Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Movie in a minute: Jonah Hex

IMDB Rating: 4.6

The Gist: A guy who probably should be dead, but isn't **Spoiler Alert** uses vengeance to fuel his defiance of death and track down the man that killed everything he loved, except for that prostitute he's hooking up with now.  He'll try to kill her too though, so that probably won't lessen his vengeful ways.

My take aways:
1. In the wild west, prostitution is the only real option for a woman that wants a career.
2. If you run into a guy with a reputation for killing a lot people, even if he doesn't look that tough to you, just walk away.
3. When protecting the components of a weapon that is capable of destroying an entire country, maybe use a lock that cannot be broken apart with a small knife.

Biggest Disappointment: This movie was roughly an hour and fifteen minutes long and it wasn't animated.  The story was mostly told with a voice over during the opening credits.  I really don't feel like anyone was trying to make a good movie here.  It's like they said we'll put some stars in it and people will pay.  Sure, Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox and Tom Wopat should be a guaranteed money maker, but please take more than an afternoon to write a decent script.  Spend a whole day on it. Maybe two?

Should you watch it? If you enjoy watching a bunch of actors absolutely sell out for a paycheck, (I'm not convinced anyone even read the script before accepting) I highly recommend it. For everyone else, ask yourself one simple question: Do I respect myself? Act accordingly.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Movie in a minute: 2012

IMDB Rating: 5.9  (That's being very generous, IMDB)

The Gist: Hollywood once again warns us that the world is coming to an end **Spoiler Alert** except that it really isn't since the important people have a plan to save themselves along with some very rich people.

My take aways:
1. Even if you only sell 400 copies, getting your book published will help you get out of trouble when trespassing on a government quarantined area.
2. When your children start calling you by your first name, you know you've screwed something up.
3. The best way to get a large group of people to cheer for you is to create a problem that threatens said group's continued existence, then solve it.  No one will hold you accountable at all.

Biggest Disappointment: At one point, character A instructed character B to "download his blog and read it."  Really? People still aren't getting this? Adding insult to injury, said blog was then navigated to on a nearby computer wherein we were shown... wait for it... a video. I give up.

Should you watch it? If you're looking for a professionally made movie, no.  If you're interested in a middle school project that a couple of C- students whipped up in their spare time utilizing the most basic CGI their machine came preloaded with, then yes, by all means, turn on the subtitles and watch it on 4X.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Movie in a minute: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

IMDB Rating: 6.8

The Gist: The good guy needs to beat the bad guy, **Spoiler Alert** but it's not initially clear who the bad guy is.  At first we think it's the one guy because all the clues point that way, but later we find out it's the other guy.  The other guy turns out to be a real jerk.

My take aways:
1. Don't sweat the big mistakes you make in life, eventually a magical dagger will allow you to reverse time far enough back to correct any major blunders.
2. Some brothers are better than others.
3. When you ask someone to disband a secret army of black magic assassins, do some follow up to make sure they really follow through with your request.

Biggest disappointment: Not a lot of actual Persians in the film. I'm not even sure that they were acting particularly Persian-ish.

Should you watch it? The special effects were ok and I'd say it was decent action.  Probably don't plan your evening around it, but if it's on, give it a shot.

Movie in a minute: She's Out of My League

IMDB Rating: 6.6

This Gist: Attractive girl goes after mildly attractive guy.  **Spoiler Alert** It starts off ok, then the guy screws it up so bad that it looks like it won't work out, honesty solves the problem and they end up together, happy ever after.

My take aways:
1. Premature ejaculation is only funny when it's happening to someone else, and even then, it's a stretch.
2. Attractive people think unattractive people are safe to date because uglies can't hurt pretties emotionally.  Everyone knows that.
3. I have no shame.

Biggest Disappointment:  "She's out of your league" was not a running refrain from any character.  It was implied constantly, but never with those exact words.  Very disappointing.

Should you watch it? Only if you're looking for a good reason to cover your eyes with your hands a lot.  I found it to be that awkward.  Not my kind of thing, but I don't know what you're into.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Skins: Series 3

Read my introduction to the cast members (second generation) of Skins Series 3. 

I find that when people talk about Skins, the first things that come up are the surface things like the sex and the drugs and the partying. But what Skins is really about are the characters and their interactions with one another. The show really hinges on the chemistry of the group and their individual friendships too. I don’t know how to do that without rambling on for ages, so I thought I’d highlight my favourite relationships in Skins and my favourite scenes. 

Katie and Emily
The twins have a really difficult relationship because Katie is the Alpha Female who increasingly finds that Emily, who she’s had under her thumb all this while, becomes to develop into her own person. I think this is where her denial of Emily’s homosexuality comes from, because it is something that will change her twin into something different than she is. While I mostly hated Katie for all of S3, in Episode 9 (“Emily”), where they tentatively start to resume their former roles before it all blows up in their faces at their school’s Love Ball, I warmed up to her, in relation to how she was trying to come to terms with Emily and their relationship. In the episode, they “talk twin”, which shows how desperate Katie is to return to their older days, but also shows the bond they share. It’s also really funny. At one point Katie is getting dressed to go out, and their little brother James (who has picked up cursing and likes to flaunt it) comes in and exclaims “Whoa, you’re naked, bitch!” Katie then says to Emily, “Bamba mamba jim jams” and Skins provides us with the subtitles.

Naomi and Emily
Emily really comes into her own by the end of the series, because she becomes brave enough to claim her identity and own to it. At first she has to deal with Katie, but then when she develops a crush on Naomi and Naomi brushes it off because she refuses to take Emily seriously until she comes out to herself, and to other people, it really forces her to take a look at how she’s been hiding. When Naomi suddenly becomes the timid one, refusing to acknowledge things that happen between them, Emily really gets fired up and demands her rights. She has some really great lines for this in Episode 6 (“Naomi”). SPOILER ALERT Once, after they have sex for the first time, in the woods, Naomi leaves straight away. As she wheels her bike away, Emily wakes up and runs after her, yelling “Don’t you dare leave me in your bed again!” and also “Be brave and want me back!” which I thought was very poetic.

Cook and Naomi
Also in Episode 6, Naomi is persuaded to run for class president by her politics tutor and Emily. Cook is trying to get into her pants (what else is new) and she says the day he wins class president is the day she’ll let him near her, so he takes her at her word (reminds me of Barney Stinson’s “Challenge accepted!”) and runs a “Cook Guevara campaign”. He wins, and etc etc they end up macking in a classroom. I’m not giving anything away, trust me, because with Skins, everyone ends up in everyone’s pants. It’s basically a delayed, prolonged orgy disguised as a show (that is what she said?). But then Naomi stops him and he’s fine with it and says to her (a line that makes me melt, embarrassingly) “It’s obvious you have a reason why you don’t want to fuck me, it’s probably a good one cause you’re, you know…clever.” Imagine the accent, and melt along with me!

JJ, Cook and Freddie
We really need a new collective name for a group of three, because I found myself rolling my eyes every time these three referred to themselves as the Three Musketeers. They even had a photo of themselves dressed in Musketeer garb, which was cute, but also, *eye roll*. But other than that, their friendship is the strongest out of everyone’s. Cook and Freddie act like pseudo parents to JJ, and sometimes this turns into infuriating (to JJ) patronizing. JJ’s episode is the best indication of their friendship, as he walks around and goes to all of their houses, trying to get them to make up and be friends again, and also to assert himself. This storyline runs concurrently to JJ’s struggle with his mental health issues, and how he has to be normal, for his mother’s sake. There are two twin moments in his episode – almost entirely underscored by Debussy, which was really beautiful I thought – where JJ watches his mother, asleep by the couch, a bunch of doctor’s reports and diagnoses on his health beside her and then at the end of the episode when his mom watches him and contemplates her son. These two moments were so gentle, it was a nice change from the ‘violence’ of Skins.

JJ and Emily
In JJ’s episode, he becomes better friends with Emily. They’re sitting on a hill, discussing what he would do if he were “normal” for a day when he accidentally blurts out that he loves Effy. He starts chastising himself, and curses up a storm, getting “locked on” as everyone else on the show calls it. Emily tries to stop him, and when she fails she flashes him and chirpily says “Look at these!” which immediately shuts him up. JJ says, “That worked”. I’ll also put here the conversation they had before hand, cause it’s JJ being adorable:

JJ: I’d give anything to be normal for a whole day.
Emily: Hey. If you were normal, what would you do?
JJ: I’d lose my virginity first. Several times.
E: Uh-huh.
JJ: Then I’d have a choccy nut milkshake without going into anaphylactic shock. Then I’d tell Freddie and Cook to stop fighting over Effy before they hate each other forever and not make me take sides. And they’d listen to me for once and not fucking ruffle my hair. Then I’d tell Effy I loved her, and lose my virginity a few more times.

Freddie and Effy
If I described this scene, I might spoil it? So enjoy the beauty of two really beautiful people being beautiful together. This is from Episode 5 ("Freddie"). 

These two have some really great love scenes, and I wish I could describe the one (and what follows after) that happens in Episode 8, but that would give away a really crucial event. Okay, I’m just gonna try: They all go camping in the woods and something bad happens. After this something bad, Effy (who is involved) finds Freddie and they have sex. After they leave the woods, the consequences of what happens surface, and Freddie is mad at Effy. He asks her when the bad thing happens, and she does my favourite bit of acting from Effy and goes super super quiet, does this amazing thing with her eyes and barely whispers “Just before.” And then Freddie looks at her in disgust (which I didn’t think was very fair) and walks away from her.

Thomas and Pandora
I think this relationship is the weakest and least convincing out of all of them. Their main bond is their mutual “niceness”, for lack of a better word. They’re both trusting and naïve, but then Pandora betrays Thomas and spends a couple of episodes gibbering and sniffling, begging him to take her back. The most convincing portrayal of their “love” is when Thomas isn’t there and Pandora is pining for him (before she betrays him). This happens when she wakes up after having slept over at Effy’s house, and she closes her eyes and runs Thomas’s wooden pendant up and down her face and throat, chanting “Come back.” She wakes up and finds that Effy’s mum has been watching them both sleep the whole time, and they have a discussion about love.

Panda: She’s (Effy) beautiful, not like me.
Effy’s Mum: Oh, seems like somebody likes you.
P: My boyfriend gave it to me. I only knew him three days, Thomas. And now he’s gone.
EM: Well, it was fun while it lasted, eh? (to herself) So much fun.
P: Yeah, it’s called love.
EM: That’s a big word.
P: I dunno, four letters is – Oh. But I’m sure it is love. All you wanna do is kiss him, and…you know, other stuff. Brilliant stuff.
EM: Yeah. (takes a deep breath) Brilliant stuff.

SS3 works really well when it comes to small moments, and smaller groups or pairings. But Skins needs to work on a larger level, and needs to have that big group dynamic. They don’t have to be particularly tight knit at first or all the time – more often that not we start with a few separate smaller circles of friends who converge and connect – but we should believe that they can be really good friends.

Having watched and loved the previous seasons of Skins, I judged this generation perhaps a bit unfairly by holding them up to a previous standard. And while I warmed up to them by the end of the third season, I also thought they didn’t succeed quite as well as their predecessor in having really natural, effortless chemistry between the cast members. The connections are less real and seems more forced to me.

This is a frequent complaint I have with SS3, because most of what they do seems stilted and artificial. They all curse like sailors, just like the first generation (and most teenagers), but sometimes someone will say ‘fuck’ or some other epithet and it will seem very much like they’re reading from a script. There’s also a woodenness in Freddie and also Effy (who, as a character, is an ice queen personified so she has to be pretty stiff) that bungles up their relationships with some of the others. Also, because Thomas literally just flies from the Congo in Episode 3, his integration also seems a bit forced and never fully fulfilled. Panda’s his only real connection to the rest, and not a very strong one. I think it really boils down to chemistry, and the actors in this particular group. I do think they have their strengths, and individually they’re all great but together they didn’t have the same impact as the previous group.

ALSO, by the end of Series 1, we see Sid from the first generation sing Wild World, with accompaniment from the blokes in the loo (hah, might as well do this the right way) and the bus driver. In Series 2, they had an episode where Maxxie and Michelle got roles in a school musical about 9/11 (I know, right?). So far with SS3, there wasn’t a big event like that to boost the overall show? And because they work on a 10-episode system, there’s what feels like a more pressing needs to make the most of your airtime. I know this is a different show compared to SS1 and 2, but I would very much like something awesome like what I just described to happen again for these new kids.

With all that said, I’m genuinely excited to watch Series 4 to see where the writers bring these kids to. I’m not too sure I’ll keep watching Series 5 (I heard the rumour is they’ll follow Freddie’s sister (who has appeared in Series 3) and her group of friends, and I’m not too interested in her, but we will see.

ADDENDUM: One really consistently awesome thing about Skins is the music. I have gotten almost every single track that was featured in Series 3 and I have quite a few from the previous series. They put quite a bit of thought in their music, and have dedicated pages and episode track lists on their website. 

An introduction to Skins Series 3

NOTE: This post is a two-parter. First I'll run down all the characters on Skins in this post, and then I will elaborate a bit more on what the show is about on this post

I think the main reason I watch Skins is because my teen years were pretty tame. The gritty drug-fuelled world of adolescence Skins presents to me is this glittery, grungy world of possibilities. I’m sceptical about how what reality it represents, but it also makes me envision that somewhere out there in the world, there are these pockets of hard-partying teens with wide, dark rimmed eyes and bleeding hearts pinned to their chests, running on marijuana and pills and booze and breathing with each others lungs and kissing with each others lips and just surrendering to their bodies.

The Series 3 trailer can be viewed here

Increasingly I find myself having mixed emotions about teenagers. On the one hand, I’m close enough to my own teen years (and the angst that came with) to relate to them. On the other, I have an inner curmudgeon that ages my mind considerably, so I also hate them. Their problems aren’t real! Also, they can be pretty stupid. But then that can be said of me too, so you know, universal human condition and whatever.

Skins works in cycles. They feature “generations”, where one group of teens are given two seasons of ten episodes each before being replaced by another generation.

Skins Series 3 (SS3) begins the second generation, which consists of 9 teens who all go to the same school (I think they’re about 17 or 18? And their education is tertiary, but also not like university). Each episode centres on a character (and also bears their name) and the last episode is usually titled “Everybody”. The main character, so to speak, is Effy. She is the little sister of Tony from the previous generation and is also the only one of the cast to have been in episodes from the first and second series.

Effy’s main characteristic is her flawless beauty. The girl is gorgeous, and she knows it. But she’s very quiet, and mysterious in that dark way that hints at a dangerous core. She is, as Meredith Grey once described herself, dark and twisty inside. In the first and second series, she didn’t speak at all, and that was her thing: being mute. She certainly uses her reticence to her advantage because every boy alive (in the series) falls in love with her and wants in her pants.

These boys also happen to be best friends, and their mutual love for her drives a wedge between the three and also seems to be the overarching theme for the whole series.

There’s Cook, who is like a feral animal. He doesn’t give a fuck about anything or anyone and he’s proud of it. He would like to bone anything that moves and often tries to do so. He’s pretty scungy, but he’s not devoid of any decency. He’s a rough shell trying to hide a pretty scared, fragile interior. Cook infuriates me and grosses me out frequently, but I can’t stay mad at him.

JJ, one of his two best friends, seems to have the same problem, because all through most of the later episodes, he is the one who never abandons Cook, and struggles to keep everyone together. JJ has a lot of mental health issues and social disorders, which makes him highly excitable and very nervous. He’s the sweetest one on the show, but also the saddest. He swings between gentleness and rage-fuelled violence, but his innocence usually prevails. He’s also the funniest, because he can be so hapless and clueless.

Freddie’s a stoner skater type, and he looks like Mowgli all grown up. He falls in love with Effy and has the most serious connection to her. He and Cook act like pseudo-parents towards JJ, but even he can’t keep the two from going at it – primarily because they both want Effy but also because Freddie seems repelled (to me) by Cook’s wildness and reluctantly but surely relinquishes his responsibility of keeping Cook in control. Freddie as an individual isn’t all that striking (to me), but it’s the way he connects to everyone else that really defines him as a character. 

The last boy on the show is Thomas, who only comes in on Episode 3 ("Thomas"). He is from the Congo, and arrived before his family to find a place for them to live. He meets and falls in love with Pandora, or Panda, who is Effy’s best friend and complete opposite. Whereas Effy is coy and experienced and fearless, Panda is naïve and simple and unsure of herself. She is treated like a child by her mother, and spends a lot of time “woolgathering”, as someone’s grandmother would say. I hated Panda at first, but she’s so soft and naïve it’d be like hating a teddy bear. 

Effy is also friends with the red headed twins, Emily (Kathryn) and Katie (Megan). Katie is the alpha-twin, and is a wannabe WAG. She’s bitchy and covets Effy’s spot as queen bee and also is a little homophobic. This is problematic because Emily is a lesbian. She’s the quiet, reserved twin who resents Katie while seeking her approval. Emily’s big secret is that she loves Naomi, who Katie hates and is constantly trying to humiliate.

Naomi’s the strong, independent loner type. She’s smart, sassy and she’s guarded. She’s torn between the need to be right and sure in herself, and dealing with the questions Emily raises about her sexuality, identity and her feelings for Emily. I like her best, I think, of all the kids.