Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Movie Review: Rock of Ages

Alright in the first five minutes I knew what I was going to say about this movie.  It's not a movie it's a bad karaoke bar. The movie serves no purpose, but as an excuse to get the audience to sing along with the songs. If you need an excuse to sing "Paradise City" there are better ones than this movie.  Go to '80's night at The Magic Bag. I guess maybe it might work if I were watching it at a theater, maybe. But on Tv it just comes across as annoying. Why am I torturing myself listening to bad covers when I can easily get the albums on Rhapsody and iTunes. Hell half of these songs have better music videos on YouTube.

Russel Brand is okay though. He gets a few good lines. Wait. Did that asshole just fuck up my second favorite Joan Jett song!? Nevermind. I take it back.

It's like High School Musical, but with songs that I care about, and I don't mean that in a good way. It's painful. Accept Mary J. That woman has vocal presence, but she can't save this thing.   The theoretical lead, there are two many characters and plots, can't sing.   Or at least can't sing this type of music. It's not about the notes it's about the attitude and energy. You have to be a badass. not a 17 year old trying to be a badass. Rock is built on stage presence.  They pay a lot of lip service to rock and roll, but they don't get it.

What's just as painful is without the songs it could almost almost be a This Is Spinal Tap like parody of the industry, but everytime it starts to set up a half decent joke cue bad music number, or cut to another arc.  Even if that weren't a problem the story doesn't have the balls to travel into the debauchery of  the 1980's L.A. strip.

It all feels sanitized, because a mainstream audience couldn't handle it. You haven't heard the tales I've heard man. You haven't seen the crazy shit I've seen. None of these guys look or sound like they've been hooked on speedballs for half a decade, with the possible exception of Tom Cruise. If anybody can act like he's high, it's Tom Cruise.  By the  way the reason why I don't do drugs is because that's how half my heroes died. Writers, musicians, and comedians. Keith Moon, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Sam Kinison, Jimi Hendrix, Brian JonesMichael Jackson, Whitney Houston, John Belushi, Mitch Hedberg, Dee Dee Ramone, and  Bon Scott. That and meth scares the hell out of me. I already feel 10 years older than I am. I don't need to accelerate the process.  So all you bastards bound to knock on my door for that last paragraph can simmer down. I do not support drug use. 

Beyond that all the music numbers give what plot the movie does have pacing problems. I didn't know what the hell was going on until 40 minutes. It's all over the place. There are so many plots and characters  that you can't get invested in or really follow any of them. 

A better version of the movie is Rock Star, or more recently The Runaways. I want my Joan Jett songs done right.

Movie Review: Stargate

Everything I think is wrong with television Science Fiction, hell television period,  can be summed up in one word, well two. Stargate Universe. I loath that show. So very very much. I loath that show. It was the last nail on the coffin of adventure sci-fi.

Going to cool places, seeing cool stuff.  Meeting alien cultures. Going where no man has gone before. Can't have that anymore. Um uh. Some would blame BSG. But I like BSG so allow me to have my displaced anger, you frakin' toasters! There is only one BSG accept no substitutes everything else is a pale imitation. (Miles, what about the original... and Galatica 1980, ...and Caprica,...  and Blood and Chrome? Eh em . I SAID THERE IS ONLY ONE BSG! ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES!)

And oddly enough Stargate Universe was the antithesis of what the Stargate Universe had become known for so let's go back to the beginning to the movie that started it all. Stargate.

Tales of Wonder
Yeah this movie couldn't happen again. It opens on an Egyptian archeological dig site. That should tell you the kind of science fiction we're talking here. Wait. Egypt, aliens, I know where this is going.

One of my favorite characters in all of fiction is found giving a ill received lecture about how the pyramids were built by aliens. I'll say it now when I was growing up Dannel Jackson was the guy I wanted to be.  In the original series of the movie he mostly holds his own with military types not because he's a bag of muscles though, by the end of the show dude is ripped. He's the diplomat and on occasion strategist. Hell I even share a name with the guy. Though I will lay anybody who calls me by my middle name out.

All that said when making the series some stuff changed. Never again do they mention that Jack O'neil was one the edge of suicide, though why does occasionally get a mention in the show.

In reviewing this I have to be honest. I'm a fan of the movie but I got into Stargate SG-1 first. Meaning while it wasn't meant to be I've always watched this movie as a prequel. The show is a long runner and it's first episode is kind of odd. Other than that though, while it takes steps to reintroduce the core concept to a new audience it keeps a good chunk of the back story of the movie intact. Meaning they talk about all this stuff but don't show it because well, they already did, with a theatrical budget no less. They got close with the season 8 episode, "Mobieus"

Jack's stated suicidal tendencies make him a little more of a hardass here than in the show, but his basic conflict with Daniel remains the same here as there. Daniel is a scholar. I'll get into the plot in a bit, but he sees it as an opportunity to expand the knowledge of all mankind. When the most expedient option is to blow it back to hell he will wrap his body around the bomb. Jack, being an Air Force officer, is more pragmatic. He will shoot the dog without hesitation. Stick a pin in that.  This movie explains how they met and became friends.

Get Into The Gate

Alright, let's talk about the eponymous gate, one of the greatest discoveries of our age. An ancient interstellar teleportation system. The movie is basically about the first manned expedition to another planet.  You know all of the fascination and wonder of the moon landing. This movie tries and succeeds to recreate it. Space is cool. The last frontier of man, the last great unknown.

Right before the team goes through the gate you get great shot of the apprehension on everybody's faces, not just the away team, no everybody in the base. They all know that this is a moment that could potentially reshape the existence of mankind. Okay to go into the plot much further would be to ruin the experience. What do they find?

Other than all that stuff the central problem of the movie is how do they get back home.

The Go'uld
I'm not going to go into detail, but I'll just say they changed the nature of the Go'uld for the show and it might surprise the people watching the movie. That said the Go'uld are not the point. The wonder of space travel and exploration in general is the point.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Movie Review: Fish Story

How to explain Fish Story? Well it's an anthology. You don't see too many of those anymore (Miles, what about Pulp Fiction, Trick 'R' Treat and Sin City? Ehrm eh. I SAID "YOU DON'T SEE TOO MANY OF THOSE ANYMORE.")

It's also undisputedly Japanese. Sentai serves as a plot point.  Alright, it's the end of the world as we know it.

I couldn't help myself. Anyway, a meteor is about to collide with Earth and make everything go boom. You have a misanthropic old man trolling around town mostly because he get's a kick out of seeing misery, but at this point almost everybody has evacuated. Almost. One plucky kid who figures somebody will figure out a way to save everything is hanging out at a record shop with a clerk. The two are so blase about the affair that it drives the old man crazy. The clerk then tells the old man a prophecy that in the world's greatest hour of need this one song will save the world.

The rest of the movie focuses on stories tangentially related to the song, including it's origin.  The stories are so short that describing them will probably spoil stuff so I'll just say it all works.  The song is awesome too. I believe a song like that could save the world.

Southfield Citizen Observer Crime Bulletin March 18-24, 2013

Movie Review: Children of the Revolution

As I said before in my review of the Queen of Versailles, I do have a dislike of the wealthy. But it weirds me out when I start sounding too red.

The entirety of modern western civilization is based on commerce, supply and demand, division of labor, incorporation, mass production, credit, futures contracts...

If given a choice, it looked like we might get there for a moment,   I prefer low wages to serfdom and barter. The current economic system has far too many benefits that outweigh its current, hopefully temporary, shortfalls.

Or to put it simply we need business. We need capitalism, a system that provides individuals an incentive to respond to the economic needs of their community, via direct feedback from that community i.e. the dollar.  I needed a movie to snap me out of my socialist sensibilities, other than the fallibility and eventually barbarism that economies run by the state tend to slide into.  An economy of that sort, runs on thou must, which conversely implies thou mustn't.  And I am an enemy of of both.

What was my point again? Oh yeah. I need to watch a movie where Stalin dies in coitus. Children of the Revolution.

The Coin of Comedy (I'm going to dissect the frog.)
Comedy often works on exaggeration and expectation. Which means that the expection has to be set, or at least lampshaded and then broken. You laugh when someone falls because it's so unexpected. The president tripping would be hilarious because you think of him as a man of grace.

And that's what's hilarious about the movie. It is about a die hard ... Australian commie,Joan and her son. I mean they should exist, and in theory did exist, but communism and KGB officers aren't exactly what you think of when you say Sydney.

She manages to woo the leaders of the party including "the leader" of the party. The big man himself, the man of steel. And they you know... boink and she ends up preggers with a secret commissar love child, though it's left ambiguous seeing she also bonked a triple, quadrupole, dodeca, agent the same night. The guy couldn't tell you what country he's working for even if he wanted to.

The movie parodies aspects of Stalin's life by giving it a setting change through his kid.  Rather than 1890's Russia, "Joe" grows up in 1960's Australia, living a parallel life. Again you don't think of an Aussie Stalin and that is the joke. And the movie keeps surprising you because you keep expecting the movie to back off the joke. In fact there are several times where it almost does. You think that the point where it falls apart will be the punchline, but no the punchline is that they manage to continually up the ante... and do so believably. Apart from the scenes actually in Russia, which pays overt homage, to the three stooges, and the third act,  the movie seems to be set in a fairly realistic world.

The Drama of Tragedy
Because it is set in a fairly realistic world there is a lot of drama as well. Again it is set around the two central characters.

You see Joe's slow gradual shift into becoming his father and on some level he hates it, but feels powerless to stop it. In a surrealist talk with the former head of the Russian communist party.

"What made you you?

"I don't know"

"How does someone become monster."

"I don't know"

"It can't be as simple as poverty and child abuse can it.?

"Maybe it's just something in us."

"Something we're born with."

You also see his mother's degradation of his mother as the communist dream dies. The revolution comes the other way, at least in her eyes. Old communism dies, the wall falls, and yes there will eventually be a McDonald's in Red Square. She's unable to see Joe's transformation until it's too late, partially because she can't admit the truth of her former love to herself. 

While I've haven't really mentioned it she also has another beau who get's a raw deal, being unable to compete with you know, even in memory. Despite, the aforementioned humor it all comes to a halt rather quietly and quickly, and as a result tragically.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Movie Review: Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog

I love the internet, but it's changed. See in the olden time days...2004, broadband wasn't the norm. So media on the internet was restricted.

The Time

People think the reason internet videos are so short is because people have short attention spans. Nope. It's because when doing video on the net became a thing you could only download about 5 minutes with any sort of reliability i.e. buffering issues or the downloading taking two hours, or the phone lines being messed up. My point? Technology restricted the format. After the invention of Hulu,YouTube and iTunes, as well as the proliferation of broadband. The technology became better. Cue the nerd god Whedon. If you love science-fiction you know what I'm already going to say. Whedon is generally very talented. One of the best writers in Hollywood. The man farts one liners. You know that big blockbuster film that everybody was talking about last summer. That was him.

And the networks hated him.

After two of his babies were canceled in the early 2000's, one so spectacularly that it became the poster child for show being doomed to failure because of the network's hijinks he quasi-retired from television for a while.

He didn't retire, retire, but in later interviews he discussed how much emotional baggage came with dealing with Fox, and stated that for a while he just didn't have it in him.

He then decided to experiment with alternative distribution methods. The internet. While not the first high production value web series, Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog is one of the first ones that made major waves, partially due to the names attached to it, including Whedon as  producer, director and writer. 

Also you had Felicia Day, who was at the time, oh screw it, is still riding high off her work on The Guild.

Also on board was Neil Harris, of How I Met Your Mother, and for the oldschool folks Doogie Howser M.D.  and Nathan Fillion, the lead from the show that got the shaft.

The Format
The show is formatted as well, a 3 part sing along blog. The parts that don't feature him in front of a camera are flashbacks sometimes featuring song.  Doctor Horrible a mad scientist trying to become a supervillian updates his vlog. Here is the thing. Doctor Horrible is a mostly harmless villain and generally sucks at being evil.

Musically the blog features a lot of the same tone and humor as the musical episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, "Once more with feeling" I have a theory. Bunnies. Bunnies aren't cute like everybody supposes. They have those hoppy legs. And what's with all those carrots? What do they need good eyesight for anyway? It was the bunnies. It must be bunnies.

Though in the third act the music get's pretty dark.

The story kicks off when Horrible get's a recruitment letter from the local legion of doom, "The Evil League of Evil".They're interested but want him to prove his evilness.

Around the same time he meets a nice girl, day he kind of likes.

You know how Doctor Horrible sucks at being a villain well the hero is kind of a jackass."He throw a car at my head." Before you all cock you're jaws let me say this was deliberate. You're suppose to be rooting for Horrible, or Billy. At least in juxtaposition to "Captain Hammer", who has managed to woo Billy's aforementioned crush, just for the sake of screwing with his head.

See the audience wants Billy to just give up the whole supervillian thing, most of his attempts are halfhearted in the first place, but anger and frustration towards Hammer actually pushes him further towards it.

Spoilers ahead
Downer ending ahoy. Billy cracks.

He goes on a rampage and accidentally kills his love interest. Without her he's got nothing to lose a goes full supervillian.

Movie Review: The Queen of Versailles

The movie is a documentary about the change in lifestyle of one of the richest families in the country after the '08 economic fallout. it's named after the dream house they were building. It's hard to watch. I'm going to be honest. I am prejudiced against the rich. I secretly blame everybody making more than a million bucks a year for me and my friends having a hard time finding work after graduation and being up to my eyeballs in debt. Fox is right. Class warfare is a thing. So I went into this documentary expecting to feel some good ole schadenfreude. Especially with the name.

I am an asshole.

In the movie you see the slow destruction of the subject family. You see the slow destruction of this man's life's work. the The lose of his friends and his health. You see the schism in what was, money not withstanding, a pretty decent loving marriage.

And as Jane Lane would say, "While they definitely come from the land of the Muffies, they aren't jerks." They have money and their lifestyle seems kind of weird, but they care about the people around them.

Don't get me wrong especially during the beginning they were kind of delusional, but again they had the money to afford it. The movie takes place over a long period of time. And you can see shot for shot the toll the everything is taking on everybody. The help. the family, the employees, everybody. And despite myself I can't help but feel a little sorry for them. A little.

Movie Review: Rat Race

Okay. After flash-backing to middle school and high school torment. I need something light and fluffy.  Something that's mad mad mad mad.  Something with Seth Green, Whoopi Goldberg Jon Lovitz, Rowan Atkinson and Kathy Bates thrown on top. Rat Race.

The Cast
First off, as I alluded to earlier this movie is one of those academy winner magnets. You'd be surprised at who they got. Including John Cleese, yes that John Cleese.

Let me put it another way. You know how The Expendables is mostly an excuse to see you're favorite action stars do stunts. This is that, but with comedy. Movie 43, but good.

The Plot
Let me be honest. The plot is just an excuse to give some of the best comedic actors of the world good material.

An "eccentric"  (grrr grerrr) billionaire with a crazy gambling habit decides to choose at random a 6 strangers, some with wacky family sidekicks,  and give them each a key to a locker in New Mexico, which contains $2 million in catch and see who gets there first.

"A horse race with animals who can think and plan and lie and cheat and play dirty. Hmm. It's the gambling experience of a lifetime. "


Time to bring out my Groucho. Look kids the key to a good laugh is all in the timing. There's a pause and then a golden moment, a golden beautiful moment. And most folks are blind to it and strangle the joke in the crib. These guys, however, are veterans who can raise the joke into a killer linebacker who WILL drop you. Brick jokes, slapstick, sight gags, puns, prat falls, mugging,  and plenty of lampshading of the absurdity of the all. 

It's the closest thing I've ever seen to a live action Merry Melodies movie (if you don't count Mel Brooks' work), including all the live action Merry Melodies movies.  Which makes sense considering it a Zucker movie.

God some of the stunts are mind boggling.  How the hell did they get a car to climb a radio tower?

The script and soundtrack ain't too none shabby either. There is a lot of great material.

(Hmm rule of three or overly long)

Good Script+Good Actors+Good Effects Work+ Good Camera Framing+Good Music+A Bus Full of Crying Lucies+Hitler's Car+ Flying Cows+Mojave Desert+ Rocket Car+Funny Accent=Comedic Gold

I'll admit it's not smart comedy, but I have the humor of 5 year old.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Movie Review: Daria Is it Fall Yet?

Okay so now I feel all weirded out by my high school baggage, and thought I would re-watch the movie of the series that got me through it. Before talking about the movie let's take about the series as the movie is basically a 90 minute episode.


If you were a snarky teen in the early '00s you watched this show.  For those either too young or old, Daria was a spinoff show based around a minor character from Bevis and Butthead. For the first few seasons the show mostly lampooned and parodied high school life by focusing on a character who held it in total contempt.

"Don't worry. I don't have low self esteem. ... I have low esteem for everyone else. "

Tom, The Base Breaker
Alright in order to understand this movie you have to understand something about the show. By around the end of the third season, the show had veered a bit from it's original ... intent and started having a bit of a continuing arc, best summed up by a line in the episode before the movie.

"Why is everyone so mad at me?"

"Why? Why? Because I moved to this town and I knew immediately I would be a total outcast, but in the one moment of good luck I've had in my entire life I met another outcast who I could really be friends with and not have to feel completely alone and you came along and screwed the whole thing up."

Tom. The fandom is split on Tom. Some think of his introduction as when the show grew the beard and others when it jumped the shark. Before the show had been about poking fun at high school, but when Tom came it start to be more about Daria's coming of age.

In the show Daria had one friend, two if you count Jodie who while not best buds with the pair talks to them and values their opinion. Jane Lane, Daria's best friend met Tom and they hit it off. Most of the fourth season hints, its very subtle, that Daria who was already kind of allientated is becoming even more so as her best friend spends more and more time with her new beau. To put it simply Tom changed their group dynamic and Daria hates it. Before it was two friends with snarky quips. Whenever he's around Jane isn't as sharp as she normally is. And being the third wheel makes Daria uncomfortable.

At the same time Jane starts noticing that her boyfriend and her best friend have a unsettling chemistry, though Daria hates his guts. While Jane is smart she's not as book smart as her companion. Tom on the other hand can match Daria literary reference for literary reference.  Guess where the season finale leads us? Tom kisses Daria and breaks up with Jane.

And that is where the movie starts off. Trying to deal with the aftermath of the fallout.

Arc By Arc, Act by Act
The reason why the movie is called Is It Fall Yet? is because it leaves the high school and takes place during the summer. Okay, while the point of the movie is to resolve the Daria Jane Tom triangle, it gives something for almost all the minor characters of the show to do so let's break this down.

Brittany and Kevin 
In the show these were the two most boring characters, though Brittany would occasionally surprise. They're pretty flat and stock as the dumb jock and cheerleader set, so their arc is easiest to explain. They work as lifeguards and fail miserably at it. That's it.

That said I feel I have to redeem them a bit. They're actually pretty nice and show no actual malice against anybody. It's just that they're dumb as rocks and typically come out when the writers needed to make a joke at their expense.

The Fashion Club's Schism
Okay Daria has an annoying little sister, Quinn. Her friends while each having various individual traits enforce conformity on each other.  This comes to a head when Quinn scores a comparable score on the practice SAT to them and believes she can do better. This has been a reoccurring theme in the show. Quinn isn't as dumb as she pretends to be, and boy howdy that girl can pretend. This is the first time that she feels bad about hiding her intelligence. And to be fair her friends do rag on her about thinking she's smarter than them. It becomes even worse when she gains a crush on her tutor and he actually believes the mask.

To be fair the show mostly hints at Quint's intellect. It's never explicit. The problem is that in her social circle the things that matter are asinine. And she cares far too much what those people think of her to question it. To a point anyway. And that's what her arc is about. Realizing that in the real world nobody gives a damn about eye liner color.

All in all, the tutor's rejections sends Quinn into a bit of a depression. Daria, who would normally rip on her decided to be nice, partially due to her own character development I'll talk about later, and gives Quinn a bit of a pep talk where she verbalizes most of the arc. Like I said, Quinn is smarter than she looks and she wears a mask to fit in.

Quinn ironically points out that Daria's attuide could also be seen as a mask. Daria quickly quips that we're not talking about her problems.

While trying to put up a good front, Jane is still pretty ticked off at Daria and decides they need some distance, applying to and getting accepted to a summer art program. While there she meets kind of a surrogate Daria...who tries to get into her pants. A weird conversation about lesbianism throws Jane off her game.

She starts doubting her sexuality.  That makes her realize that as pissed as she is about Daria she needs a friend who knows her well enough and to snap her out of that sort of self doubt. Oddly enough after complementing Jane on her self assuredness Daria sums up Jane's feelings with her own.

"I  drifted through summer in a perpetual identity crisis, doubting everything I said and did. Then I thought about you... you know exactly who you are and you aren't going to let anybody con you into thinking you don't. I wish I had you around just as a role model."

I'll get to it later but Daria's not kidding. They had mirroring arcs.

Daria and Tom
Daria has another arc I'll get into, but as stated this was the point of the movie. Daria decides to start dating Tom, but throughout it all she has cold feet.

First off she still has a ton of guilt. Daria likes, no reveres his exgirl friend.  And in arguments Jane's shadow is there. When things are too similar or too different from that relationship it always ends in a fight, Daria defending Jane's honor, even if it wasn't in jeopardy in the first place.  Again this will be a theme in season five.

Second she is a bit of an awkward teen. This is her first relationship and the drama of the breakup is going to make it an instant news item among the school social circle. She's not sure she wants all of that. For most of the movie it hasn't gotten out that she's dating Tom yet and she considers breaking it off before they even get started.

"I can't do this. I can't spend the evening in there explaining to people that no you're not my brother and no your not Jane's boyfriend you're actually my... uh guy I'm dating."

She also feels weird because Tom's family is rich. The movie ends with them dating but they still have issues.

A good chunk of the cast leave to work as camp counselors including Daria,  I'll get there in a bit.

Mr. D'Martino
Daria's beleaguered history teacher. Most of the time his simmering rage is played for laughs. This time it's played at least partially for drama. The guy has started to hate kids and hate teaching. And he's self aware enough to know it. In an attempt to reinvigorate his love of education he decides to take a job over at the summer as a camp counselor.

"I'm hoping to rediscover the joys and satisfactions of teaching and the motives that lead me to pursue such a THANKLESS... I mean rewarding profession in the first place. At least that's what my doctor tells me I need to do before I incur a cerebral hemorrhage."

I'll get to it later but his blase attitude compared to his foil makes him revered among the campers. He's the guy who will lay into a bully, and isn't concerned about "algae blooms" in the lake, or poison ivy on the trail. It's summer camp and the kids want to run around. He's the counselor who will let them.

Their cheers, when he leads a charge into the great outdoors makes him want to teach again.

"Thank you Timothy (his foil)! You've reawakened my hunger to enlighten! I want to teach again!"

Daria and Link
Daria is a misanthrope. She generally hates people. And she meets someone worse than her. It unsettles her. As Jane quips later, "Any kid coming to you for nurturing is a lost cause."

Link is coming from a bit of weird family situation. And it's really darkened his view on humanity. Being older, and kind of relating to this kid, Daria wants to show this kid that yes there is hope.

"Look for what it's worth when I was you're age um I had this friend who was kind of like you. The only people she liked were the ones in books, and she spent most of her time in her room convinced the world had been quietly taken over by a race of idiot space aliens. "

"And one day you're 'friend' grew out of it and went on to make many more friends and now her life is one big bowl of cherries."

"Okay. Bad example. But maybe things would have been a little easier for my friend if she hadn't kept everything bottled up inside. You know if she had someone to talk to."

"Or maybe 'she' did try talking and the people just told her to shut up or paid someone else to deal with them because they were too busy listening to their souls."

Seeing Link rebuff her attempts to help him makes her somewhat re-evaluate her own personality. As she says later. "Sometimes you just have to give people a chance."

Eventually link does reach out to her writing a letter.

Mr. O'Neill
I hinted at this when talking about Mr. D'Martino, but most of the (onscreen) teachers at Lawndale High are ineffectual and incompetent.  O'Neill is no different. His problem? He's oversensitive and overprotective. He has the opposite problem of D'Martino. He cares too much. To be fair, out off all the teachers at the school he's probably best at teaching and gives some half-decent advice, but it's also clear he's entirely clueless.

Daria and Jane
The movie ends with the two having it out and eventually getting over it.

"No I meant you blew me off for him. You wanted to go out with him regardless of what it did to our friendship."

"Hey you stopped talking to me remember. After you broke up with him and said you didn't care if I dated him.

"And you believed me?"

"Wait, I'm confused what are we fighting about here.

"We're fighting about you Daria Morgendorffer, being dumb enough thinking a boyfriend is worth screwing up a really good friendship for. A really important friendship."

It's clear that Jane wasn't just mad because Daria took Tom away, because in Jane's eyes Daria undervalued thier friendship.

My Thoughts
What? You thought I was going to hate on it? This show helped me survive, both high school and middle school. Without it I probably would have ended up an emotional wreck. Well, more of an emotional wreck.

A Candid Discussion on The Transition Between Teenagerdom and Young Adulthood

Seeing as I sometimes work as a substitute teacher I'm probably shooting myself in the foot, but writing my review for Beware the Gonzo I've uncovered I have some emotional baggage from my teenage years and who knows, maybe my being candid could help somebody out who needs it. Plus that was why I originally started writing to help me deal with the bullshit.

First off let me say. Who the hell am I really to give advice. My life is not exactly where I want it to be.  Nope this is mostly me just trying to cope with my life decisions and sort of justify why I am the way I am.

No matter who you are, or what walk of life you're from being a teenager sucks. If it didn't you're wearing nostalgia goggles. Sometimes it's the teenager's fault their life sucks. By their nature their cruel, lazy, shortsighted, selfish or some combination there of. At some point we tend to grow out of that. On the other hand the suckiness of teenage life sometimes isn't their fault. Some kids have to grow up too soon and deal with stuff they shouldn't have to. Some kids get bullied. Some kids have to deal with the pressure of knowing that life is about to kick their asses. And all of that happens without them having the life experience to know how to deal with all of that. It's all a big guess because nobody deals with life the same way. How do I deal with negative experience in a healthy way? As you get older you develop mental strategies to cope with emotion and decision making, and there is no standard issue guidebook on practical individual psychology. The only real guide is the one thing kids don't have, life experience.

If you're a "good caring parent", you're  are going well "why don't they come to me". Here is why.  Sometimes they do. And kids should at least always talk to the folks. But again this took me years to figure out, while parents mean well you have to think through their advice. The road to hell was paved with good intentions. You can mean well and still have bad results. You instinctively know this as a teen, but don't think it out until later.

Parents tend to have nostalgia goggles.- Once you get through it you can laugh at it. (In theory.)  Hell it's how I cope with spending an hour upside down on my back trying to undo a backwards gym lock  Or fishing my books out of a toilet, or getting punched in the shoulder every  goddamned hour of every goddamned day.  At the time I was pissed.  At the time I didn't know what to do. And more importantly at the time I thought that was what my life was going to be like.Okay I need some distance here. Even without the bullying kids have to deal with emotional crap. Again with the advent of time heated emotions and hormones fade, but when close to it things can get messy.

Parent's judge their kids too and sometimes they don't need that.- The implication of advice is, "I would do." Which implies "I know what to do."sometimes kids, who the hell am I kidding, everybody just needs somebody to listen and let them sort things out themselves. And despite themselves some parents have a hard time just doing that. That is why therapists often keep their mouths shut.  Being in a situation you don't know how to deal with, and being told that it's easy to deal with, ...hhhwh... can be frustrating and insulting, And moreover can just make things worse in a really bad situation.  Because let's face it for the real problems and yes sometimes the young have real problems, there is are no easy answers. There are no quick fixes. You do the best you can and pray.

Age Gap - Let's get to the point. What worked in 1972 doesn't necessarily work in 2013. The world changes. 'Nuff said.

Personality Differences - Look I was never into sports. Which to this day is a point of contention between me and my father. His solution to most of my high school problems would be for me to have gotten into sports. I don't see how that would have worked.

Also I'm a more introverted guy and that's not something that can easily nor do or did I want to be easily changed. I'm a loner. I like being a loner. It's a crucial part of my personality and identity, and I just wouldn't feel like me if it changed, As stated in another post there is no quicker way to get on my bad side than trying to, "fix" me.

People tend to be me centric.  You think of yourself as normal and so all parental advice comes from that, "normal" perspective. For an insecure teen, normal is the enemy.

In those years you're trying to figure out who the hell you are, because in all honesty you don't know. You don't know who you like, what you like, what you'll fight for, what you'll let slide, what you want to be or what you can be. You don't know any of that. Yet you know it's important, because that's the age you become acutely aware that people are looking. And even if you don't care about the answers to those questions they do.

Because you don't know you just try to give them the answers they're looking for. You start letting everybody else determine who you are.  And though I said it in the Beware the Gonzo follow up, it bears repeating. THAT CAN BE VERY VERY VERY BAD.

Your friends though they won't admit it are in the same damn boat treading water.

In my mind "adulthood" came I figured something out.  My opinion of myself is the priority. I should strive to be the man I want to be. Not the man my friends want me to be, not the man my teachers want me to be, not the man my parents want me to be. The man I want to be. I'm the guy who who is forever stuck with himself.

Furthermore as I get older I realize the answers to those questions tend to sort themselves out.  I know what I think is important because that's the stuff I'll fight for. It's the stuff I have a 2-hour argument over. Or rather it's the stuff I sidestep having an argument over and do whatever the hell I want anyway. I know who I like because those are the folks I can stand to be in the same room with of my own volition. And in regards to love, and romantic engagements well that's another big distraction that will probably sort itself out eventually. It's not that they're unimportant, but agonizing over them the way I did 10 years ago is not going magically help me figure it out. I am but myself once more. I am unable to be anymore or less than that.

College helped. As a kid and even as a young adult I kept feeling that something was wrong with me. In college I found people who dressed how I dressed and liked what I liked. While I still have anxieties over money, and crap like that, I actually like myself.  I am proud of the guy I am and screw every fuckin' other thing. That was rude. Is that the sort of man I am? Rude?  Rude and not ginger.

Doctor Who - Great Big Threatening Button by rockerman82

Anyway. Honestly I thought one of the best fictional depictions of what adolescence is actually like was Freaks and Geeks. Have a go at it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Beware the Gonzo: Follow Up

After writing a review I'll typically roll around the web to see what others though alot of people evidently hate this film. I think I'll rebut why.

The Protagonist Is Unlikable
I think that's kind of intentional. The same traits that make him good on the paper are the same traits that make him write the check his ass can't cash later on. It's two sides of the same coin and is ultimately what causes the third act.

He's a kid doing what a lot of kids aspiring to a future do. Trying to fake it until he makes it. Sometimes he comes off as an ass as he fails miserably and sometimes he comes off as pretty damn impressive.

To this kid truth is above all, because in his mind that's what journalism is. And that's what gets him in trouble. Despite it being obvious to the audience that he's crossing a line spilling his friends secrets and going against their wishes it doesn't occur to him that he's crossing that line until his best friend is tied to a tree and says he would rather more or less be high school lynched than accept his help. They all saw the third act coming and tried to avoid it. He didn't, and even if he did the whole truth is all thing kept him from caring. In that second the truth was more important than his friends or their well being. Well that and he's a pissed off teenager.

To be fair this would be a little better if the film ended on a more sour note. While the tone is bitter sweet it's clear that the protagonist hasn't really suffered for all the stuff he put everyone else through in the third act. It should have been more like the ending to Chasing Amy.

The protagonist realizes he was an idiot and regrets what he did for the rest of his life. He had a shot at something really beautiful but fucked it up and hurt somebody he cared about by being a dumbass. And even though the two may still feel something for each other too much has happened to just be like "cool let's eat face".

The Movie Hates Online Journalism
No the protagonist hates online journalism, and he hates online journalism because he's trying to play the role of a print journalist. Again he's talking that smack because he thinks he's supposed to in order to be a serious journalist. I thought the movie lampshaded it very well with the conversation going, more or less.

Love Interest: "Without a website you'll be a joke."
Protagonist:  "Screw online and those hacks. Now if you want to blog be my guest, but me and my readers want to feel the paper. "
Love Interest: "You can't even afford print."
Protagonist:"I'll make it work. Hey barkeep would you pay me $50 for advertising."
Cafe Owner: "Make it $40 and you got a deal."
Protagonist: "See"
Love Interest:  "Even the NY Times has a website."
Protagonist: "Well I don't know jack about web design."
Love Interest: "Fine I'll do it."
Protagonist: "I have strict formatting requirements. You would have to spend a lot of time over at my place. ... Yes. Fine. Yeah. Blog away."

Kid's Would Never Work That Hard If They Didn't Have To

I'm just going to say kids will surprise you. If it's something their interested in, or they're already friends and what to hang out doing something, or it's something they think they're good at, or if they're competitive bastards. They'll surprise you.

I always thought the reason why some kids don't read and write more is because we always expect them to do it on our terms. If you let a kid just gravitate to what they like and make it work for them they'll surprise you, and that goes for more than just words. People think all kids do is watch tv and play video games.  Sure those are popular forms of entertainment, and sort of cultural talking points. But a lot of kids have secret passions that wither and die because nobody is around to appreciate them.  Nobody is around to tell that chanteuse to get down, or show robot kid how to break out the screwdrivers and soldering iron.
Kids and even adults aren't going to just start pouring their hearts out telling folks what they're into off hours.

The I guess I'm just saying kids aren't exposed to enough different things that might peak their interest and prove to be their trademark skill.

The Character's Are Stereotypical 
Well yes and no. The jocks are stereotyped as all hell and to be fair I didn't notice because the movie does a really good job at portraying the nerds, and guess what I was in high school. Furthermore the first two acts aren't really about them.

The Body Image
Prepare for a rant. If you want to talk to kids about health concerns that's one thing. But I've read reviews that harp on all the different body types in this film. During puberty nobody is comfortable in their own skin.

And that's one of the fundamental messages of the "nerd rebellion." That you know all the crap you go through. Being ignored, or made fun of, or getting your ass kicked. You aren't alone. Take comfort in that fact. Is it right. Hell no. But understanding that you aren't the only one can make high school suck less.  The lesson you learn as you get older is that you have to be comfortable with you, otherwise you're going to drive yourself nuts continually asking the question, "What's wrong with me." And doing anything and everything to make everyone else happy can lead to some very bad results.

That lesson took me 15 years to figure out.

And teen body image is no different. Like I said nobody liked how they looked at 14. I was one of those, and I've seen a lot of those.

It pisses me off, especially writers who should know better. Again if you're one of those folks honestly worried about an overweight kid's well being I'm not talking to you. But for the rest of you fuckers, lay the hell off! With all the various inadequacy issues puberty brings kids don't need that one laid on them anymore than it already is.

Movie Review: Beware the Gonzo

After watching Harriet the Spy I thought about checking out it's recent remake..sequal...thing. After thinking on it, I decided that it would be hard to make that story work. Harriet was a bit of a gossip. With an 11-year-old it seems spirited. With a 16 year old it seems catty.  Then there is the blog angle. Blogs are mostly unsanctioned. Any kid could make one and it seems unlikely that that kid would care enough to want it to be the "official blog" of the class. My general experiences is that kids don't like official anything.

With an 11-year old on the middle school newsletter I could see it. A rebellious teenage who could mostly do what they want in the digital aether.   Why bother? Or I could just be projecting.  There is also the fact that any high school set movie by Disney is going to be pretty tame.

After thinking on it I realize I saw a movie that updated the themes of Harriet The Spy in a high school setting pretty well.  Beware The Gonzo.

First of let me say the plot is tighter. Both protagonists do what they do because it's in them do to it. With Harriet the movie has to take more time conveying that to the audience, because in our mind's it's so weird for an 11-year to think like that. A 17-year-old giving anti-authoritarian speeches about the need for the voices of his generation to be heard and taken seriously, not so much. Hell that was me 10 years ago. Screw that! That's me last week.

Lets go!

"You believed in me and I betrayed you all."

In order to understand the story you have to understand Eddie (Gonzo) Gillman. He is well gonzo. At the start of the story Eddie is on the school paper because he wants to be a serious journalist. And for a school newspaper that might not... gel. These are kids, kids who have to answer to parental and educational authorities.  And Eddie being Eddie doesn't give a damn about that. Sometimes it comes off as an arrogant, entitled 17-year-old and sometimes kid's got balls. And the weird thing is it's acted the same either way. And that's the point. Eddie is smart and brave, but doesn't have the wisdom to know when to turn it off,  when that bravery and intelligence actually turns into stupidity. He's almost like Vermin from The Warriors. For better or worse, he can't help himself.  And we see both the better and the worse, let's start with the better.

Revenge of the Nerds

After an article he writes about a friend's bullying gets cut to ribbons he decides to screw it and start his own paper.  There is no jump.

"That's not what a newspaper is for! A newspaper is for everybody! It's a public trust!" 

The movie posits that while the powers that be hate it his paper is a good, no great thing, giving the nerds and outcasts who are mostly ignored and bullied a voice and community.  It gives them the chance to shatter the illusion that the popular kids are perfect. It gives them a way to fight back.

When I was bullied as a kid that was my problem. I didn't know how to fight back. Tell an adult they win. Hit them and get suspended. They win. Tell them off and they ignore your words, they FUCKING win. These kids found a way to do it and do it on their own terms. There is something I like about that.

"Ever feel lost, lonely, weird, really ugly, last to get the joke? Ever wonder where the party is, ever get a dodge ball in your face, pop a boner in your sweat pants? Ever feel embarrassed about being smart? Ever just feel like staying bed all day, all week all year. You ever feel misunderstood, cheated, alone? Ever wonder why nothing feels easy ever? Well this paper is for you. Welcome to the Gonzo Files. "

Speaking as a nerd this movie really gets it. The powerlessness of being an outsider in high school. And for the most part the teens act like teens.

"More T&A, duly noted."

By the way you know that thing I was saying about blogs. Eddie is the type of guy who will go on a rant about the decline of print journalism.

"No we aren't hiding behind user names in cyberspace this going to be a communal expereice, something tangible, an actual thing you can hold and get the ink on your fingers!"

In the end the only reason why there is an online component at all is because he's trying to impress a girl, who tells him nobody including herself will take the effort seriously if there isn't a web component. 

While some of their stuff is a little tabloidy there is also some actually pretty good journalism, videotaping rats in the cafeteria for instance.

"You're kidding. Listen up everybody. There's inspectors from the board of health in there. They're shutting the cafeteria down, we won."

The Great Question

While I really like the paper there is the problem Eddie poses to Eddie. He's 17. While I love his paper he is undisputely taking a wrecking ball to his academic prospects. It's his mom and principal's jobs to be concerned.  I've always postulated that kids, teenagers in particular are shortsighted, selfish and narcissistic, and until a certain age need adults around to reign that shit in before they do something stupid. Eddie is all of those things. As stated before he just doesn't care and can't help himself.  While the movie is on his side before it all goes bad, it doesn't completely demonize the adults for getting concerned. Because well Eddie does a lot of stupid shit. And we're not talking teenage hijinks stupid. We're talking seriously fucked up, made me want to jump though the screen to kick his ass stupid. The movie starts in media res with him videotaping a heartfelt public apology.  Put your fingers in your ears if you don't want third act spoilers.

The only people who know what the edge looks like are the ones have gone over it.
Eddie has the tendency to take things personally. For a lot of the movie people getting their comeuppance seems justified. Most of his targets have actively made his and his compatriots lives miserable. And while he crosses some lines in the first half he doesn't seriously hurt anybody...mostly.

As the paper gets bigger so does his ego.  After the paper rivalry get's real with bogus articles in the competition tarnishing Eddie's name...well.

"I'm going to destroy you!" 

While the kid  made some mistakes and did some stupid stuff and to a degree acted like a douche, he's still a kid. Gonzo prints an article that  mentions athletic steroids that ruins his college chances. I'm torn. The insinuation was true (it's doubtful that Gonzo knew that at the time), but the article was written for the soul purpose of slamming this guy. Eddie has officially lost it. More unsettling is that these are kids.  I alluded to it before but I'll say it flat-out here. I don't hold kids fully accountable for their actions. Throughout the movie Gonzo's dad has been egging him on with this stuff. It's at this point were we realize that might have been a bad idea.

After the heat gets turned up Gonzo's friends get cold feet. They're getting it from the bullies they've ticked off and the administration, which threatens expulsion if another edition is published. 

Not only does Gonzo publish another paper, alone, he prints things in it that his friends told him confidence. In particular that his love interest was drugged and raped at a party before the story starts.  Like I said before that kind of shit makes me rebuke him and retract every nice thing I said about they guy.

Apart from all the personal betrayals the movie presents that the true casualty is the paper itself. For the people who needed high school to be a little easier there was a glimmer of hope that was snatched away by bastard named Gonzo.

"You believed in me and I betrayed you all."

In the end the paper continues, without him.

"The voice of the underdog must be heard, power to the people."

I'm going to be honest the end of the movie is a bit of a cop out. It doesn't feel like Gonzo faces any real consequences for the bullshit he put everybody though.  He's back in school. He is back together with his girlfriend. His friends forgive him. Harriet the spy spent half the movie having everybody angst over "the betrayal" Here it's more like 10 minutes. That was too easy.

Movie Review: Harriet The Spy

After reviewing The Parent Trap, I realized that it's movie I like not because I like it but because I was forced to like it. For a period in life I couldn't turn my head without seeing that movie. Now I want to talk about some kid's movies I actually like for themselves. Starting with Harriet The Spy.

The Kid's Lit Cannon

Before I get started there are some things you have understand about Harriet The Spy. The first is that this movie is based on a book from what I call the kid's lit cannon. I don't know if it is the same way now, but when I was growing up in an effort to get kids to read a lot of anthologies were put together. In retrospect that's just a kid's reading primer, but anyway.  A lot of these anthologies would have the same stories. Encyclopedia Brown The Hardy Boys, Number of the Stars, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Pippi Longstoking, Maniac McGee, Matilda, Shiloh, The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, How to Eat Fried Worms, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Jungle Books, Charlotte's Web, Alexander's No Good Terrible Very Bad Day, The Cat in the Hat, Freaky Friday, Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Little Engine That Could, Where the Wild Things Are, Corduroy, The Wind in the Willows, The Hobbit, Holes, Indian in the Cupboard, Ramona Quimby, The Giver, Mrs. Frisby and the Rat's of Nimh, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, James and the Giant Peach,  (Guess who my favorite author growing up was).

Oddly enough a good chunk of those are from the '60s and '70s. Go figure. 

My point is that these and others like them form what I call the children's literary cannon. You think people complain when a 25-year old cartoon series they practically forgot about is made into a movie, wait until a book they were planning to read to their grand-kids gets it up the pooper. You think people were shouting, "You raped my childhood!" with Transformers, you have no idea. There is a reason why the phrase, "much beloved children's classic" exists. That said when they get it right you have a cultural touchstone, that may even outlast the book.

You have to understand that when I was kid I loved Nickelodeon and this was their first theatrical film. This movie came out and more or less cemented Nick as the folks who understood kids. And let me get my old man on here, they've gone downhill. (Wait this is the network that gave me Korra and Ned's Declassified. You might want to shut it.)

Nostalgic Surrealism ( The Pete and Pete Effect)
I always found the best kids' movies always had an element of  surrealism. The thing about writing movie heck anything with kids, especially one for kids, is that objective truth isn't as important as subjective truth. Recreating in the audience the feeling of childhood is more important than recreating childhood itself.

Take The Wonder Years. As a contemporary audience watching that show we know a lot more about what's going on in Kevin's life than he does. We know about the Vietnam War and the social trends of the '60s. But Kevin doesn't.  And the show does a good job of showing his reletive powerlessness as a kid in the '60s not knowing what the hell is going on.

In the '90s though filmic surrealism reached new heights in Nick shows like Pete and Pete, which coincidentally the star of Harriet The Spy played in. A lot of kids shows and movies from the '90s  run on that surrealism this one included.  Everything exists but at the same time doesn't because it's not reality, it's reality seen through the eyes of an 11-year old. And you know what. That is what Nick in the old days ran on.

The Spy
In The Parent Trap, the first act focused on setting up the plot. Since in this story the plot is going to come from conflicts between the characters this movie's first  act and a good chunk of it's second focuses on the characters, making it very episodic.  Again the story is all about Harriet's perception so it's very clear, that the audience knows only what Harriet knows.  It's all about establishing her personality as rambunctious. She's loud, rude, energetic and... bouncy. Because the movie is about Harriet's view it has to be subtle.  Harriet is smart. Maybe too smart for her own good. She picks up on stuff. Her friend Sport has very little money, she sees him in a spot at a grocery store and gives him money without her letting on. Anyway the reason why it's called Harriet the Spy is that the girl is curious. And well she spies... a lot. It's kind of her thing.  Stick a pin in that. I'll come back to it.

The second act is where conflicts start to arise. Harriet's nanny who has become her second mother decides to move on. And Trachtenberg, Harriet's actor does a brilliant job of showing how shocked and hurt this girl is. This kid who for the first half hour of the movie never stopped moving is quiet and still.

Alright by the middle of the second act the plot finally arrives.  Harriet writes all her thoughts down and some of them aren't exactly flattering. Even of her friends she's kind of mean . She loses her notebook, and everybody reads it, causing a schism between her and her friends, heck her entire class. Again the acting is great. The kids play really well how hurt they are.  The movie took it's time showing how close their clique was and when they break up and Harriet is isolated it feels like a real shame.  Again the magic is how Harriet shows it. When she is happy or even neutral she bounces around like a lima bean. When she's sad her nearly spastic movement become solemn. And ultimately that's what the movie is about, the emotional trails and tribulations of this really bright energetic kid as her life crashes around her.  At the nadir of the movie it seems this kid has lost most of what she cares about and the adults in her life who are suppose to protect her are oblivious, as she panics and acts out because of it.

Then there is the family unfriendly aesop, that sometimes to maintain social stability, you need to lie.  The truth will not always set you free. In fact sometimes the truth hurts and telling the truth hurts. As Guru Kid from Recess once said as he retracted his previous advice of "set the bird free" in regards to the truth, "Not that kind of bird! Lock it in a cage! Throw away the key! We shall not speak of this again!"

Also is the family unfriendly aesop that when something's broken it can't easily be fixed. While Harriet eventually does hook back up with her friends it's a long road. When she first apologizes for a ... bunch of stuff they blow her off. "You can't be my friend if you're not my friend." In the end,  "The truth is important, but so are you're friends and if you can have them both, it's a good life." 

Movie Review: Parent Traps

When I was a kid I loved the Disney Channel. Back when it was cool. Raise your hand if you remember The Famous Jett Jackson.

 How about So Weird.

Screw all you Zach and Cody loving ... wait what was my point again. Oh yeah, back in the day Disney was one of my big three along with Nick and Cartoon Network.  Wholesome family entertainment that actually was entertainment. And a movie they would always show on the weekends was The Parent Trap and it's sequels.

For some odd reason I've feeling all nostalgic and have decided to compare The Parent Trap, it's official  remake and what I always considered to be it's unofficial remake.

The Gist

For those of you living under a rock, the basic story goes like this. Two teenage girls who look identical meet each other in summer camp, where they find out they're identical twins, whose parents divorced when they were babies. They hatch a zany scheme to meet the other parent by switching places on the way home. While switched they find out the dad is remarrying and decide to get him back together with his exwife before he can get hitched.

The Original  (1961)

The Parent Trap (1961) on Disney Video

Okay this going to be more of a straight review than comparison. The benefit of being first. While the original has it's charm, it shows it's age. Namely it does something that a lot of movies do from back then that I hate. The music won't shut up. It's loud and it's detracting. But I'll forgive that because that was the style. Other than that. The script is a bit of a roller coaster.

What I always found funny about The Parent Trap was the situation itself. The awkwardness of it all. When the script plays that straight it's very charming. For instance the scene where Mitch, the father is trying to explain the wackiness to his house guests, or where the grandfather overhears the twins calling each other and puts two and two together.

When the movie tries to be funny such as the mountain lion clapping it's not really. All of that stuff seems inorganic and detracts from the more organic situational comedy. The key to making them laugh is to make it seem like you're not trying to.

Beyond that that Hayley Mills is great. I've seen a lot of shows where one actor has to play two lookalikes and generally the writers make the two characters have wildly different personalities so the audience doesn't get confused. The twins are different, but subtly so, and that helps the artifice of facsimile.  It helps me feel like I'm not watching something following a script.

By the way it was mostly this movie that created the technique for doing it. Academy for film editing goes to.

Okay all that said there are a lot of elements of the plot that don't make sense. Half the third act could have been avoided if Maggie, the mother, had just picked up a telephone before heading to Cali. Also a lot of the plot seems sociopathic. While I don't approve of hitting kids, they put Vickie the prospective fiance through hell. There's a line between being mischievous and being assholes. That bear thing could have gotten her seriously hurt.  Not to mention the water thing, which could have gotten her killed. 

It Takes Two (1995)

Alright this is my favorite of what I call the Olsen Cannon. Rather than banking on the fact that the two were cute this one actually had decent production values and a script. I could be wrong but I believe this was their first theatrical film. Yeah when I was a kid I watched their stuff. 

While not an official remake it is an blatant ripoff of The Parent Trap, but I always thought of it as a good movie. 

Anyway the main plot difference here is that rather than twins these two are identical strangers.  Apart from the suspension of disbelief of that fact that the two aren't siblings (which the audience knows they are) the choice actually makes the film more believable. I never really bought into the idea that the parents would never mention the fact that they had a twin somewhere out there. That seems like one of those important talks. Hunny could you sit down for a sec. I get why the parents would want some distance but hey, why not give the kid an address to send letters to.

Also in the original it always seemed like the whole deal was set up because the kids were being selfish pricks. Here it seems like they honestly feel like the two love interests are the best for each other.

A thing that helps this is that the movie makes it obvious that both are looking and damn near desperate for a beau. If this sort of thing happened to me in real life I would be pretty pissed but what would calm me down is, "The kids were just trying to help." Here more than the original that seems to be the case. Furthermore when the adults get let in on the wacky plot there is very little if any collusion on the set-up. The priority is getting the kids back with the right adult.

Beyond that, in this version the fiance is... well a bitch. Not just sort of grating or kind of a gold-digger. A grade a full on bitch.  Like I said earlier, in the original I always thought that everyone was a little unfair to her. In the original there was a conspiracy to break up her relationship, so her being a bit paranoid was warranted. Here the dislike is completely and totally justified. She is a shallow, manipulative, selfish, narcissistic human being. And when she breaks it feels a lot less justified.

Unlike the original this one seems to lend just about equal time to the adult romance and the kids' wacky hi-jinks. And the leads, Kristie Alley and Steve Guttenberg, have real onscreen chemistry. The romance doesn't come from long staring into each others' eyes or an orchestral swell, but how they talk to each other. I disliked the ending of the original where bam, they're back in love, after arguing for most of the movie. 

Also because the movie more or less remains at camp until the third act the plot seems less stupid on the "twins" part. They never leave New York. Reversing the switch should have in theory taken a 20 minute walk, but movies run on Murphy's Law

All of this comes together to make the movie feel more realistic.

Apart from that the movie has excellent dialogue.  Everyone in the movie without a Y chromosome and even some the ones who do get great zingers that never feel forced. 

Moreover I love kid movies that show kids actually acting like kids. Not how adults think kids act, but how kids actually act and this is one of those. The movie opens with Alley breaking up a street baseball game, and the switch happening unintentionally on a dare to ring the door bell.

The Remake (1998)

There's a lack of subtly in the filming choices.  For instance in the original when the girls first meet each other it's not made a big deal that they look alike other than being the original reason why the girls don't like each other. Mostly there is just a throw away line, "That girl has your face." Here they stop a couple of seconds to focus on the resemblance.  The film  does that a couple of times. It's suppose to be sentimental, but it's like the music never shutting up in the original. Speaking of which, while not as bad as in the original this one has a soundtrack that won't shut up either.  I've gotten two used to Wire levels of diegetic music. In that show music doesn't play unless there is literally a reason for it to play.

That said one area where I like that the film is sentimental is that more so than the original it gets the fact that these people haven't been around each other for a very long time, and to an extent don't, but want to get to know each other. This time it's not just about maintaining the subterfuge, but getting to know the folks.

Also the acting is a little better. It's weird. Some of the lines are the exact same and scenes are the exact same but better. For instance when one of the girls get back to Cali she talks with the housekeeper about her dad's fiance, but this time it's more of an actual conversation, rather than an unfunny gag. "Not one word. Not one word... (a bazillion words)". Also the "You'll ruin everything" scene is shorter and more realistic. Rather than a full on destructive tantrum it's a quick line and exit, which gets across better how exasperated the twin in question is.  

It also fixes some of the narrative problems. The reason why the mother doesn't call the father is that the twin in her company said she already did. 

Remember that thing I said  about the original about subtle yet different personalities. Well that's gone. While it was the same way in It Takes Two, (It made sense there because it also had a Prince And The Pauper thing going for it.) We've got girly girl and tomboy, which I generally hate because it creates the implication that those are the only two personalty types and traits women possess.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fictional Cool Old Guy List

This is something I've been meaning to do  for a while. I adapt several aspects of my personality from fictional characters that I admire. One question I continually ask myself is who is the man I want to be and will be. Ultimately that question will be answered with age, thus one archetype of character I always seek to integrate into my personality is the "cool old guy."

Here is a list of my favorite fictional cool old guys

Highlander: The Series

Okay you could easily say that I'm cheating, because biologically Methos is closer to 36ish. But in universe he's the oldest living immortal. He's literally seen it all and done it all. And the thing that I admire, he's the quintessential student of human nature.  He knows people. And he uses it. He's didn't live as long as he has because he's the strongest, but because he's clever.   He's a guile hero, a trait shared by most of these guys. By the way Joe Dawson could also have made the list. By the way guess which one is the real one.


Long Way To Morning on Disney Video

Hudson earned his spot on this list with two sentences. Sentences that I believe will help me for the rest of my days. While locked in mortal combat with an old student in a fight he knows he can't win outright he says this.

"But I know something that you don't, something that comes with age. I know how to wait."

While immediate gratification and resources can be a benefit very often better efficiency and outcomes can be gained by waiting and listening for the most opportune moment. Patience is not only a virtue but an advantage.

Bobby Singer
"Ya Idjit" and Preparation

Bobby is on the list for two reasons. One he's a ornery sonumbitch. I try to hide it but in my head I'm not exactly a nice guy. Of course I figure I'm too young to make enemies. Life is hard enough without people praying for and actively working towards your comeuppance. But I'm waiting until I'm closer to the last great adventure and can honestly say I am out of fucks to give.  Two he's crazy prepared. He acquired a library of one-of-a-kind books and made copies... just in case. He built a supernatural panic room because he "had a weekend off."

Genkai aka Grandma, aka That Crazy Hag
Yu Yu Hakusho
"Dumbass" and Honesty

 Genkai is on this list because she is brutally honest with the protagonist. One of her greatest moments comes when after years of fighting her training from hell her rebellious student returns looking for advice when he's feeling off. His emotional state is actually what kicks off the arc. This student has more or less surpassed her in almost every way. She more or less tells him do what you want. You aren't going to do what I tell you anyway so why pretend otherwise. By the way I still don't know who says dumbass more her or her student Yusuke.

Whitney Ellsworth 
Compassion, Perception

Let's get this out of the way. Ellsworth is played by the same man who played Bobby. Alright apart from that he's the nicest guy in the hive of scum and villainy that is Deadwood, with the possible exceptions of Merrick and Star, he's the most perceptive, or rather he's Deadwood's best judge of character. He knows a badman when he sees one. And knows when someone needs a least an offer of companionship. And like I said he's probably the friendliest guy in the long as you aren't secretly plotting to steal it.

Lester Freaman
The Wire

You want to know the thing I really took away from the Wire. You know all those heroic daring dos. Almost every major accomplishment of mankind can be attributed to somebody, somewhere sitting down and staring paper for a long period of time. Too often people go into things thinking otherwise and they neglect that aspect of things. And in doing so fail to get anything meaningful done.

Avatar the Last Airbender

Avatar the Last Airbender: "The Crossroads of Destiny"
Get More: Avatar Episodes,Avatar,Avatar Games

In Universe this guy was basically Alexander the Great, then after his son died in combat he re-evaluated his life choices and decided, "enough of that". After a lifetime of conquest he had lost that which was most important to him. The "Dragon of the West" basically did a personality 180 and in doing so sets other character on their paths by reminding them that they can and are choosing who they want to be.

Stargate SG1
"I die free." and Perseverance

Bra'Tec is a guy who knows the odds. He won't fool himself into thinking they're better than they are yet he still fights. That is the type of man he is.  He knows he is fighting a loosing battle against the Go'uld yet if he dies he would die free.

William Adama
Battle Star Galactica

He does his job and makes damn sure everybody else does theirs.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Ultimately Giles' entire character arc is about him learning when to take the leash off his pupil. When to just trust that the people he trained are on it and let them do their jobs.

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