Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Simpsons is not as good as it used to be.


Me stating the above statement would be like saying "a fish only survives in water" and "I like saying the word bung", ie, a total statement of the obvious, but it had never struck me just how much The Simpsons deteriorated until I watched an episode from Season 20, "Wedding for Disaster", today. Bearing in mind that I hadn't seen an episode of The Simpsons since late 2008, and the ones I had seen then had all been the good ol' reliable season 7-9 episode repeats on C4, I was shocked by what I saw.

Firstly, the opening sequence has been tweaked, and not for the better. Matt Groening has bunged a bit more danger and mischief about, but I felt it went overboard. There was a time when The Simpsons was this lovely little PG, occasionally 12-rated animated comedy that I could watch with my brother Tom, but now it's trying to make itself as a more family-friendly South Park, which surely is a contradiction in terms. The opening credits scared me.

The actual episode itself wasn't that bad, though the premise was awfully thin. As with all The Simpsons episodes, it begins with something and then the plot modulates to relate to The Simpsons family. Here, it started with Reverend Lovejoy's announcement of the visit of a Parish member. Said member brings bad news for the Reverend, which is that, since his failed attempt to pay for his recertification with a credit card that was maxed out on poker debts, his holy behaviour for the past three months are worthless. One of these activities was to remarry Homer and Marge (we get a cheeky 30-second flashback via a photo album of a scene that I've seen many times), et voila, the constantly-strapped-for-money suddenly find the time and funds to have a third wedding.

In planning her "best" wedding, this time round, Marge gets a little excessive (think Monica in Friends when she was planning wedding), and inadvertently shuns her spouse. When the wedding day actually arrives, Homer is nowhere to be found, and Marge blames herself, thinking it was her hyper-organized, overbearing bossiness that scared him off. In fact, Homer Simpson has been kidnapped. The ever-wise Lisa Simpson cottons onto this, and, finding a key with the initials "SB" attached to it, she and her brother Bart (not irrationally) go on a witch-hunt for Sideshow Bob, believing him to be the proprietor. But, in fact, it turns out to be a pair of people that have kidnapped their dad, two people who are a lot more closer to home..

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There are amusing moments in this episode, but the parts that evoked no larfs from me at all were when Homer was locked in a Saw-esque dungeon, and was forced to eat a chili-sauce flavoured lollipop to get through to the key inside it. Such a level of cruelty was a bit severe for a The Simpsons episode, and the people who did it, though it has often been common knowledge that they weren't keen on the big ol' boy, seemed somewhat uncharacteristic. Overall, episode 2015 of The Simpsons left me a little confuzzled and pining for the good, more innocent days.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Only three this week.

Last Tango in Paris (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1972)
Grief-ridden at his wife's unexpected suicide, Marlon Brando's Paul embarks on an extremely physical and ultimately destructive affair with Maria Schneider's Jeanne, a confused and neglected girlfriend of Jean-Pierre LĂ©aud's self-absored filmmaker. I desperately, desperately wanted to like this film as I am both a massive fan of 1970s Bertolucci as well as Marlon Brando (well, he is my favourite actor, after all), but it was all I could do from laughing at this. The "human interaction" was embarrassing - the dialogue was extemely poor, the direction was still and self-obsessed and the sex scenes were the second most manky thing I've witnessed this week. As ever, Brando puts his heart and soul into it - his monologue to the corpse of his wife is as affecting as I've been told to find it - but this was far from his best performance of all time, and Maria Schneider's constant floppy line-reading degraded the quality of the acting further. Sloppy and shitty, only watch if you enjoy seeing people using butter as lubricant (which hopefully you don't. So basically don't watch it.)

Knocked Up (Judd Apatow, 2007)
Highly disatisfying and uninteresting "comedy" about how fat bum Seth Rogen gets Katherine Heigl's high-flying career girl pregnant after being too lazy to bung on a condom, and the ensuing bonding/whining/supposedly hilarity that arises from her being pregnant. The film wasn't totally awful; I really liked Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Jason Segel's turn in it, and I've been told that a drunken Emmabung physically resembles Charlyne Yi, so I guess I like her too. Plus there were moments when Rogen's loser of a character did excude a kind of charm, in a so-much-of-an-excuse-for-a-human-being-that-you-have-to-pity-him kind of way. But the two leads have zero chemistry and it's just not a very interesting premise at all.

Lie to Me (John Stewart Muller, 2008)
Concluding the trilogy of rubbish films, Lie to Me is about a couple in an open relationship who find their bond tested when they find themselves falling for other people. Um... that's about it really, badly acted, written, directed, and a bit of an all-round fail.

Not the best selection of films last week, I'm afraid. Hopefully next week will hold better viewing options.

Beautiful, Dirty, Rich,

P-p-p-p-p-p-p-poker Face.

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It's now two weeks at number 1 for the amazing Lady Gaga, who is taking the world by storm with her amazing electro-pop beats. The quick history is that she started out as a songwriter to the likes of Britney Spears and Pussycat Dolls whilst doing a bit of singing of her own on the fringe circuit, before she hit the big time. Her sounds are everywhere I turn - all over capital fm, nightclubs, episodes of Skins, in the film Confessions of a Shopaholic - but I don't mind a jot, because I love her music. In fact, I personally don't think I hear enough of her, and hence, #09 of my favourite songs of hers is my current alarm clock tune on a Wednesday.

I first got into Lady Gaga when I downloaded her The Fame CD on a whim in Summer 2008, but soon I was hooked, and mouthing the words along. She is utterly awesome.

Personal top 10 Lady Gaga songs -
01. Poker Face
02. LoveGame
03. Boys, Boys, Boys
04. Fashion
05. Just Dance
06. Paparazzi
07. Brown Eyes
08. I Like it Rough
09. Beautiful, Dirty, Rich
10. Starstruck

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Look Back at Season 3 of Skins.

dsfd

With the old cast off to University/gap year/various escapades abroad, season three of Skins retained only Effy Stonem, mysterious younger sis of Tony, the centrepiece of the previous two seasons, and banged a bright new freshed face cast onto the show. From the first sequence, wherein best friends Cook and Freddie are both transfixed and bedazzled by Effy's dark allure, the scene is set for the teenage love triangle - and more - in Jamie Britain and Brian Elsey's previously groundbreaking Skins.

No point in beating around the bush, this year's Skins was not anywhere near as good as the previous two years'. This is down to a combination of two things - the writing, which has invariable deteriorated (the writers feel they are oh-so-edgy for bunging fags in every character's fingers and more liberal uses of the c-word), and some of the truly detestable characters. Whereas in the previous two seasons, Tony was a massive knob, at least he got was coming to him and got run over by a bus, which led him onto a not-altogether-convincing road to redemption, but a road nonetheless. In this season, the three involved in the love triangle are all truly detestable beings. Cook, the ASBO who smokes, gets pissed, steals, fucks his mates over and has no consideration for anything other than himself, gets beaten up in the second episode, but sadly not enough, for he doesn't die like he deserves to. Freddie, though hot as anything, is as dull as ditchwater. I've seen football players with more personality. And lastly, my most loathed - Effy. She's beautiful, no doubt about that, and is the very embodiment of je ne se quois; she would look stunning in just a bin-liner, which is just as well as that's pretty much as much as she wears. However, in terms of personality, I had nothing but contempt for her. Pouting and slagging her way through the series, I've never felt such hatred for any character.

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The pure shittiness of these three sad individuals is almost redeemed by some of the other characters. JJ is the true star of the season - a character who, for all his Mathematical genius, is terribly socially inept, and constantly lives in the shadow of his best friends Cook and Freddie and their ongoing feud. As the season develops, he truly comes into his own, and even cops a mercy-bung from his friend Emily, who also happens to be a lesbian. In theory, this sounds both cliche and contrived, but the actors manage to pull it off, in a scene that turns out to be surprisingly moving. Emily is one of the other characters that I genuinely cared about - a raven-haired lass, she's a twin and has been following her overbearing twin Katie around, she learns to develop her own character and stand up for herself and her love for Naomi when she is tested. The lesbian storyline of Skins is very well done; the episodes focussing on Emily and Naomi capture the whimsy of youth perfectly, and the two characters are excellent in their portrayals of their teenage lust and the whirlwind of other emotions that come with it. It speaks volumes about the chemistry between the two actors that their love scene was far, far more attention-grabbing than the bung-a-minute between Effy/Cook or Effy/Freddie. Also, Panda, the ditzy cook of the gang, is absolutely adorable.

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So all in all, it wasn't a bad watch - the soundtrack is stellar and the show is wonderfully filmed; just that the smugness that has been ever-prevalent in Skins for "showing teenagers like how they really are" was beginning to wear very, very thin. The finale in particular was one of the worst things I've seen in TV (mainly because Cook and Effy came out of it still alive), but as ever, the show has its moments.

She flies like planes.

From the cover of an issue of The Guardian a while back -

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Look Ahead to The Damned United.

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Growing up, football was all Michael Sheen cared about. He went to Anfield as a young lad, idolising the likes of Tony Adams and Kevin Keegan. He was actually offered a place on the Arsenal Youth Team, but his dad steered him from it, for the better, as he is now one Britain's finest and most astute performers. In The Damned United, however, Sheen gets to retrace some of his footballing steps playing Brian Clough, football manager that served an ill-fated 44 days in charge of Leeds Utd, a man so arrogant that he'd make Jose Mourinho look humble. Brian Clough would have been 75 today, and Tom Hooper's film is apparently a lot more sympathetic to the geezer than David Pearce's source material; Peter Morgan's screenplay is said to gloss over some events and ignore others completely, leading the film to be dubbed "faction", but I myself am greatly anticipating said film, a chronicle of a truly enigmatic man, and the very original Special one.

Confessions of a Shopaholic OST

The film was actually a lot better than I'd pre-judged it to be from the crappy trailer, but my favourite thing about it (aside from the clothes) was the soundtrack.

01. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - Greg Laswell (a stunning cover of Cyndi Lauper's hit in the minor key, Laswell's voice is so rich and full of malaise, he could give Rufus Wainwright a run for his money)
02. Fashion - Lady Gaga (sound like a lot of the stuff on her The Fame CD, but I can't get enough of Lady Gaga so there you go. The bit where she does a litany of designers is the biggest rip-off of Vogue ever, but methinks it works)
03. Uncontrollable - Adrienne Bailon (the director certainly had an uncontrollable urge to play this throughout the film, but I reckon it worked)
04. Calling You - Kate Deluna (this was also over-played throughout the film, but, as with Uncontrollable, I didn't mind)
05. Don't Forget Me - Macy Gray (wonderfully melancholy and sad, suited the scene which it was played in so well)
06. Blue Jeans - Jesse James (sounds like a cross between Christina Aguilera and These Boots were Made for Walking, kind of works)
07. Again - Natasha Bedingfield (nice, sad tune)
08. Stuck with Each Other - Akon, Shontelle (Akon's voice will always evoke memories of "Lonely", but this is a fairly listenable ditty)
09. Bad Girl - Pussycat Dolls (annoyingly catchy. Still ain't forgiven them for fecking up Jai Ho, though)
10. Big Spender - Adrienne Bailon (OK, nothing special)
11. Takes Time to Love - Trey Songz (the opening harp chords sound like a rip-off of the 12. opening of Ne-Yo's "So Sick", bung)
12. Unstoppable - Kat DeLuna (not as good as the other song from her on the OST)
13. Shopaholic Suite - James Newton Howard (the suite for The Devil Wears Prada was far, far stronger)
14. Accessory - Jordyn Taylor (eh)

Apologies for going M.I.A.

I was attempting to have a life, but that failed. So, back to blogdom! :)

Monday, March 02, 2009

As far as bbfc warnings go...

This one does a good job on the spoiler front!

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

The most beautiful pair of eyes in 2008.

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Also, whilst in Boots, I noticed that the female model looked a lot like a much-fancied actor. Anyone care to guess who?

lol