Aug 25, 2008

Just Seen: The O.C. (Season 1)


I've already explained my weakness for teen shows, and I think I've mentioned the obsessive-compulsive nature of my need to always have a new TV show that I can watch in one sitting. So, when I finished Skins – the British show that, although flawed, left me wanting more, I picked up season 1 of The O.C.
Again, I'd seen it on TV a few years ago, but at the time didn't pay attention. Yes, I knew it starred Mischa Barton, but thought - “What the heck, how bad could it possibly be?”
Well, really bad...
It follows Ryan Atwood, a young delinquent, as he moves in with the rich Cohen family after his mother leaves him. He befriends Seth, the Cohens' son, and falls in love with Marissa, the troubled girl next door.
The show has a cast from hell. Mischa Barton (Marissa) has the most annoying accent I've ever heard, and can't act to save her life. All I knew her for till now was her catastrophic dress sense, but now I've discovered that her lack of style goes hand in hand with her lack of acting skills. Benjamin McKenzie, who plays Ryan, has exactly two facial expressions: 1) “Hm, I've slipped a fart, I wonder if anyone will notice” and 2) “Sh*t, they've noticed!”
Rachel Bilson gives the expected, boring and incredibly artificial 'popular bitch' performance. Adam Brody (Seth) is cute as the rambling nerd, but I suspect he's not even acting.
The only thing worse than the acting is the plot. It's predictable yet amazingly implausible. From the starting premise that a rich family (especially the stuck-up mother) would adopt a teen delinquent, to the so popular plot where the nerd gets the most popular girl in school who is a real bitch, but it turns out she isn't really, she actually has a heart of gold and falls head over heels for him and... Oh pur-lease! When does that EVER happen in real life?? And finally, Marissa Cooper and her family... Maybe it's just because Mischa Barton is my new pet peeve, but I really, REALLY hated the character of Marissa. I also found it hilarious that we are supposed to feel sorry for her family who spend all their money and fall into debt, and then, IMAGINE THE HORROR – have to sell their house and she and her dad move into an apartment! God! Now living in an apartment instead of a $5 million house is really horrible. I don't know if I (or anyone else, really) would be able to go on with my life if I had to sell my $5 million house and move into an apartment! Marissa truly is a hero!
Anyways, enough sarcasm... It's a horrible show, just skip it and forget it ever existed.

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Aug 10, 2008

Just Seen: The Dark Knight


I've just arrived home from the cinema where I've finally seen The Dark Knight.
Now, I was really scared of being totally disappointed with it because of all the hype. I guess that what saved me was the fact that I never, for one instant believed that it's really the best film of all time. 9.2 at IMDb, 94 % fresh at Rotten Tomatoes... Not to mention the rabid Batman fans who are ready to stone to death anyone who dares call the film anything short of a masterpiece. That really sets the bar high.
Well, I'm glad to report that I wasn't disappointed. Unfortunately, I wasn't proven wrong either. First of all, the makers of Batman should really be congratulated for being able to pull off the new franchise without too many compromises. You see, when something is expected to make as much money as the new Batman movie, it almost inevitably turns to sh*t. Well, Chris Nolan obviously doesn't let them push him around, and stands up for his ideas, and in that respect Batman is perfect. However, I think the pressure did get to him, and it led to the one flaw this movie suffers from: it's too damn long. Too many plots, too many twists. You almost feel like they could've made two movies out of this.
Also, what's with the new action sequences? Maybe it's just me, but the fights and chases in new action movies (not just Batman) are too fast to follow. Really, half the time I have no idea who's hitting/chasing who. It seems to be some sort of a recent trend (when I say recent, I mean the last 5 years or so). I can sort of see how it was born out of the need to make every film that comes out more exciting than anything before it, but it's just too much.
The most talked about member of the cast is, of course, Heath Ledger as The Joker. Yes, he was brilliantly insane, eerie and fun at the same time. It truly was the performance of his life, creative and dazzling acting that many older, more experienced and recognized actors couldn't pull off. It's a tragedy that the world has lost such a talented actor. However, I must admit I'm getting weary with all the Oscar talk. Yes, he surely deserves a nod, but isn't it a bit too early to talk about the award? Also, there's an online petition to nominate him, which seems a bit tasteless in my opinion. As often as I disagree with the Academy, I still think it's their awards, and they're entitled to nominate/vote for whomever they want. I think things like this petition actually belittle Heath's performance, as if he can't win the Oscar based on his talent, so we should all try to give him a little push and help him. Unnecessary, in my opinion.
All in all, the movie was a true Saturday night treat. But to all the people who are hailing it as the best film ever (and the ones who are doing the same with The Return Of The King, for that matter): people, try to actually watch more than 5 films before uttering statements of that magnitude. It's a good, solid 7/10, well worth watching, but it's not Space Odyssey, is it?

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Aug 9, 2008

Skins



I've admitted already that I'm actually a teenager trapped in the body of a 27-year-old. This means I watch teenage TV series with a passion. Having said that, I have to mention that I divide all teenage shows into two groups: a) My So-Called Life, and b) everything else. You see, My So-Called Life is probably my favorite TV show ever, of any genre, and it just happens to be a teenage show as well. So, it must be noted that I don't actually expect any other teenage series to ever live up to it, but if that's the elusive 10, at least I can use it for comparison. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy other shows, though! I do, I just have to forgive their imperfections and shortcomings.
Skins is a British show that, of course, follows the lives of a group of friends who are 16 when season 1 starts. There are two seasons so far (the third will have a completely new set of characters), and in each season every episode is named after and focuses on one of the characters (although there are story lines that span several episodes). There's Tony, the good-looking, super-intelligent, ambitious but manipulative boy who is brilliant at everything and gets whatever he wants. His girlfriend is the beautiful, popular, but insecure Michelle, who is worried that Tony doesn't really love her. Sid, Tony's best friend, is in love with Michelle, shy, always in Tony's shadow, not really good at anything. Also, he's a virgin, and in the very first episode, he is supposed to lose his virginity to Cassie. Cassie is anorexic, has a lot of psychological problems, and agrees to sleep with Sid only to do her friend Michelle a favor, but ends up falling in love with him. Jal, is a serious girl who plays the clarinet. Chris, is a party animal from a broken home, who has a crush on their psychology teacher. Maxxie is gay and has problems with his best friend Anwar, because Anwar is Muslim and is afraid of what his family is going to say about having a gay friend.
I don't actually know what I thought about the show. The characters were cliched, the plots were unrealistic. At least, that's not how I lived when I was a teenager... Okay, yes, teenage life does typically imply a certain amount of sex and drugs, but this was really over the top...
The writing was mostly okay, but at times it was truly appalling. For instance, there is an episode set in Russia (a school trip), in which Chris manages to have sex with the psychology teacher, Tony tries to seduce Maxxie just out of boredom, and Anwar tries to rescue a Russian girl from her violent husband. Now trust me, I have literally seen porn films with better, more convincing, less corny scripts than this episode.
Why did I see all 19 episodes then?
The answer is simple: Tony. The character of Tony was absolutely wonderfully written, and the boy who plays him – Nicholas Hoult – that boy will go far! Or at least he should. Without giving too much of the plot away, I'll just say that there is a huge twist at the end of season 1, so in season 2 tables have turned for Tony and he is facing a really rough time. It's amazing how convincingly young Mr. Hoult pulls off the change. I was mesmerized by his acting, and missed him in every scene that didn't feature him.
So, it's not all bad. It's quite fun, and it's all you expect a teenage show to be, no more and no less. It does have some really stupid bits, but then sometimes it really dazzles you. The one thing that is consistently dazzling is the soundtrack – Tricky, Elliott Smith, Feist, Portishead, Low - they all chime in, always at the exact perfect moment to break your heart.
Not to mention season 1 finale. You see, I'm generally good at liking things, I'm not a hater by nature. But the song Wild World was one of the rare things I hated with a passion. Ever since I was little I thought it must be one of the stupidest, corniest songs ever written. After Skins though, I absolutely adore it. See season 1 of Skins, if for nothing else, then for that ending. I don't know who came up with the idea for it, but it's genius, and it transcends the little teen show it's in. Trust me. It will fill your heart with beauty.

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Aug 6, 2008

Just Seen: The School Of Rock



Here's an easy question: how can you describe Jack Black in two words?
NOT FUNNY!
I guess you could insert the F word in the middle, if you're really ticked off for having wasted 2 hours on this piece of excrement.

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Aug 3, 2008

Just Seen: Batman Begins


Yes, in the wake of Batman mania, I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I've only just seen Batman Begins. And not only that - this is the first Batman movie I've ever seen! The first franchise just seemed very stupid and childish to me. I once caught a part of the one with Uma Thurman and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it was so painfully bad, I think I must've spent half of those twenty minutes with my head between my knees! My husband, on the other hand, is pretty keen on Batman (I hesitate calling him a fan, because he's just NOT the kind of person who'd be fanatical about anything). So, long story short: I'd heard that the new franchise is actually quite good, I like Nolan and Bale, and hubby wanted me to go to the cinema with him to see The Dark Knight, so I figured i should see Begins first.
Now, you might remember that, when I saw the Bourne trilogy I said something to the extent of "I really don't like action movies, but this is good stuff". Well, I've discovered that I've been deluded all this time. It's not me, it's Hollywood! I now see that I do like action movies, only, most action movies are crap! When I finished Batman Begins, I actually felt a hunger for another one! I think that, had it not been the middle of the night, I would've gone to see The Dark Knight straight away! Trust me, all this was a revelation for me: Terminator 2: Judgment Day is not the only quality action movie?? Really? Wow!
So, if an action movie gets a decent script, a talented cast and a director who's not a total idiot, you'll, more likely than not, get a good piece of cinema. It's as simple as that. The same as with any other genre.
Luckily, Batman Begins has all of the above. Nolan has managed to create the perfect dark atmosphere. Christian Bale is one of the most talented actors of today. Seriously, that man is SO good, I'm sure he found the role of Batman a piece of cake (with all due respect, it's not the most complex role in the world, is it?), and the rest of the cast is not bad either (I especially enjoyed Cillian Murphy's performance as Dr. Crane).
I found that the two story arcs were well balanced and blended, and both were quite interesting. I did consider the last half hour of constant fighting, chases, explosions etc were slightly boring, but I suspect that, for true action movie aficionados that was actually the heart of the film. So, I guess there's something for everyone in it. I'm glad to see that it's still possible to make such a big budget flick without ruining it.
My verdict: 8/10.

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