Sunday, February 24, 2008

Hairspray

Musicals fulfil every criteria of faggotry when shown to a homophobic individual. A banal tale where the choreographed antics of a ‘company’ of pretentious twats takes a precedent over the story’s narrative, totalling in at an epic fail.

Last year’s overly-hyped but fatally-crippled Dreamgirls, despite its flawless casting, intriguing plot, and vast Oscar nominations, had me dig out my old Destiny’s Child CDs and use them as coasters for a week or so following. Its failure to find a successful balance oaf music and plot driving script meant it was overlong and song numbers were more annoying than exciting. To further dump on any of its achievements, the fact Dreamgirls was outdone by Disney TV movie/lifestyle phenomenon High School Musical, along with its cast of young, beautiful, carefree cockrings is ultimately embarrassing. It fell at all the criteria High School Musical excelled in, and the same can be said for Elijah Wood and his retardedly Happy Feet.

In this day and age of the silver screen is there still room for the classic musical? The uprising of high budget TV dramas running on movie budgets, and movie goers often just looking for 90 minutes of droll, mindless entertainment to fill some time raises the question is it worth the effort?. Censorship laws now allow gritty subject matters, and TV shows like The Wire, depicting corruption of Baltimore city would be hilariously out of place if set to music. Though after seeing Hairspray…a musical depicting corruption and racism in Baltimore city, this previous comment should possibly be reclined.

The movie is told through the eyes of the na├»ve and morbidly obese Tracy (Nikki Blonsky). Bored throughout the school day, she lives for the moment every day she can run home and tune into the dance fest ‘Corey Collins Show’…jumping up and down like an utter cretin through every second of it. The cast of the show are all members of Tracy’s school, which of course is the only school in Baltimore, and heart-throb bellend ‘Link’ (Zak Efron), struts the corridors waiting to be knifed in the face by a fellow, more badass classmate. To cut a long story short, Tracy ends up on the show to the distaste of Michelle Pfeiffer and her spoilt twat of a daughter, and begins a campaign for the integration of blacks on TV along with Queen Latifah and the black dance community of Baltimore.

Shown through the eyes of a child, the handling of the racial themes of the movie were in fact very successful. Although ignorant, Tracy’s failure to see any problem with integration is borderline endearing. However, in my opinion there was more room to gritty up the musical a little bit with some king of lynching scene set to a catchy 60s beat. No matter how much of a child audience it would have alienated...the harsh reality of racism would have been better realised, plus the movie would have been at least three times more awesome...right.

The movie’s musical numbers were overall very impressive. All the songs were noticeably different though equally catchy through, and whether it be because of the original Broadway musical or the achievements of the musical director, the sound of the movie is a brilliant amalgamation of pop music today and the sound of the 60s. The actors’ vocals were all very accomplished, though some more than others, Amanda Bynes, noticeably poor in places . John ‘$cientology’ Travolta surprised me further by showing he could still sort of sing and dance, but also with how comfortably he seemed in the role of a fat annoying woman. This was an exceptional performance when compared to the ultimate mid life crisis movie Wild Hogs… so it would seem alien warlord Xenu has gotten something right for once.

To put all cynicism aside this movie (for what it is…a musical) is near to perfect. The only issue with it possibly being the lack of screen time some actors got when they very much deserved it. For what is a long movie already running at two hours long director Adam Shankman made the right decision in keeping the plot moving rather than indulging in extended screen time for some characters. For example, Zak Efron, for the large star he has become actually had quite a minimal role. I really didn’t get to fully appreciate much depth in his character, and I lost all respect for him when he fell in love with our podgetastic leading lady, who made me shudder every time she raised her arms in the air. However, for the role of bland pretty boy love interest he was perfect and his character shone through in some moments.

The heroic return of musicals into popularity has been sudden, and in too many a case utter balls when compared to the greats such as Gene Kelly classic, Singin’ in the Rain. Hairspray however holds steadfast with its head high, and it’s a shame to think because of today’s judgemental audiences and advertising as a children’s movie that more people won’t see this. The opposite could be said for Sweeney Todd, which will lose a mass audience because of its 18 certificate and scenes of continual throat cutting.


…time to put on those dancing shoes, and go see Harispray!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Gossip Girl

High budget TV teen dramas have been a highly floggable commodity for big telly corporations for many years… Dawson has been whining about his creek and a full six seasons worth of non-events for the 90s generation. The Fonze has been thumbing his way into annoyance throughout the 70s and early 80s (and also in his recent comeback thanks to Family Guy's endless mentioning of his character). Even the Monkees lasted for a whole mind numbingly jolly 58 episodes in the late 60s.

The OC hit screens in 2001 with a frankly brilliant first season telling of rough city boy Ryan Attwood's adventures with the overly wealthy youth of Orange County, California. The show was dubbed as reaching a whole new standard for teen dramas, writer/creator Josh Schwartz was dubbed a televisual mastermind, and character Seth Cohen was dubbed the loserish-quirky-Jewish boy that everyone had been craving for.

However, the hopes and dreams of many were soon punched in the face and then continually thumped by a further three seasons which failed to achieve the same fresh, witty and high watchability factor that had been created in the first, (one storyline involving two characters in comas and dwelling in the same imaginative world as one another as they slept… despite the fact this makes no sense in any possible way) and The OC was no more. 2006 was seemingly a bad year for Schwartz and he approached 2007 with a bang. With one show not being enough he created two whole new shows for our viewing pleasure: 'Chuck' (about loserish-quirky-Jewish boy who receives an encoded e-mail from an old college friend, a formerly thought-of rogue CIA
agent, which happens to embed the world's greatest spy secrets into his brain) and the subject of this review, 'Gossip Girl'.

Schwartz has said in interview that he put a lot of himself in Seth Cohen, and it's nice that the ego trip can continue in BOTH Chuck and Gossip Girl. Gossip Girl (based on the equally poor, teen literary works by Cecily Von Ziegesar) is unsurprisingly about a loserish-quirky-Jewish boy (Dan). Who instead of having government information pumped into his brain, or hanging out with a juvenile delinquent, finds himself thrown into the bitching and overly dramatic melee of rich young New York Upper-Eastside socialites, after managing to awkwardly charm himself into the heart of dull but morally astute Serena. Into this mix throw an incredibly spiteful, scheming, high maintenance best friend of the 'gf' (Blaire). A strange, sex obsessed, drug curious rapist (Chuck). A highly emotional but yet wooden best friend of rapist (and boyfriend of high maintenance best friend) (Nate) and you begin to understand how the show's dynamics work and replay on loop, with continually generic minor complications a long the way.

The narrative is driven by Kristen Bell (of Heroes and Veronica Mars fame), aka'd as the 'Gossip Girl', who runs an online blog solely for publicizing the activities of about five people, who are conveniently the main characters of the show. Though, if any thought is put towards this concept then viewers would soon realize that actually Kristen Bell would have to be living in incredibly close quarters with the characters to receive some of the 'Intel' she does. Her narration often contradicts the concept of this website (about five people) apparently everybody reads, and if any of them were to actually read it (which they claim to do so) they would conclude a lot of the plot lines much faster. Literally every character owns a Blackberry which is onscreen at least every five minutes of an episode so it amazes me that they're at times, so utterly clueless.

After the success of giving parents plotlines in the OC, Schwartz has hit back with a vengeance by resurrecting all of the OC parental personalities (I won't delve into details but it's more than obvious as soon as they are introduced who they resemble, for example bohemian one-hit-wonder rock star Dad, who's full to the brim with sarcastic witticisms that make him such a lovable character that at times you want to see collide with some kind of sharp implement in a hilarious kitchen accident…the cockwipe). The youth of New York live in a strange and slightly frightening world whereby they all appear incredibly chummy with their parents, and even the parents of their friends to add a greater sense of farce. This sense of friendship may also be enforced by the fact all of the actors playing adult figures look about five years older than any of their 'teenage' co-stars.

Similarly again to The OC the show is packed with popular music of the times which will no doubt instantly date the show, whereas The OC did it with a suitable mix of unknown bands. Schwartz love of California band Rooney is still intact and though they don’t have an entire episode written for them they can be heard at many an Upper East-Side New York party…that and Justin Timberlake. It’s possible that the characters are in desperate need of some new records to listen to.

Overall I find it ridiculous that some cretins believe this show to be better than The OC. If anything it’s an exact replica, except its set in New York rather than California, where the acting is worse, the characters more annoying, the plotlines more repetitive, and the incentive for me to slit my own wrists greater. An even more important problem with the show is that despite the fact it’s ridden with flaws that will make you laugh out loud at your television before throwing a brick through it; you’ll find yourself unable to stop watching. After seeing the thirteen episodes that have been aired (production now halted due to the WGA writers strike) you will want more and it’s something inescapable…though better this than Chad Michael Murray’s escapades in One Tree Hill also on The CW network. Knowing that the show’s target audience is fifteen year old girls perhaps this review should be more lenient, but Gossip Girl really is shit. However it holds an indefinable redeeming and addictive factor that makes it ‘The Shit’.

The show has yet to be imported to UK screens so time to hit the torrent sites…