Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Where were you in '62?



As fashion designer Tom Ford's directorial debut, A Single Man is slowly but surely gathering attention. The film is a somewhat loose adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's novel of the same name, following what is intended to be the last day in the life of George (Colin Firth) after the sudden death of his longtime partner Jim (Matthew Goode). The day is November 30, 1962, and George, a middle-aged English professor in Los Angeles, seemingly has no reason to continue to live. It is a day to clean up his office, empty his safety deposit box, and, most importantly, buy bullets.

Ford takes various liberties with the source material, injecting it with dark humor. The woefully underused Lee Pace features in a memorable scene used to establish the threat of the Cuban missile crisis. Both comedy and tension build in a sequence where George fruitlessly struggles to find a position to shoot himself in that will not produce too much of a mess. Eventually wrapped in a sleeping bag, he is about to pull the trigger when his friend Charlotte (Julianne Moore) calls to remind him that they are supposed to meet. It is a reminder of the absurdity of events that keeps him alive.

While the ever-reliable Firth delivers a subtle portrait of grief, Nicholas Hoult stands out as Kenny, one of George's students. Kenny is fascinated by his enigmatic professor and is determined to learn more about what he is like outside of the classroom. Hoult, most recently known for his role on British series Skins as a power-crazed teen sociopath, provides a contrasting youthfulness that is simultaneously innocent and world-weary; it may be inferred that he is intended to embody the same sort of lust for life that George remembers in Jim. The film reaches its climax when Kenny spontaneously asks George to take a swim in the ocean with him, providing a bizarre and violent sort of rebirth for the mourning man.

Like any designer, Ford focuses on the details. Cigarette smoke is exhaled in dense clouds, teeth look whiter against red lipstick, and eyelashes flutter with pre-Quant amounts of mascara. Particularly notable is a scene in which George sets aside the clothing he wishes to be buried in, including cuff links, leaving a note indicated that the necktie absolutely must be done up with a Windsor knot. On the opposite coast, it is more heavily stylized than Mad Men. Vivid colors burst and fade at key points in George's narrative, while a flashback to a trip to the beach with Jim is completely desaturated. Aesthetics seem to be a priority over emotion; while the cast clearly has excellent chemistry, including model Jon Kortajarena's first attempt at acting, the audience is constantly held at arm's length. Still, there is more than enough fulfillment for the eye, and it feels ungrateful to complain when the attention to detail is otherwise flawless.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Youth In Revolt red band trailer



Congratulations, Michael Cera, you might just contain multitudes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox in review



Wes Anderson knows who he is. That's more than can be said for many filmmakers. Over the past 15 years, Anderson has established himself as a director with an exceptionally distinct style, not only with his meticulous attention to detail, but with an assortment of signature elements. With Fantastic Mr. Fox, the auteur both embraces and divorces his trademarks.

This is the first time that Anderson has adapted another writer's work. The beloved Roald Dahl book tells the story of a fox, voiced by George Clooney in the film, who steals food from three farmers. The farmers proceed go to extravagant lengths to eradicate the thief, leveling the hill that Mr. Fox and his family call home before laying siege to the entire forest. The Fox family and their animal compatriots must fight back or starve to death. This is a departure from Anderson's typical fare of dysfunctional family journeys, but his trademark dry humor matches well with Dahl's classic British comedy. The original story is widely embellished, most notably to include the characters of Kylie, Mr. Fox's opossum building superintendent (Wallace Wolodarsky); Ash, Mr. and Mrs. Fox's son (Jason Schwartzman); and Kristofferson, Ash's visiting cousin (Anderson's brother Eric). The differences between the naturally athletic Kristofferson and the socially awkward Ash provide one of the storyline's subplots. The additional characters supplement the original story to great effect.

Unlike Anderson's previous work, Fantastic Mr. Fox was filmed using stop-motion animation, a fitting vehicle for his stylistic precision. The hand-made puppets appear to move with remarkable fluidity, yet maintain a D.I.Y. aesthetic. Sets and costumes show the amount of time and effort required to make this film. True to form, Anderson features an oddly-dressed underdog hero, in this case the cape-wearing Ash. The director's stamp is also seen in Bill Murray's role as a badger lawyer, extensive smoking, the use of bright colors, and symmetrical shots; however, it is Meryl Streep that takes on the mother role, rather than usual choice Anjelica Huston. This time around, Anderson's 60s band of choice is the Beach Boys. California surf rock may clash with the English countryside, but the sunny songs reflect the joie de vivre of being a wild animal. In contrast, a schoolyard chant about the malevolent farmers is eerily repeated during points of tension. Ex-Britpopper Jarvis Cocker, whose last film work was for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, provided the bizarre original "Petey's Song." Other vocal cameos include Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, and Mario Batali.

While Anderson's previous work had been veering towards self-indulgence (see: slow-motion running sequence set to the Kinks' "Powerman" in The Darjeeling Limited), Fantastic Mr. Fox is a return to the refreshing charm of The Royal Tenenbaums.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fantastic?

Doctor Who star to play John Lennon

My brain can't even process right now. Will there be bananas?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Five Reasons To Watch Bored To Death



1. Jason Schwartzman
Since his iconic debut role in the 1998 film Rushmore, Jason Schwartzman has established himself as an actor with a quirky, unusual sense of charisma. This is on full display in HBO's new series Bored To Death, in which he plays Jonathan Ames, a Brooklynite author moonlighting as a private detective while he struggles with his second novel. Jonathan is the kind of person who has good intentions, but tends to fail when it comes to following through with them. It could be easy to dislike the character, considering that the first episode begins with his girlfriend breaking up with him for being an irresponsible, alcoholic pothead, but Schwartzman's portrayal is instantly charming. He is the earnest, vulnerable heart of the show. Schwartzman's extensive musical talents are also showcased in the theme song; in addition to acting, he was a founding member of Phantom Planet and has released two solo albums under the moniker Coconut Records. Jason Schwartzman can do no wrong.

2. The sense of humor
Bored To Death shines with its own brand of dry wit. Sly, blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments build up to plenty of laughs. The sense of humor is organic, primarily emerging from the characters' situations. Jonathan's quixotic nature provides no shortage of entertainment, particularly when it comes to interacting with his aging boss, George, who is constantly trying to cling to youth. Whether George is suffering from a herpes flare-up or is waxing poetic about women's armpits, Jonathan takes a step back and serves as an attentive, entertaining commentator. Absurdity is the name of the game.

3. Zach Galifianakis
Zach Galifianakis plays Ray Hueston, who is Jonathan's best friend as well as his foil. Jonathan dresses like The Sartorialist's favorite English teacher; Ray is much more at home in t-shirts and hoodies. Jonathan is an acclaimed novelist; Ray is a superhero-obsessed graphic novelist who has not yet received any commercial success. Jonathan is a staunch optimist; Ray is much more world-weary. Still, Ray is a supportive friend who will always rescue Jonathan from one mishap after another, and Galifianakis and Schwartzman share an affable, easygoing chemistry. Ray's current storyline includes donating sperm to a lesbian couple who are fans of his work, and it'll be interesting to see how that plays out.

4. The aesthetics
The tone is set with the noir-inspired title sequence, in which the setting and the main characters spring to life in a series of animated sketches. The show is shot in a sharp, clean style that matches Jonathan's world of white wine and whimsy. From the camera's eye, Brooklyn comes to life and becomes a character in its own right. If Wes Anderson was more laid-back and acknowledged the progress of technology after 1990, he would be working on Bored To Death.

5. The guest stars
The show has featured a variety of guest stars, most prominently Olivia Thirlby's recurring role as Jonathan's ex-girlfriend Suzanne. Stand-outs have included Kristen Wiig as an alcoholic who wants Jonathan to track her boyfriend and Parker Posey as a radical vegan MILF. Film director Jim Jarmusch made a memorable appearance as an exaggerated version of himself, and comedian Patton Oswalt features in an upcoming episode.

For more, see Bored To Death's official site.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Glee: So bad it's good, or so good it's bad?

Glee, Fox's new program about a high school show choir, is either brilliant or complete garbage. If the viewer approaches the show as a satire, it takes sharp aim at the teen dramedy genre and is a great send-up of the high school social structure. If taken more seriously, however, it's a mess of screeching one-note characters and reinforces unnecessary stereotypes.

The cast was obviously crafted to be a virtual salad bar of diversity. The titular Glee Club features an African-American girl, Mercedes; an Asian girl, Tina; a gay boy, Kurt; and a boy in a wheelchair, Artie. Unfortunately, I say "features" in the loosest sense of the term, considering that these characters are either full-on stereotypes or are devoid of defining characteristics aside from their appearance. The black girl is overweight, so she has to be just as sassy and fabulous as the gay boy! They both love Beyonce! He also loves Marc Jacobs! Did I mention how fabulous they are?

As for Tina and Artie, they're lucky if they get one or two throwaway lines per episode. I had to Google their names because they've had so little screen time in the six episodes that have aired so far, despite being marketed as major characters. This is understandable considering the size of the ensemble cast, but at the rate this is going, I can't wait to see Tina driving to SAT boot camp in a car with a Hello Kitty steering wheel cover. However, one of the more minor Glee Club members is an Asian football player. While it's certainly a change to see an Asian male in a conventionally masculine role, he has even less of a presence than Tina.

Out of these minority characters, Kurt has received the most in-depth characterization, featuring heavily in the fourth episode. Kurt might fit better under the generally queer umbrella, considering that he has exhibited some potentially trans leanings, such as a preference for women's clothing and aligning with the girls in a battle of the sexes. Played off the right way, this character could be a statement regarding the idea that all homosexual men are extremely effeminate. Unfortunately, the show isn't gutsy enough to blatantly challenge the stereotype, and viewers are left questioning Glee's intentions. Considering that the actor who plays Kurt is homosexual and the role was written specifically for him, it may be inferred that the character is supposed to be a mockery of the archetype, but the show hasn't yet made this obvious. While there are certainly some gay men who love designer clothing and decorate their homes like Ikea showrooms, it's about time to move on from constantly perpetuating this image of flamboyance. Kurt could be used to deconstruct these previously established ideas, but the actor's personal connection to the character lends an earnest quality to the portrayal that cannot be ignored. Regardless, we cannot expect a single character to represent an entire community, and any and all presence of LGBTQ characters on American television shows the progress of the public mindset.

While the portrayals of minorities may be passed off as being clever satire, the female characters on Glee get an even worse deal. For the most part, they are manipulative, whiny, and generally unsympathetic. Terri, the wife of the Glee Club's coach, is the worst of them. She is possessive and demanding, faking a pregnancy when she believes that her husband Will's interest in her may be waning and taking a job at the high school in order to keep an eye on him. To complete her plans, she intends to adopt a baby from Quinn, the head cheerleader and president of the Celibacy Club. Quinn has her own set of issues; she tells her boyfriend that she has had a miraculous hot tub pregnancy rather than owning up to breaking the Celibacy Club's vows with his best friend. While her fear is understandable, the lying does nothing to help her previously established image as a bully. The only other female student who has had serious character development is Rachel, the star of the Glee Club. While she is talented, ambitious, and strong-willed, this is overshadowed by her desire to constantly be in control and at the center of attention. Her diva behavior builds up to the point where another character announces, "That Rachel girl makes me want to set myself on fire." Also forceful is the cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester. She may advocate caning and general cruelty, but at least her character is distinctly approached as being an over-the-top caricature. It is made clear to the audience that Sue has no purpose other than to be a force of unflinching evil, and she accomplishes this to hilarious effect. Sue's foil is Emma, the school's twee, delicate guidance counselor whose main characteristics are germophobia and a backbone deficiency. While Emma is the most endearing of the lot, she is not genuinely likable enough to compensate for the others.

Glee is still a new show, but it's about time for it to decide which direction it's going in. Viewers can only hope that it will fulfill its smart, witty potential instead of snowballing into pure superficiality.

For more, see Bitch Magazine's take and The Advocate's interview with actor Chris Colfer.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Whip It!: Feel good hit of the fall?



I walked out of the preview screening of Whip It! feeling everything that I'm pretty sure I was supposed to be feeling: empowered, exhilarated, and wishing I could kick as much ass as a derby girl. Drew Barrymore's directorial debut is a feel-good story that focuses not on romance, but on being satisfied in your own achievements.

Ellen Page stars as Bliss, an earnest teenager who wants to break away from her overbearing mother, who believes that the best way to get out of their small town is to become a beauty pageant queen. It's an underdog story, yes, but who doesn't love an underdog story? Her ticket to freedom comes from joining a roller derby team in and being surrounded by mold-breaking people who are unlike anyone she has ever met before. The laughs come one after another, the skating scenes are sharply edited, and, the soundtrack features hits from the Strokes, MGMT, Jens Lekman, and Kings Of Leon. (For the record, the Kings Of Leon song is "Knocked Up," not any of the tripe from Only By The Night.)

This is a film by women, starring women. It also showcases female capability; the tagline is "Be Your Own Hero," after all. While there is a romantic subplot featuring a local indie rocker, getting the guy is nowhere near as important as being strong and independent. Best friend Pash and derby team the Hurl Scouts provide Bliss with the support that she needs to come into her own. The lively cast propels the story, with plenty of humor along the way. It's not a movie that takes itself too seriously, though it would be difficult to, considering that it features characters who give themselves monikers such as "Bloody Holly," "Iron Maven," and "Smashley Simpson." What it does do is present a great message in a hilarious, well-crafted package. Whip It! is exactly what's needed to combat the frail, powerless version of femininity that is perpetuated in Twilight.

In the words of the Hurl Scouts’ Coach Razor, "Go getcha some."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Glee is the word

Everyone loves a story about outsiders, because almost everyone's felt like an outsider at some point. Such is the case with Glee's gang of misfit toys, with a new lesson about how It's Okay To Be Different dispensed every Wednesday night. Quite frankly, Glee still seems like a bog-standard high school underdog story, but I still feel compelled to watch it and wring my hands and shout "YOU LYING BITCH!" at the screen. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that they shouldn't promote acceptance, but there's a difference between making a TV show and making a 40-minute-long PSA. Sometimes the cheesiness makes me want to reach for a loaf of bread and a George Foreman Grill. Still, there are redeeming elements. In spite of the nagging, manipulative women that they keep company with, Will and Finn contribute enough charm and charisma to keep me watching every week. Emma's not too bad either, although her primary characteristics seem to be germophobia and a Charlotte Charles wardrobe. In general, Glee still seems to be figuring out which direction it wants to take, and I'm going to keep following it until it finds that out.

In other news, there's a new teaser clip for Merlin 2x02, and Spaced is ten years old today. Also, "Uprising" by Muse sounds remarkably like Goldfrapp.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TV mini-reviews: Bored To Death, Gossip Girl, The Big Bang Theory



Bored To Death 1x01
It's Jason Schwartzman doing an HBO show, so I knew it was going to be good. I may have set my expectations a little too high, but I think it's going to get better as it progresses. Schwartzman plays Jonathan Ames, a struggling writer who begins working as an unlicensed private detective on a whim with the help of his favorite detective novels. The aesthetics are crisp, the humor is deadpan and witty, and I can't wait to see where this goes and how the characters develop. A Schwartzman-penned theme song doesn't hurt, either.

Gossip Girl 3x02
This episode was all about the tables being turned, except for Serena, of course. I'm not sure why I'm trying to review something that I don't actually take seriously, other than that insomnia does amazing things. I will say, however, that this show has some really great montages. They're always well-edited and fit together perfectly and help to compensate for things like references to "the Bass cave."

The Big Bang Theory 3x01
I have nothing to say about this other than that Leonard needs to learn about bros before hos.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Merlin 2x01: The Curse Of Cornelius Sigan

While the Doctor's away, strange creatures still reign on BBC Saturday nights with Merlin. The second series of the surprise hit debuted tonight, with "The Curse Of Cornelius Sigan."

The four stars of the show now all have a bit more experience under their belts, and it shows, at least with Colin Morgan (Merlin) and Bradley James (Arthur), considering that Katie McGrath (Morgana) and Angel Coulby (Gwen) got a combined total of about two minutes of screen time. The young medieval heroes are back in fine form, with plenty of the usual homoerotic subtext in the mix. There's plenty of Merlin acting like a jealous high school girlfriend when Arthur's attentions are drawn away from him, while Arthur is still every bit the kid in elementary school who expressed crushes through pigtail-pulling.

I think I just had the revelation that Merlin and Arthur are like Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe.

Anyways, jellied staplers aside, Mackenzie Crook guest-starred in this episode. I was never into Pirates Of The Caribbean, so I'm only familiar with his work on Skins and, of course, The Office. He was a good villain, certainly more psychological than physical. It's a shame that this wasn't a two-part storyline, it would have been nice to see more of him. This was a story that could have easily been spread across two weeks. Hopefully we'll get a multi-part plotline at some point instead of having this monster-of-the-week routine. While the first series had the running thread of Nimueh, we never saw the words "To Be Continued." Still, I'm looking forward to these new adventures, and I can't wait to see what comes next.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Single Man trailer



This looks visually stunning, for more reasons than one, but what else could we expect from Tom Ford? Everyone looks flawless, and the color palette seems spot-on for the 60s. I can't wait to see this film. With Matthew Goode, Lee Pace, and Nicholas Hoult, how could I not?

Also, it will be interesting to see how much coverage the gay kiss will get. Despite the visibility of Watchmen, Matthew Goode isn't particularly high-profile, though Colin Firth more than balances that out. While it's obviously going to be talked about, hopefully more people have figured out since Jake and Heath that gay scenes don't have to be a big deal.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future



One of my favorite bands, Los Campesinos!, have a new song available as a free download. It's a more mature departure from their previously established sound, but has all of their typical cleverness.

Gleeking Out

I forgot to mention this in my fall TV round-up, but the highly anticipated Glee starts tonight. I watched the preview episode, and despite finding it remarkably like every other high school underdog story ever, I feel compelled to watch it. It might just be the internet hive mind getting to me, or the fact that I couldn't help but listen to the cast's rendition of "Push It" on repeat last night. I'm hoping that this show can charm its way past just being another teen dramedy featuring actors portraying characters who are ten years their junior.

From what was seen in the preview, Glee seems like it needs time to reach its full potential. Sassy Black Diva and Asian Goth Chick Who Probably Loves Anime? Seriously? Hopefully these characters will develop with time and become more than just stereotypes.

At any rate, it has to be better than Vampire Diaries.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Merlin series 2 trailer



So, Gwen and Arthur, eh? Obviously, it had to happen. I'm curious as to when it will happen, given that so far they have had about three conversations together. Additionally, the characters don't seem like a good fit right now, but who am I to judge? It seems like Merlin's giving both characters the push that they need to balance each other better, with Arthur growing more sentimental and Gwen getting more daring. At this point, Arthur and Morgana have much better chemistry with each other. I hope that the kiss is from a dream sequence, because otherwise it would seriously throw off the pacing of the show.

Regardless of how many other people they kiss, Merlin and Arthur will always be "two sides of the same coin."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Geeky Dreamboats

Someone out there has compiled a book of "Geeky Dreamboats." The examples provided are Michael Cera, Daniel Radcliffe, the Jonas Brothers, and Flight of the Conchords.

Michael Cera? Uh, he always plays geeks and he always plays himself, so I guess he can stay. Plus, he's just wrapped up filming a comic book movie, which he was apparently already a fan of when he was cast. However, I hesitate to apply the "dreamboat" label, although this is subject to further contemplation once he looks like he has hit puberty.

Daniel Radcliffe? Free pass, he's Harry freakin' Potter.

Jonas Brothers? Get out right now. As far as I know, there is absolutely no basis in referring to them as "geeky," and I wish I knew much less about the Jonas Brothers than I actually do.

Flight of the Conchords possess sugalumps that I would check out any day.

Suggestions for improving this list, in order by surname:
--Colin Morgan. He makes Merlin the most adorable medieval wizard of all time, and his dream role is a character from a Terry Pratchett book. He also has dorky giant ears.
--Chris Pine, aka Chris Fine, aka Captain Fine. He's James Tiberius Kirk and he will not hesitate to punch you in the face. Additionally, he went to Berkeley and studied all the time, which is definitely dreamy in my book.
--Zachary Quinto. Admittedly, I've never seen him in anything besides Star Trek XI, but that clearly qualifies him.
--Jason Schwartzman. He possesses a great amount of je ne sais quoi in the geekiness department. Is it the way he looks in giant nerdy glasses? Is it the way he sounds while voicing a woodland animal with a sock on its head? The world may never know.
--David Tennant. He portrays one of the best-loved figures of science fiction, as well as having been in a Harry Potter movie. He is also lanky and enjoys licking things and doesn't freak out when finding out that he is the subject of a great quantity of pornographic fanfiction.
--Aidan Turner. He makes it okay for vampires to be able to go out into the sunlight without burning or causing the sparklepocalypse.
--Anton Yelchin. Having participated in two wildly popular sci-fi franchises, he is definitely qualified for the list. There was also that great scene in "Charlie Bartlett" where, as the titular character, he does his homework while on Ritalin.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Looking forward to fall TV

The Big Bang Theory season 3
I only just got into this show over the summer. I don't know how I didn't start earlier, given that it is about the plights of being nerdy and socially awkward, as well as giving nerdy and socially awkward people the hope that they will someday get to make out with someone who is a) normal and b) way hotter than them. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what happens when the gang returns from the North Pole.

Doctor Who: "The Waters Of Mars"

It's not much, but it's all we Whovians get until the Christmas specials. To be honest, I'm not particularly excited about people shooting water out of their wrists, but I'll take whatever I can get when it comes to the 10th Doctor. As much as I'm anticipating whatever fresh twist that the 11th incarnation will bring, David Tennant is simply fantastic and I will miss him very much.

Gossip Girl season 3

The main reasons I watch this are for the clothes and the fairly hilarious dialogue that makes me feel more confident in my own writing skills. The main buzz that's been going around for this season is that Chuck Bass is going to be kissing a man. Unfortunately, it's not Dan, but I'll still watch it anyways. Also, Anna Sui's Gossip Girl-inspired line for Target looks pretty promising.

Merlin series 2
Merlin has been my main obsession this summer. I know that it takes many liberties when it comes to the traditional texts, but it's a lot of fun and I'm not an Arthurian legends purist. I'm looking forward to this next round of homoerotic banter, CGI dragons, and intense sword fights. The cast's wonderful chemistry really makes it something special, and Colin Morgan is the most adorable medieval wizard I have ever seen. Also, Mackenzie Crook is guest starring at some point during this series--let's hope no one puts his stapler in jelly again.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Youth In Revolt trailer

Youth in Revolt - Trailer No. 1 - Moviefone

Sorry, no embed.

I have to say, this actually looks better than I thought it would. I read the book earlier in the summer after hearing a lot of good things about it, as well as being curious as to the dissimilarities between Nick Twisp and Michael Cera's standard fare. From what's seen in the trailer, his interpretation of Nick seems like regulation Michael Cera playing Michael Cera. As alter ego Fran├žois, however, he certainly stands out a lot more and shows his potential. I also like the way that Fran├žois is shown with the two Michaels. Aside from that, Sheeni seems spot on from the way I imagined her in the book, apart from the fact that all of the teenaged characters are clearly older than 14. Still, they look uniformly older, which is what's important. I'm looking forward to this movie a lot more than I was previously.

And I have to say, I love the dress that Sheeni is wearing 54 seconds in.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Born In The UK: Another Day, Another Import

Skins is to be adapted for American television by MTV

This is horrifying for a number of reasons. First of all, Skins is all about drinking, drugs, and sex. Sex with real nudity! Okay, so it's also about friendship and growing up and all of that stuff, but for the most part, it's about teenagers doing and saying things that can't be shown on American television. Once all of that is removed, there is pretty much no show left. I'm not asking for non-stop nakedness, but it would be nice if the script could involve a realistic amount of swearing. Additionally, on American television, debauchery always leads to severe repercussions. While some Skins characters did have to suffer for their actions, i.e. Jal's unplanned pregnancy, it remains that the biggest partier of the bunch died of a hereditary defect rather than a drug overdose.

Another aspect that contributes significantly to the essence of Skins is its Britishness. Obviously, this is something that cannot be replicated, but it's something that permeates the attitude and the style of Skins. It's impossible to quantify, but it's undeniable. The approach to music and the emphasis on showcasing new artists lends a refreshing sense of realism to the show. While Gossip Girl is all about style, there are times where the costumes look a little too much like costumes and the people in charge are obviously trying a bit too hard to seem hip and fresh. Skins with a layer of American gloss is not Skins at all.

Also, the American television track record is not particularly good. It's probably going to turn out to be heteronormative with an all-white cast of 23-year-olds who obviously don't look like high schoolers. If we're lucky, we'll get a token racial minority, but I'm not going to bother keeping my fingers crossed.

British shows adapted for the US tend to not make it very far, with The Office being the only prominent success. It is possible that, similarly to The Office US, it could become a decent show on its own merit. Still, I'm not sure as to how promising this is.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dear Uncle Rusty

I finally got around to seeing Torchwood: Children Of Earth, due to having limited internet up until recently. There isn't really anything I can say about it that's not beating a dead coffee boy, but it did reinforce why I typically don't watch Torchwood. While I was significantly more impressed with Children Of Earth than I have been with the few stray episodes I've seen before, it's just a fact that I like the Doctor Who side of Captain Jack Harkness too much to have him ruined for me. Who!Jack is a fun, flirty man of action. More importantly, Who!Jack's ideas are generally better than just waving around a bunch of guns and making impulsive decisions. Children Of Earth also did Jack a great disservice by seriously dehumanizing him. The fifth episode could have done with less dramatic running montages and more reaction shots. Hey Jack, a bunch of people just died because of your paper-thin marauding, including your boyfriend, and you just had your grandson nosebleed to death. It's time to go for an angsty walk in the rain. Preferably with a lot of flashbacks to Jack and Ianto's makeout sessions.

What I really want to know is how this is going to tie into Jack's return to Doctor Who. We know that the Doctor has a tremendous amount of influence on Captain Jack, but what sort of state will he be in by the time they reunite?

Monday, August 10, 2009

The return: What I did this weekend

This time, I have a legitimate reason for not updating. I've been abroad for over a month, and lack of time/internet has led me to be almost totally cut off from everything. It's a shame I missed out on the squeefests that resulted from David Tennant kissing John Barrowman at Comic-Con. And Scott Pilgrim becoming a video game! (Note: I do not play video games.)

This weekend, I...
--Saw Paper Heart
--Read Submarine
--Saw Funny People

Paper Heart is a pseudo-documentary featuring Michael Cera and his 33-year-old girlfriend, Charlyne Yi. (IMDB claims that she's 23, but I swear I've read that she's 33.) The film follows Yi as she interviews a wide variety of participants about what they think love is. At the same time, this alternate version of her begins to date the alternate version of Michael Cera. This is the only time in which it has been permissible for Michael Cera to be playing Michael Cera, as he was actually supposed to be playing Michael Cera. Either he knows that he is exactly the same in every movie, or he really is just that boring. But that's beside the point. The film takes a whimsical approach, using paper dolls and home-made props to illustrate the stories of the interviewees. Charming, but bordering on overly precious. I did find it enjoyable enough, but I still don't really know what to think about it.

Joe Dunthorne's Submarine is a coming-of-age story about a vocabulary-obsessed Welsh boy. Quite frankly, it didn't make much of an impression on me--I've already forgotten the ending. Other than that, it was a sufficiently compelling story, full of erratic and hormone-fuelled decisions. I didn't find the narrator to be particularly charismatic, although I don't think he was supposed to be. Between this and my June readings of Fierce People and Youth In Revolt, I have spent quite a lot of this summer reading from the perspectives of teenage boys.

The only Judd Apatow-directed product that I had seen before was Freaks and Geeks, so I wasn't sure what to expect out of Funny People. Well, actually, I didn't expect it to be so blatantly indie. I mean seriously, Jonah Hill wearing a Beirut t-shirt? Are you kidding me? Name-checking Wilco? I've never been an Adam Sandler fan, but Seth Rogen's character was definitely the eyes of the movie. Clocking in at 2:16, it did start to drag a bit towards the end, but the comedic and the serious elements blended well. Also, after seeing this, I'm satisfied with Aubrey Plaza as Julie "The Bitch" Powers in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. And I want Jason Schwartzman to write at least part of the soundtrack to my life.