seems to relate to a seemingly blind girl (perhaps the ‘A’ in question) named Jenna Cavanaugh that showed up at the funeral.

My general thoughts beyond the plot outline above? The writing was absolutely terrible. I’m not sure if it’s because it was a pilot or it’s the trite garbage kids are expected to buy these days, but it was pretttty brutal throughout. The pacing was also rapid-fire, which is probably why it felt more like a movie than a pilot episode. A ton of stuff was established, way more than what I just gabbed on about above, and there was a certain level of creepy touchiness about the main foursome that was compelling, but it also felt like ‘Okay we’re experiencing what now?’ Kudos to the writers for getting to cram in so many short scenes in just an hour – I think each girl had at least four or more to themselves – but it made for a slightly disjointed experience overall.

I am planning to continue watching the series, in part because it’s the summer. I hope it’s not a long-running series and more of a mini-series for the summer because I anticipate once the Allie mystery is resolved (if ever, perhaps it’s an omniscient Gossip Girl type situation) the show will sort of lose its momentum, a la post-Season 1 Desperate Housewives. I’d be curious to read the books but alas, I see it’s a relatively long-running series and I’ve got way too much on my reading plate to consider picking up something new.

As for casting? I suspect Lucy Hale is a little too pretty to be playing Aria, based on the offhand comment Emily or Hannah’s mom made about how it wasn’t cool that Aria’s mom (Holly Marie Coombs from Charmed) was letting her ‘run around looking like a goth’. Then again, the show includes the word ‘pretty’ in it so maybe all the girls are supposed to be as gorgeous as they are. Hannah (Carson!) was a good choice as the flashbacks had her fitting into the chubby-girl-that-doesn’t-know-she’s-pretty role as well as her groomed-and-coiffed-queen-bee current status. The girl that plays Emily is probably the most endearing so far, although she seems genuinely uncomfortable with her lesbian storyline, possibly because her gal pal speaks five octaves higher than a normal person should. And Spencer is a bit of a two-face, plus looks way older than the others, especially when they stand together (the fact she took ‘an internship at the Mayor’s’ between grades 10 and 11 didn’t help either), but it was amusing to see psychotic ‘Nanny Carrie’ from One Tree Hill reappear on my screen.

We shall see how the series plays out I guess. The fact I woke up every hour last night in the throes of a slightly random nightmare that somewhat linked to the show speaks well for it, but really who doesn’t love a bit of popcorn-y, trashy summer TV?

- Britt’s On

Flash Burn

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FlashForward ended the other week, in one of those unfortunate ways where shooting on the show has wrapped before a decision was made on its return. Some shows are experts at this – see the Friday Night Lights bittersweet Season 3 finale – in terms of walking the fine line between closure and cliffhanger…FF was not. It was fully a set-up for the next few years of the series, that we’ll never see.

FF was one of the most hyped shows of the fall 2009 line-up, along with Glee and The Good Wife. It was hailed as the next show to take on the Lost title (although who exactly wants that now is a good question), in fact, the same Entertainment Weekly reporter that was dedicated to Lost ‘Doc’ Jeff Jensen, also zoned in on the show. That is, until a couple of shark-jumping moments in the latter half of season 1 regarding a double agent / lesbian-temporarily-goes-hetero-sex-encounter situation with one of the (originally) best characters on the show, Janice.

So what went wrong?
Giant Cast – yes other shows have had giant casts (Lost anyone? 16 initial principals? I mean really!), but in the case of Lost, all of the castaways were in one centralized location, making it pretty easy to pick up character names, roles, and traits rapidly. And what you didn’t know about someone immediately – as in the case of the relatively enigmatic Hurley of Season 1 – was okay, because you got to play a guessing game until you downloaded a huge package of information during their flashbacks. In FF, the characters were all over the map and loosely connected (Nicole and Bryce for example…she was a haphazard nanny for 5 seconds and a burgeoning medical force for the rest of the series, with no education and a crazy mom). The flashforwards did not serve as information dumps, and the characters were only sort of loosely tied to their professions as doctors, FBI agents, and scientists – it affected the plot, but not the characters. Also the fringe characters – Zoe and Keiko for example – didn’t really get a lot of play. There were just too many stories to ‘care’ about, when Mark’s was the most important one all along, and it became one giant muddled mess.

Follow-Through – unlike Lost, FF never followed through on any of the potentially detrimental events revealed in the flashforwards. Demetri lived, Mark lived, Olivia remained (somewhat) faithful, D Gibbons being a bad man related to fridge magnets, and the Terrence Howard-lookalike CIA agent wasn’t really evil. In fact, while the show was somewhat about challenging fate versus destiny (a major theme of Lost), the whole premise of the FlashForwards kind of fell flat when the majority of them didn’t exactly come true. The awareness of the moments shown in the ff’s made it kind of anti-climactic.

Dead Mysteries – similar to the above point, it seemed like one too many mysteries didn’t feel like they were properly resolved. Somalia, D Gibbons, the Kangaroo (!), the blue hand club, Suspect Zero and who Simon is working for etc. Although I appreciated the show gave us ‘answers’, the huge sprawling storylines and cast made it hard to accept them.

I don’t know. I don’t really feel like writing much more on the subject. I still liked FlashForward and watched it to the end, but I’m not entirely surprised, especially as I write this, that the show was cancelled. It just never felt cohesive enough to really work, especially when you consider the show was about a *global* event as opposed to a plane of some 300 odd people. Another thing someone wisely pointed out was that with all of the Lost copycats, all of them have had the mystery built in to the first episode of the series, indeed, in the pre-show hype. Lost’s genius was in the fact the show was very much about real people in a real situation – stranded on an island – with mere glimpses of the bigger issue at hand, at least in the beginning.

Of the little bit I know on the fall 2010 line-up, networks are moving away from heavily cohesive, serial dramas, especially in the sci fi department. Instead we’re getting a lot more procedurals, which I like to call ‘monsters of the week’ in reference to the first bland but wacky season of Buffy. I doubt I’ll pick up any new shows…but we’ll see. If only I had a FlashForward?

- Britt’s On

All My Movies: 300

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Starring: Gerard Butler and a bunch of dudes, plus one chick.
Costarring: A hunchback and a voice-modified questionably draggy demi-god giant king.
Times Watched: 1
Genre: Action / Historical Epic
Rotten Tomatoes / Metacritic: 59% / 51

Road To Ownership: Presumably my boyfriend, along with every other guy on the planet, watched the movie and bought it previously viewed sometime after that.

The Plot: A messenger from Persia comes to tell the king of Sparta, Leonidas, that they must bow to the Persian empire. After the messenger is done away with, Leonidas talks to the ancients, who summon the gods and determine Leonidas must not fight (and what they say, goes). Leonidas ignores them and mobilizes 300 of his most formidable soldiers and goes to watch over the gate of the entrance to their nation. They fight and fight and fight against the Persians while their bedraggled/bedazzled king continues to offer Leonidas mercy if he’ll simply bow down to him. Meanwhile, Leonidas’ wife is back at home, bedding the bureaucrats as a means to getting Sparta to send more soldiers to aid her husband and his army.

The Good & The Bad: This movie is quite beautifully shot, and you can easily pick up its graphic novel influences. I definitely appreciated the artistry that went not into just the cinematography, but also everything from the costuming and make-up (Leonidas was a comically amazingly ‘drawn’ character, with the makeup they used you could almost see the pencil strokes) to the lighting and green screen work. I thought the casting was pretty bang on throughout, and even though the film is quite violent, it’s still quite stunning.

My praise pretty much ends there. Beyond the sheer artistry of the film, it’s a waste of time, unless you dig endless fight scenes, the extreme objectification of women (although I enjoyed that I suggested a female character ‘stab him!’ and it happened), and a relatively predictable plot. The end of the movie was marginally surprising – they manage to give you a happy/sad ending all at the same time, although they still point back to humanity’s flaws as there isn’t an ultimate winner or loser in the battle of 300, as one might expect. Really though, there isn’t a whole lot to say about this movie because there isn’t a whole lot to it!

Best Scene: I thought the scene with the fireworks (bombs or whatever) was pretty neat as much of it was slowed down so you could see individual sparks of light. I feel like there was another scene right after that which was cool but don’t quote me on that. The arrows blotting out the sun was cool also.

Worst Scene: Basically anything with the hunchback. His story thread was so predictable and his grotesqueness so overdone it was irritating to watch him.

Best Character: By default that would be Leonidas, although the Persian King was well done.

Worst Character: The hunchback!

Soundtrack of our Lives:
Typical heroic, sweeping music, complete with goddess-esque cooing. Although there was some cool rock-y action music during some of the battle scenes…sort of took you out of the historical epic frame of mind a bit.

If You Like This You’ll Like:
Quite some time ago I dated two different guys back to back that both loved them some historical epics. As such, I watched about 10 historical epic films in the span of 18 months and I was so over them, pretty much after the first one. Those films included the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Gladiator, Troy, King Arthur, and several others. Pick up any of them and you’ll be pleased as punch. Also Sin City, because it uses a similar (but totally different) style to really frame the film as a graphic novel brought to life.

Overall Grade:

All Good In The 'Hood

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So last night I sucked it up and finished Parenthood for the season. And when I say sucked it up, I mean I was delaying ending the series...if only by a week. I still enjoy this show best when I have a few episodes backlogged on the PVR versus waiting it out from week to week. This latest backlog once again reminded me of all the things I like about the show, and all the things I don't. In general though, I'm pretty set that I will continue watching it next season. Much like Life Unexpected, it shows some promise, although it's not without its kinks. So without further ado...

The good & The bad!
+ Every actor can hold their own on this series (with the exception of personality-less Joel...give the man a bone!) which means it's hard to get bored. It's easy for the writers to shuffle in who has the A/B/C/D plots each week, rather than sidelining characters at one point or another.

- I seriously feel for the dude that plays Joel though. He's like the boyfriend you know the heroine is going to break up with in a movie. If Christina can have her own storyline, why can't Joel have one that isn't simply seen through the lens of Erika Christensen?

+ There are still quite a few unanswered questions from the finale. Namely, what will happen to Zeke (and Camille - are they a unit again?) in light of his rejection of the investment property deal? Will Mr. Cyr and Sarah reconnect? What's going on with Crosby and Jasmine? Will Sarah ever find a home of her own? Will Christina stop being psychotic / go back to work? Will Hattie ("Patti") keep her dark unattractive bob? Will Timm return? Will Amber and Steve hook up again? Will Crosby move off his non-moving houseboat? Okay, so the only real cliffhanger was the Crosby/Jasmine thing, and to a degree the Zeke/property thing, but still, I appreciate that the show doesn't just abandon things and continually brings back characters and moments from past episodes (and now, past seasons).

- The show likes to employ a talking-over-one-another thing, that was best used on American Dreams (which incidentally reminds me of this show but in the 1960s. The fact that Hattie/Patti is the same actress doesn't help). However, American Dreams used it sparingly, mostly in the dinner table scenes. Parenthood uses it frequently, mostly in scenes that end up in cross-family screaming matches that really, really drive me nuts. Yes people do overlap their speech and have a slightly frenetic pace of speaking...some of the time. Definitely not as often as this show employs it. It feels like that one episode of Gilmore Girls where Lorilei & co had a ridiculous fight episode at the Gilmores', I believe it was called "Friday Night's Alright". They're taking Lauren Graham's fast-talking skills and applying them to an irritating use.

+ The show has made really likable characters (for the most part, ugh Christina and Hattie) of a number of sort of B-list actors. Major kudos in particular to making me like Erika Christensen, Dax Shepard, and Joy Bryant so much - their storylines are often the highlight for me. I also am increasingly liking Mae Whitman, until she loses it on Sarah.

+/- I have mixed feelings about the character of Alex. I feel like he can be a bit of a throwaway character, although the last episode previewed some ongoing tensions that I'm sure will permeate future seasons - namely that he's shyly looking for a mentor and has elected Adam to fit the role, to the chagrin of his challenged family. I actually like him when he gets more than two lines to say per episode, so like Joel, here's hoping he gets a stronger storyline next year.

+ I like the ongoing integration of minor external characters - Steve and his parents, the nerdy parents of the autistic kid, Raquel & Harmony, Timm, Jim Kazinski, Mr. Cyr, and so on. I hope the show keeps this up and creates a community outside of this family.

- I'm a little concerned about slate wiping, my most hated dramatic technique. It seemed like Hattie and Amber resolved things a little too quickly when the drama was quite ripe between the parents, but I'm also hoping the writers don't let the situation off that easy. Perhaps future storylines will dredge up bad blood between the cousins. Ditto to Zeke and Camille. Despite Julia & Crosby getting their turn to tear a strip off Zeke after the cheating / investment debacle, I was puzzled at the final family festive fracas at the baseball tryout. I really don't feel the connection between these two actors, which worked for driving them apart, but didn't make me sympathetic to their little tete a tete at the end of this episode. I cringed when Craig T. Nelson pulled out his guitar. I think the problem here is we never saw the 'good days' for the couple, so it's hard to buy into wanting them to get back together so badly.

- There are still too many happy family reunions for this show to stick to any semblance of realism. I kind of gag a bit when they break into really hokey corny bits, like Adam & co trying to teach Alex to dance (in a way too long segment) or the family dancing to Crosby on the piano.

In general though, the show is a great character study that lets you do the right amount of assuming. It reminds me of many a show - but isn't quite as awesome as the fantastic Friday Night Lights which is by the same creator I believe - but it's also unique in its own way.

Looking forward to the fall!

- Britt's On

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