Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Super Edition: Perfect Summer

Right, it's Super Edition time you guys, because this one appears to have been the next book published, although it seems that number 22 in the series picks up where Runaway left off, so this is a standalone story that sorta jumps out of the established timeline. Just go with it.

(Also, please throw my new Facebook page an aul like, as I've managed to go and lose all my previous likes by getting kicked out of the account and page I had been using. Sigh. So that's where you'll find me on Facebook from now on.)

Sweet Valley High Super Edition: Perfect Summer
 

It's summertime and the Wakefields are going on a month-long bike trip along the California coast with Todd, Annie, Lila, Olivia, Roger, Bruce, Bruce's friend Charlie who we've never heard of before and Barry Cooper, the principal's nephew from Ohio. Chaperoning this trip are sexy Roger Collins and also-sexy Nora Dalton, teachers who have split up recently and are apparently willing to give up a month of their summer holidays to cycle around with their ex and the students they see every day. Yup. Sounds like literally none of the teachers I know. And I know a LOT of teachers. My extended family is like 80% nurses and teachers. Why yes, I *am* a culchie, however did you guess?

So, everyone arrives at the school with their bikes and all their gear, and when Chrome Dome Cooper pulls up in his car, everyone is excited to see what his nephew looks like. It's Sweet Valley, so everyone expects him to be a Grade A Ohio ridebag and nothing less, as only beautiful people are allowed into this town, but UH OH. Looks like border patrol were caught napping, because poor ol' Barry is a bit of a chubster.

All eyes were on the pudgy, pale-faced boy who waddled out.

Pudgy. Pale. Waddled. WADDLED, like. HE JUST GOT HERE, LAY OFF.

Elizabeth felt a sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach. She suspected that Mr. Cooper's roly-poly nephew had come all the way from Ohio for a whopping big dose of trouble.

Roly-poly! Fuck you, Liz! Immediately before this, Jessica refers to him as a toad and Lila calls him a loser. All of these insults get tossed at Barry in ONE PAGE. It's basically pre-diet Robin Wilson all over again.

The gang sets off on their bike trek and go camping, taking turns to cook dinner, light the campfire, cycle with the group equipment and so on. Elizabeth writes letters to Enid that get us up to speed on what everyone's deal is, such as the fact that Annie Whitman and Ricky Capaldo broke up recently and Charlie seems to fancy Annie, Bruce being mean to his cousin Roger, because Roger's a Patman now, Mr. Collins and Ms. Dalton being frosty to one another and Barry being a hopeless misfit, slow at cycling and incapable of doing anything right.

Barry Cooper had just emerged from the tent he had shared with Mr. Collins (the fuck, Roger?) and was trying, without much luck, to stuff his sleeping bag - as bulky and inappropriate for camping as Barry himself was - into a sack made for a much sleeker kind of sleeping bag.

AS BULKY AND INAPPROPRIATE FOR CAMPING AS BARRY HIMSELF WAS.

Apparently only skinny people are good at camping. How DARE he sleep in a tent, and he a fat kid. CAMPING IS FORBIDDEN FOR FAT PEOPLE. WAKE UP BARRY.

After a few days of cycling and camping, the group arrive in Los Angeles, where a friend of Bruce Patman's dad, Steve Thomas, has offered the group the use of the grounds attached to his fancy mansion. So instead of putting them up in what is clearly a massive fucking house, the kids and teachers have to camp in his garden. Thanks for nothing, Steve. Mr. Thomas has a beautiful but obnoxious daughter named Courtney, who's rude to everyone, including her dad, and has a no-good, motorbike-riding, mowhawk-sporting boyfriend called Nolan, who wears leather wristbands and is quite clearly Bad News. Nolan turns up when Courtney is supposed to be showing the Sweet Valley group around, so she calls the SV kids a bunch of goody-goodys and takes off on the back of Nolan's bike.

Mr. Thomas later confides in Roger Collins and Nora Dalton (who he's literally just met) that Courtney is a bratty pain in the hoop and asks if they could take her with them on the rest of their expedition, as it might do her some good to be away from LA and around some wholesome team players who don't wear leather. For some reason, they agree to take his nightmare daughter with them and the next day Courtney is suddenly all sweetness and light and fresh blueberry muffins. Everyone is amazed at her transformation, but Jessica isn't fooled, as she's still annoyed, nay, OUTRAGED at being referred to as goody-goody.

"Nobody calls me a goody goody and gets away with it." You tell 'em, Jess. How VERY dare she.

Courtney charms the whole group, but Elizabeth isn't entirely convinced by her sudden personality change either and is none too happy that she seems to be sidling up to Todd quite so much. The group leave LA with their new member, and Jessica and Lila pretty much immediately begin to scheme and plan for a way to get Courtney off the trip. Neither of them are buying Courtney's act and Jessica can see that Courtney's play for Todd is making Liz miserable. Todd, however, is totally oblivious and is just being friendly as far as he's concerned.

The group arrive at a youth hostel, and Jessica spots a guy "too gorgeous for words", so naturally, she must have him. She later finds out from other kids staying at the hostel that his name is Robbie October (!!!) and he's cycling along the coast with his brother Danny. But, the other kid warns, they're "totally wild" and were kicked out of the first hostel they stayed in for throwing beer bottles out the window. Rock 'n roll, Robbie!

Meanwhile, Courtney is writing a letter to Nolan, outlining her fiendish plans to steal Todd away from Elizabeth, as having a good boy like Todd by her side will somehow lead to her being allowed to come home early from the bike trip. She's going to make up a bunch of stories about a troubled home life and is pretty much seconds away from an evil cackle the whole way through the letter, as she is a Bad Gal.

It turns out that Jessica and Lila's dastardly plan to get Courtney to leave the trip involved secretly putting lime jelly in the bottom of her sleeping bag to gross her out. However, Lila got the sleeping bags mixed up and put the jelly in Nora Dalton's one by mistake. Jessica thinks she did it on purpose, because Nora has gone back to dating Lila's dad and Lila is none too happy about it.

Jessica writes a letter to Cara Walker, bitching about Courtney and I'm really only mentioning it because of this line in it:

What's absolutely incredible is that all she has to do is toss her mane of hair and smile, and everyone buys her act. Especially boys.

Which is hilarious, because that's BASICALLY YOU, JESSICA. It's so funny how any other girls that come into these books and act exactly like Jessica does are cast as devious villains. I mean, flirting with someone's boyfriend is a quiet day for Jessica, but when Courtney does it she's pure evil.

Ooh also, while she's giving out about Courtney throwing herself at Todd and Todd being too dopey to see what's going on, she writes:

"Somebody ought to give both Todd and Courtney a sound spanking!"

DAMN GURL. I'm not sure that would play out quite the way she intends.

Look at Elizabeth on this cover! SO pretty! Well done, cover artist for not making her look like she's forty like they usually do. Her high-waisted shorts are super cute, but a frankly terrible idea for cycling, as they would 100% end up wedged up your hole. Jessica looks like an eejit.

Anyway, the gang are staying in another hostel and Jessica and Bruce are on dinner duty, when Lila bursts into the kitchen to talk to Jessica about their plan to get Courtney to leave the trip. Jessica leaves Bruce chopping onions, and he is decidedly not impressed.

"Next time I'm going to remember to bring my cook along when I go away," he mumbled.
Jessica sighed. "Honestly," she said when they were out of Bruce's earshot, "he's as bad in the kitchen as you are. What do you people do on the servants' night off, anyway?" 
Lila looked Jessica straight in the eye. "Cold lobster and caviar," she said earnestly.

COLD LOBSTER AND CAVIAR. Lila Fowler you magnificent bitch. I love you.

Lila wants to back out of the plan to sabotage Courtney's trip, because Courtney's stories about problems at home and her father being an alcoholic have made their way around the group and Lila doesn't want to pick on her anymore. They have a bit of an argument because Jessica doesn't believe a word of it, but their disagreement is cut short by the appearance of none other than Rock 'n Roller Robbie October. Jessica gets her game face on and runs up to him, throwing her arms around him while exclaiming "Bart! Bart Templeton!", because player gotta play. After acting all embarrassed at her "mix-up", it turns out that Robbie is off to a bar in the next town, like the bad boy rebel he is, and asks/dares her to come with him. He also acts like she's a total square for being on a group bike trip with all their "rules and chores and people looking over your shoulder all the time", but come on Robbie, cycling along the California coast with your brother isn't exactly the work of a hellraiser. Before Jessica can decide if she's going to ditch her kitchen duties, Bruce interrupts, telling her to knock off "the enchantress act" and come back to help him. Robbie leaves, Jessica is distraught that she's missed her chance with him and in a move completely inconsistent with his character, Bruce is really sweet and funny with her because she's so upset.

Lila gets chatting to two boys in the hostel (called Pat and Don, which makes them sound like a pair of fifty year old men), who recognise Ms. Dalton as Beth Curtis, a French teacher who used to work at their school in Arizona and mysteriously left town a year and a half ago. Lila finds out that Nora Dalton was married to some rich dude who killed himself when she left him and then uses her knowledge of Nora's secret identity to make her do stuff like carry the pots and pans when it's actually Lila's turn and other incongruously small-scale things, considering she's blackmailing her teacher.

For one of the stops on their trip, the gang end up setting up camp in an unused greenhouse owned by a random kindly lady in return for doing some chores in her flower shop. They all sleep in this old greenhouse for the night, which seems like a fucking outrageously terrible idea. I mean it's bad enough waking up in a tent at Electric Picnic on a vaguely sunny morning, sweating your actual face off, nevermind a GREENHOUSE in CALIFORNIA in SUMMER. YOU'LL BE COOKED ALIVE, YOU FOOLS. Anyway, this merry band of idiots are delighted with their sweatbox camp for the night.

Todd held Elizabeth close as he hummed along with the guitar Olivia had brought with her. On the other side of the old greenhouse, several of the kids sat around Olivia in a circle, singing as she strummed.

Fucking Olivia. There's always one. Also, this means that she's been cycling for this entire trip with a guitar strapped to her back, just so she can inflict Blowin' in the Wind on her mates. Which is what she's playing at this point. Goddammit Olivia.

Later that night, when everyone's asleep, Elizabeth wakes up to hear Courtney crying and notices that this LA bitch has also maneuvered her sleeping bag so she's lying on the other side of Todd. Before Elizabeth can say anything, Todd wakes up and comforts Courtney, stroking her hair before they both go back to sleep holding hands. Fuck. This. Girl. Also, extremely uncool Todd. Come on, dude.

The next day, Todd and Liz have a big row about Courtney, Todd insists that they're just friends and that Liz should be more sensitive towards Courtney, what with all her alleged family problems, but Liz reckons that he crossed a line. They can't manage to agree on anything and the row escalates to the point where they break up and Liz is left alone, crying into the spaghetti sauce she's making for everyone's dinner.

Weirdly, no one seems to have noticed that golden couple Liz and Todd have broken up, and the group have moved along the coast to a state park campground in Big Sur, where Jessica manages to run into that rebel on a pedal bike, Robbie October. The fact that on this occasion she's "barely covered by a copper-coloured bikini" and expertly throws a frisbee back to Charlie Markus means that she actually gets Robbie's attention this time and they arrange to meet for a night-time hike when the Sweet Valley group are asleep so Jess can sneak away.

"I'll bet you're a night person, anyway." She arched one eyebrow suggestively.
Robbie took another careful look at her, his gaze caressing every inch of her. "You're right!" he said finally. "I am a night man."

Aaaaand now I have to leave this here. (Trust me, this is hilarious if you watch It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.)


The next morning, everyone wakes up but there's no sign of Jessica. Elizabeth eventually gets it out of Lila that Jessica had planed to meet Robbie to go see some waterfall in the middle of the night. Todd knows where the waterfall is, so Mr Collins tells him to take Elizabeth along one of the paths to it, and he'll check the other route with Charlie, Roger and Barry. (Mr. Collins gently tries to talk Barry out of coming, because he's fat and slow, you see.) Courtney says she wants to help too, so she goes with Todd and Elizabeth and proves to be totally useless, screaming at the sight of a tiny water snake and moaning that she's getting a cold because it's been raining while they've been searching. Todd thinks they should go back to the camp if Courtney's getting sick, and Liz is like "eh, no, I'm going to keep looking for my sister, obviously". It looks like Todd is going to have to choose between Elizabeth and the crafty bitch that's trying to steal him away, but just in time, the other group shows up, so Liz goes with them and frostily tells Todd to take Courtney back.

Meanwhile, Jessica and Robbie are trapped in a cave with a black bear because they got lost on the way to the waterfall and ended up in the cave when it started raining, without realising it was already occupied. The group that Liz has joined then comes across the cave and see what's happened. Charlie goes to throw a rock at the bear, like an idiot, and Barry stops him, because the bear is just trying to protect her cubs and black bears aren't usually violent, unless confronted.

Elizabeth and Mr Collins exchanged a look of total astonishment. Who would have guessed that under his insecure, butter-fingered pudgy exterior, Barry was an expert on animals?

Jesus Christ, maybe people who AREN'T terrible? Just because he's heavy doesn't mean that his only interests are cake and sandwiches, you DICKS.

Also, while they're taking this moment to get some digs in at Barry, despite the fact that he's actually being helpful and stopping Charlie from making the situation worse, let's take a look at some of the other ways this book and its characters has referred to him, since Liz's "roly poly" thought, up till now.

"tub of lard", "butterball", "jelly belly", "awkward, heavy-set boy", "big fat klutz","slow as molasses"

Real nice kids, that Sweet Valley group.

Anyway, Barry then runs at the bear and gets her to follow him while he tries to lead her away. Jessica and Robbie get a chance to come out of the cave and the bear doubles back when she hears one of her cubs crying. Mr Collins then runs over, "scooped the exhausted boy up and hoisted him over his shoulder", which seems unlikely if Barry is as hefty as the book is constantly telling us. Unless Mr Collins is built like The Rock or Terry Crews. After the incident, everyone is really sound to Barry and Jessica even kisses him on the cheek and deigns to give him some of her valuable attention. Because if you're not sexy, you have to literally save someone from getting eaten by a bear to get any respect from these assholes.

That night, after everyone is gone to sleep, Courtney wakes Todd and tells him she has to talk to him about her father. While she's waiting for him to get dressed, she smokes a Marlboro (because she's evil) and we find out that she called her father a few days ago and convinced him to let her come home after saying that she missed him and that Todd was going to come back with her. Steve Thomas has agreed to let her leave early, because he thought Todd was the best guy ever when he met him, so Courtney's plan has all fallen into place. When Todd comes over to her, she finishes her cigarette, "carelessly flicked the rest of it into the bushes behind her" and tells Todd that she has to go home because she's "so worried" about her dad and his drinking and he just sounds worse and worse every time she calls home. She convinces Todd to come back to LA with her, kisses him and says that they can leave the following day.

Later that night, Elizabeth wakes up and smells something burning, because OH NO, FOREST FIRE. Everyone scrambles to try to put the fire out, Lila is freaking out and when Nora Dalton tries to calm her down, she starts screaming about how Nora just goes around ruining people's lives, like her husband's, and Roger Collins is like "Husband?! Wtf!?" but now is really not the time you guys. The group work together and eventually put the fire out. Afterwards, Roger Collins asks Nora what the this whole husband business is about and she tearfully tells him that the man she married turned out to be horrible and violent, so she left him and when she wouldn't come back to him, he killed himself. His wealthy and powerful family then turned on Nora/Beth and said they'd ruin her life if she told anyone what he was really like, so she fled and changed her name to get away from them. It also turns out that George Fowler knows this family and realised who Nora really was, so he was blackmailing her into dating him or something. It's pretty dark, but they sort of breeze past that bit. Anyway, Nora, or Beth as I'll have to call her now, unless they pull an Armin Tamzarian on us, makes up with Mr. Collins and they get back together.

In the meantime, Elizabeth is blaming herself for the forest fire, as she was the one responsible for putting out the campfire that night. She has a heart-to-heart with Mr. Collins and tells him all about Todd and Courtney and that Todd is no longer her boyfriend.

"The astonishment on his face was clear. And it was no surprise. Elizabeth and Todd had been the first to agree when people said they were a perfect couple."

Insufferable.

Mr. Collins then tells Elizabeth that Steve Thomas sent his daughter on this trip to get her away from Nolan Ruggers and they agree that neither of them believe a word of Courtney's sob story. The group reassembles and Beth Curtis has been telling everyone about her true identity, even though it's none of their goddamn business. Afterwards, Liz confronts Courtney in front of everyone, pushing her on the real reason for her being on the trip. Todd jumps to her defence and Liz tells everyone that she's leaving the trip too, because the fire was her fault. Everyone is astonished and about to cry because if the group is losing Saint Elizabeth, they might as well have all died in the fire. Todd then pipes up about Courtney and her nefarious fag-smoking ways, prompting her to lose her shit and start screaming at everyone, showing her true colours. EVIL COLOURS. She gets sent to stay with her aunt, Liz and Todd are reunited, Patmans Roger and Bruce are all good, Annie and Charlie have hooked up and everyone has a nice time for the reminder of their trip.

It was actually a pretty sucky summer overall, so the title seems like a bit of a misnomer here.

Notable outfit:
There wasn't much in the way of fun outfits in this one, seeing as the group had to carry whatever clothes they packed while cycling, so Courtney gets this one for her ensemble at the send-off dinner her father hosts in the mansion before the group departs from LA.

She was swathed in an exotic Indian silk sari, shot through with gold threads. Her hair was gathered loosely off her face, but a few stray black curls cascaded softly down around her shoulders. To complete her outfit, a pair of crescent-shaped hammered-gold earring dangled from Courtney's ears.

GAWD Courtney, cultural appropriation, much? Inapprops.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 249
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 10
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 5
References to Todd's coffee-brown eyes: 6 (Get in there, Todd!) 

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The Cat's Miaow - Catwoman On Screen #1

Over the last while, The Bear and I have been working our way through the Adam West Batman series from the 60s. I was given the box set as a present a while ago and let me tell you, it is a DELIGHT. However, it was only over the weekend, in episode 19 of the first series, that Catwoman made her first appearance. And if there's one thing I love, it's a bit of Catwoman. As such, I've decided to take you through this most illustrious of episodes, aptly titled "The Purr-fect Crime".

***
Also, I've had to set up a new Facebook page for the blog, as I've been locked out of the account I had been using, due to my name not actually being Kitty Catastrophe in real life. Boo. So if you wouldn't mind liking this one, I'd appreciate it muchly!
www.facebook.com/redlemonadeblog 
***


Before we begin, I just want to point out how Catwoman looks in the cartoon titles of the show:


i.e. AMAZING. Look at that collar! The scowl! The mask! Love it. However, it's nothing like she looks in the show, so I do wonder if they just threw her into this title sequence well before figuring out how they were actually going to approach the character, considering it takes eighteen episodes before she turns up. Interestingly, it's actually not unlike how Catwoman currently looks in the DC comics universe. In any case, onto the episode in question!

We begin in the Gotham City museum, with a security guard patrolling in front of a golden cat statue. He hears a miaowing sound, and when he asks "What's that?", the reply is the business end of a whip, cracking the gun out of his hand, followed by a cat that's definitely just been thrown at his face by someone offscreen.

Our first glimpse of Catwoman is a gloved hand with claws so sharp they can slice open the glass cabinet containing the cat statue before reaching in and stealing it, because girlfriend is on-brand and don't you forget it.


In the next scene, Commissioner Gordon receives a kitten in the post, with a clue tied to its collar, leading him to believe that Catwoman, or The Catwoman, as they keep calling her in this episode, is after the fortune of the owner of the cat statue.

BAT-TIME.

Cut to Wayne Manor, where Bruce is schooling his young ward Dick Grayson in the ways of chess. Four-tier chess to be precise. I have no idea why. 


"It's actually quite rudimentary, Dick. You just have to think fourteen moves ahead." Helpful.

Commissioner Gordon summons Batman and Robin to his office, where he fills them in on Catwoman's plans, in which she's going to steal a matching golden cat statue from the Gotham Exposition. Before speeding away in the Batmobile to put a plan into action, Batman delivers a quick lecture on road safety to Robin, who hasn't fastened his Bat-Safety Belt. Bat-safety first, kids.

Also, the Bat-Safety Belts are pink! PINK! Stick that in your dour gritty remake FACE, Christopher Nolan!
Meanwhile, in a gauze-curtained lair, hidden in the Gato & Chat Fur factory, Catwoman plots with her tiger-stripe sporting henchmen, Leo and Felix. Julie Newmar enters the room with a crack of her whip, looking like fine-ass gold-leaf champagne. She's reading up on the lost treasure of Captain Manx and laughs maniacally to herself, with a miaow thrown in at the end, because #personalbrand


Batman and Robin arrive back to the Batcave, where they use the atomic reactor to charge up the Batmobile. Robin could use a bat-safety lecture here too though, as the big pipe he's plugged into the back of the car is leaking that shit everywhere.

Holy radiation poisoning, Batman!

Batman does a spot of chemistry with the beakers and tubes that appear to be constantly bubbling and giving off smoke in the Batcave, while wearing a pair of gloves OVER HIS GLOVES. BECAUSE OF COURSE.


He's preparing a radiation spray that they're going to coat the second cat statue with in order to track it. Who needs a regular old tracking device when you've got all this spare radiation lying around?

Batman and the Boy Wonder head to the Exposition, conscientiously insisting that they pay for their tickets "just like any other citizen" and lie in wait for Catwoman. After spraying the statue with the radiation-spray, of course. When Batman leaves Robin alone with the statue to check the exits ("I'll be back in three minutes and twenty seconds"), Catwoman strikes via the medium of another leaping cat, which again looks like someone has thrown it, knocking Robin unconscious because it was a POISONED CAT.

Let's just take a moment to appreciate Julie Newmar's face in that cat-mask.
Batman returns just in time to see Catwoman make off with the statue and set her henchmen on him. After some CRRAACK!ing and OOOF!ing, Batman sees an unconscious Robin tumbling out of a sarcophagus (and falling perfectly within the illuminated circle of a spotlight, because he gets it) and rushes to his aid, while Leo and Felix take off.


Luckily, Batman has Universal Antidote Pills in his utility belt, so he revives Robin and they set off to track the statue from the Batmobile's Batometer.

Back in her lair, Catwoman is putting a plan in place for Batman and Robin's arrival, as she's expecting them to follow her and the statue to the factory. She then dismisses her ludicrous henchmen, swiftly followed by:

"Oh and Felix? You can brush my pussy willows before you leave."

WAT. I don't think anyone but Julie Newmar could deliver that line.

Check out that sweet cat-phone!

The Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder arrive at the Gato and Chat Fur Company, opening the door with the Bat-beam, in case it's booby-trapped. It was, and a bit of it explodes when opened.

Robin: "Right again Batman, we could have been killed!
Batman: "Or worse."

Huh?

When they step inside, Catwoman informs them via intercom that she's got a wonderful evening planned for them and a trapdoor opens under their feet. Textbook villainy. The Dynamic Duo (there are so many different names for these guys) find themselves in a room with rapidly closing spiked walls, while Catwoman taunts them as she watches on a television screen.


Gasp! Bat-gasp! But wait! The spikes are made of rubber and Catwoman was just fucking with them! Oh that tricksy kitty. She then sends a big Hunger Games tube down from the ceiling around Robin and steals him away from Batman. "You feline devil!" Catwoman then reveals two doors for Batman to choose from. She's behind one, but the other will release "a ferocious Batman-eating tiger".

Batman thinks for a moment, and presses a button to open his chosen door. But UH OH! IT'S TIGER TIME. Will Batman survive a tiger? What will happen to Robin? So many questions!


 SAME CAT TIME, SAME CAT CHANNEL. YASS QUEEN.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Runaway

Shall we check in with those crazy kids in the Valley they call Sweet? Let's!

Sweet Valley High #21: Runaway 
 

The twins are in Jessica's room, bickering over a new blue silk blouse (foncy!) that Elizabeth bought and Jessica borrowed without asking, when their brother Steven arrives home from college. It turns out that he's dropped out for the rest of the term because he hasn't gotten over Tricia's death. Apparently that was only a few months ago, although we've been through nine books since then, which is why it feels more like years, rather than months, have passed.

Jessica feels a momentary twinge of guilt over what an absolute wagon she was to Tricia when she was alive, giving us some inkling that she may not actually be 100% blonde hair and pure evil. Of course, Jessica's attempts to ruin Tricia's life and make her own brother Steven miserable are breezily dismissed as "well-intentioned tampering", because this bitch just gets a pass on everything.

In any case, the twins decide to invite Steven to a party at Cara's house in an effort to cheer him up a bit and Elizabeth talks Jessica into being the one to do the asking. The Wakefields gather for dinner, and Ned has been on cooking detail, the massive dreamboat.

Her father, wearing an apron over his shirt and tie, was standing at a counter and fussing over the salad. On anyone else, the apron might have been comic, but Ned Wakefield was the kind of man who looked good in almost anything.

Alright ghostwriter, put your pants back on.

At dinner, Steven is distant and quiet but when Jessica brings up the party, he flies off the handle at her, thinking that she's trying to set him up with Cara again and accusing her of trying manipulate everyone's life, before furiously storming out. Then Ned and Alice have a go at Jessica for being insensitive, and only lay off when Elizabeth explains that it was actually her idea and that they didn't mean anything by it. Jessica is filled with righteous indignation, as her parents never yell at Elizabeth and she's always the one getting in trouble, so she flounces off to Dairi Burger to meet Cara.

While there, she runs into Nicky Shepard, a fast car-drivin', longish hair-havin', Shady Lady drinkin' bad boy who's a quiet, mysterious loner at school, yet is built like a football player. Sounds legit. He flirts with Jessica, and she reckons she sees a fragility or something in his eyes, so she's fascinated.

Cara's party is in full swing the following night, and while Steven eventually agreed to go, he's moping in the corner while everyone else is apparently having a wonderful time.

In one corner a group of people were playing Trivial Pursuit.

ROCK ON, KIDS.

Fed up with Steven's glum demeanour and everyone generally talking about how brilliant Elizabeth is, Jessica stomps out to the back garden and runs into Nicky. He smokes a cigarette and talks about how his parents don't care about him, that his dad works all the time and his mother is constantly busy with his younger brother Danny, who has asthma, so she never has time for him. Like, just get that kid some Ventolin and everyone chill. Be grand. Anyway, Jess and Nicky bond over feeling unwanted and they end up kissing and then dancing up a storm back inside, scandalising their square-as-fuck fellow students. They end up leaving the party together, while Elizabeth and Steven look on disapprovingly.

The next day, Elizabeth tells her parents that she thinks something is up with Jessica, as she's been withdrawn and passive, but Ned and Alice aren't concerned, and while they admit that she hasn't seemed like herself lately, it seems like "a change for the better". BURN! Alice, you shady bitch. Elizabeth then points out:

"It may be nice, but it just isn't Jessica."

HAA! SUCK IT, JESS!

Elizabeth then confides in Steven that she thinks something is up with Jessica. He tries talking to Jess but it all goes a bit wrong and they end up arguing, leaving Jessica feeling sad and like everyone prefers Elizabeth to her. In an effort to show that she's changed, Jessica makes dinner for the family but they all make jokes about how she gave them all food poisoning the last time and when Ned starts talking about an ongoing court case involving Ricky Capaldo's family, he dismisses Jessica's opinion and is all ears when Elizabeth chips in, and even invites her along to the hearing so she can write about it for the Sweet Valley News. (Sure why wouldn't the local paper want a sixteen year old writing their court reports?) In any case, all the Elizabeth-love makes Jessica feel even more like no one wants her around.

Fed up, Jessica goes out alone for the evening and runs into sexy Nicky being a sexy loner, sitting on the bonnet of his car, like a lukewarm Sweet Valley James Dean. He takes her to a gazebo in the town's oldest park, a place he likes to go to but has never shared with anyone else. However, Jessica is special, and she sees how sensitive he is while they bond some more over being misunderstood. He then confides in her that he's got a plan to run away to San Francisco and go into business with his friend Denny.

Hang on.

San Francisco?

DENNY?


WHAT KIND OF DRUGS, DENNY?

(If you have no idea what I'm talking about, I must insist that you watch The Room. You won't regret it. Although a few drinks probably wouldn't go astray.)

The next morning, Elizabeth is all set to join her Dad at the courthouse for the hearing and tries to get Jessica to come with her, but she's not having it and they end up arguing. Ned and Elizabeth head off to the hearing, and the paper has agreed to print Liz's articles about the case, because of course they'll want a sixteen year old court reporter when she's a Magical Wakefield. The deal with the case is that Ricky's parents got divorced and his father upped sticks and stopped paying child support. As a result, Ricky's mother is struggling and is trying to stop the grandparents on the dad's side from seeing Ricky and his sister, in the hopes that they'll pressure their son to pay up. Unsurprisingly, Ricky is none too pleased that his classmate is writing a story about his family troubles for all to read in the local newspaper, and he angrily asks Elizabeth not to write the story.

That evening, Jessica is at a party with Nicky, but this one doesn't have kids playing Trivial Pursuit in the corner. Oh no. This one has beer and joints and punky girls called Sheila with bright red hair and too much eyeliner. Jessica ends up telling Nicky about all her arguments with her family and how she feels like they don't want her around, so he asks her come to San Francisco with him when he leaves in a few days time. She decides that she couldn't leave, so Nicky tells her to think about it and they leave the party together. He's had a few beers but doesn't seem drunk, so Jessica reluctantly lets him drive, and in a twist that will surprise no one, they crash into a telephone pole on the outskirts of Sweet Valley.

Neither of them are hurt, and when Nicky calls his parents, they're furious with him and more concerned about the damage to the car, never once checking to see if their son and his friend are ok. They drop Jessica home, who manages to get out of it without her parents finding out, and that night she resolves to talk to her family and get everything out in the open the following day.

Unfortunately for Jessica, everyone else is super busy and has places to be the next morning, resulting in a series of conversations where each family member that she tries to talk to goes running out the door in a hurry. When she's finally left alone in the house, Jessica calls Nicky, who reveals that he's leaving town that night, as things have gotten so bad at home after the car crash, so Jessica decides she's going to follow him to San Francisco the next day. She tells her family that she's spending the weekend at Lila's house, packs up her shit and writes a suitably melodramatic note to Elizabeth, beginning with "By the time you get this, I will be far away", where she apologises for all the trouble she's caused and tells everyone she loves them. Jessica realises that she's only really leaving a note in the hopes that they'll come and find her, because she doesn't actually want to go. But hey, attention doesn't grow on trees. She leaves the note in her bedroom, but as she closes the door, a breeze knocks it over and it falls down behind the dresser it was left on. Ooooh, you jerky dramatic effect breeze!

Jessica looks like she's going to the gym in her Jennifer Beals from Flashdance jumper. But she's VERY SAD ABOUT IT. Also, there's hardly anything in that bag.

Meanwhile, at the courthouse, Ned's case to help Ricky's grandparents retain the right to see their grandchildren isn't going super well, as Ricky and his sister appear to support their mother in her decision. At one point during Ned's closing argument, Ricky walks out of the courtroom. His girlfriend Annie goes to follow him, but "Elizabeth stopped her with a look". Which seems unlikely really, I mean I know she's a Wakefield and all but have a seat bitch, this does not concern you and Ricky is not your boyfriend. Anyway, Elizabeth finds Ricky crying in the corridor and when he cuts her off to angrily tell her that she has no idea how he feels or what this whole ordeal has been like for him, the little wagon GETS MAD AT HIM. She essentially calls him a quitter and says that he's hurting his grandparents when all they've ever done is love him and other tough love pep talky stuff.

When Elizabeth reenters the courtroom, Ned is winding up his argument and comes over all Helen Lovejoy, "Think of the children. The children. That's what's really at stake here. Think of them." And right when the judge is about to wrap things up in favour of Ricky's mother, Ricky comes back in and interrupts proceedings to say that what's happening isn't right and that it isn't fair to any of them.

When he caught Elizabeth's eye, he smiled.

Oh PLEASE. Can't her meddling ever just backfire for fuck's sake? The judge takes the lot of them into the back and they all reach an agreement between themselves, so Elizabeth saved the day yet again by wading into other people's issues uninvited and waving her big wooden stirring spoon of honesty personified around.

When Elizabeth gets back home, she goes into Jessica's room to return a scarf that she borrowed and immediately realises that something is very wrong, as Jessica's chocolate-brown painted room is perfectly tidy and the wardrobe is completely empty. She alerts her parents, who have just arrived home and they rush to call Lila to see if she knows anything. Then Steven turns up, so Alice informs him of the news.

His mother turned to him from her chair. Worry lined her youthful face.

Yes, we get it, Alice could PRACTICALLY be their older sister, so gorgeous and un-aged is she. Lila has no idea where Jessica is, so Steven suggests that she might be with Nicky. Elizabeth and her dad head over to Nicky's parents house, but his mother is rude and unhelpful, eventually admitting that they haven't even tried looking for Nicky because they're a shower of bastards.

Meanwhile, Jessica is mournfully sitting in the bus station, waiting until the very last bus in the hopes that she'll be rescued from the public transport nightmare (if pop culture has taught me anything) that is American buses. Deciding that her family don't actually care about her, she resigns herself to her runaway plan and boards the bus. Back at the house, Steven is on the phone to a guy who's in with Nicky's crowd and finds out that he's gone to San Francisco, which must be where Jess has headed.

Steven and Elizabeth drive to the bus station and discover that Jessica just got on the last bus, as they see it pull away. They race the bus to the next stop in Carver City and catch it just in time to run onboard and find Jessica and then cry all over each other. They bring Jessica home and everything is great. Woooo.

Notable outfit:
Caroline Pearce was looking fly as fuck at the Trivial Pursuit party:

Her soft, ivory skin seemed to glow from within, and the green jumpsuit she was wearing set off her red hair and green eyes dramatically.

Get it, Car.

But I really must give a shout-out to Elizabeth's courtroom hack outfit:

Elizabeth was dressed like the perfect reporter in a smartly tailored tan suit. 

She wears this with a green scarf tied around her neck, borrowed from Jessica. No sixteen year old girls' wardrobe is complete without a tailored tan suit. Murphy Brown realness.

Things I counted:
Number of pages:169
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 5
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 3 (Aw. But they're SO BLONDE! And SUNKISSED!)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fifty Shades On Film - The Tedious Fuckery Continues

Having spent a sizeable amount of time word-punching my way through the first two Fifty Shades books, going to see the film adaptation was pretty much inevitable. I kinda backed myself into a corner there, so the other night I dragged my lovely BFF (and former blogmate - *tips a 40 on the curb*) Tess along, who has never read the books but fancies Jamie Dornan. (Or at least, fancied. I must check if that's still the case.) I was probably going to be somewhat biased going into the film, what with it being based on THE DUMBEST! BOOKS! IN THE WORLD! So Tess was a means of balancing my scorn for the source material, having successfully - and quite rightly - avoided it entirely.


We actually missed the very start, as we were too busy finishing off our pints in The Black Sheep beforehand and I overestimated the usual twenty minutes of ads before a film starts in Cineworld. (Fucking ADS like, not even trailers.) As we arrived, Dakota Johnson was in the middle of shyly interviewing Jamie Dornan at his desk, so I don't know if Ana fell arse over tit into his office like she did in the books, or if she began the film by staring glumly at her reflection in a mirror, moaning about her eyes being too big and how hard it is to be a beautiful skinny white woman.

In any case, to be fair to Dakota Johnson (and to my complete surprise) she actually managed to make Ana, a highly unlikable fuckwit, into someone tolerable and even kinda funny at times. And considering the fact that EL James was constantly on set wrecking everyone's heads, they were probably the times when she was looking the other way, distracted by something shiny. Film Ana was actually entertaining in places, such as when she drunk-dials Christian and takes the piss out him by putting on a gruff voice and mocking his idiotic indecisiveness. "Stay away from me Ana...no, wait, c'mere...no, no, go away." And she has the self-preservation instinct to be disturbed rather than overjoyed when Christian tracks her down in Georgia to berate her for having a few cocktails with her mother, which made a nice change.

However, Book Ana would still manage to elbow her way into the film every so often, perhaps most notably during their sex contract negotiations (during most of which Film Ana showed 100% more wit, backbone and general cop-on than EL James's pathetic lip-biting twat) when Dakota Johnson was presumably coerced into saying the line "What are butt plugs?" I mean, of all the many and varied devices that you can either attach to, or stick inside a person, butt plugs are probably as straightforwardly named a thing as you can get. IT'S EXACTLY WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE, GODDAMMIT. THIS HAS EL JAMES WRITTEN ALL OVER IT.

Jamie Dornan had his work cut out for him, playing irredeemable prick Christian, and when it came to delivering ridiculous lines like "I don't make love...I fuck. Hard.", instead of collectively swooning, the cinema audience burst out laughing. Upon hearing the line, Tess actually folded herself into a tiny ball in her seat, quietly whimpering "Christ...it's so cringey." She was not having a good time.

Speaking of the audience, there was a weird, giddy atmosphere in the cinema, with high-pitched squeals of laughter at completely random moments and one guy theatrically clearing his throat every time Ana's knickers came off. It was like we were all on holiday from accepted cinema etiquette, but the movie was so stupid, it was actually fine. Distractions were welcome, if anything.

Unfortunately, there's no getting away from EL James's shoddy dialogue and barely-existent plot, so for the most part, it's actually quite a boring film to watch. Dakota and Jamie are both good-looking people, but their complete lack of chemistry makes the sex scenes about as titillating as watching two shop mannequins repeatedly bump into each other.

It also means that the decision Ana makes towards the end, i.e. allowing Christian to wallop her with a belt even though she wants no such thing, makes just as little sense onscreen as it did in the book. Particularly when there was so much emphasis on the agreed safewords in the run-up to it. JUST SAY RED FOR FUCK'S SAKE.

At this point, Tess was checking her emails, something which would be unacceptable were it literally any other film, but as I said, regular cinema etiquette had gone out the window and I just didn't care. It would have been nice if the girl in the row behind me stopped kicking my fucking seat though.

Anyway, the film managed to gloss over a lot of Christian's utter dickishness and because we're not hearing Ana's thoughts, which is mostly a relief, as it means we're spared her infuriating inner goddess fuckery, we also don't hear how constantly afraid she is of Christian, how she doesn't trust him and how she considers escaping out of her bedroom window when he LITERALLY BREAKS INTO HER HOUSE TO FUCK HER.

Unsurprisingly, it's not a good film. But it doesn't even have the decency to be the fun type of bad, like Showgirls bad. It might have had a shot at that particular brand of cult movie status had they included the tampon scene (which was really the most outrageous sex-thing in the entire series), or Christian throwing a big-boy tantrum when Ana tries to pay for their pancakes, so instead we're landed with a below-mediocre, boring sex film.

But then again, that's pretty much what I expected.

Tess's verdict: "Well that was shite."

Stray notes:
  • When Ana wakes up in Christian's hotel room and he says he "had no choice" but to undress her before putting her to bed. FUCK. RIGHT. OFF.
  • Also, the bit when he crawled up onto the bed and bit the toast out of her hand was hilariously stupid. Dude, what are you doing. Fuck away off from her toast.
  • I'm not sure why the film wanted us to hate Kate, but they pretty much immediately turned us against her when she declines Ana's offer to make her a sandwich, then changes her mind and TAKES ANA'S SANDWICH OUT OF HER HAND LIKE SOME KIND OF FUCKING ANIMAL. RUDE.
  • Rita Ora! With Louise Brooks hair! For about four seconds.
  • Just when we thought we were safe from the book's interminable MOTHERFUCKING EMAILS, they go and include them in the film. BOOM, EMAILED RIGHT IN THE FACE. Although at least they're streamlined down to name and message, but I'll just bet EL James was there in post-production, looking over everyone's shoulder and making the case for including timestamps and subject lines and dumbass signatures.
  • Ana's old-ass flip phone. Girl.
  • TAYLOR! My hero. Also about a thousand percent sexier than anything else in the film. Just like the books.
  • Jennifer Ehle, I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed. I even deployed your disapproving face as a means to tell Ana to shut up back in my first few recaps of the book. And now you do me like this.

(Also, last week, I was on 96fm in Cork for a chat about the books, which you can listen to here, should that be of interest. I turn up around the 30 minute mark.)

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Paris In The Springtime

I rewatched classic 90s romantic comedy French Kiss while at home over Christmas, for the first time in yeeears. I'd forgotten how much I liked this film. It's properly funny, has great lines, Kevin Kline practically defining roguish charm and a catchphrase that became part of my family's vocabulary, namely, "eet makes my ass twitch". While watching it, I decided I would write a recap post, inspired by Bim Adewunmi's fantastic posts about 90s films. Although this one probably won't be half as well written as hers, and indeed, if you get bored halfway through (it's pretty long after all, and when I was in the middle of writing it I considered just abandoning the idea, because who wants to read 2000ish words from me about a film from twenty - CHRIST! - years ago?), I urge you to read Bim's wonderful posts about While You Were Sleeping, She's All That and 10 Things I Hate About You, because they're funny and insightful and you just should.


So. French Kiss! Let's go!

The movie opens with a close-up of Meg Ryan's eyes, nervously screwed shut. Her character Kate is apparently on a plane before takeoff. This is peak Meg Ryan, it's two years after Sleepless In Seattle and three years before You've Got Mail, she's cute as a goddamn button and her hair looks great.


(Also, fun fact - I've just discovered that Meg voiced Dr. Blight in Captain Planet! Remember? The sexy villainess scientist with the great jawline and the cool haircut that covered a massive scar on her face? Had an evil computer sidekick called MAL? Who, it turns out, was voiced by Tim Curry at one point! What a great cartoon.)

Anyway, Kate is mad nervous and quite clearly terrified of flying. The voice over the intercom suddenly addresses her by name, telling her to stick to the plan of thinking of a little stone cottage to calm herself down, because this ain't no plane bitches, it's actually a simulator at a place for curing people of their fear of flying. It must be a lucrative business, because their pretend plane setup is highly elaborate and Kate manages to get a refund from the company when she freaks out and goes tumbling out the cabin door in a panicked attempt to escape. It turns out that she was trying to get over her fear so she could go to Paris with her fiancee Charlie for a medical conference he's attending.

Back at home, Charlie tries to convince Kate to come with him while packing for his trip, but Kate is pretending she doesn't really want to go anyway, because she doesn't like French people (harsh enough, Kate) and while she would love to see the Eiffel Tower, she isn't actually supposed to leave the country while her application for Canadian citizenship is coming through. Oh yeah, because we're in Canada you see, and this film does its utmost to provide the audience with little background reminders of that fact, which I enjoyed immensely. Would you like to see some? I've decided that you've said yes. And I've taken the liberty of pointing them out. Shoutily.


So. That evening, Kate drags Charlie out for a drive so they can look at a lovely house up for sale. Charlie's all like, "What are we doing outside this house, which is for sale?" so we can only assume that he's never seen a film before in his life, because Kate quite obviously has something big to tell him. That thing is that Kate's been saving her money for years and she has a nest egg of 45,000 dollarybucks, so they could actually buy said house, with a little help from his parents. Charlie's reaction to this exciting news is to quietly say "my whole life is passing before my eyes and I don''t even have children yet." Charlie appears to be significantly less excited than Kate. Charlie is kind of a dick.

Cut to Kate watching telly at home, getting a phonecall from Charlie in Paris, who goes on about how "incroyable" the sauce that came with his dinner was (dick), at which point Kate slightly panics and warns him that she saw a thing on 60 Minutes, where "the sauce has to be incroyable to cover up the horsemeat!" However, they don't actually hide horsemeat in France, Meg. There are literally pictures of horses on the signs outside French butchers.

Anyway, we see Kate get a few more calls from Charlie, in which he gets increasingly brusque, talking over Kate (dick) and doesn't appear to have any interest in talking about their plans to buy the house they looked at. Finally, he rings while Kate is making dinner (in a wonderfully 90s midriff-baring blue polo neck), and he sounds kinda drunk. He launches into telling Kate about this "goddess" he's met and how sorry he is, but he's not coming back because he's in love "like in a sonnet" and he feels like he can do anything, even pee with someone standing in line behind him (which appears to be something he was previously unable to accomplish). DICK.

Kate is understandably distraught while he's telling her all this, but gets her plucky rom-com heroine game face on and gets herself on a plane. Unsurprisingly, she is having a terrible time and all the stone cottages in the world don't seem to be helping. Her thought exercises are then disrupted by the sound of a French man arguing with one of the flight attendants, a French man who just happens to be played by the utter delight that is Kevin Kline.

Oh hai.
He's Luc, the Frenchest French man ever to French, and ends up seated beside Kate, which she's none too happy about, but he's not joint top-billed on this film for nothing, so get on board, Kateypants! I love Kevin Kline. Frenchie Luc looks on with mild interest while Kate begins to freak the fuck out as the plane is taxiing (I had to Google how to spell that properly and it still looks weird) and gearing up for takeoff. He then makes fun of her for being all prim and proper with her shirt all buttoned up and, in his opinion, "afraid of life, love and sex". She tells him he's rude and he ends up provoking her into a full-scale argument to distract her from takeoff because he's SECRETLY LOVELY.

Also, here's one last background-Canada before they leave the country altogether, and because all that shouting ended up reminding me of Benny and his "SPACESHIP!" in The Lego Movie...


Kate ends up telling Luc all about Charlie and they discuss love and relationships and such. Luc tells Kate that he lost his virginity at the age of twelve to a prostitute called Magda. Kate was eighteen and her first time was with a jock called Jeff in her basement on Valentine's Day, with Jeopardy on in the background. Apparently Jeff got all the questions wrong, except for the sports round.

At one point, Luc gets all jumpy when Kate pats his arm and when he runs off to the airplane bathroom, we see that he's got a baby vine all wrapped up with a diamond necklace squirreled away in an inside pocket of his leather jacket. When he gets back to his seat after carefully watering the vine, Kate is asleep so he hides both the plant and the necklace in her backpack. When they arrive at the airport, as far as an unassuming Kate knows, she has nothing to declare, so she breezes past customs, while Luc is immediately stopped, due to the big shifty head on him and then approached by a cop. Who is played by Jean Reno because OBVIOUSLY. He's pretty much the go-to guy when it comes to French cops. His character is called Jean-Paul, which is great because Jean Reno is the most Jean-looking guy in the world, so why bother pretending otherwise?

I mean..right?
Jean Reno drags Luc off to his car, while he helplessly watches Kate get into a taxi with his loot in her bag. Jean goes through all of Luc's stuff on the journey into Paris, he's actually with his family and explains to his kids that Luc saved his life back in the day, so they're kinda buddies I guess?

Kate turns up at George V, the fancy hotel that Charlie is staying at, but the concierge is unhelpful and rude because Charlie has a do not disturb notice on his room phone, like the bastard he is. Kate tries to bribe concierge man, but he's having none of it, haughtily declaring; "It is my duty as concierge to safeguard the privacy of our guests." Pretty sure it's to order taxis and sort out show tickets for rich people, but whatever.

With no other option available, Kate waits in the lobby, hoping that Charlie will show up soon. In the meantime, she's joined by a suave dude in a bad yellow shirt (with matching pocket square) who seems to be chatting her up. However, Kate is preoccupied with her and Charlie's last conversation and ends up asking this dude if he can urinate with someone standing behind him, which leads to a great misunderstanding about sexual watersports and this dude, who is quite clearly a gigolo, kindly offering to facilitate.

However, while these wires are being crossed, Charlie descends in the glass lift accompanied by a gorgeous bird with swooshy Kelly Kapowski hair and the sight of them together causes Kate to faint. Suave Gigolo Guy nicks her luggage while she's passed out and briefly meets Luc in the revolving door on his way out. Luc arrives on the scene to revive Kate, who is most upset at all her bags being stolen. "My money, my passport, my VITAMINS!" She then goes on a slightly out-of-it rant about all men being bastards and it's just wonderful. It turns out that Luc knows the guy who took her luggage, and his name is Bob. "Of course you know him, all you bastards know each other."

Also, now that Kate is left without her luggage, it means that she's stuck with this outfit for most of the film:

I know, Kate. I don't know why you chose that sweater-vest thing either.
However, Kate is nothing if not a resourceful dresser, and actually manages to knock quite a few looks out of this particular combination of clothes. As fashion people say, layering is your friend and it certainly worked out for Kate in this instance. See?


So, back to going after Kate's stuff, Luc steals a car (setting something of a precedent here that French dudes do a lot of stealing, unless they're cops called Jean) and they go to find Bob. On the way, Luc asks why Kate has come all the way to Paris for Charlie to humiliate her to her face but she's convinced that once he sees her in person it will break whatever spell this girl has put on him with her fancy French vagina. 

Bob lives in a sad little apartment, they retrieve her backpack but her money, passport and for some reason most importantly, vitamins, are all gone. Luc ransacks the place looking for his baby vine and finds it on the windowsill, so he grabs it and whispers to it like it's his tiny leafy girlfriend.

Kate realises that Luc was only helping her so he could get his vine back, so they get into yet another row, this time over him using her as an unwitting mule. He explains that he needs the plant so he can mix it with French vines and start his own unique vineyard, but Kate doesn't care and just wants rid of him at this stage. They separate and Luc discovers that the necklace is missing, so he goes back to Bob and holds him up by the neck until he says it must still be in Kate's bag.

Kate makes her way to the American embassy and sleeps outside the gates, waiting for it to open. In the morning, looking remarkably fresh for someone who slept outside on the footpath, she gets to a counter and ends up being told that the embassy won't help her because she needs her Canadian citizenship stuff for them to give her a US passport. For some reason, the American counter lady seems to take it personally when Kate explains that she's applying for Canadian citizenship. Relax, counter lady. Kate then has to trundle off to the Canadian embassy and explain that there was an emergency, which was why she had to leave the country. Canadian embassy guy is nice and polite, but it turns out that Kate was arrested as a college student when she was caught with a joint, and because she was convicted her visa is denied. Womp womp. Poor Kate.

Also, while she's been forlornly wandering around Paris, Kate has been unknowingly playing a game of hide and seek with the Eiffel Tower, which is being lousy and hiding on her at every opportunity.

Jerk.
She ends up coming across Charlie and Juliette having a sexy lunch and Juliette has a massive engagement ring on her finger. Kate calls Charlie's sister from a phone box and refers to his mother as Mom which is a little bit weird. They know that Charlie got re-engaged and is going to the south of France to meet Juliette's parents, and they all think he's a dick for the way he's treated Kate. Who at this point is sobbing in a phone booth, but still determined to win him back. "I will triumph!", she declares between sobs with a raised fist, while the wide shot reveals the Arc de Triomphe in the background. It's cheesy as hell but I like it. (Although the Arc de Triomphe has taken on a new meaning since I've started watching Broad City.)

Back at the fancy George V hotel, Bob gets picked up in the lobby by Jean Reno before he can score some rich-lady sex. Kate also arrives back at the hotel to find that Charlie has already left, so she dings the concierge's bell until he tells her where Charlie is staying in Nice. Bob tells Jean Reno to ask Luc about a stolen necklace, so he follows Luc to the train station, where Kate is now getting a ticket to Nice. Luc catches up with her and says he's there to make it up to her and help, and after a crafty little chase sequence involving train carriages and hiding from Jean in luggage carts, he gets on the train with Kate. And now, as she's leaving Paris, she finally gets to see the Eiffel Tower from the train window, a great, clear view of the whole thing so it can't run off and hide on her again. Hooray!

Kate tells Luc how she met Charlie at a party in Toronto (CANADA, REMEMBER?)

"It wasn't like a thunderclap or lightning bolt, it was more like a..."
Luc: "Light drizzle?" 

Luc tries to talk her out of this whole plan to win Charlie back and tells her that she'll forget about him in time and be able to begin again. It's quite a sweet moment from Luc and looks like he's really starting to care about how this turns out for Kate. Later on, Kate falls asleep and Luc tries to root around in her bag, which she is using as a pillow, for the diamond necklace. But Kate ends up sort of cuddling up to him in her sleepy state and sleep-shifts him. Luc sits back in his seat defeated for now but also kinda dazed, because it looked like a very, VERY good kiss.

The next morning, Luc finds Kate in the dining car, positively horsing her way through a plate filled with amazing French cheese. She tells him how energised she feels and that it's partly down to a dream she had that was "delicious" (SLEEP-SHIFT) and talks about how great cheese is. Which I can entirely get on board with. I mean, look at the breakfast she's having, for god's sake. I'm so jealous.


Kate enthusiastically remarks on how beautiful the passing French countryside is and Luc is all "pssh" and unimpressed because he was born there. "Here? But this is so charming!" Suddenly Kate feels sick from all the cheese because it turns out she's lactose intolerant (what the hell, dude? Don't eat ALL THE CHEESE!). They have to get out at a little countryside station as the rocking motion of the train wasn't helping matters, and we see Kate emerging from the bathroom after having a massive poo I guess, or whatever it is that happens to lactose intolerant people. The next train isn't for another two hours, so they wander off to a plaza, where Kate does a pretty solid impression of Luc, which mostly revolves around his wonderful catchphrase, "my ass is twitching".

A random dude then drives into the plaza, parks right up in front of them and launches into a fight with Luc. They do some manly tussling and Luc gets the upper hand, punching the guy out (there's even a smattering of light applause! French people appreciate a swift, efficient row). Luc then reveals to a bewildered Kate that this guy is in fact his brother and they end up going to the family vineyard. It turns out that Luc lost his half of the family business in a drunken poker game with his brother and then slept with the brother's wife, hence the punchy greeting.

Luc says that his family hates him, but is immediately proven to be a big liar, as we cut to his dad being clearly delighted to see him, happiness etched all over his old French face. They all have an outdoor lunch together (there's a whole load of people there, so I suppose everyone just lives there together like a big vineyardy commune) at a big long table in the sunshine and it looks like an ad for olive oil.


Luc's mother is watching Kate being cute and charming across the table and tells her wayward son that she's impressed. Luc says they're just friends, but they're getting along so well and their particular brand of chemistry is hard to ignore, so Maman is not fooled. Afterwards, Luc has another go of looking through Kate's bag while she's occupied elsewhere, but there's still no sign of the necklace.

Kate asks to see Luc's room and he ends up showing her a project he made while he was in school. It's a wooden box filled with little containers of herbs and was about demonstrating how smelling lavender and rosemary and whatnot helps to discern the flavours in wine (because OF COURSE French schoolkids do projects about tasting wine. After losing their virginites to the local working girls, I guess), which he then gets Kate to do and she's suitably impressed. She's seeing a new, softer, non-stealy side to Luc and kisses him on the cheek as they leave the room. He then shows her an abandoned vineyard that he was planning on buying one day, but now his plan for money to fund it has fallen apart (i.e. the necklace). He'd do anything for his vineyard dream, "even beg", like Kate has said that she'd do for Charlie so they begin to see that they're not that different. As such, Luc promises to help Kate get Charlie back. For real this time, as now that he's lost the necklace, there's no ulterior motive involved.

Back at the train station, Kate asks what Luc's plan was to get the money for the land. He explains that he had something to sell but lost it, Kate asks what the thing could possibly be and asks whether it was something "LIKE ZISSS?", revealing that she's wearing the diamond necklace under her shirt. Tricksy Kate! She knew the score all along!

They get to Nice and Luc advises Kate how she should play it when she finally sees Charlie. The main point is not to make a big scene. However, as they're checking into the hotel, Kate spots Charlie with Juliette and her family having lunch together and tries to spy on them. But in the grand tradition of clumsy, beautiful rom-com heroines, Kate ends up noisily falling arse-first into a fully-laden dessert cart, hitting the floor all covered in cake and quickly crawling away. Charlie thinks he sees her and goes to investigate but she manages to lose him, despite the fact that she's surely left a trail of whipped cream behind her.

In the hotel room, after Kate has washed all the dessert carnage off herself, Luc urges her to make Charlie feel like he can't have her, but who are we really talking about here, Luc? HMM? The next morning (in some new clothes! Hooray!), Kate casually pops over to Charlie and Juliette on the beach and plays the breezy ex to utter perfection, acting completely unfazed by a frosty Juliette and her pouty, 90s supermodel beauty.


Charlie is caught completely off guard and Kate tells him to chill, that she's fine and not there to fight with him. She explains that she had initially intended to try to win him back, but then met Luc in Paris, who turns up playing the cool new French dude and Charlie is completely at a loss as to what the hell is going on.

Afterwards, Kate is buzzing as phase one of the plan has gone so well and she's arranged to meet Charlie later that evening for dinner to do breakup admin. But then the intrepid Jean Reno shows up like a big buzzkill and gets Kate on her own so he can explain that the necklace is stolen. However, due to him and Luc being star-crossed buddies and all, he says that the necklace can be returned to him and Luc won't be arrested because he owes him one.

Luc's plan is to sell the necklace in Cartier the following day, so Kate sees an opportunity to get him out of trouble and offers to do it. Luc figures it's a better plan, as Kate has such an innocent-looking head on her, so agrees to let her take care of it. That night, before meeting Charlie, Kate gets herself all dolled up and her entrance is essentially a classic movie makeover, as up until this point, she's been rearranging the same outfit, being violently sick on a train and getting covered in soufflé. She looks gorgeous. Luc gives her the necklace to wear for the night and they dance in the hotel room so she can practice her relaxed, give-a-fuck routine. Kate wonders aloud when she should stop pretending that she's not still in love with Charlie, Luc says he's going to bang Juliette to keep her out of the way for the evening, Kate shushes him and they have a lovely quiet moment while dancing and potentially realising that they'd actually prefer to just hang out together for the evening instead.


Kate goes for dinner with Charlie and runs through a list of who should keep what. Charlie is still thrown by Kate's new carefree attitude and asks her if she hates him. Charlie feels guilty about being so terrible to her and asks her for one last dance. Cut to Juliette and Luc drinking at the hotel bar and Juliette is most unimpressed that Charlie has ditched her for the night to go for dinner with his ex.

Charlie remarks on how different Kate is and laments the fact that he wasn't the one to make her as happy as she seems now.

Suddenly, it's blue-lit sexytime with Juliette and Luc, but mid-tumble he calls her Kate by accident, essentially cockblocking himself. Kate and Charlie are doing the same (also blue-lit) but Kate tells him to stop when she realises that he just wants what he can't have. She gives out to him for already dumping his new fiancée for her and he's all "I'm sorry, I was afraid of getting married". But not to Juliette, as Kate points out and she finally realises that he's a massive douchebag and she doesn't actually want him back anymore.

The next morning, she tells Luc that Charlie wants to come back to Canada with her and he lets on that he hooked up with Juliette. They go to Cartier, Kate goes in but is actually meeting Jean Reno in there and hands over the necklace in exchange for a cheque which is actually her nest egg money. Not the nest egg! The necklace is worth over €100,000 so Luc isn't too impressed at first when she comes out with a €40,000 cheque. He eventually admits that it actually is enough to get started with his vineyard and thanks her. They have bittersweet moment on the seafront as Kate says she has to go and that Charlie is waiting. (LIES!)

Luc walks sadly along the pier when Kate leaves and I just have to point out this couple that ambles past him:


I love that this lady is just awkwardly holding a baguette with a little serviette around it, like it's not even in one of those paper baguette bags. Where are you going, baguette lady? And what kind of shoddy boulangerie just hands you a baguette with nothing wrapped around it? What are we, peasants? This is NICE for fuck's sake! It's like the director panicked and went "Quick! Take this baguette and walk by in the foreground, so no one forgets we're in France!" It's the new "CANADA!"

However, Luc then spots Charlie (in a hilariously terrible shirt) arguing with Juliette and then making up, suddenly realising that Kate is NOT in fact going back to Canada with him. Then Jean Reno appears, like a benevolent matchmaking French genie. Luc gestures to Charlie and Juliette in the distance and says "that's not love". Jean Reno tells Luc that he knows a love story but maybe Luc can help with the ending. The screen fades away as he begins to tell Luc what Kate has done for him, to keep him out of trouble.

Cut to Kate on the plane with her eyes closed, and GASP! There's lovely Luc on the seat beside her to tell her she shouldn't be flying anywhere. Woohoo for pre-9/11 lax airport security letting people onto planes at random! Kate realises that she wants to stay with Luc and they have a lovely kiss where they're both actually awake this time. Then we finally jump to them shifting in the middle of a lush green vineyard, her in a floaty floral dress and - look! - her motherfuckin' STONE COTTAGE in the background! Yeah bitches!


They walk away hand in hand so they can make their awesome hybrid sex wine and Louis Armstong sings La Vie En Rose over the credits.

THE END. Yaaay!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Crash Landing!

After all that board-game excitement and boyfriend thievery, I suppose it's time to see what's been going down in Sweet Valley town. And this one has an exclamation mark in the title, so you just KNOW it's going to be good.

Sweet Valley High #20: Crash Landing!


Enid Rollins is in the air in a two-seater Cessna with her boyfriend George, on his first flight as a qualified pilot. She's having a lovely time, but George is wracked with guilt because he has to break up with her after this, having fallen in love with Robin Wilson, who used to be fat, as we are constantly reminded. But before George can come clean, there's a problem with the plane's engine and they go crashing into Secca Lake. George is knocked out from the impact and Enid saves his life by pulling him out of the cabin before the plane sinks, but damages her spine in the process, resulting in her losing all feeling in her legs.

The pair are rescued by the emergency services, while Todd and a bunch of Sweet Valley students watch from the lakeside, where they had been having a picnic and playing football like the sexy, wholesome teenagers they are. I particularly enjoyed this exchange between Todd and Ken Matthews (I almost typed Ken Adams there, and that's what happens when repeat episodes of Friends on Comedy Central are the background noise of my life):

"Does anyone know what happened to the people in the plane?" Todd continued, worried.
"We don't know yet," Ken Matthews said, soberly. 
"But it's not just people, Todd. According to Robin Wilson it's Enid Rollins and George Warren."

AND GODDAMMIT, SWEET VALLEY HIGH KIDS ARE SO MUCH BETTER THAN REGULAR OL' PEOPLE WHOSE EYE COLOUR DOESN'T EVEN GET MENTIONED EVERY EIGHT SECONDS.

Jessica and Elizabeth are in the police station after the whole Jessica-almost-being-murdered thing and hear about the accident on the police radio, prompting Jessica to exclaim "I'll die if anything happens to Enid!" Which, as we all know is BULLLLSHIIIIITTTTTT seeing as Jessica has slagged Enid off in every single book so far, deliberately tried to ruin her reputation and constantly wishes that Elizabeth wasn't her BFF.

They all rush off to the hospital to find that George is fine but Enid is now paralyzed from the waist down. George is utterly miserable and decides that Enid must never find out about him and Robin and that he's going to stay with her now because he blames himself for what happened.

Meanwhile, Jessica and Lila have signed up for a gourmet cooking class because Lila has been banging on about how important it is to know how to make "elegant dishes" (says the girl with actual servants) and talked Jessica into joining her. It's awkward at first but they make up quickly after the events of the last book, because "Jessica was too good a friend to stay mad at for long" (wuh? Jessica is a TERRIBLE FRIEND. She literally JUST STOLE YOUR BOYFRIEND.)

Anyway, the teacher arrives and he's a sexy French dude called Jean-Pierre, so naturally Jessica is immediately on high alert. He's "the handsomest man she'd ever seen" (in this book anyway) and is all crooked smiles and charm and sexy Frenchness.

On the way home in Lila's lime green Triumph (so amazing), Lila tells Jessica that Robin Wilson has broken up with her boyfriend for some other guy and as they're passing Robin's house they see George Warren coming down the driveway to his car. Escandalo!

Robin wasn't actually home and George was calling over to tell her that they can't see each other anymore and he's staying with Enid. In any case, Jessica runs to Elizabeth with her wrong end of the stick and tells her what she saw, launching a Sweet Valley High cold war against Robin. The next day at school, Jessica and Cara are frosty and mean to Robin, with Jessica justifying it afterwards as them doing what they can to help Enid. Because bullying someone is the perfect way to help Enid. Of course.

This bit is swiftly followed by yet another reminder that Robin used to be fat and a line with a message so outrageously bad it's actually hard not to laugh.

A strict diet-and-exercise regime had helped Robin to become one of the prettiest girls in the junior class.

NOOO! STOP THAT! BAD GHOSTWRITER.

Anyway, Jessica continues to justify being horrible to Robin, with the following logic:

Fair's fair, she told herself. Robin shouldn't see George behind Enid's back. And that's all there is to it.

Because she's clearly forgotten EVERYTHING THAT JUST HAPPENED.

Poor Robin doesn't understand why her friends are giving her the brush-off and can't figure out why Jessica and Cara seem to be mad at her.

I'm just getting paranoid, Robin decided, looking hungrily at the ice-cream Cara had left uneaten in her bowl.

LOOKING HUNGRILY. Because lest we forget, Robin Wilson is nothing if not a walking bag of food issues and a fat bird at heart. However, even Elizabeth is short with her when she asks how Enid is doing, so something is definitely wrong when even Saint Liz won't give her the time of day. Afterwards, Robin eats a massive slice of chocolate cake with ice cream on top, because "it wouldn't matter if she did get fat again" now that "it didn't look like she had any friends left to notice". Goddammit ghostwriter, don't make me come over there.

ENIIIID! I am highly enjoying everyone's t-shirts on this cover. Although considering that Elizabeth wasn't there for the crash and she doesn't actually see Enid until she's in hospital, I'm not sure what's going here, unless Elizabeth is after sneaking into Enid's room to prop her up while she's asleep. Much weirder stuff has happened in these books.

Elizabeth visits Enid in hospital, but George is there and it's all a bit tense and awkward. Elizabeth mentions the upcoming school dance and Enid becomes all sad and wistful that she's going to miss it. The school has so many dances though, it's a wonder they can get through a single curriculum, so there isn't really anything to be too worried about on that front. Elizabeth feels guilty about keeping the truth about George and Robin from Enid and George feels terrible too, so as it stands, everyone is miserable.

Everyone except Jessica, who's still eye-banging her sexy cooking teacher and has come up with a plan to surprise her parents with a spectacular and romantic dinner on their wedding anniversary. This is because Jessica forgets it every year and then feels like an asshole when Elizabeth gives them some thoughtful and meaningful present. But really, what kind of jerk sibling doesn't give you a heads-up if they're getting your parents a cool gift for a special occasion, especially when you're all living in the same house? Liz is the asshole here.

Robin persuades Elizabeth to meet her in Casey's after school, because she's lonely and sad and needs someone to talk to, as everyone in school is freezing her out. She actually says "You're my only hope!" I see you, Star Wars fan ghostwriter. I see you. Robin orders a sundae and immediately regrets it, telling Liz that she's started to put weight back on.

"You look fine to me," Elizabeth fibbed. As a matter of fact, Robin did look as if she'd gained some weight.

FUUUUUCK YOUUUUUUU! Elizabeth Wakefield, the Obi Wan of quietly judgemental bitchery.

Elizabeth tells Robin that she's been avoiding her because she feels awkward about the whole her and George thing and Robin insists that they haven't even spoken since they both decided to stop seeing each other unless Enid gets better. Elizabeth is having none of it and storms out, leaving Robin and her sundae alone together, at last.

Enid has an operation on her back that all went well, but she's still in a wheelchair, even though the doctors said she should be able to walk again now. Elizabeth decides to host a dinner party for Enid, George and Todd at her house, because an integral part of being a Sweet Valley teenager is to act like a fucking middle-aged married couple. There's even classical music on in the background. It turns out that Enid has been skipping physical therapy and feels like there's something up with George, who is all quiet and nervous, so the whole evening ends up being weird and tense.

Meanwhile, Jessica has resolved to ask Jean Pierre to be her date to the dance, despite the fact that he's well into his twenties and that's surely the type of thing that'll put your name on some kind of register. However, before she gets the opportunity to ask him and make a show of herself, his gorgeous redhead wife appears, which thankfully puts an end to that scheme.

The night of the dance arrives, Jessica is looking foxy and tanned in her cream coloured dress, Robin Wilson is definitely getting fat (She really looks like she's gained some weight, Jessica thought critically) and then Enid shows up in a wheelchair and a hush falls over the whole gym like it's a wild west saloon, because the kids at this school are dicks.

Enid is super self-conscious and tells George to go dance with someone. The idiot goes and dances with Robin and apparently it's obvious to everyone that they're in love. Things haven't been right between George and Enid since the crash, so she figures out what's going on and confronts him, confirming her suspicions.

A few nights later, Jessica makes dinner for the family as a trial run for her surprise anniversary dinner for Ned and Alice, but manages to give everyone food poisoning with dodgy clams. FINALLY, something that Jessica isn't spectacular at.

Enid's mother calls over to see Elizabeth, because she's worried about her daughter's lack of progress, and of course even the adults in Sweet Valley come to Elizabeth Wakefield for help. Mrs Rollins explains that Enid's spine is physically back to normal and she should be able to walk by now, but the doctors seem to think there's some kind of psychological block stopping her from recovering fully. Elizabeth then drops over to Mr Collins at his house to pester him outside school hours for help, because being a teacher in Sweet Valley is a 24/7 job. Which must suuuck.

The Wakefields go out for dinner once they've all recovered from Jessica poisoning them, and she's getting fed up of everyone taking the piss out of her disastrous cooking. Then to top off her bad mood, Elizabeth surprises Ned and Alice with tickets to a dinner-theatre evening for their anniversary on Friday. Dick. So Jessica's secret plan to make dinner for them goes tits up and nobody seems to care when she tells them about it. Womp womp.

Elizabeth has come up with a plan to jolt Enid past her mental block and get her out of the wheelchair, so she invites her over to the house one evening. She's recruited Mr Collins' six year old son Teddy to take part in this mysterious plan, which turns out to be her leaving Teddy and Enid alone for a few minutes in the back garden and having Teddy PRETEND TO DROWN IN THE POOL.

WHAT THE FUCK LIZ. NO.

Anyway, her insane plan works and Enid jumps out of her chair to save Teddy (who can actually swim really well) and everybody is super happy because Enid can walk again. Enid then cuts George loose so he can be with Robin and later that day everyone goes to Casey's for ice cream or whatever and Elizabeth gets a STANDING OVATION when she walks in. Because even when you've overcome a psychological hurdle and propelled yourself out of a wheelchair to save a drowning child, Elizabeth Wakefield is somehow still the hero.

Notable outfit:
Another disappointing lack of hilarious dresses and ruffles and whathaveyou, so this one goes out to the ever-foxy Mr. Collins and the Robert Redford head on him.

That night Mr. Collins looked even more dashing than usual in a white linen jacket and navy blue trousers.

You forgot to be on a yacht, Roger. With Don Johnson.

Things I counted:
Number of pages:151
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 8
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 6
Amount of times people bite their lip: 7 (We're almost getting Fifty Shades of Grey levels of lip biting up in here.)

 
>