Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review: Warm Bodies (5 Things You Can Expect)

Last night I attended a special advance preview screening of Warm Bodies, the movie (based on a book) that people are calling "Twilight with zombies" possibly because none of these people have seen or read either. The only similarity between Warm Bodies and Twilight is that the girl is 100% human and the guy is not.

This is your warning for possible spoilers. It's a book, and it's a book that's been out a while, but whatever, if you don't want to spoiled, you might not want to read this. I'm just saying.

Warm Bodies, based on the novel by Isaac Marion, takes place in post-apocalyptic America, where unknown circumstances have caused part of the population to turn into zombies. As is the case with most zombie lore, if you're bitten by a zombie, you turn into a zombie, but unlike most of the fare, these zombies apparently still retain a bit of their humanity, as evidenced by the main character (and narrator), R (Nicholas Hoult). His name is R because all that he remembers about his pre-zombie existence is that his name started with "r". He is able to think, and occasionally speak, but most of the other zombies that join him in his daily airport wanderings are not.

(It's important to note that there are two different kinds of zombies. There are the "corpses", like R, the ones who still look like people. And then there are the Bonies, who are corpses who have just given up and become these skeletal predators who eat anything with a heartbeat.)

One day while out hunting with his best friend, M (Rob Corddry), and others, they run into a group of humans from "behind the wall", who are on a supply run in the unguarded city. R has a moment with Julie (Teresa Palmer), our heroine, in that he is momentarily stunned at the sight of her, before he attacks and kills Perry (Dave Franco), Julie's boyfriend, and eats his brain -- and therefore his memories. Perry's memories seem to make him extra protective of Julie, and instead of killing her, he covers her with his blood, masking her scent from the others, and brings her back to the airport.

The rest of the movie revolves around Julie and R's burgeoning relationship and the change it's causing in R -- and eventually the others. But whereas R wants to keep Julie at the airport with him, she wants to return behind the wall to her father (John Malkovich), the leader of what is possibly the only human settlement left on the planet.

So here are 5 things that you can expect from Warm Bodies:

1. Zombie violence.

You think this is pretty self-explanatory, but as I was reading the warning on my ticket, I kept going, "Zombie violence? How is that different from regular violence?" Well, the difference is, they're zombies. So there's biting, and brain eating, and though none of it is too graphic, the very squeamish might want to look away during some scenes, especially when you learn about Bonies near the beginning and witness someone becoming one.

2. Humor.

It's narrated by a zombie, after all, who has a very realistic outlook on his current circumstances. The humor lies mostly in R's voiceovers, which make him sound like a completely normal person until you look at the screen and you realize he's, you know, eating someone's brain. One particular moment that really got the audience laughing was when he's trying to pass as human, and he tells himself to "say something human", and he says, "How are you?" and then goes, Nailed it.

Points must also go to Julie's best friend, Nora (Analeigh Tipton), who plays a small role in the beginning that gets larger at the end, because she's just awesome.

3. Romance.

It's billed as a "zombie romance", hence all the Twilight comparisons, because the main plot point is that R is slowly becoming more and more human through his interactions with Julie. It's got one of those "love conquers all" themes that some people might find ridiculous but in this sense kind of works, because R and his friends still look human, as opposed to the Bonies, who are beyond all help.

4. Kickass soundtrack.

R is a hoarder, and one of the things he collects is vintage vinyl records, because he's a purist and the sound quality is better, as he explains to Julie when she asks why doesn't just get an iPod. He sits on his abandoned plane full of random crap that he brings back after hunting trips and listens to his albums like the sad sack hipster zombie that he is.

5. Kickass characters.

And by "kickass", I mean they kick ass. Julie's affect on R starts spreading to the rest of the Corpses, and this causes a huge chain reaction that culminates in a gigantic battle at the end. R is a pretty awesome fighter, which apparently is par for the course when you become a zombie, but Julie is no slouch either. She shoots moving targets while on the run in a scene that made me excited just because she wasn't the typical damsel in distress. Every time R saves Julie from the zombies, it's because she's quite literally surrounded, but she's still attempting to fight them off with whatever she can find, like weed whackers.


I haven't read the book, so I can't make any comparisons (although I can tell from the Wikipedia summary of the book's plot that there are differences, so be aware of that), but I can tell you, as someone with no previous knowledge and as such no expectations, that this movie was funny and touching, and there were points in the movie where the audience actually cheered. I really enjoyed this movie, and will probably go again when it officially gets released in February.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Downton Abbey Goes Downtown

(x)

This photo of Downton Abbey cast members Rob James-Collier (Thomas), Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham), Sophie McShera (Daisy), Joanne Froggatt (Anna), and Brendan Coyle (Bates) was taken at the 59th St -- Columbus Circle subway station in good old New York City. AKA the subway station I use every day on my way to and from work, the subway station from which I am approximately 10 blocks away at this very moment.

The cast, along with Elizabeth McGovern (Lady Grantham) and Jim Carter (Mr. Carson), are in town to promote season 3 of the beloved ITV drama, which premieres on PBS January 6, 2013 (x). PBS is hosting a sneak preview, featuring a special panel and discussion, in preparation for the debut. The event is tomorrow, December 12, at 7:30pm, at a location I know not where (unfortunately), but fear not, fellow Anglophiles! It is also being livestreamed here at PBS's YouTube channel. (FYI: The livestream of the panel start at 8pm, following the sneak peek.)

The cast are also appearing on tomorrow's episode of The View (x).

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Pressing Engagement: At New York Comic Con

Yes, New York Comic Con was almost two months ago. No, I do not have a good or even semi-decent excuse as to why it's taken me this long to write about it, unless being a lazy procrastinator counts.

This year I was able to register as press, which was excellent for a number of reasons, but primarily because members of the press get in free, and even though passes to NYCC are less than $100, I have been financially strapped since getting back from San Diego in July. Being press also means that you're able to interview the guests without seeming like a total creeper, although this isn't something that's just handed to you -- you actually have to work and get yourself on those lists. (Don't laugh, as someone who has never been press for anything, I didn't realize you had to do that yourself. After all, DC called me, I was kind of expecting that to be how things worked. Though to be honest, the only people I wanted to interview were the two people for whom I actually was able to get in the press room, Tyler Posey and Jeff Davis from Teen Wolf.)

Having gone to NYCC the previous two years as a regular ticket-holder -- not one of the fancy VIP passes that cost several hundred dollars and are well out of my price range, especially considering in 2010 and 2011 I was unemployed -- to be honest, being press wasn't all that different of an experience. Other than, you know, the getting in free and getting to interview Tyler Posey and Jeff Davis.

NYCC is primarily a fan-oriented convention, as I'm sure most conventions are. Press pass holders are not guaranteed anything except entry. We get a special entrance, which means I didn't have to wait in the massive line every morning (except I still did, because the Javits Center is under construction and there's not much room for queuing up outside). The convention center opened at 10am, so 10am is when I showed up, and more often than not, I was able to walk right in with minimal fuss. I did, however, on Saturday (by far the busiest day of the convention), have to listen to numerous exhibitors piss and moan about having to wait in line with the rest of us, continually going, "I'm an exhibitor, let me through!" only to hear the person they were trying to line jump in front of going, "I'm an exhibitor, too, douchebag, wait in line like everyone else." Ah, New York.

As being press does not guarantee anything, I too had to wait in line for entry into the panel rooms, getting there early if I wanted a good seat. For the 12:15 Teen Wolf panel on Saturday, I lined up as soon as I was able to get inside the Javits. And I still ended up in the fourth row. (But that's okay because 1) I still had a pretty decent, relatively unobstructed view of both the screen and the guests, and 2) I got to interview them later anyway.) I still count myself lucky I was able to get into Friday's Robot Chicken panel, an NYCC staple that is consistently extremely popular, even if the questions asked by fans are always exactly the same.

Those in the press don't even receive preferential seating. If I got to a panel room late -- as in the case of FOX's new show The Following, which is the show Kevin Bacon was promoting when I met him at SDCC -- I have to scramble for a seat wherever I can get it. Most of the regular ticket holders were pleased when I mentioned this, although I don't see the harm in saving at least one row of seats for members of the press. They don't have to be front row center, but somewhere close enough that you can see what's going on. Studios send their current and upcoming projects to conventions not only to interact with fans, but also to spread the word, and the easiest way to spread the word is through the press, and the easiest way the press can spread the word is to be able to get into the panel in the first place.

The only "press" thing I did at the convention was, as previously mentioned, interview Tyler Posey and Jeff Davis from Teen Wolf, which was by far one of the coolest things I have ever done. I contacted the MTV press people a couple of days before the convention and expressed interest in being included on the list into the press room, assuming that little old me with my Flip and myself would be seated at one of the round tables. Imagine my surprise when they instead stuck me on the press line! I got approximately three minutes with each, three minutes all to myself, three minutes that I had to fill up with questions when I had absolutely nothing prepared, assuming that I'd be at a round table and get maybe one question in. I think I did rather well, considering that it was my first time, although I felt like a gigantic idiot and fretted about the interviews the rest of the day, until I was able to post them. (My interview with Tyler was even turned into a .gifset on Tumblr. I feel like that's a sign of acceptance.) I have new respect for people who do this on a regular basis, although they're probably used to it in a way that I am not.

It is my wish that I will one day be able to do this on a regular basis and not be a total goober about it. Will I be able to attend as press next year? Here's hoping!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The 10 Christmas Specials I Must Watch Every Year

Everyone (who celebrates Christmas) has their own traditions. One of mine is the required annual viewing of some key holiday movies and specials. I present to you, in no particular order, the 10 Christmas Specials I Must Watch Every Year.

1. A Muppet Family Christmas

(x)

If you were a child in the 80s, you might remember this NBC special that was made of awesome, which featured Fozzie bringing the cast of The Muppet Show to visit his mom for the holidays, not realizing that she has rented her house to Fraggle Rock's Doc and Sprocket so she can go to California. Later on, the gang from Sesame Street comes a-wassailing, even though Fozzie's mom's house in the country is probably not within walking distance of Manhattan. The 7-minute carol medley at the end of the show is superb. If you were a 5-year-old in the 80s, like I was when this aired in 1987, this is the most fantastic hour of television in the history of time. 

And speaking of the Muppets...

2. A Muppet Christmas Carol

(x)

The Muppets come together to tell Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol, with the Great Gonzo as Dickens and Rizzo as someone just there for the (sometimes fake) food. Before Michael Caine was Alfred, he was Ebenezer Scrooge, haunted by Marley and Marley (aka Statler and Waldorf) and harassing poor Kermit Bob Cratchit. At least three of the songs in this musical are on my Christmas playlist, with "One More Sleep 'Til Christmas" endlessly repeating on Christmas Eve. I saw this bad boy in theaters.

And while we're still talking about Muppets...

3. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street

(x)


Even though Oscar hates Christmas (he's got a song about it and everything!) the entire Sesame Street gang comes together to look for Big Bird when he attempts to uncover the mystery of how big fat Santa fits into all those skinny chimneys, especially in chimney-less Manhattan. Bert and Ernie's side-plot, with each of them trading their most treasured possessions in order to get the other a Christmas present begs the question how can they afford that super nice apartment if they can't even afford a soap dish and a cigar box? But my all-time favorite storyline is poor, addicted Cookie Monster trying to write a letter to Santa and being overcome by hunger pains before he can finish.

4. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

(x)

Even though virtually everyone in this show is a huge jerk, and I never quite figured out what the big fricking deal about Rudolph's nose was, I will always have a soft spot for this 1964 claymation classic -- mostly because Billie Mae Richards, the voice of Rudolph, was also the voice for Tenderheart the Care Bear. I also really identified with the misfit toys and may or may not have spent a significant portion of my childhood waiting for King Moonracer to show up on my doorstep. And for the record, I would absolutely love a spotted elephant.

5. The Care Bears Nutcracker Suite

(x)

I've always been a little Care Bear-obsessed. One of my many Christmas decorations is a Care Bear Christmas Train. I get one car every year and currently have seven. Anyway, even though most of my favorites aren't even in this special, I will never not be ecstatic that a Care Bear Christmas special even exists, let alone one that contains the supreme awesomeness that is the Nutcracker Suite.

6. A Charlie Brown Christmas

(x)

Um, is there someone who doesn't watch this holiday staple every year? Seriously.

7. Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas

(x)

Likewise, is there anyone who doesn't watch the Grinch steal Christmas from those noisy Whos down in Whoville every year? And I mean the 1965 cartoon version, not the Jim Carrey fright-fest that literally gave me nightmares about green people wearing lederhosen breaking into my house.

8. A Garfield Christmas

(x)

Who doesn't want a gift that keeps on giving? My sisters and I watch this every year (although now that our parents no longer have a functioning VCR I don't know how we'll manage). I always tear up when Grandma tells Garfield about how Christmas Eve is the night she misses her late husband the most, a sentiment that has gotten even more poignant since my own grandfather, whose birthday was December 23, passed away seven years ago.

9. Will Vinton's Claymation Christmas Celebration

(x)

I don't know how many people remember this 1987 TV special featuring the California Raisins and the coolest camels that ever existed, but this is a holiday tradition in my house. With dinosaur hosts that could definitely have used the internet to prove to everyone that the correct lyrics are, in fact, wassailing before the elves showed up, this claymation special features six (seven if you count "Here We Come A-Wassailing", and I suppose if you count "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", eight) spectacularly animated famous Christmas songs. My personal favorite has always been the coolest camels in existence busting out in "We Three Kings", but the "Joy to the World" segment is staggering when you realize that's clay.

10. Mickey's Christmas Carol

(x)

Yes, yes, it's another version of Dickens' classic, this time with Scrooge McDuck (apt) as...um...Scrooge and Mickey Mouse as the beleaguered Bob Cratchit. This 1983 special doesn't just have the title story, though. It also features shorts such as Donald in the gift-wrapping department, Chip and Dale in the playground of Mickey's Christmas tree, and Goofy teaching everyone how to ski -- a favorite in my family, because my dad yells like Goofy. A lot. 



So there you have it, my top 10 Christmas specials.

Merry Christmas, if you celebrate it. Happy Holidays, if you don't.







Saturday, December 8, 2012

Why Winter Movie Premieres Suck


Movie premieres in winter suck for the following reasons:

1. It's cold.
2. It's dark.

It's cold, so the stars tend not to linger outside, which means they don't go down the row to sign autographs because they don't want to freeze their keisters off. After all, do you ever see celebrities holding coats on the red carpet? No, you do not. That's because they don't wear them on the red carpet, because it gets in the way of whatever fabulousness they happen to be wearing. (They could wear coats, though. I would gladly volunteer for the job of coat-holder if it meant I could follow someone like Richard Armitage around on a regular basis.)

It's cold, so even if the stars are awesome and do brave the frigid temperatures to visit their fans, they don't stay very long because they are, as previously mentioned, freezing their keisters off. They may sign a few autographs and pose for some pictures, but they obviously can't get to everyone. (Not that they can do this even in the summer, but when it's 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and you can't feel your fingers, I don't expect that they can sign that legibly.)

It's cold, so you are freezing your keister off.

It's dark, so you have to strain to see who just got out of that car, if you can even see them from your vantage point and there isn't a massive bus blocking your line of sight because it never occurs to anyone to block off the street with the theater. And no one realizes that that guy was Chevy Chase until someone across the street screams in recognition, because what is Chevy Chase doing at the premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey anyway?

It's dark, so your pictures come out crappy. Especially when you only discover that the battery in your camera is dead when you pull it out to take a picture, and you have to settle for the camera on your phone. Oops.

On Thursday, I went to the New York City premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. And when I say "I went", I mean that I huddled behind a barricade for two hours hoping for a glimpse of the stars of the movie. I was did not actually attend the premiere, because I did not have $500 to buy a ticket. I actually thought this was self-explanatory, but I have had a few people ask me how the movie was, and I have to say that, no, actually I didn't see the movie, trust me if I had seen the movie, you would know that I had seen the movie.

Two of the most awesome people on the history of the planet are Andy Serkis and Ian McKellen. Andy Serkis did his best to sign everything. He stayed outside for maybe 20 minutes, going up and down the barricade signing things. Ian McKellen only went partway, but when he saw there were more people, he came back and did some more signing. And they were both lovely.

Elijah Wood, Aidan Turner, Jed Brophy, James Nesbitt, and Dean O'Gorman signed for a little bit but couldn't stay long. Peter Jackson and Lee Pace went right inside. Martin Freeman must have Apparated inside, because no one saw him arrive, but there are pictures of him and his wife, so clearly he was there.

The coolest thing was that they gave out Gandalf hats to the people who were waiting at the barricade, even though I almost lost mine when the autograph dealers rushed the barricade and shoved their arms in everyone's faces. I don't know if any of you have seen my video for how not to be obnoxious when trying to get autographs, but suffice it to say that pushing is not cool.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Review: The First Time



I'm not going to lie: for the longest time, I was convinced this movie was some sort of collective hallucination by the fangirls on Tumblr, since the official trailer wasn't even released until several weeks ago, despite the massive amount of .gifs that exist for it. Luckily for myself and all of my fellow Dylan O'Brien fans, this is, in fact, a real movie, and it was released in theaters yesterday...if you live in New York City, Los Angeles, or Phoenix.

I'm not sure why Phoenix and not, say, Chicago, but I strongly suspect - though it isn't really confirmed - that the movie takes place in Phoenix? At least, one of the characters mentions Scottsdale Road, and not saying there couldn't be a Scottsdale Road in other cities, but when I hear Scottsdale, I think, you know, Scottsdale. Also, I used to work in Scottsdale, and the ridiculous houses that some of these characters live in leads me to believe that that's where it's set.

The story of The First Time is simple and well-known: two high school students, Dave (O'Brien) and Aubrey (Britt Robertson), meet at a party on Friday night and have an instant connection, as so often happens in movies of this genre. The obstacles to their budding romance include his massive crush on his friend Jane (Victoria Justice) and her older boyfriend, Ronny (James Frecheville). Not to mention that they have literally only known each other for a couple of days, since the film takes place between Friday night and Monday morning.

I have read a couple of reviews that compare this film to Say Anything or a John Hughes movie like Sixteen Candles, but given the subject matter I was reminded of The Sure Thing (also starring John Cusack, I think I'm beginning to see a pattern - but it's kind of hard not to, John Cusack was in a lot of these types of movies in the 80s). All of these films have one thing in common in that they're coming of age tales about the trials and tribulations of young love. (Also, they're all awesome.)

The film relies heavily on dialogue, which makes sense - the timeline only spans a matter of days and these are high school kids, not Jason Bourne, so a lot of the movie consists of heartfelt discussions about whether or not virginity is meant to be something preciously guarded and what the characters want to do after high school. I think a lot of people will relate to it, both teenagers who are living through those awkward years right now and us older folks who fondly remember what it was like. Not that I have many fond memories of high school, but you get the idea.

Anyway, I am a massive, massive fan of Dylan O'Brien to the point where it's kind of embarrassing, considering my age, but I tried not to let that bias my opinion of The First Time. To be honest, it probably did, but I like to think that I would have enjoyed it just as much with someone else in the main role. Regardless, I think he did a fabulous job and was definitely one of the, if not the, high points of the film. He really held his own, and I think he could be this generation's John Cusack (since we were just talking about him). Because really, he's perfect in these types of roles - he's adorable, he has great comedic timing, and he's attractive but not in an unapproachable or intimidating way. Dave Hodgman is, essentially, Lloyd Dobler or Lane Meyer or Walter Gibson or...some other John Cusack role from the 80s, he had a ton of them.

Dave's best friends Simon (Craig Roberts) and Big Corporation (Lamarcus Tinker) are hilarious. Simon, biting and British, blunders through the film acting like he knows everything about women when he really knows nothing, but Big Corporation reminded me strongly of Silent Bob. Anyone who has ever seen Chasing Amy will see the similarities, especially during Big Corporation's monologue in the diner near the end of the movie.

The other high point of the film, for me at least, was the soundtrack. I have been unable to find a soundtrack listing anywhere and am seriously considering seeing the movie again just to write down the songs as they scroll up the screen during the ending credits. Seriously. The only song I know is The Naked and Famous's "Girls Like You", and that's because it was in the trailer.

If you're able (like, if you live in one of the three cities in which this movie is actually showing) and you like sweet romantic comedies that are cute and endearing, you should see this movie. If you're a fan of Dylan O'Brien and his adorable spasticness, you should definitely see this movie. No, seriously, if you live anywhere near those three cities you should make plans to go see it. If you live near NYC I can tell you that it's playing at the AMC Empire on 42nd St and the Village 7 on 3rd Ave.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Jeff Davis Wants to Fly!

Last weekend at New York Comic Con, I was able to interview Jeff Davis, writer/creator for MTV's Teen Wolf! Check it out:


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tyler Posey Is a Puppy

This past weekend at New York Comic Con, I was fortunate enough to interview Tyler Posey, aka Scott McCall on MTV's Teen Wolf. He is completely adorable -- the kind of adorable that makes me want to pinch his cheeks and bake him cookies.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kia and DC Do The Improbable - Make Me Want to Buy a Car

Last night, at the Time Warner Center in New York City, Kia Motors of America and DC Entertainment unveiled what is quite possibly the coolest car on the face of the planet, a Batman-inspired Optima designed by legendary DC Comics artist Jim Lee.

You can't see this in the picture, but the headlights are actually the Bat Signal.

This car is the first of eight superhero-themed Kias to be released over the next ten months, each one representing a different core member of the Justice League -- Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg (and one which I'm guessing features all of them). The release of each vehicle will coincide with five major events across the United States -- the first being New York Comic-Con (which starts today), SEMA in Las Vegas, North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Wonder-Con, and of course, San Diego Comic-Con.


The joint venture between Kia and DC will benefit the We Can Be Heroes campaign, which was launched in January and is dedicated to helping fight hunger in Somalia and other countries in the Horn of Africa. In order to raise both awareness and funds, each car is graced with a custom, specially-designed Jim Lee piece of art to be auctioned off at the conclusion of the program. All net proceeds will be donated to the We Can Be Heroes campaign.


"I've got to give it up to the guys at Kia," Lee said at the unveiling. "They really encouraged me to think outside the box." He was, however, determined to avoid any Knight Rider flashbacks.

Each of the eight vehicles is fully-drivable (and I would assume street legal) and will help raise awareness for the We Can Be Heroes campaign by displaying customized license plates, signage, collateral materials and in-vehicle video displays. At the unveiling, Amit Desai, DC Entertainment's Senior Vice President of Franchise Management, said that they chose the Justice League for a number of reasons: "They embody the idea of strength in numbers. They're a great example of banding together to fight for the greater good. And they're characters that everyone in this room and across the nation can relate to on some level. Let's face it: we've got a little bit of superhero in each and every one of us."

I live in New York City, so I don't particularly need or want a car, but if I had the funds, I would kill to drive around in a car with Batman all over it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: Fast Girls

Some of you may have read this entry, where I lament that one of the problems with liking a lot of British actors is that they do British movies, which tend to not play in the United States because of reasons.

Imagine my extreme excitement when I was online yesterday and discovered that Fast Girls, the very reason for the aforementioned post, is available on Netflix Watch Instantly (also on iTunes) for those of us in the States, a week before the DVD comes out in the UK.

It makes absolutely no sense to me, but I'm not about to complain.

Last night, after giggling for about five minutes at the prospect of finally getting to see this movie (which did, consequently, play in the States...in Hicksville, NY, for exactly one week, so I was sadly unable to schlep out there to see it -- stupid job), I actually watched this movie. I will do my best to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but be warned, I may not succeed. 

In retrospect, this may be less a review and more of a general summary with some thoughts attached, but bear with me, I'm kind of new at this reviewing lark.

I found this movie to be, as I predicted in my earlier post, ridiculously awesome. I really enjoyed Bend It Like Beckham, and this film had much the same flair and energy -- a girl power movie that was mostly about girls being awesome and becoming friends, with, oh yeah, that pesky romance thing. It was fun and uplifting, and it made me want to take up running, except I can't run.

The movie is centered around Shania Andrews (Lenora Crichlow) and her struggle to make the UK national women's track team, a struggle made difficult both by her humble upbringing (she lacks for proper equipment and training grounds, and her coach is a shopkeeper) and the jealousy of her main rival, golden girl Lisa Temple (Lily James).

Side note: the Netflix description of the movie claims that Lisa and Shania have been competitors since childhood, but I saw no evidence of this. It would explain things a little better, but as it stands, Lisa apparently dislikes Shania because she beats her in the qualifying race at the beginning of the movie, which doesn't really matter because Lisa already has a spot on the team thanks to nepotism -- her father (Rupert Graves) basically runs it. On the one hand, this seems to make the character of Lisa seem extremely shallow and petty. On the other hand, I have both witnessed and experienced the kind of envy that comes from devoting your whole life to one particular pursuit to the point where it basically defines your identity, and then someone comes along seemingly out of nowhere and is better at it than you. It sucks, and it makes you want to hit things. Or people.

Throughout most of the film, Shania and Lisa cannot stand each other, and it leads to many problems when Tommy (Noel Clarke, who also wrote the screenplay) asks Shania to be a member of the 4x200m relay team. Lisa -- the anchor position -- does not agree with this at all, which is fine with Shania, because she doesn't do well with teams. She does join the team, it's kind of the point of the movie, and chaos ensues. There are moments, such as when a few of the members go out for drinks, where you can see that things might not be as bad as they seem. But whenever the team is competing -- be it at an exhibition meet in Barcelona or at the World Championships in the film's climax -- all hell breaks loose. Things of course work out nicely by the end, but I did feel that the conflict between Shania and Lisa was resolved too quickly.

The film also gave some focus to the different familial relationships, which I felt weren't developed well enough to deserve their own sideplot but nevertheless served what I believe to be their intended purpose -- to show the difference between Lisa and Shania. Lisa, daughter of a gold medalist, grew up in wealth and privilege. As I said before, she didn't need the qualifying race because she already had a spot on the team, and we can tell that she's been raised and groomed to be a track star like her father. Shania, conversely, sleeps on her aunt's couch but eventually ends up staying with her coach after her aunt kicks her out because of her sister's bad girl ways. Still, we shouldn't judge by appearances -- Lisa feels trapped by her father's win-or-else approach, while Shania's coach, Brian (Philip Davis), genuinely encourages her to do her best. The contrast helps us see that Lisa and Shania really aren't that different -- Lisa ignores her mother's quiet encouragement to concentrate on her father's all-or-nothing disapproval, and Shania can't hear her coach over her family's dismissive attitude.

And we mustn't forget the love, because what's a girl power movie without a love interest? (Answer: Brave.) Despite rules against fraternization between athletes and staff, Shania develops feelings for the team physio, Carl (Bradley James). Yet it turns out that Lisa is her rival here, as well. Bradley did well for his first film role, but like most of the sideplots, there could have been more development. Carl and Shania do have their moments, and I actually kind of appreciated that the romance was almost an afterthought -- yes, it's there and oh my god boys, but this isn't what distracts Shania, and the overall feel of the whole situation was more, "well, this would be nice, but really I just want to kick ass at the championships". It's a nice change from all of those movies which hide the idea that a woman is never truly complete without a man behind empowerment.

Overall, as I said, it was great fun. Enough comedy to balance out the angst, and even though no one is ever in real peril, I was on the edge of my seat for the final race. I like sports movies, and there aren't enough of them that are about female athletes. As much as I love Bull Durham and Miracle, I'd love it if there were more like A League of Their Own and Bend It Like Beckham. Is this one of the greatest films of all time? No. But I can almost guarantee that you'll enjoy damn near every second of it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I guess I should warn for spoilers, even though this was a book first, and a book that was published in 1999, so if you haven't read it, really not my fault if you get spoiled. Also, I don't know if anything in here counts as a spoiler, but you never know what people consider spoilers anymore.

I had the pleasure recently of attending an advance screening of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, based on the novel of the same name written by Stephen Chbosky  (who also wrote the screenplay), starring Emma Watson and Logan Lerman -- as well as handful of other talents whom I had no idea were in this until their names flashed on the screen during the title sequence (like Paul Rudd as the English teacher and Nina Dobrev as the older sister). And despite my snarkiness at the start of this entry, I have not yet read the book. The only knowledge I had going into the screening was that a) it's set in Pittsburgh (a town with which I am infinitely familiar, as half of my extended family resides there) and b) it's sad -- the latter courtesy of one of my friends who is currently reading the book.

As someone completely unfamiliar with the source material, this movie was amazing, truly. It will be hard for me to adequately explain quite how it's amazing, for as often as I rely on words, they tend to fail me when I need them. I sputter incoherently, attempting to string together sentences that sound halfway intelligent and digging into what used to be an exhaustive vocabulary for words with more punch than "awesome". Let me say, if it matters, that there were grown men at the screening who admitted later that they laughed and cried -- at a movie about a bunch of high school kids.

Emma Watson (as Sam) chose the perfect post-Harry Potter role -- her character is almost the complete opposite of Hermione, and she plays her so well that you forget entirely about the proper English schoolgirl she portrayed for over a decade except for that one little bit where her American accent slips but we'll forgive her for that because she's awesome. Logan Lerman is outstanding as Charlie, beautifully understated at falling apart but trying desperately not to. Ezra Miller's Patrick is absolutely enchanting, a kid who can't be serious because then he wouldn't be able to hold it together. These are the kinds of characters with whom you not only fall in love, but also that you miss when the film is over. I found myself eager to see what happened to them after the picture faded to black. Almost immediately after it was over, I wanted to watch it again. The characters spoke to me in a way so few movies can manage. Despite the fact that they're a bit more wild than any of the friends I had in high school, they made me nostalgic for a time when I thought high school was everything in the world, when life after was distant and frightening but high school itself wasn't much better.

The screenplay was insightful and funny and poignant and heartbreaking. It deals with some very heavy material that is absent for most younger actors unless it's in a Lifetime movie or ABC Family series, which would normally be chock full of melodrama, and it deals with these issues in a way that is relatable and believable even to someone who has absolutely no idea what it's like to face any of that stuff. The kids in this story deal with abuse and suicide and depression and being an out teenager, and I think the worst thing I had to worry about was my grade point average. Charlie's voiceovers (as previously mentioned, voiceovers tend to piss me off) fit very well considering the epistolary format of the novel -- also since a great deal of the conflict in the story centers in Charlie's own head, the voiceovers do an excellent job of letting us get a peek inside his troubled mind.

Let's not forget the music. The film's soundtrack is like a secondary character. It makes the scenes come alive, it harkens back to a time when we thought we knew everything. Music tells a story, and the music in this film does a fabulous job of adding to the story.

I'm honestly not sure what else I can say, but if you need any further convincing that this is an incredible movie that everyone should see, perhaps multiple times, then you should know that Anderson Cooper is obsessed with it. And as Anderson Cooper is a perfect human being, you should all like the things that he likes, because he is too awesome to be real.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Stop Blaming Moonlighting!

It's a familiar reference to a lot of shippers: Moonlighting. I've seen the show referenced three times in the last month alone. Once by Teen Wolf creator Jeff Davis in an interview with E! Online discussing the super popularity of the Stiles/Derek relationship, and twice - twice! - in the Entertainment Weekly fall TV preview, both in an article about the return of Castle. It's trotted out whenever writers, producers, creators, even actors are trying to explain why, even though two characters are obviously in love with each other, they haven't yet started dating. You see, they don't want another Moonlighting.

The basic idea is this: Moonlighting was a 1980s dramedy about private detectives starring Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis. Their characters, Maddie and David, had the familiar sexual tension, will-they-or-won't-they relationship that is so common today. They consummated their relationship in season three, which many people feel was too early. After that, the show's ratings experienced a sharp decline, which eventually led to its cancellation at the end of season four. Despite the fact that executive producer and head writer Glenn Gordon Caron has himself said that he doesn't feel that event is what made the show go downhill, everyone else seems to attribute the show's end to the David/Maddie ship becoming canon. (Jeff Davis certainly does!)

I (and probably others) call this the "Moonlighting Effect", and I also call it bullshit. Do you hear me, TPTB? Bullshit. Blaming the declining quality of a show on the relationship between two characters is completely ridiculous. For one, it's insinuating that, once two people get together, they become less interesting. For another, it's laying the blame on the viewers instead of where it should rest -- on the showrunners.

If it were true that people who are in an established relationship are less interesting than people who could potentially date, there would be no established couples on television at all. There are lots of couples who are plenty interesting. Marshall and Lily on How I Met Your Mother are two of my all-time favorite characters, and their relationship is fabulous and funny -- it's also happy and committed. Except for an extremely brief subplot in season two, they have been together the entire series. TPTB, if your writers can't write an established couple that's just as interesting as your not-yet-canon-but-getting-there pairing, then you need to find new writers. Look at Chandler and Monica on Friends. I actually liked the two of them better as a couple, and they hooked up at the end of season four in a series that had a ten-year run. In fact, just look at any series with a married couple -- Modern Family and Happy Endings immediately come to mind -- as proof that relationships can be committed and still entertaining.

If viewers lose interest in a show, if the ratings start to decline, it is up to the showrunners to take a good, long look at the show and go, "What's wrong, and how do we fix it?" It seems to be a recurring theme in Hollywood that no one knows how to make the transition from "will they or won't they" to "they did, now what?" Writers seem to be incapable of maintaining character integrity once a couple starts dating. I have a lot of issues with the Leonard/Penny pairing on The Big Bang Theory for just this reason. In season three, when the two became official, their relationship was one of the worst things about the show. Not because they were dating, but because apparently they both experienced personality overhauls, and not for the better. I won't go into my entire rant about them, but Leonard belittled Penny's beliefs and seemed to view her only in a sexual manner, and Penny constantly made "jokes" about finding a new boyfriend. Whenever their relationship was the "A" storyline, it was because they were fighting. They were always fighting. They were not good together. I danced when they broke up. Now, however, their relationship is much better (though I still don't like them), because they're actually themselves. They're not caricatures that don't make sense, and their relationship is much more organic and entertaining because of it.

Nathan Fillion (who plays Castle on Castle) is quoted in the aforementioned Entertainment Weekly as saying that viewers lose interest when a couple goes canon. I feel that is a dismissive attitude towards legions of fans, writing shippers off as fickle fangirls (or fanboys) who will jump ship once it docks. Granted, I can only speak for myself, but when I ship a couple, I invest a lot of time and energy in the characters -- that doesn't end when they finally get together. Yes, the buildup and the anticipation are fun, but it's not like I go, "Okay, now what else is on?" when a pairing kisses after years of waiting. Most shippers are attached to the characters and the pairing and aren't going to turn tail and run when they finally get what they want. There are plenty of people still interested in the Kurt/Blaine relationship on Glee even after the boys have been together an entire season (and then some). Because it is the characters who keep us interested, not necessarily their relationship status.

(Here is where I would go off on a tangent describing in great detail how I absolutely hate the overused "love triangle" plot device as a way to create drama in an established couple. Kurt and Blaine technically had two in only one season, even though there were a variety of other perfectly normal and not at all ridiculous issues that could have introduced drama into their relationship - Blaine transferring schools to be with Kurt, Kurt graduating a year ahead of Blaine, and Blaine beating out Kurt for the starring role in the musical, to name a few. However, I will spare you the diatribe and simply say this: drama for drama's sake does not go over well with fans, despite what TPTB may think.)

Showrunners are so desperate to avoid another Moonlighting (which is apparently the only television show in the history of ever) that they often drag the sexual tension out for years. As many people feel that viewers lost interest in Moonlighting because they got the characters together too soon, the reverse is also true. I like to call this the "NCIS Coefficient", in reference to Tony and Ziva on NCIS, who have been dancing around each other for approximately eight seasons. It's gotten extremely annoying. Extending a "will they or won't they" dynamic for as long as possible is not the way to keep viewers. For starters, it's unrealistic that two people would wait that long to even make a move. It's also extremely boring. And while Tony and Ziva may not want to violate Gibbs' rule #12 ("Never date a coworker" x), those of us who have been waiting...and waiting...and waiting for the two of them to finally get their act together have gotten tired of waiting.

I am just as interested in established couples as I am in couples that I want to get together. I want to see my ships last, I want to see their relationship grow and develop and mature. There are so many storylines that can grow out of a pairing that has just started a relationship (stories that avoid drama for drama's sake -- Tony and Ziva, for instance, have a ridiculous amount of baggage that would last at least a couple of seasons). Anyone who has ever read fanfic will know that the possibilities are damn near endless. If the writers of a show feel that there's nothing that can be done once a ship goes canon, then perhaps they're not very good writers. They need to stop blaming Moonlighting and start thinking about what they can do to prevent a similar situation when - and it should always be when, not if - their characters start dating.

For the record, very few things will make me lose interest in a pairing, but it has happened before. I was very active in a fandom that shall remain nameless because of a certain ship, yet after the ship became canon (acknowledged by the writers and producers in many interviews but not very evident on the show itself, oddly) there was a storyline that led to the guy cheating on the girl. I don't know about you all, but I can swallow any plotline (even cheating, though I deplore it in real life) as long as it's sold to me in a believable manner. This was not. The whole storyline was, in my opinion, poorly done, simply drama for drama's sake, and the character was ruined for me. I stopped watching the show because of it. What angered me was not necessarily the actions of this character, but more the fact that the couple barely had any time to even be a couple before they were going to the extreme "we need more drama!" plots.

If you want to keep your viewers interested, TPTB, then do the pairings justice. If it's natural for a couple to get together, then they should get together. If they don't last, then they don't last. If they start to get stale, have one of them get a new job or lose a family member, or have them go apartment hunting or, god forbid, acknowledge that they're in a rut and they should do something to spice up their love life, or even break up (to perhaps get back together later, like Ross and Rachel). And if cheating is on the menu, at least make it make sense. Don't toss it into the mix because you've already run out of ideas for a couple that's barely half a season old.

My point is, stop using Moonlighting as a crutch. Just because it didn't work on Moonlighting (whose collapse can be attributed to a variety of factors, including limited screen time between the two leads in season four, which defeats the entire purpose of getting them together, but whatever), doesn't mean it won't ever work again. Because it has worked. It can be done, TPTB. It can be done well. So suck it up and do your jobs!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Who York City - Asylum of the Daleks Preview Screening and Q&A

When BBC America announced that they were again hosting a preview screening of the Doctor Who season premiere in New York, I along with many of my fellow Whovians did a dance of joy. I was unable to attend the screening last year, as I had just started a temp job and had no days off, so I missed the epic epicness of stars Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Arthur Darvill handing out donuts to the intrepid fans who had been camping out since the night before to get into the theater. This year, however, was going to be different; they were actually selling advance tickets.

The debacle that followed as thousands of Doctor Who fans scrambled to purchase one or two tickets out of the approximate 700 available led to a great deal of frustration, as the MovieTickets.com website was inadequately prepared to deal with the onslaught of purchases, crashing multiple times and just plain malfunctioning. I was sent back to the "select tickets" screen at least three times before the site crashed on me all together, and though I was eventually able to enter in my payment information, I did not get through to actually purchase tickets. Many people had problems similar to mine; a friend of mine was able to get through fairly early but her order was stuck on "processing" for the better part of an hour, and some people even reportedly were given other people's payment information on their confirmation screen. All the while, BBC America remained silent on the issue of tickets. Though it apparently sold out in twenty minutes, it was an over an hour until this was officially announced. BBC America's radio silence on the matter continued for almost eight hours, until they finally made a statement, which consisted of them asserting that they'd booked the largest venue possible, and they were overwhelmed by the response.

Let me state for the record that I was not upset that there weren't enough tickets for everyone. Obviously not everybody who wanted in would be able to attend. The issues I had were with the malfunctioning website and BBC America's complete lack of acknowledgement of any problems. Although I much preferred this to having to camp out for admittance -- I had to work and would not have been able to line up. At least this way, I had a chance of getting in.

Also, I refused to believe that they continue to be surprised at the strength of the fanbase in this country. This is the third time they have done something like this -- last year they had overflow seating, a second screening, and they still turned people away. People started lining up for tickets at seven o'clock the night before. Hall H was filled to capacity for this year's panel at San Diego Comic-Con. There is no way they can't know that Doctor Who fans will come out en masse for something like this.

Regardless, a friend and I headed over to the Ziegfeld on Saturday afternoon to see if we could catch a glimpse of Matt and Karen as they arrived. When we got to the theater, we discovered there was a standby tickets line, which surprisingly was not that long, so we attached ourselves to the end of it. We made quick friends with the people standing around us, as often happens in situations such as this, and eagerly waited for the screening to start to see how many, if any, of us would be allowed to enter.

Unfortunately, being unwilling to lose our spots in line meant that we did not have good views of Matt and Karen arriving at the Ziegfeld -- in DeLoreans.

Six o'clock ticked ever closer with no idea of how many available seats there were in the 1100+ venue, but then finally the line started to move. We inched ahead as the line slowly dwindled, and the security guard announced that there only three ticket left...five people away from me. But then he went, "Oh, no, wait, there's more than three tickets left," and we skipped gleefully inside, clutching our hard-won standby tickets.

Thank you, all of you people who purchased tickets in advance but were unable to make it, because your inability to attend resulted in at least fifty people getting in via standby.

My friend and I had seats in the second to last row, but we didn't care, because we were about to see an advance preview of the Doctor Who season 7 premiere, complete with Q&A from Matt and Karen, moderated by Nerdist himself, Chris Hardwick. As someone who not only missed the screening last year but wasn't able to attend the panel at SDCC because she was in line for a different panel room, I was practically vibrating with excitement.

I am bound by Whovian code of honor not to reveal anything about the episode, "Asylum of the Daleks". Matt Smith himself begged us all not to spoil the many, many Whovians throughout the world who have to wait until this Saturday to see the new episode. Not that I would spoil it, but when the Doctor tells you to do something, you don't ask questions.

I will say this: Matt Smith said, both before and after the screening, that he thinks it's one of the best episodes they've ever shot. At the Q&A, he admitted that it was also one of his favorites.

It certainly was an amazing episode, and I am fairly certain the legion of fans will not be disappointed. It does what Doctor Who manages to do so well -- it keeps you on the edge of your seat, gripping the armrests, because it's filled with action-packed sequences that will have you cheering. One Rory moment in particular was greeted by raucous applause (which Karen was very nice to relay to Arthur, who was unable to attend the screening, via Twitter). But it also hits you right in the emotions, particularly the scenes between Amy and Rory, because if their relationship doesn't get you in the feels, you don't have any feels to be felt.

It's also a great setup for the rest of the half-season, as we count down to the Ponds' final episode. (Matt and Karen warned us that it's going to be very emotional, as though any of us were expecting different.)

The Q&A afterwards felt brief but was certainly entertaining, as Matt speculated who might be a good candidate to play the twelfth Doctor. He tossed out names like Bill Nighy and Johnny Depp before he stopped because he was "talking himself out of a job". Karen fangirled over Community and "Inspector Spacetime" and expressed her admiration for the various .gifs and graphics that grace Tumblr on a regular basis. (Especially after Matt mentioned having seen a great album cover for Karen and the Babes.) They both said that the Silence and the Weeping Angels were their favorite (and the scariest) Who villains, and that "The Eleventh Hour" was the most challenging episode to film.

All in all, it was a truly momentous evening, and I am unbelievably glad that I thought to head down to the Ziegfeld even without tickets, because it honestly never occurred to me that there would be tickets left. So this is a lesson to everyone: always consider that there might be a standby line!

Monday, August 6, 2012

SDCC 2012: A Retrospective

San Diego Comic-Con is, more or less, Mecca for nerds like myself. It's probably not something you can do every year, but you pretty much have to go at least once in your lifetime. What started as a comic book convention in 1970 has, in the last few years, evolved into the largest pop culture convention in the world. Its official name, Comic-Con International: San Diego, could not be more accurate. While there, I met quite a few fans from other countries, such as Canada, England, and Germany. It is a place where nerds of all kinds gather to nerd out over nerdy things with other nerds, perhaps one of the few places where they can do so without judgment. (Except from the Jesus picketers, who showed up around Friday.)

This year was the first that I was able to attend after nearly half a lifetime of seething with jealousy over everyone who got to go, and one of the first things people ask me when they find out I was there is, "Did you have fun?"

Hell yes, I had fun. It was Comic-Con. If you don't have fun at Comic-Con, you're doing something wrong. (Or you're working it. I have a feeling some of the volunteers weren't having a good time.) Because Comic-Con is full of all the things that make me ridiculously excited. It's kind of like an all-you-can-eat buffet, only instead of food you get free posters and comic books and t-shirts and panels full of people like Seth Green and exclusive footage from Frankenweenie, and hey look there's Shawn Ashmore just meandering through Artists' Alley and it's the fourth time you've seen him this weekend, I hope he doesn't think you're stalking him.

It wasn't all fun and games, of course. Before I left for San Diego, when people found out I was going, they'd tell me, "I hear it's a lot of waiting in line." Yes, it is. You have to wait in line to pick up your badges. You have to wait in line to get into the convention center, to get into the panel rooms, to draw for autograph passes. You have to wait to purchase merchandise. You have to wait for the bathroom. Over one hundred thousand people packed the convention center over the span of four days, and they all had to go somewhere. Lines for the big panels (like the Warner Brothers panel, containing about eleven minutes of footage from The Hobbit) stretched for upwards of three miles, tickets for the Game of Thrones autograph session ran out before we got up to the table, and the exhibit floor was so crammed with people that I got claustrophobic a couple of times.

There was so much to do and see that you often had to make some difficult choices, like if there are two panels you want to see at the same time, which one do you pick? Should you wait in line for the panel for a particular show or the autograph session? Are you willing to give up an entire day at the convention to sit in a panel room, sitting through panels for shows you don't even watch just to make sure that you have a spot for that panel you're super excited about? Are you crazy enough to camp out on line to get into the panel room in the first place? My friend and I went in with the plan that we would pick one thing we wanted to do each day, and if we were lucky, we'd get to do it. It didn't always work out the way we planned -- we didn't manage to snag those Game of Thrones autograph passes after all, and waiting in line for those guaranteed we wouldn't be able to get seats for the panel, but that meant we got to make the Robot Chicken panel instead.


And I'm not going to lie, it wasn't cheap. My friend and I were in San Diego an entire week, not just for the convention but to be tourists as well, and cross-country airfare isn't what I'd call inexpensive. I'd wager that I spent approximately $1000-$1100 on that trip, and it would have been more if I wasn't worried about overdrawing my checking account or any of my credit cards had wiggle room. (Plus, I had to buy a new phone while I was there.)

The second question people ask, upon finding out I was there, is, "Was it worth it?" Was the experience worth the money? Was it worth the hassle of waiting in all of those lines, of dealing with all of those people?

Hell yes, it was worth it. My sole reason for wanting to go to Comic-Con was this: Merlin. I love Merlin. Yes, the show is a little (a lot) ridiculous, and it's certainly not going to win any Emmys, but it's fun and entertaining and it puts beautiful people on my screen every week, and one of those beautiful people is Colin Morgan, who is a perfect human being. And Merlin, despite airing on Syfy, doesn't do any press in America except for SDCC (at least not in person). They're currently filming season 5 and it's been widely speculated that season 5 will be the last (mainly because I'm pretty sure the producers did an interview where they said they had a five-season plan), and so I figured that if I didn't make it to SDCC this year, I would never ever get to meet the cast.

Anyway, I was able to score passes to an autograph signing for Colin Morgan and Katie McGrath, and like a complete fangirl I brought Colin peanut butter, but I have a picture with each of them in addition to their autograph, and there is video evidence that Colin high-fived me. It was probably the greatest five minutes of my entire life. Plus, we were in the fourth row for the panel the next day, perfectly positioned to have optimal viewing of both the cast and the screen, where we watched the season 5 trailer and bloopers and a hysterical faux interview with Bradley James and Rupert Young.

Plus I met Kevin Williamson, James Purefoy, Shawn Ashmore, and Chris Hardwick. I shook Kevin Bacon's hand (my thirteen year-old-self was pissing with excitement). I was in the vicinity of Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage. I breathed the same air as John Barrowman and Tim Burton. I got free posters and comic books, a free Superman t-shirt and a Hobbit pin. I bought a K-9 bobblehead and a TARDIS lunchbox. I have pictures of Optimus Prime, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a Hulk made out of LEGOs, not to mention some seriously epic cosplay. I was in the live audience for the official SDCC Nerdist podcast.

We may not have gotten to do everything we wanted, or everything we planned, but I got to meet Colin Morgan and get awesome seats for the Merlin panel, which was the reason I was there in the first place. Seriously, those five minutes basking in the presence of Colin made the entire trip worth it for me.

Would I do it again? In half a heartbeat. Provided someone else pays, because I really don't think I can afford to go back anytime soon.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Culture of the Midnight Premiere

It's 9:00 on a Thursday night and the line stretches around the block. Many of those who wait are dressed in costumes of varying degrees of elaborateness. Several people have brought guitars and are serenading those around them. The atmosphere is eager, electric, excited. Hardly anyone complains about the length of the line or the amount of time still left to wait. This is the line for the 12:01 showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

In the early days of cinema, "midnight movies" were films like El Topo and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, low-budget horror flicks like Night of the Living Dead, campy films like Pink Flamingos. They still are, of course. There's at least one movie theater in New York City that still shows The Rocky Horror Picture Show once a month. By contrast, most mainstream movies ran at more "traditional" hours in order to garner the most box office draw. Even fifteen years ago, it was rare to see a mainstream movie play past 11:00.

Recent years, however, have seen an upsurge in midnight screenings. In 2012, it's become almost commonplace for movies that are expected to be big blockbusters to have a 12:01am screening on the day of release (at least in America) -- the more showings a movie has, the bigger the opening weekend box office, so studios like to open films as early as possible. This trend wasn't always so popular. For Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, my friends and I bought our tickets the day of, it was only playing on a few screens, the theater near my college was not that crowded, and the only person in costume was the reporter from the local television station (she dressed as Harry). Yet for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, just two and a half years later, we bought our tickets weeks in advance, dozens of people sported Hogwarts robes and House ties, it was playing on at least half of the theater's twenty-four screens, and though we arrived around 10:30, our theater was already mostly full.

The midnight premiere of a movie can be an epic experience, and every one is different. They won't all be full of boys playing guitars, or even people in costume (my midnight showing of The Avengers was mostly a bunch of people in various Marvel-related t-shirts). But more often than not, you're surrounded by avid fans of whatever film (or book, or television show, or what have you) you are there to see. After all, most people aren't going to say awake until 3am to see a movie in which they're only somewhat interested. Still, who doesn't want to be the first to see a highly buzzed about new movie? Who can wait even twelve hours to see that film for which they've been waiting months, if not longer?

Fans generally go above and beyond for the midnight premiere, making the hours leading up to the opening credits almost as enjoyable as the movie itself. It's almost a miniature Comic Con -- for most of a convention is waiting in line, meeting other fans, inquiring where people bought their t-shirts, and admiring the effort people put into their cosplay. My midnight showing of Attack of the Clones started late due to technical issues, so a giant group of Jedis entertained us with a lightsaber battle. My friends were among the few people in costume for The Hunger Games and were often asked to pose for pictures as well as interviewed for one of the local stations. At the aforementioned Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, before we were allowed entrance to the theaters (it was playing on every screen), some fans reenacted favorite scenes from the series while others took video or photographs. Most of us in the IMAX theater were seated by around 10:30 with nothing to do but twiddle our thumbs, so wizard rock duo Lily & James performed for us.

Seeing a midnight premiere is an experience quite unlike anything else. To be surrounded by other fans, to be enveloped in the excitement that can only be generated by a bunch of nerds gathering in one place practically vibrating with anticipation, it's something that really resonates. Watching a movie with a group of genuine fans is almost like watching live theater -- these are the people who cheer the Lucasfilm logo, who sob when they play "Hedwig's Theme", who stay to the very end of a Marvel movie because they know there's always a coda. It's difficult not to get swept up in the atmosphere when you're with people like that.

I believe everyone owes it to themselves to attend at least one midnight screening in their lives -- especially if it's a movie they're excited about. Trust me, if it's the right film, the right experience, it is completely worth the lack of sleep the next day.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: Struck by Lightning

WARNING: May contain spoilers. But so does the movie's description, so keep that in mind.


Last night, I had the pleasure to see Struck by Lightning, the first feature film for "Glee" star Chris Colfer (for which he also penned the screenplay), at the TriBeCa Film Festival. I shivered in a ridiculously long line for approximately half an hour just waiting to get inside the theater, because I already had tickets to the sold-out screening. The line of ticket-holders stretched down the block, and another, smaller line stood next to us, eagerly hoping that someone wouldn't show up and they could get seats. No doubt Colfer, who was unable to attend this screening due to filming commitments for "Glee", would have been pleased to see the turnout.

I wrote most of this review on the subway on the way home, running on very little food and slightly less sleep (having worked 4-12 the night before), so please forgive me if it sounds rambling and incoherent. My handwriting got steadily more atrocious.

When you hear about all Chris Colfer has done at such a young age, it kind of makes you want to hate him. To be so talented and accomplished before you've even reached your quarter-life crisis makes those of us who have already passed ours feel as though we're wasting our potential. But that's what's amazing about Struck by Lightning -- it makes you think that maybe you can still achieve something. As Colfer's Carson tells his mother, "It's never too late to change your life."

Struck by Lightning is a well-written, well-acted dark comedy. After all, any movie where the main character is killed (he is, in fact, struck by lightning) in the opening moments isn't going to be all light-hearted and fluffy. Carson narrates the film from beyond the grave, which would normally annoy me because I hate voice overs, but in this case I enjoyed his snarky asides, especially when viewing his own funeral. Which sucks. Overall, it had an old school vibe for me, like one of the offbeat comedies from the 80s. When Carson and his friend Malerie decide to blackmail their classmates into writing for the newly-formed school literary magazine, it reminded me very strongly of Heathers.

Colfer has written an extremely relatable cast of characters that, while admittedly cliches, are still flawed and human enough to have been plucked from any high school in America. It may especially resonate with someone who, like me, grew up in a small town and devoted my life to getting out, yet lived in constant fear that I never would. These people are all trying to fit into the mold of who they think they should be rather than who they are, and Carson, outspoken and different, doesn't understand why. In a scene with head cheerleader Claire (Sarah Hyland), he asks why she gave up her first grade dream of being a ballerina. She says, "Everyone laughed at me," and he says, "I didn't." Carson's school is peppered with stereotypes, but they all acknowledge that's what they are, and by the end of the film you get the sense that they are trying to change.

The script is laugh-out-loud funny, a mixture of straight reads as well as improvisation (Rebel Wilson's famous line, "spread that shit like Nutella", was improvised), as well as heart-breakingly poignant. I was genuinely moved to tears, though I confess it isn't all that difficult to make me cry. As much credit for this must go to the fabulous cast. Allison Janney's breakdown when she learns of Carson's death is gut-wrenching, but the scenes with Carson's Alzheimer's-afflicted grandmother (Polly Bergen) affected me the most. This was a great cast with incredible chemistry, and it comes across as a fun movie to film.

I appreciated all the subtle references to the title, to the metaphor of being struck by lightning (which is not as much of a metaphor as I originally thought). That's how Carson explains inspiration to Malerie, how you get an idea and it goes through your body and needs to come out. When Carson's mother's doctor tries to convince her to put him on anti-depressants in order to ground him, I may or may not have snorted.

What is most refreshing is that this is, essentially, a teen movie, yet with a main character who has ambitions and goals outside of the immediateness of high school life. Carson doesn't have the obligatory love interest, nor does he seem at all interested in having one. Colfer told E! Online that he worried kids wouldn't focus on the message if they were too busy worrying about Carson's sexuality, so he just didn't focus on it. And the message I got out of it was that, while you should have goals, you should also live for the present, that you need to take the bad memories with the good, because at any moment you could be struck by lightning.

I believe that Struck by Lightning would be a success even without Colfer's avid "Glee" fanbase. It's fun and witty and different -- a teen movie that falls just outside the realm of typical, a film to which all sorts of people can relate. Four for you, Chris Colfer. You go, Chris Colfer.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Why I Prefer British TV to American

The Perils of Being an Anglophile in America

I really want to see Fast Girls.

If you haven't heard of it (and I suspect you haven't), Fast Girls is a British movie about the UK women's relay team. You may recognize some of the stars, even if you don't know their names: Lenora Crichlow (Annie, "Being Human" - the UK version, of course), Noel Clarke (Mickey, "Doctor Who"), Bradley James, (King Arthur, "Merlin"), and Rupert Graves (a lot of stuff, but most recently Detective Inspector Lestrade, "Sherlock").

I am not ashamed to admit that the reason I originally wanted to see it was because of Bradley James. I am extremely shallow when it comes to a lot of things, especially movies. I have sat through a lot of truly terrible movies because of a particular actor. (If anyone has ever seen the version of Sherlock Holmes starring Gareth David-Lloyd as Watson, you'll know what I'm talking about.) I adore Bradley and have seen everything he's ever done, which is to say not much. So I was excited to learn that he'd be in an actual film -- and was even more excited to learn that it's a legitimate part, with a name and everything. After seeing the trailer, I want to see this movie for different reasons -- namely, that it looks like it's going to be ridiculously awesome.


Of course, the problem with watching British television shows is that they often do not air in the United States, and if they do, they tend to air several months later, when we have already learned everything that's happened because the internet exists and no one on Tumblr has any concept of spoilers. BBC America seems to only air episodes of "Top Gear" and "Kitchen Nightmares" interspersed with shows that aren't even British, though they may feature British actors, like "Battlestar Galactica" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation".

Granted, "Doctor Who" airs the same day in America as it does in England, and "Being Human" is only a few weeks behind. But shows like "Merlin" and "Sherlock", which air on completely different networks, are often months behind. If we fans in the United States (and other countries, of course) want to avoid spoilers, we essentially have to not get on the internet until these shows air in our own country. And as someone who spends upwards of 8 hours a day on the internet, that's just not feasible.

Then there is the wait for the DVDs in region 1 format. Not everyone has a multi-region DVD player and can buy the UK versions, which often are released while the show is still in its first run. In the case of "Merlin", the DVDs don't come out in America until the next season airs on Syfy, which is almost a year later.

Additionally, the problem with watching British television shows and liking the British actors who appear on these British television shows is that they tend to do British movies. And British movies tend not to play in the United States because we are not, in fact, Britain.

This isn't as much of a problem for me as it might be for other American Anglophiles, because I happen to live in New York City, and if a movie is going to come to the United States at all, even in limited release, then odds are it will come to New York. Though I have demonstrated that I am willing to travel to see an actor I like in a movie that I fear may not make it here. Last year I took a bus to Boston to see Colin Morgan's Parked at the Irish Film Festival, only for it to come to New York about six months later (twice, in fact -- I saw it both times). Others aren't so lucky and have to settle for waiting for it to come out on DVD -- assuming it comes out in region 1 format.

Why, then, do I watch these British television shows and movies with their British actors when it's so difficult, if not impossible, to do so? Because more often than not they're better than 90% of the crap that airs on American TV, and American studios obviously realize this, which is why they steal so many British shows and Americanize them. Really, they should just air the British version, because for every "The Office" there are five "Coupling", and after the travesty they had the nerve to call "Torchwood", I'm in favor of never Americanizing anything ever again. I'm looking at you, "Elementary".

Also, watching these British television shows and movies with their British actors means hot guys with British accents, and I've already admitted I'm shallow.

But mostly, it's because they're good. Better than good. "Downton Abbey" has become hugely popular, and when "Doctor Who" filmed in New York there were more than 400 people who showed up to watch (including me). More and more British shows are beginning to have a presence in America, filming on location or panels at conventions or actors popping up on late night talk shows. Hopefully soon it won't be such a trial to get these British television shows and movies with their British actors on American television and movie screens, whether it be in the form of DVDs being released more quickly or more stations hopping on the Brit bandwagon. Or BBC America getting its shit together and showing more than two shows.

Until that happens, I will be patiently waiting for Fast Girls in any form it arrives, and in the event it comes to New York, I will do my damnedest to see it as many times as possible, so that it can get the money it needs to go to other parts of America -- and the world. Because everyone should be able to see Bradley James on the big screen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Jamie Is a Nerd: Introduction


I am a nerd.

I feel like listing my nerdly qualifications is redundant, as the only nerds who freely brag about being nerds are, in actuality, nerds, yet the point of this first entry is an introduction, of sorts, to my nerdtastic life.  I was tempted to do this in list format, as I am inordinately fond of lists, but ultimately decided against it.

I geek out over virtually everything. I enjoy geeking out over things. On some level, I understand that not everyone has the same amount of enthusiasm, but I cannot fathom people who don’t get ridiculously excited about things. I buy advance tickets to midnight shows. I pre-order things on Amazon. I devour every article, photograph, and video I can find. I reread books multiple times, I marathon television shows when I get interested in them, I’ll see a movie more than once in a theater. It boggles my mind that there are people out there who don’t do these things.

The purpose of this blog is to allow me a special format in which to properly geek out, and unlike Tumblr, to do so with actual words as opposed to slightly incoherent, incomplete sentences such as, “OMG HIS FACE” and “THIS”. Occasionally I do have intelligent thoughts. Sometimes these thoughts even make sense. More often than not, though, they’re just pointless rambling.

So if you are a nerd, come in, come in. If you are a geek, a dork, come in. If you are a Whovian, a Potterhead, a Sherlockian, a Whedonite, come in. If you reside in Panem or Camelot, come in, come in. You’re in good company here.

For anyone interested in daily insights into my life nerdtastic, you can find me on Twitter and Tumblr. Nerds, ahoy!