Monday, July 27, 2015

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Nowhere To Run

I know, I KNOW. I've been neglecting my Sweet Valley progress most terribly of late, but work and things kept getting in the way. Things like organising my brother's stag because I'm best woman at his upcoming wedding and gender roles can SUCK ITTT. Anyway, let's do this thing!

Sweet Valley High #25: Nowhere To Run

Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are having lunch at school and giddy with excitement because their grandparents are coming to visit from Michigan and they haven't seen them in over a year. It's cute how enthusiastic Jessica is about it, but also seems a bit out of character for her to be that excited about grandparents, to be perfectly honest. While discussing their upcoming plans, Elizabeth "couldn't help overhearing" the conversation going on between Dana Larson and Droids drummer Emily Mayer at the next table. Girl please, I bet she almost slid right off her cafeteria chair trying to listen.

Emily's new stepmother Karen has just had a baby and things are super tense at home. Emily feels like Karen is trying to push her out so it'll just be Karen, Emily's dad and the new baby in the house, so she suddenly tells Dana all this, gets upset and runs off. Later that day, Elizabeth is proof reading her latest column for The Oracle in the office after school when sexy Mr Collins arrives.

"I'm glad you're here," Elizabeth told him. "I could use some help on the article I'm writing on the tenure system."

Yeah, because sixteen year old high school students totally give a fuck about the details of their teachers' employment contracts. Great article there, Liz.

Mr Collins tells Elizabeth that Emily Mayer wants to try out for the editorial staff on the school paper, and that he told her Liz might be able to help her, whereupon Liz reacts like Emily has shown up and pissed on her doorstep.

"Emily!" Elizabeth exclaimed. "But why does she want to work for The Oracle? She's a musician, not a journalist!"


Emily shows up, but looks like she's been crying. "Elizabeth caught her breath when she saw the girl. She looked awful." Well you'd better tell her how terrible she looks Liz, seeing as that's like your favourite thing to do. For once in her life, Liz manages to reel it in and instead asks her why she's thinking about joining the paper. Emily explains that it was her stepmother's idea and asks Liz if she can confide in her, despite the fact that they don't actually know each other that well.

"I've always admired you so much," she added wistfully.


Emily explains that her stepmother, Karen, has it in for her and is trying to convince Emily's dad to send her off to boarding school. She also hates Emily's drums and won't let her practice at home because of the baby (who is named Karrie by the way, which seems like criminally lazy naming on the ghostwriter's part) and thinks that writing is a much better pursuit than music, so Emily is just trying to do whatever Karen wants her to, so she won't have an excuse to kick her out.

However, Karen is a total wagon and keeps moving the goalposts, insisting on a curfew for Emily, which means she won't be able to practice with The Droids during the week, freaks out when Emily plays her drums even though it's within the agreed time slot and lands Emily with looking after Karrie on a night that Emily has plans, because she "doesn't trust" babysitters and knows that Emily can't risk saying no and kicking off a huge row.

Meanwhile, the twins are having a lovely time hanging out with their grandparents, who are of course, the most perfect old people ever. At a family dinner, their eyes twinkle no less than three times within two pages. It must be like trying to eat beside a discoball. While all this is going on, Alice Wakefield has started to feel like she doesn't spend enough time with the girls and gets all sad when she springs last minute plans on the twins but they're already doing something with the grandparents. She comes home early to make a surprise steak dinner for everyone, but the twins are going for Chinese with Grandma and Grandpa, and Alice and Ned couldn't possibly join them because Ned doesn't like Chinese food. Like, just stick the steak in the freezer and Ned can either get the Chicken Maryland or stay at home and make his own fucking dinner. Come on, Alice.

Anyway, Emily totally fancies The Droids bass player, Dan. He's been covering for her when she can't make it to band practice because of Karen's dumb curfew, although she's been keeping her troubles at home a secret from him as she doesn't think he'd be interested in her if he knew what a mess things were. Also, Emily has always told people in school that her mother died when Emily was young, but the truth is that she left without any explanation and fucked off to Chicago. Elizabeth is the only other person that knows this, because she's so amazing that she's easier to confide in than any of Emily's actual friends. This is explicitly stated, by the way.

So, Dan has arranged to call over to Emily's house after school so he can check out the new cymbals she ordered from LA and Karen will be out of the house at a doctor's appointment with Karrie, so what could POSSIBLY go wrong? Only Karen arriving home with the baby before Emily realised and immediately screaming at her for having a boy over without her permission and totally humiliating Emily by bringing her mother into it. She tells Emily that she's turning into her mother and that she won't have her baby growing up in a house with a tramp, and all in front of Dan. Karen! You fucking bitch! She then runs off upstairs crying, like she's the victim somehow and poor Emily is left there sobbing as Dan awkwardly leaves and it's all just HORRIBLE.

A distraught Emily then calls Elizabeth at home and tries to tell her what happened but breaks down crying.

"You sound terrible Emily, why don't you come over right away and we can talk about whatever it is that happened?"

Just couldn't help herself, could she. Emily decides to walk over to the Wakefields' house and honest to god, we get an ENTIRE page of Emily thinking about how great Elizabeth is, because when your life is falling apart, the transcendent Wakefield twins are the only thing to keep you going. Emily arrives at the house and ends up telling everyone at the dinner table all about what happened. She asks if she can stay with them "for a while", which is pretty awkward, considering that she and Liz are essentially casual acquaintances. Ned says that she can stay for the night, but only if she calls her father to let him know where she is. However, when she calls her dad he's clearly taken Karen's side and won't listen to anything Emily says, demanding that she come home or else he'll put her drums out on the street. Not cool, Dad.

The absolute hack of Emily here. I mean, she looks nice and all, but she's the drummer in Sweet Valley's hottest band who are practically Jem & The Holograms, not some square tennis player who probably wears their jumper knotted around their shoulders. COP ON, EMILY.

The next day at school, Dan tries to talk to Emily, but she's acting all cold and says she's quitting The Droids and selling her drums. She asks Liz to put an ad in the school paper for her drums, at which point Liz bombards her with questions about what happened when she got home, despite the fact that Emily just said she didn't want to talk about it. Elizabeth and Dan then decide that Emily giving up music is a terrible idea, as it means so much to her, so they come up with a plan where Dan will buy the drums for safe keeping. They also keep referring to her as a kid (Elizabeth: "You poor kid!" / Dan: "That crazy kid") which is weird and pretty patronising, considering they're all the same age.

At home, Karen continues to be mad at Emily for essentially no reason and when Dan calls to say that a friend of his will buy her drums, Emily is upset that he doesn't try to talk her out of it. Her father comes to talk to her that evening and when she tells him that she sold her drums he accuses her of being a martyr and says that he had hoped the three of them could come to a reasonable solution, which is a bit fucking rich, considering that he hasn't once listened to Emily's side of the story and appears oblivious to the fact that his awful wife is Lady Tremaine-ing the living fuck out of his daughter and is the one who has pushed her to this point.

For the next while, all Emily does is go to school and babysit Karrie. One evening, Karen gives Karrie a doll with beads for eyes because she's a fucking idiot, and the baby ends up swallowing one of the beads and starts to choke. Karen freaks out and starts shaking her and won't let go, so Emily ends up having to slap Karen to make her let go of the baby and then saves Karrie's life. Emily's dad arrives in to see the baby screaming crying, Karen being hysterical and Emily about to faint and immediately accuses Emily of trying to murder the baby or something. Karen doesn't bother her hole explaining the situation or even being the tiniest bit grateful, she just stands there crying, so Emily's dad, as usual, won't listen to Emily when she starts to explain and just tells her to get out, because he's a dickhead.

Emily ends up back over at the Wakefields' place, with her money from selling her drums and a plan to head for Chicago to try to find her mother. She calls the apartment where her mother had been living the last time they were in touch, four years previously, but it turns out that her mother remarried and moved to Mexico. Grandma Wakefield then comes in and tells Emily some conveniently relevant story about how Grandpa Wakefield had a son from a previous marriage when they got together and how difficult it was for her and this random uncle of the twins who is never mentioned again in the entirety of this series to get along at first, particularly after she had Ned.

While all this is going on, Elizabeth called Emily's dad to let him know where his daughter is (Jessica calls her a rat for doing so - ha!) and he turns up at the house with Karen and Karrie in tow. Karen apologises for being a horrible cunt to Emily and begs her forgiveness, explaining that she was jealous of Emily because she and her dad were so close. Emily immediately rushes over and hugs her and the baby and all the Mayers end up in a group hug, although her dad didn't actually apologise for being a tool and accusing her of trying to hurt her sister, but everyone's happy now so I guess that's all just FINE.

Meanwhile, Alice's weird jealousy of all the time the twins are spending with their grandparents is resolved when Ned tells the twins that their mother feels left out lately, so they ask her to help them plan a going away party for Grandma and Grandpa and that fixes everything in that completely pointless subplot that went absolutely nowhere. The Mayers are invited to the party too and Elizabeth surprises Emily by having The Droids set up in the dining room with her drums and the band then plays a set because these people are all fucking ridiculous. Afterwards, Emily figures out that Dan was the one who bought her drums and she tells him he's wonderful.

The look she gave him said it all. She had a feeling the two of them were going to make some pretty special music together.

Read: boning.

Notable outfit:
There was a CRIMINAL lack out outfits in this one. Literally nothing! A blue scarf is about all we got out of it and I for one am DISAPPOINTED. Do better, ghostwriter.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 153
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 2
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 2
(TWO? How are we supposed to remember that the twins are blonde with only TWO references?)
Amount of times Karrie is referred to as "little Karrie", in case we forgot she was a baby: 19

Friday, July 03, 2015

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Super Edition: Special Christmas

First of all, I apologise for this, but...


It's quite strange to be writing about Christmas in the middle of a heatwave, but here we are. It's Super Edition time, which means taking yet another confusing jump out of the usual Sweet Valley timeline. This particular book technically comes between Say Goodbye and Memories, despite the fact that Todd has been in Vermont for an unspecified amount of time in this one, but he was still visiting Sweet Valley (after only just moving) at the very beginning of Memories, so Special Christmas seems to slot in a little better after that one. I think. I don't even know anymore, continuity is for squares, let's just get to it!

(Also, please like my Facebook page. Because I'm not above begging.)

Sweet Valley High Super Edition: Special Christmas

It's almost Christmas in Sweet Valley and everyone is giddy and excited. Elizabeth is looking forward to seeing Todd, who's back to visit from Vermont on Friday, and Jessica is eyeing up a German exchange student called Hans who seems to have materialised out of nowhere and is convinced that he's her Secret Santa (the entire school does Secret Santa and the students all buy each other a series of little presents up until the Christmas dance (OF COURSE), where everyone is revealed). However, Lila Fowler is trying to wreck Jessica's Christmas buzz, by deciding that she wants to be Miss Christmastime this year, a title that Jessica has decided is hers after being runner-up last time. RUNNER UP?! The fuck is this?! Who could possibly have beaten Jessica Wakefield to a crown? In the very first book, she is literally described as "the most adorable, most dazzling sixteen-year-old girl imaginable". 

Anyway, the twins are in great form when they get home after school, because they're now on holidays and Steven is home and everything is awesome. That is, until Steven breaks the news that Suzanne Devlin is coming to stay with them for two weeks during the holidays and now CHRISTMAS IS RUINED.

Quick reminder, Suzanne Devlin is the daughter of one of Ned Wakefield's friends who came to stay in Sweet Valley a while back. She was hotter than every other girl in town, stole Elizabeth's lavaliere and falsely accused Mr. Collins of trying to assault her, almost costing him his job. And in Sweet Valley, all three of those crimes are equally grave.

Apparently Suzanne's father rang Ned and Alice and told them that Suzanne had "been through a great deal recently" and wanted to come out to see them all to make up for being so horrible the last time she was there and this is happening whether the twins and Steven want it to or not.

"Look," Mr. Wakefield said, "we feel terrible about imposing Suzanne on you three. But I'm afraid there isn't much we can do about it. Suzanne is intent on coming out here."

Oh, well if she's intent, then what can you do? It's not like you can just say "No, sorry, that doesn't suit, what with it being Christmas and all and really, staying for two weeks is pushing things fucking slightly, don't you think?"

In the meantime, Elizabeth has gotten anxious over her reunion with Todd, as she's not sure that they'll still have the old spark between them and feels like their relationship has become more of a friendship since he moved away. On Saturday morning, Jessica appears in the kitchen, dressed in a fugly homemade Christmas elf costume.

She was wearing kelly-green tights and green slippers with curled-up toes and bells jangling from their tips. She had made a strange little suit out of a green plastic garbage bag, cutting leg holes in the bottom and arm holes in the sides and stapling the whole thing up at the shoulders. Something - probably newspaper, from the look of it - was being used as stuffing to make her look round. Underneath the sack she wore a red long-sleeved T-shirt. There was green paint on her face.

Frankly, I'm disappointed that Jessica wasn't a pioneer of the sexy elf costume movement.

She explains that Cara Walker was supposed to be volunteering as one of Santa's elves at the mall but is sick and needs Jess to fill in for her. However, the interviews for Miss Christmastime are later that same day, but Cara assured Jessica that she'd be done elfing in plenty of time.

Unfortunately for Jessica, this was all a sneaky Lila Fowler scheme (which Cara was tricked into) to keep Jessica busy all day so she couldn't make it to the Miss Christmastime tryouts. ALL TEE ALL SHADE. At the end of her day at the mall, Jessica ends up telling Santa all about missing her chance to be Miss Christmastime and to be on the special parade float (oh yeah, there's a Christmas parade too, because why the fuck not), so he kindly offers her a spot on his one, where she'd be an elf again. Jessica accepts and immediately beings to formulate a revenge plan, which is pretty much her default status, regardless of whether revenge is actually warranted or not.

When she gets home, Jessica reveals her dastardly scheme to Elizabeth, which will involve her taking Lila's crown and dress (because Lila won, obvs) from the changing room in the civic centre on the morning of the parade and replacing them with her terrible elf costume, so Lila will have to be an elf on Santa's float, or risk revealing the dick move she pulled, and Jessica will get to be Miss Christmastime by straight-up stealing the title.

Suzanne Devlin arrives in Sweet Valley, and the twins and Steven have decided to make life difficult for her, so she'll pack up and go join her parents, who are in Saint Moritz for Christmas. This dastardly plan so far involves Jessica pretending to forget that Suzanne was coming and "short-sheeting" her bed, whatever that means. I looked it up and Google's answer was "make (a bed) as an apple-pie bed" / "give an apple-pie bed to (someone)" so that was really fucking helpful. I think it's something to do with folding the sheet so the person's legs can't get to the end of the bed or something. It doesn't appear to have anything to do with apple tarts. Americans, man.

Anyway, after the first evening, Steven has decided he's going to stop giving Suzanne a hard time, as she seems like a nice person this time around and Elizabeth is starting to have doubts about being mean to her too. Jessica isn't buying it for a second though, and reminds them of how well Suzanne had everyone fooled the last time she was in town. Todd calls Liz that night and she fills him in on Sweet Valley's newest arrival. After the phonecall, we discover that Todd actually bumped into Suzanne recently, while he was on a school ski trip.

His new friend Jerry tried to chat Suzanne up and they all went for dinner together. Todd expected Suzanne to ruin the trip, after being such a gowl previously, but she appeared to be a completely different girl this time, and actually fun to be around.

She smelled good, he found himself noticing. Not like the perfume she used to wear. No, now she smelled like soap and pine needles and fresh air...

Perfume is for skanks.

They had a talk and Suzanne apologised for her behaviour and explained that she was angry at her parents but took it out on everyone else and they have a moment where they almost kiss but don't and Todd realises that he totally fancies her now that she's all sound and smelling like a Yankee Candle. Naturally, he doesn't tell Liz any of this.

The next morning, Liz comes downstairs and sees Suzanne slipping a bottle of pills back into the pocket of her dressing gown. She's also noticeably lost some weight, so the twins are suspicious as to what's going on with her. (I say suspicious, but Jessica pretty much immediately runs around telling everyone that Suzanne is a drug addict. Jessica gonna Jessica.) Suzanne tries to properly apologise to Elizabeth about being terrible before, but they're interrupted by Jessica, who gets a delivery of daises to the house from her Secret Santa. She's convinced it's sexy German Hans, as she's already gotten a little jewellery box that plays Für Elise when opened and that's "European", so it stands to reason. (However, we already know that Hans is actually Lila Fowler's Secret Santa, because he had to ask Liz who Lila was when he drew her name.)

Todd is back and shows up at the house, but when he comes in and Suzanne sees him, she starts trembling and drops the vase with Jessica's daisies in it, smashing the lot and runs off crying. Jesus, try to be cool Suzy. Todd gets a chance to talk to Suzanne alone and they agree not to tell Liz about their meeting while skiing, but Jessica overhears their conversation and deduces that Todd and Suzanne are in love and that Suzanne is up to her old tricks, trying to steal Liz's boyfriend. Jessica kicks things up a gear with her plan to drive Suzanne away, so she enlists Aaron Dallas and Winston Egbert to be Suzanne's Secret Santas but for doing mean things instead of leaving her nice presents.

You will always know Elizabeth by her barettes and jumpers. I wonder what's in the box? More barettes, probably. Jessica looks like she's just been given a dig in the shoulder.

Liz and Todd have barely had any time alone since he got back, because he's just so goddamn popular, and they end up going to the Beach Disco, where Ken Matthews has organised a welcome home party. The Droids are playing and have even written a song especially for Todd and Elizabeth, called I'll Wait For You, because everyone's lives revolve around the Wakefields and their respective relationship statuses.

The next morning, it turns out that Aaron and Winston have sent Suzanne an anonymous ransom note that spells out SUZY DEVLIN GO HOME and Elizabeth is first on the scene.

"Suzanne, what is it? You look awful!" Elizabeth blurted out.

This bitch has a great knack for telling people who are visibly upset just how terrible they look. Suzanne ends up telling Elizabeth all about how lonely she was in New York and that her parents were never really around. She almost lets slip some manner of secret, saying "But when I found out -" before stopping herself. She's also been having dizzy spells and the twins overheard her saying she was having problems with her vision. INTRIGUE. Elizabeth forgives her and reckons that she should stay and encourages her to try to make it up to the others.

Meanwhile, Jessica has been working on a plan and gets Aaron Dallas to invite Suzanne to a pre-party at his cousin's house before the big Christmas dance (which is happening at Bruce Patman's Patmansion, despite it being a school event). He's then supposed to call her on that evening and tell her he's having car trouble and ask her to meet him at his cousin's place, but instead he'll give her the address of a creepy old haunted house on the outskirts of Sweet Valley and she'll be left there all alone and sad. It's pretty mean.

Elizabeth and Todd have been arguing and things don't seem to be the same between them anymore. Liz meets up with Enid for a bit of Christmas shopping and feels better after hanging out with her.

As always, Elizabeth felt immensely cheered, sitting across the table from her dearest friend. "One look at you, and my problems don't seem so insurmountable," Elizabeth told her warmly. 

Real nice, Liz.

It's time to put up the Christmas tree and everyone is having a nice time, but Suzanne is suddenly overcome by another dizzy spell and collapses. She's brought up to bed to lie down and the twins demand to know what's going on, while Ned and Alice nod meaningfully at each other. They finally get it out of their parents that Suzanne has issues with muscle control, which are aggravated by stress, but Ned and Alice explain that they promised Suzanne they'd keep it a secret for her, so they won't say any more than that. Elizabeth is all concerned for Suzanne now, but Jessica thinks she's faking it and just looking for attention.

The night of the big Christmas party arrives and while getting ready, Suzanne tries to call her doctor back in New York, as he sent her new medication but there were no side effects or precautions with the pills, but he's not in the office, so she leaves him a message. She takes her new pills anyway, and joins the twins, Steven and Todd downstairs for a glass of champagne. Then the planned call from Aaron Dallas comes, so Suzanne reluctantly agrees to meet him at the address he gives her. She's anxious about driving, but Jessica assures her she'll be fine and tells her to take their car. Ned and Alice have been over to see their neighbours and come home just before Suzanne's doctor calls, trying to reach her. It turns out that the new meds are super strong and Ned comes running out in a panic, because Suzanne had some champagne before leaving.

"She's on very strong medication, and a glass of wine could completely knock her out - maybe even kill her!"

Now come on. I highly doubt that any meds could cause a glass of champagne to ACTUALLY KILL YOU. But anyway. Jessica tearfully confesses her whole scheme to everyone and they take off in the car in pursuit of Suzanne.

While making her way to the address she was given, Suzanne couldn't focus on the road and ended up passing out, flipping the car on the road. Two cops on the road see the whole thing happening:

"Jesus!" the police officer in the squad car said to the officer next to him.

Mr. Policeman! LANGUAGE!

On the way to find Suzanne, everyone is furious with Jessica for pulling such a nasty trick (this isn't even the first time that Jessica's carry-on has almost killed someone), and Ned reveals that Suzanne actually has MS but didn't want anyone to know, as she wanted people to forgive her on her own merit and not out of pity.

They end up finding out that Suzanne has been taken to hospital and Jessica notices that Todd has the same look on his face as he did when Elizabeth was in a coma after their motorbike accident. She realises that he's in love with Suzanne and it wasn't a ploy on Suzanne's part at all.

Todd ends up telling Liz all about meeting Suzanne in Vermont and how nothing happened between them but that he's been feeling confused since. Elizabeth can tell that he's got feelings for Suzanne, and it turns out that she's going to be ok after all, so they all head off to the Patman's house for the party and to talk things out. Elizabeth tells Todd that she was thinking of telling him that they weren't right for each other anymore, but she still cares about him. So they remain close friends and have a friendly break-up, so Todd can be with Suzanne now. Also, Jessica discovers that her Secret Santa has been Winston Egbert all along is disgusted to find that Hans was Lila's.

The next day though, Jessica's other, non-potentially-fatal revenge plan goes off without a hitch, and she's resplendent as Miss Christmastime on the parade float, in Lila's dress and crown, while Lila is dressed like a Brussels sprout on Santa's one.

Later on, all the Wakefields go back to the hospital to see Suzanne, who's looking much better. They all make up and forgive each other and everything is cool between everyone. Then one of Suzanne's doctors comes into the room to talk about the most recent tests they've done, and explains that she actually only had a virus and not MS at all. She was suffering from a complication from mononucleosis all along and all these fancy doctors have just been treating her for a disease she never actually had. Slow clap for the doctors of the Sweet Valley High series. They greet sixteen year old girls by telling them how hot they are, prescribe "being a cheerleader" to pull a someone out of a coma and now this. Med school must only take two years in the Sweet Valley universe. Great job guys. Heroes, one and all.

Notable outfit:
We did much better on the fun outfit front this time out. We had Suzanne in "a denim skirt and red silk shirt", just throw on a pair of cowboy boots and she's away in a hack. There were also Jessica and Elizabeth's foxy outfits for the Christmas dance:

Elizabeth looked terrific in a shimmery, peach-coloured dress with spaghetti straps. And she herself was wearing her new blouse with a pair of black satin pants.

Mmm, flammable.

But Notable Outfit this time around goes to Suzanne, in a dress borrowed from Liz for the party:

The blue velvet dress she had borrowed from Elizabeth had a high neck, edged in cream-coloured lace.
A simple strand of pearls at her throat completed the look.

Elizabeth's Victorian ghost realness strikes again and I LOVE IT.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 233
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 6
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 5
Amount of times Jessica references the number 137: 2

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Actually It's About Ethics In Dinosaur Cloning

I went to see Jurassic World over the weekend. Overall it was good. I suppose. Honestly, I found it hard to totally enjoy it as a fun action film because it was so ridiculously, annoyingly, stupidly, disappointingly sexist. (Spoilers ahoy!)

Sooo, I had a lot of thoughts.

Ok, this is somewhat unrelated, but FIRST OF ALL, if you need to contact your annoying nephews to warn them that they may be about to be eaten by a rampaging dino-monster and the line is so bad that you can't hear each other when you call them, THEN SEND A FUCKING TEXT.


The first shot of Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire, the super efficient manager of Jurassic World, is the age-old pan upwards on the woman's body, get a good look at her there, in her fancy shoes. It's passed off as her arriving in a lift, while Chris Pratt as Owen is introduced being super cool, mid-session with his trained velociraptors, which he "imprinted" on when they were babies, because he's a werewolf from Twilight.

Claire's a cliché no-nonsense career woman with no time for stinkin' kids! She can't remember how old her nephews are and apparently this is TERRIBLE, even though most of the time I need a few minutes to remember how old *I* am.

Also, Claire somehow manages to keep her fancy high heels on while running through an actual jungle after her nephews, and perhaps most ridiculously, while being chased by a T-Rex. It was unfortunate, because the scene was such a great moment, both for her character and as a callback to Jurassic Park, using the red flare, luring the hero T-Rex out of the enclosure to take care of business, and then running ahead of it in a pair of stupid heels. It should have been a brilliant moment, but all I could think was "TAKE YOUR FUCKING SHOES OFF YOU IDIOT".

My overriding thought the whole way through, (in between the ads for Pandora, Coca Cola and Mercedes) was how much cooler and more interesting it would have been to have Chris Pratt play the uptight buzzkill, while Bryce Dallas Howard was the one fixin' bikes and implausibly training velociraptors. Basically, everything needs to be more like Mad Max: Fury Road.

Jurassic Park had Dr. Ellie Sattler, a paleobotanist and Lex Murphy, a pretty annoying kid, yes, but one who knew her way around 90s tech, two core female leads in the ensemble with some excellent scenes. (Those raptors in the kitchen were legit traumatic to watch as a child and the reflection trick that Lex pulls is still total genius.) Whereas Jurassic World just has Claire barely holding the fort for representation in her dumb shoes, being constantly condescended to. If the beginning of your franchise felt more progressive 22 years ago than this summer's blockbuster addition does, then you're doing something wrong.

There's a very definite uterus subplot too, with Claire's disinterest in kids played as a character flaw (the exchange with her sister, where she says "if I have kids" and Karen irritably corrects her with a curt "WHEN" made me fucking furious, to be quite honest) before she visibly comes around to the idea at the end of the film. Maybe it was meant to be a reference to the original where Sam Neill's Dr. Grant was conflicted over having kids at first, but it felt less like a knowing nod and more like the usual oppressive bullshit that insists women should want to bear children, otherwise they're being selfish and weird. A notion that can fuck right off.

If I were her I would have avoided those kids for seven years too, because they're awful. (Also, their parents are apparently getting divorced, a plotline which serves no purpose other than to have Judy Greer cry in pretty much ALL of her very few scenes.)

It wouldn't have killed them to throw in a brother-sister combo again. All they had to do was change up the ages and there could have been something even approaching gender balance within the main cast. Or, GOD FORBID, TWO SISTERS. GASP. It's not as if a film about sisters is one of the highest grossing releases of all time, or anything.

When they first encounter Owen, Claire has just saved his life, but the boys are all "Owen is amazing let's stick with him!" Their aunt just SHOT A PTERODACTYL IN THE FACE, but he's still the cool one. I hate these kids. And their "Your boyfriend is so badass!" line later on in the film made me want them to be eaten by a velociraptor. The little shitheads.

Now, despite all of this giving out, Jurassic World does have lots of great parts to it. It's extremely exciting to see the camera swoop in over the park that Hammond had envisaged all those years ago, and watching Rexes Indominus and Tyrannosaurus bate the heads off each other was hugely entertaining. Nick from New Girl and C.O. Fischer from Orange Is The New Black were great. Chris Pratt has buckets of charisma (despite all the goddamn mansplaining) but it's really no Jurassic Park. It was always going to be near impossible to live up to a film that we fucking loved as kids and have done for the last twenty-odd years, I mean that's a LOT of expectation and build-up. But there are so many ways it could have been better. And it could have used some Jeff Goldblum, but then again, that's true for most things.

Life finds a bae.
Anyway, I think we can all agree that the real hero of the movie was the dude that ran from the flying dinosaur attack while holding two margaritas. Good hustle, mister.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Memories

This book was a bit of a snooze, to be honest. But let's give it a crack anyway.

(Also, please come on over and like my new Facebook page! Yep. Still plugging it.)

Sweet Valley High #24: Memories

"Steven! What's wrong?"
Ned Wakefield looked up from the book he was reading as his son streaked by the master bedroom.

I'd like to think that by streaking, they mean Steven has just run past in the nip, as it would have made this book infinitely more interesting. Unfortunately there isn't a wang to be had and Steven just ran quickly to his room and this whole story is basically just about him being sad. BOOORING.

You see, Steven had the nerve to enjoy hanging out with Cara Walker at Lila's party the previous night, prompting Betsy Martin to make a huge scene, giving him a load of shit for forgetting about her dead sister Tricia. It's pretty rude of her, considering how he took it upon himself to look after her when Tricia died and cured her of her drug and alcohol problems through the sheer power of Wakefield charisma.

However, Steven decides that she's right and feels like he's betrayed Tricia's memory, vowing never to do it again, so he starts to spend loads of time hanging around with Betsy, while she tells him about the time Tricia was a robin in a school play.

Jessica continues to be mean to Betsy for being a no-good skank (i.e. doing exactly all the things that Jessica does, but is poor, therefore she's a trashy slut rather than a mischievous flirt) and is pointedly rude to her when she calls over to the house one morning to meet Steven. However, it's soon followed by a classic Alice Wakefield burn, when she asks the twins to do the washing up.

[Following a conversation about how Jessica wants to be a movie star]
"Right now, though, the only roles we're casting for are the kitchen help." She got up and brought a few plates to the counter. "Anybody want to audition?'
"I don't mind trying out." Jessica grimaced. "But don't count on my taking it up as a career."
"Honey," her mother joked, "I never count on you for anything."

ALICE! I swear, this woman is a shade-throwing QUEEN.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth continues to pine for her boyfriend Todd, who now lives in Vermont, and she keeps seeing some guy around town who looks just like him. Could it be that Todd is leading some manner of double life and might actually have an interesting secret of some sort? Of course not. This guy is Michael Sellers, the captain of the Big Mesa volleyball team, Sweet Valley High's opponents in an upcoming charity match. The twins are on the team, naturally (winning at life includes being an excellent volleyball player, despite your prowess never being mentioned once over the course of 23 books) but on the night of the event, Elizabeth sucks for the first game, as she's all flustered by Michael's presence. He even has coffee brown eyes like Todd's! GIVE THOSE EYES BACK MICHAEL, THEY'RE NOT YOURS.

Despite Liz's shaky start, the Sweet Valley team eventually draw level and end up winning, with Elizabeth hitting the winning point, (or whatever the deal is with volleyball) because god forbid someone else in that school should get a moment of glory when there's a Wakefield on the team.

There's a big dance afterwards (duh) and when the twins go home to change before it, they, along with Steve's friend Artie who dropped over, convince Steve to come with them and do something non-dead-girlfriend-related. Cara sees Steven there and decides to go over and say hello, despite the fact that he ditched her at Lila's party after Betsy Martin's outburst and never fucking apologised. And even though he's excited to see her, Steven decides that the last time they hung out gave him "so much pain" that "he wanted no part of her tonight". Steady on, Steve. So instead of even being basic-level polite to her, he's frosty and immediately walks off to talk to Betsy, who's just arrived. Cara is humiliated and it's just so fucking RUDE of him. Also, what is the deal with all these college-age kids hanging around at a school dance for sixteen year olds? Can you imagine being in first year in college and hanging around at the Junior Cert disco? You'd be SCARLET.

Cara's a pretty sailor, but what's going on with her facial expression? Also, Steven, is that a velour shirt? Because it sure looks like one.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth has been dancing with Michael, marvelling at how much he looks like her ex-boyfriend. Always a good reason to hook up with someone, said no one ever. However, Elizabeth soon realises that in terms of personality, he's nothing like her beloved Todd (in that he actually has one), as he slags off the food that Winston made and has the audacity to put his paper plate under his chair when he's done, rather than in the bin. SHAAAME.

While all this has been going on, Jessica's been scheming away as usual in her subplot, after overhearing her mother talking to Mrs. Egbert about a movie director relative coming to stay at their house and how she'll keep it a secret for her. As a result, Jessica's been prowling after Winston and has inveigled her way into doing an English project with him. She goes over to his house one afternoon so they can work on it together and while there, learns that it's Mrs. Egbert's cousin Marty that's coming to stay in a few days time.

Later that night, Steven and the twins are having pizza for dinner as Ned and Alice have gone out for the evening. The subject of Cara Walker comes up, as Steve's friend Artie is supposed to be taking her out on a date, which Steve is grumpy about despite the fact that he's been nothing but awful to her for the last while. Jessica hints that Steve and Cara should get together, but Elizabeth reckons they're not right for each other.

"I'm sorry. Cara has pulled too many nasty stunts and told too many secrets for me to think that she'd be a match for Steve."

Oh fuck right off, Liz. Mind you don't fall off that high horse. Cara has never actually done anything to her and the shit that Jessica routinely pulls is genuine villainy, whereas all Cara has ever done is be prone to a bit of gossip and has the nerve to fancy Steve. Fucking Elizabeth.

Anyway, Steve gets mad at the two of them for talking about him like he's not even there, and it escalates into an argument between the three of them, with Jessica dropping truth bombs all up in his face. She calls Steve out for being too scared of what Betsy would say if he went out with Cara, which is 100% correct and tells him he's being incredibly rude to Cara, WHICH HE TOTALLY IS.

Steven slammed his fist on the counter. "I've told you, Jess, stay out of it. I'll live my life the way I want."
"OK," Jessica said. She shrugged. "But remember Cara's got one advantage over Tricia. She's alive."

YAAAS. Epic burn Jess.

Steven runs off crying because the truth hurts, BITCH and after thinking it over, decides that he really should apologise to Cara. HEY, YA THINK? He calls her up and it turns out that she didn't go out with Artie after all, so they arrange to go for a picnic the next day. Cara offers to organise some food and Steven's just like "yeah, see you then", when the least he could do is get off his fucking hole and sort out some goddamn cheese and bread and lemonade to make up for being such an utter turd to her, particularly since the picnic was his idea.

They go to the zoo for the day and after a wander around, head to a picnic area, where Cara lays out some fried chicken, pasta salad and a chocolate cake.

"I'm impressed," Steven said as he stretched his tall frame out on the blanket. "I didn't know you were such a good cook."
"I'm not," Cara confessed. "I bought the chicken and the salad."
"Hey," Steven said, sitting up. "That's cheating."

Hey, fuck you Steven, literally all you have contributed to this picnic is the fucking BLANKET. He sucks SO BAD. Anyway, they have a nice time somehow, so progress, I guess.

At school that week, Elizabeth catches up with Cara in the hallway and tells her TO HER FACE that she didn't think she was good enough for her precious asshole brother, but now that she sees how happy Cara has made him, she approves of her. LIZ. WHAT THE HELL. It's so unbelievably rude and unnecessary and the fucking NERVE of this girl. However, Cara is overjoyed that Saint Elizabeth hath bestowed her divine blessings upon her as a lowly not blonde apartment-dweller, and thanks her instead of telling her to go fuck herself.

It's Cara's birthday that weekend, so Steven is taking her out for dinner. He tells her to pick the restaurant, so she books the Valley Inn, a charming old place outside of town. However, it's also the place where he and Tricia went for dinner before she got too sick to leave the house. Steven bravely soldiers through (what a fucking trooper) and they have a lovely dinner together. A band starts playing, so they get up to slow dance, but then they start to play Tricia's favourite song and Steven freaks out, runs off and LEAVES CARA THERE. WITHOUT A LIFT HOME. ON HER FUCKING BIRTHDAY.

And breathe.

Meanwhile, Jessica heads over to Winston's house again and meets his mother's cousin, Marty. They have all these ambiguous conversations about his work, without ever actually stating what it is he does for a living, so you can probably guess how well this is going to turn out. Jessica tells him how interested she is in his line of work, and Marty offers to show her his latest project, which is DEFINITELY a movie script, right? Right? To quote Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, (as my good friend Billy so often does) "assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups" and it turns out that the "script" is actually a strategy for waste disposal in LA, because Marty's an engineer and his brother Phil, who couldn't make it, is the famous director. Foiled again, Jessica.

After ditching Cara yet again, Steven has been moping around the house, wrecking everyone's buzz and hanging around with Betsy to do depressing stuff like look at old photos of Tricia. Elizabeth comes up with a plan to snap Steven out of it, which involves going over to Betsy Martin's house in the gross part of town.

Trash littered the sidewalk, and pieces of broken glass sparkled in the sun. This did not seem at all like the Sweet Valley Elizabeth knew and loved.

Ewwww, poor people. Elizabeth manages to survive the litter and broken glass and tells Betsy about how she was the first one to find out that Tricia had leukemia and was sworn to secrecy because Tricia was trying to push Steve away so she wouldn't be holding him back. Betsy realises she was being a massive downer for Steve and agrees to let him live his life and actually give him a chance to move on.

In order to do this, a typically stupid and convoluted plan must be hatched, which involves Steven and Cara being lured to meet each other outside the school under false pretenses and Roger Collins' six year old son Teddy cycles over to hand them a mysterious package each. Teddy Collins is like the Sweet Valley rent-a-kid for annoying schemes in these books. It turns out that the packages contain portraits of both Steve and Cara for each other, with a note from Betsy, telling Steve to embrace life or whatever. Cara tells him that if he wants to begin again, she's there for him (RUN CARA, RUN!) and they kiss and everything is great.

Steven's heart swelled with happiness, and he felt as if Tricia were smiling down on them.

Greaaaat. I bet Tricia's never going to come up again as an issue in this relationship. Nope. No siree.

Notable outfit:
UGH this book was so boring and that goes for the clothes too. Elizabeth had a side-swept ponytail at one point, and Cara puts her hair into a topknot for her ill-fated birthday dinner with Steve. That's about as exciting as it got.

Things I counted:
Number of pages:151
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 3
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 5

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Yes to Progress

On Friday we get to vote in the Marriage Equality referendum, and I for one CAN NOT WAIT. A Yes vote is the kind, decent and truly right thing to do. I'll be voting yes in the Presidential Age referendum too, because if you can run for the Dáil at 21, then have at it I say, but also because I'm half afraid that otherwise my brain will freak out and I'd somehow accidentally end up voting no on marriage equality by accident.

There is genuinely no good reason to vote no in the Marriage Referendum. Once you strip back the arguments of the No campaigners, it all boils down to old fashioned homophobia and them being squicked out at the idea of gay sex. So many masks have slipped in the last few days of the debate, it's hard not to trip over the fuckers strewn all over the floor.

The No side also seem to think that we've all forgotten the fact that they were vehemently opposed to Civil Partnerships, while they now hold it up as some kind of shining beacon of gay rights, rather than a half-assed piece of legislation that they battled tooth and nail against. They use their carefully chosen group names and surnames to try to deflect the fact that it's the usual handful of well funded ultra-conservatives that routinely battle anything approaching progress in this country. And they have the brass-necked fucking nerve to act the victim when people disagree with them, while they are actively campaigning to deny rights to an already marginalised group of people. It is wildly disrespectful, it's disingenuous and it's dishonest.

So let's show these people that they and their awful opinions are soon to be a thing of past and let's make this a better country for all of our LGBT citizens and their families. A high turnout is crucial to a Yes result, so on Friday get out there and vote.

Let's do this thing and do it right.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Say Goodbye

Does everybody else have that Madonna song stuck in their heads now too? Thought as much. Let's proceed!

Sweet Valley High #23: Say Goodbye

Elizabeth Wakefield is miserable. She feels like a part of her is "dying", her aqua coloured eyes are brimming with tears, tears that are probably getting all up in her sun-kissed blonde hair, and when she takes her perfect size six body outside the house, she's so upset that she's "blind to the beauty of her neighbourhood." The reason that Elizabeth's perfect California face isn't paying any attention to her perfect California surroundings is that her perfect California boyfriend is moving away to stupid Vermont in a week's time.

Todd's father has to move for work, so in between crying on each other, he and Elizabeth have decided to have a long distance relationship and not see other people, even though they don't even know when they'll get to see each other again. Both Enid and big bro Steven think it's a bad idea, though. Steven has seen this kind of thing with his college buddies and it never works out, apparently.

"People have what they call 'hometown honeys' - girlfriends or boyfriends they've left behind."

Because Steven is going to college in 1940s wartime America.

Meanwhile, Jessica owes her parents almost a hundred dollars after buying an outfit in Lisette's and charging it to Ned and Alice's account without telling them. She has to find a part time job to earn enough to pay them back and ends up with a job as a receptionist at the Perfect Match Computer Dating Agency. Most excellent. While she's telling Steven about her new gig, Jessica decides it's high time he got his fine ass back out on the market.

He's so good looking, she mused.

Pretty weird, Jess.

The agency is owned by Mary Ann, a "pert brunette" in her twenties and the office has heart shaped notepads, a heart shaped keyring for the keys, pink index cards and pink pencils, because Mary Ann respects a theme, goddammit. Jessica ends up telling her new boss all about Elizabeth and Todd and how boring she thinks Todd is. While chatting to her, Jessica hits on the idea of setting Elizabeth up with the handsome and fabulously wealthy Nicholas Morrow. Remember Nicholas Morrow? He's the college-aged dude who was new in town and relentlessly pursued Elizabeth, a sixteen year old with a steady boyfriend, and guilted her into going on a date with him, despite her repeated protestations. Nice guy.

One evening in the dating agency's office, Jessica compiles a shortlist of ladyeez to set her brother up with, one of which is a forty three year old divorceé called Beatrice. She calls Beatrice up and tells her that the computer has found her perfect match, and gives her Steven's phone number. Steven is eighteen.

Anyway, it's time for Todd to go, so he and Elizabeth have a mega-tearful goodbye in the driveway of his parents house and she sadly watches the car drive away. Elizabeth then proceeds to spend all her time moping around her room, writing letters to Todd, letting her work for the school paper slide and generally being antisocial.

But the worst, the very worst was the apathetic look in her blue-green eyes.

Noooo! The eyes of a Wakefield twin FLASH and SPARKLE and SHINE! They're practically a pair of tiny turquoise headlights, this just won't do!

Jessica tries to get Elizabeth back to her old self by asking sexy ol' Mr Collins to send Liz to the upcoming regatta to cover it for The Oracle. She then convinces Nicholas Morrow to offer to take Liz to the race, as he's sailing in it and one of the favourites to win. Liz goes with him and the race is all super exciting and Nicholas wins. Oh and he shows her his boat beforehand, it's called Seabird but he tells her that its secret name is My Favourite Twin. Bleuuuuugh.

After the race, Nicholas invites the twins to come for a fancy lunch on his dad's yacht and is all over Elizabeth. He tells her that he's there for her if she needs a shoulder to cry on, even though he quite clearly wants to get into her pants. Elizabeth is relieved that he just wants to be friends, but also doesn't quite 100% believe that and feels guilty for enjoying his attention and company. The next day, the twins go to the Morrow's house for a barbeque being held in honour of Nicholas's cousin Jeffrey, who's in from New York. Jessica briefly "considered falling in love with him", but decides not to (because that's how it works) as all the money is in Nicholas's family and Jeffrey is probably a poor relative.

Jeffrey was twenty one, with brown, crinkly hair and wire-frame glasses.

He wants to be an archeologist and keeps talking about the Aztecs and I have to say, I'm kind of into Jeffrey. He sounds like Classroom Indiana Jones and as we all know, he can get it. Nicholas asks Elizabeth whether she and Todd have decided to date other people, she tells him they haven't and he asks her to the cinema. But he does so "huskily", so he must mean business.

Todd. That jacket. No.

In the meantime, Beatrice has been calling up Steven and asking him out to dinner and quite rightly, he's completely weirded out and can't figure how she got his number. Jessica decides that she'll have to deploy her second choice for Steven, some bird called Jody, and calls her up, telling her to come by the house on Saturday. I'm not sure which part of this she thinks is a good idea.

Todd calls the house while Elizabeth is over at Enid's and Jessica takes the opportunity to tell him that Elizabeth is miserable and not going out with her friends or writing for the school paper, making out like he's holding her back and urging him to let her go. She pretty much guilts Todd into agreeing with her and instead of actually talking to his girlfriend about it, he just takes the word of her sister, a notorious liar, schemer and shit-stirrer and just stops returning Liz's calls or replying to her letters. Great job, Todd.

Liz goes to the cinema with Nicholas to the new James Bond film (going by the date of this book, it's A View To A Kill, fyi) and they kiss afterwards. Nicholas apologises and Elizabeth says she needs more time. He tells her to think everything over and not to push herself and then IMMEDIATELY pesters her to go for ice cream with him at the weekend. How is she supposed to think things over when YOU WON'T LEAVE HER ALONE? Riddle me that, Morrow.

The next day, Steven and Elizabeth are hanging out by the pool when the doorbell rings. Elizabeth answers to find some punk rocker chick waiting outside and looking for Steven. Elizabeth "repressed the desire to burst out laughing" because she's a judgey little bitch and invites her in. It turns out that this is Jody and Steven naturally has no idea what's going on. When she tells him he's supposed to be her other half, he suggests that she has the wrong house and Elizabeth bursts out laughing, which is RUDE. But I guess we're not supposed to feel bad for this girl, because she lights a cigarette and has long nails, so for some reason it's fine that Elizabeth is ridiculing her TO HER FACE. It's not Jody's fault that Jessica is an exasperating schemer, after all.

Anyway, Elizabeth has seemingly thrown herself into dating Nicholas, despite still pining for Todd and not knowing why he hasn't returned any of her calls. Steven and Enid are concerned and think she's rushing into it, even though they both thought that Liz and Todd doing long distance was a bad idea, so make your goddamn minds up jerks. Elizabeth decides that she's been unfairly leading Nicholas on, as she's still in love with Todd, so she resolves to tell Nicholas how she really feels and to write to Todd to find out what exactly is going on. However, she won't get a chance to talk to Nicholas until the following night, when they're supposed to be going to a party at Lila Fowler's house, so she decides not to ruin his evening and will break up with him after the party.

It was going to be a terrible blow when he found out that Elizabeth wanted to cut things off.

A fate worse then death, being denied that sweet Wakefield ass.

The next day, Todd is back in town to close his father's bank accounts and "make enquiries about the furniture", and tie up various other loose ends that it seems a bit odd to send a sixteen year old to do. He hasn't told anyone that he's back in town, and wants to drop by Elizabeth's house to surprise her. Even though he decided to ignore her phonecalls in an effort to make her move on, with no explanation. He's all confused about his feelings and chickens out of calling to the house, instead deciding to show up at Lila's party that night.

"I'm too much of a coward to face her alone", he admitted. 

Todd has an entire conversation with himself in the car, while he works it all out. Sunset Beach style.

Steven is on the way home for dinner before Lila's party, and sees a girl pulled in off the side of the road with a flat tyre. It turns out that it's Cara Walker, which shocks him for some reason.

It was Cara Walker - just about the last person Steven would have expected to run into on Route 29. Somehow he'd always gotten the impression that Cara was incapable of driving to the supermarket, let alone taking the car out on the expressway.

Is that because you're a massive dickhead, Steven? I think it miiiight beeee.

He helps her change the tyre and she thanks him but gets a bit upset, as she's been having family problems and has had a lot on her mind lately. Steven graciously takes pity on her and they go for coffee at a nearby place, where she fills him in on the fact that her parents have separated and how hard it's been, not least because they've split her and little brother up, and he's now living in Chicago with their father.

Steven couldn't get over the change in Cara. The tragic battle that had been waged in her household had had one positive effect: Cara had grown up. Gone was the spoiled, silly girl Steven had once known. In her place was a sensitive, intelligent young woman, whom Steven thought he wouldn't mind getting to know better.

Ok FIRST OF ALL, she's still sixteen Stevie, so put those pants back on. SECOND OF ALL, fuck you. She's a kid and shouldn't HAVE to "grow up" and deal with this kind of thing. Sixteen year old girls can be both silly and intelligent, you massive dick. It's what being sixteen is FOR. You just couldn't bother your hole getting to know her properly, so now that she's going through a terrible time you suddenly deem her worthy of your precious attention. And her misery giving you a boner is not a "positive effect", it's you being CREEPY.

They decide to go to Lila's party together and spend their time there in deep conversation, which enrages Betsy Martin, (sister of Tricia, Steve's former girlfriend/Victorian ghost doll who died from leukemia a few months previously - these kids live in an actual soap opera) because she feels like it's too soon after Tricia.

Todd then shows up, surprising everyone, especially Liz, who is caught rapid dancing with Nicholas with her head on his shoulder. Todd runs off and Nicholas takes Liz home because she wants to be alone. When they get to the house, she tells Nicholas that she's not ready to be involved with him and apologises. He's hurt, but accepts her decision for once in his life, which is something. Jessica comes home shortly afterwards and confesses to Elizabeth that she told Todd to leave Liz alone. Elizabeth runs off to track Todd down and eventually finds him sitting outside his old house.

They have a big long talk and decide that they'll lead their separate lives and date other people, but they still love each other so they're leaving things open ended for now, whatever that means. Elizabeth decides that they're both better off now, so she's not mad at Jessica for interfering any more, because Jessica literally gets away with EVERYTHING so why change the habit of a lifetime? Also, it turns out that after they left the party, Betsy Martin kicked off at Steve and made a huge scene, accusing him of forgetting about her sister. Steve stormed out without saying goodbye to Cara and everyone involved is pretty upset, so now we have our storyline for the next book. Woo!

Notable outfit:
Shoutout to Jody McGuire, injecting some much-needed rock 'n roll into a town full of squares.

Wearing a black leather jacket and skintight leather trousers, the girl who stood there looked like someone in a movie about punk rockers. She had at least six earrings in one ear and the longest fingernails Elizabeth had ever seen.

You know, apart from being a dick move, Elizabeth laughing at this girl was a risky move, because she sounds like she would fuck. Her. Up.

Things I counted:
Number of pages:153
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 4
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 10
Amount of times people look "miffed": 4

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Hard Working Girl Heroes

A few weeks ago, after getting home from seeing Age of Ultron in the cinema, Nine to Five was on telly. It started pretty late, and wasn't going to be over until two in the morning, so I wasn't sure I'd even make it to the end. I'd seen it before, years and years ago when I was fairly young so the jokes went clear over my head and my favourite part was Lily Tomlin's revenge fantasy sequence, because cartoon woodland creatures.

But stay up until two I did, because Nine to Five is a goddamn feminist fairytale DELIGHT, and after watching a film earlier that evening where two capable and fascinating lady superheroes cracked plenty of robot skulls, but hardly said a single word to each other, a film with three female leads somehow felt newer and more relevant, despite the fact that it's 35 years old. (And not 25 like I originally calculated, until the Bear pointed out that the 90s were not in fact ten years ago.)

Starring Lily Tomlin as Violet, a super efficient office supervisor who's been repeatedly passed over for promotion because she's a woman, Jane Fonda as Judy, a naive former housewife, freshly divorced and entering the workforce for the first time, and Dolly Parton as Doralee, the cute-as-a-goddamn-button secretary to their obnoxious sleazeball boss, Nine to Five doesn't just pass the Bechdel Test, it invites it over for gin and popcorn and Death Becomes Her on DVR so you can fast-forward through the ad breaks.

After being mistreated one too many times by the aforementioned boss, the three women bond in a nearby bar, get stoned, and fantasize about exacting revenge on the "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" that is Mr. Hart. The fantasy revenge scenes are a super fun and surreal deviation, featuring Judy dressed like a lady Indiana Jones big game hunter, chasing a terrified Mr. Hart through the office, Doralee as a gleeful horndog cowgirl, turning the tables on the sexual harassment Hart has made her endure, and Violet as a murderous Snow White, lacing her odious boss's coffee with rat poison.

Following a series of screwball mix-ups and mishaps, they end up kidnapping Mr. Hart, trussing him up in an S&M style harness attached to the ceiling in his fancy house (but not before Dolly hog-ties him in the office with a phone cord, like a boss). There's even a delightfully jaunty montage of some very practical shopping for holding a man hostage. They're actually very accommodating, making sure he has cigars and magazines and everything. However, the intrepid trio also have an enemy in Roz, who works as Hart's executive assistant and informant, ratting out other women at every opportunity because Roz is a LAPDOG OF THE PATRIARCHY.

While Violet, Judy and Doralee hatch a plan to blackmail their boss, they kill time by making the office a 100% better place to work in and get a heap of feminism all up in it, introducing day care, diversity, flexible working hours and a coat of cheerful paint on the lockers. The workplace they've created is better than most workplaces right now. Their office initiatives even sort out their co-worker Margaret's alcoholism. By the time the chairman of the board arrives on the scene (dressed as Colonel Sanders for some reason) the office looks like 1980s Google.

As an aside, this was Dolly Parton's first film role, which is outrageous, because she's like a lightbulb in every scene and almost indecently adorable. Also, 1980 was approaching a pretty dicey time in fashion and yet Dolly manages to look unfailingly wonderful in everything she wears. How bloody rude.

It's by no means perfect, but honestly, watching it now, Nine to Five felt current and refreshing. It's not like we're inundated with feminist films these days and considering that women comprised just 12% of the protagonists in the top-grossing films in 2014, we need more fucking films like it. We're at a point where almost any new female-led comedy is billed as "Bridesmaids meets [insert random title here]!!", even if the only thing it's got in common with Bridesmaids is more than one female character who's not just Buzzkill Girlfriend or Nagging Wife. We're so starved of blockbuster-sized, hilarious, well-written, female-driven comedy that we have to keep referring back to one single film from four years ago. (And I'm really just talking about films here, as Broad City, Amy Schumer, Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler have been doing sterling work on this front in TV.)

Pitch Perfect was bizarrely described on its posters as "Bridesmaids meets Ted!", despite the fact that it featured neither a wedding, nor an asshole teddy bear. The Duff was billed as "Bridesmaids meets Mean Girls!", Brit comedy The Knot was "Bridesmaids meets The Hangover!" and a Jennifer Lopez film called MILF is in production and being touted as "Bridesmaids meets First Wives Club!" It's an epidemic. A movie could be about nurses in World War Two, working in the field and if it wasn't 100% deathly serious it'd be billed as "Bridesmaids meets Saving Private Ryan!"

In any case, I highly recommend a viewing of Nine to Five. It's got feminsim, zingy one-liners, Lily Tomlin being fantastically acerbic and possibly one of the greatest theme songs ever written for a film. Also, fun fact, the typewriter noise in the song was made by Dolly clacking her acrylic nails off each other, because DOLLY IS PERFECTION.

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Thursday, May 07, 2015

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Too Much In Love

This post was supposed to go up yesterday, but when I went into my drafts folder to publish it, the bastarding thing had gone and fucking disappeared. I still have no idea what happened, and after moping on Twitter for a bit, I went home and rewrote the whole entire thing while vowing never to entrust a completed post with Blogger ever again. And swearing quite a bit.

ANYWAY. Let's jump back into the Sweet Valley timeline, after that summer bike trip tangent.


Sweet Valley High #22: Too Much In Love

It's dinner time at Casa Wakefield, and Ned and Alice are going to be out of town for a few days, as Ned is working on a big case and there's another lawyer in Mexico City who has a bunch of documents there that he needs and apparently there's no such thing as the postal service in this universe. The twins convince their parents that they can take care of themselves while they're away and certainly don't need a babysitter. Ned and Alice agree to let them stay home on their own, after all it's not as if either of them have ever been kidnapped, or tried to run away from home, or got into a near-fatal motorbike accident, or ended up abandoned in a forest at night, wearing nothing but a bikini after being almost sexually assaulted by a college dude.

Elizabeth is in charge of organising an upcoming school talent show and calls up DeeDee Gordon to ask if she'll design the sets for the background of each act. However, DeeDee is all squirrelly and weird and won't commit to doing it until she talks to her boyfriend Bill about it first. Elizabeth is puzzled by her reaction, as Bill has nothing to do with the show and DeeDee is usually super excited about design projects. Elizabeth mentions it to Patty Gilbert, DeeDee's BFF, "a beautiful black girl with short, dark hair and large, sparkling brown eyes." Oh my god! It's only taken 22 books to introduce a person of colour, other than Penny Ayala. DIVERSITY! Apparently, Patty is "one of the most popular, talented girls in her class", although how popular can she really be, if this is the first we've heard of her, HMM? Anyway, Patty has also noticed a change in DeeDee and tells Liz that she'll get her to commit to doing the set design.

It turns out that DeeDee is being all strange and insecure because her parents split up and her mother told her it was because she and DeeDee's father didn't make enough time for each other in their relationship and then things just fell apart. As a result, DeeDee has gotten super clingy with Bill and has abandoned all her other interests, like the art classes she was attending. She turns up at his house unannounced, freaks out if he doesn't seek her out to say hello before homeroom and waits around outside the boys locker room for him to finish swimming practice.

Meanwhile, poor Bill is feeling smothered by the sudden change in his girlfriend and feels like he's spending all his free time smoothing things over with DeeDee because she keeps getting upset at how busy he is. We discover that DeeDee is also acting this way because her art teacher had told her about her own divorce and how her ex has remarried a plain and unthreatening woman, who had no career or other pursuits to distract her. Teachers are always confiding in their students in this town and it's really pretty weird.

They're supposed to have a double date with Patty and her boyfriend from out of town on Friday night, but Bill ends up qualifying for regionals (like Glee! But with swimming!), and instead of just going out with her friends and meeting up with Bill later on, DeeDee drags Patty and her boyfriend to the swim meet. She then proceeds to make a holy show of herself when Bill wins, running down the steps to the pool, screaming his name and throwing her arms around him, mortifying the poor fella.

With the Wakefield parents out of the way for the week, Jessica immediately starts planning a massive house party and enlists Lila Fowler to help her, as the key to an excellent party is down to the guest list, apparently. Lila is seeing a college guy called Drake, and decides to invite him and some of his mates along to liven things up. So that's definitely going to go well.

That weekend, Bill is supposed to meet DeeDee on Saturday night, but he has the day to himself and has arranged to go see an old movie with fellow film buff Dana Larson that afternoon. He feels guiltily relieved to get a break from his newly overbearing girlfriend and hasn't told her about his cinema plans, as it would only upset her. Unfortunately, as they're leaving the cinema, they run into Jessica and Cara out shopping for the day. Never one to miss an opportunity to ruin someone's day, Jessica tells DeeDee about Bill's trip to the movies, making it sound like DeeDee has something to be worried about, even though she knows full well he and Dana are just friends. For all her suntanned, "All American" good looks and winning smile, Jessica is essentially a cruel person. You see, Bill had the nerve to go and hook up with DeeDee instead of Jessica, like fourteen books ago, but nothing holds a grudge like Jessica Wakefield's vagina.

These are supposed to be sixteen year old kids! DeeDee looks positively middle aged! Real Housewives of Sweet Valley howareya. Also, Bill looks like an Eighties Aryan villain of some sort. That's a sinister jawline if ever I saw one.
At school, DeeDee and Bill end up having a massive row and breaking up and of course Elizabeth just HAPPENS to be nearby and runs into DeeDee right after Bill has stormed off.

Just then Elizabeth walked into the lounge, "DeeDee!" she said, startled. "What's wrong? You look terrible!"

Fucking hell Liz, put the boot in anyway.

Elizabeth tells DeeDee to try talking to Bill again when they've both calmed down. She does so, but Bill says he needs more time. "He just wasn't ready to be shackled again." Ouch. Without Bill to pester, and with her self-esteem at an all-time low, DeeDee starts plaguing Elizabeth looking for help and advice with the sets for the talent show. Elizabeth already has loads to do and DeeDee is driving her cracked, so she and Patty come up with a plan to help DeeDee realise that she can do this, get her confidence back and take her mind off Bill in the process.

Elizabeth calls DeeDee and tells her that she's sick and can't come into school and asks DeeDee to take over setting up the show. After a chaotic organisation meeting where everything seems to be going wrong, DeeDee eventually gets into the swing of things, sorts out all the problems that have sprung up and starts to enjoy design work again. She has a chat with her mother, who explains that the divorce happened because she and her father had become different people and it wasn't because she had her own interests. DeeDee ends up throwing herself into the work and becomes so busy that when Bill calls one evening she doesn't even come to the phone because she's painting and in the zone.

The night of Jessica's free gaff party arrives and it's all going rather well, until Drake and his friends show up "reeking of beer" and end up taking the party up more notches than Jessica is ready for. The neighbours complain about the noise and two cops show up at the door, looking for someone over the age of eighteen who can take responsibility for the party, when Steven materialises out of a nearby hedge.

"I'm over eighteen," a familiar voice said behind Sergeant Malone. The next minute Steven Wakefield stepped out of the shadows.

Spoopy Steve.

As the Wakefield kids survey the damage after the party, they discover that a floor plan for a big important job their mother is working on has had beer spilled all over it and it was the only copy. (Although if it's actually that important then it seems pretty unlikely that it's the only copy, but whatever.) Jessica rushes over to DeeDee the next morning to see if she can replicate the drawings somehow. She apologises profusely for trying to sabotage her and Bill and DeeDee is way, WAY too nice to her.

"You don't have to apologise just to get me to help you."

Ehh, YES SHE FUCKING DOES. And the only reason she actually IS apologising is because she needs a favour, you can be sure she wouldn't bother her perfect size-six hole otherwise. DeeDee comes back to the house with her and redraws the plans in half an hour (HA!) just in time for the Wakefield parents to arrive home. Jessica ends up having to tell them about the party anyway though, because a fancy crystal vase got smashed. After being angry with her for all of four seconds, Ned and Alice forgive her and Jessica continues to lead her consequence-free life, despite being a terrible person.

The talent show goes really well and DeeDee gets a big round of applause for all her hard work. She's back to her old, confident self and she and Bill make up during the show, now that she's an independent woman (throw your hands up at me).

Olivia Davidson was the first entrant in the show. She played a love song on her guitar, and she sang in a sweet, clear voice that made tears come to DeeDee's eyes.

Fucking Olivia and her fucking guitar. I swear to god.

Eventually it's Todd's turn, but instead of doing a stand-up routine like he said he was going to, he goes all Buzz Killington and recites a Christina Rossetti poem about sorrow and death, because it turns out that he's moving away from Sweet Valley and is apparently a massive diva. He breaks the news to Elizabeth afterwards and we end with them holding each other and crying. CLIFFHANGER!

Notable outfit:
There were no outfit description in this one at all, which quite frankly just isn't on. So I'm going with the little intro we got for Dana Larson, who is always a delight.

She was a tall, pretty girl with a short, New Wave haircut, a dynamic smile, and a funky, offbeat wardrobe.


Things I counted:
Number of pages:153
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 9
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 4
References to people crying: 26 (It's mostly DeeDee. She does a LOT of crying.)

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Cat's Miaow - Catwoman On Screen #2

It's time for the second part of my Catwoman's-first-appearance-in-Batman recap! (Part One is here.) Let's see how this goes.

(Also, I'm still scrambling for likes on my new Facebook page. Stop judging me!)

When we last left the Caped Crusader, he was Robin-less and faced with two doors, behind one is a ferocious Batman-eating tiger and behind the other is the fierce as fuck Catwoman.

However, Batman has chosen the wrong door, unleashing a fearsome (but actually sort of sleepy-looking) tiger! They swat at each other for a bit, and Batman pulls out some sort of Bat-claws that he uses to scale the wall of the room. Catwoman taunts him over the intercom, with: "It's been a long time between bites for Tinkerbell." Never one to let the chance of a public service announcement slip by, Batman replies: "You should take better care of him, Catwoman. After all, pets are a responsibility." Tinkerbell is clearly a girl-tiger's name, Batman. Cop on.

Hi there, Not Adam West!
Catwoman tells him she's off to deal with Robin, or "pluck his feathers", and signs off by saying "TTFN", before explaining that that means Ta-ta For Now. Catwoman was abbreviating before it was cool. You heard it here first.

Batman pulls some Bat Ear Plugs from his utility belt and "reverses the polarity on his communicator, then increases the audio modulation to about 20,000 decibels, knowing full well it will split the tiger's skull!" Wuh?

Come on, production designers. Someone's slacking off here.
All his fancy technical trickery actually does though is make the tiger lie down in a corner, giving Batman a chance to escape. He finds himself in a maze of passageways and marks his starting point by sticking this fucking FAB glittery Bat-Sticker on the wall.


While Batman is dicking around getting lost in the passages, Catwoman has sprinkled catnip all over Robin and balances him over a tiger pit, with a needlessly complicated system of sand and weights that will drop him into it when the sand runs out, or something. I suppose just tossing him directly to the tigers and being done with it simply isn't as dramatic. Catwoman then leaves while he's dangling there and Julie Newmar is just MADE of gleeful sass for the entirety of these episodes, quite clearly having tons of fun and miaowing as she exits the room.

Batman finally comes to a window overlooking the scene of Robin's impending demise and uses his Batarang to heroically swing down to Robin and help him off the tilting plank thing, so they can smack some henchmen around. They manage to overpower the bad guys and leave them tied up for Chief O'Hara to pick them up, but one gets away.

Back in the Batcave, the Caped Crusader has brought the golden cat statues from Catwoman's lair and tries to figure out what the markings on the back of each of them means. After a quick perusal of the History of Gotham City, Volume II, Batman discovers that when put together, the markings on the cats form a map to the lost treasure of legendary pirate Captain Manx. And where does he keep his Gotham history books? On the Bat-Research shelf, of course! One of the many things I enjoy about this series is that EVERYTHING IS LABELLED. EVERYTHING.

They also figure that they should be able to locate Catwoman from the radioactive spray they covered one of the statues in, as she had it with her for so long. I suppose that's one way to defeat your enemies, Batman. A slow death from radiation poisoning.

Batman switches on the Batometer and to stop it from picking up on all the radiation on the statues, Robin puts them into the lead-shielded compartment in the boot of the Batmobile. Of course it has a lead-shielded compartment, sure why wouldn't it?

They follow the Batometer to Catwoman, who has uncovered the treasure in a cave with her remaining henchman, Leo. "Now there's just two of us left to share it!" exclaims poor, foolish Leo. Catwoman gives him a look like she's about to eat him for dinner and says "Yeessssss. The two of us." and it's pretty clear where this is going for Leo.

Meanwhile, the Batmobile comes hurtling along the road to the cave, while landmines explode underneath it without managing to do any actual damage to the car or its passengers, due to its Bat-armour. Batman and Robin pull over when they see Catwoman's car and the van that Leo arrived in and find a trail of footprints. "Only one man has feet that big," deduces Robin, who must have memorised every secondary character's shoe size, and they follow the trail into the cave. They arrive just as Catwoman has sprayed Leo with some manner of knockout gas from the handle of her whip and is about to make off with the treasure.

They chase her through the cave, until she reaches a gorge. Batman tells her to stop and that she'll never make the jump while holding on to the bag of treasure, but she goes for it anyway because Catwoman don't listen to no man.

Unfortunately, she doesn't quite make it and ends up holding on to the ledge on the far side. Batman tries to get her to drop the bag and grab on to the rope he's about to throw to her, "Drop it Catwoman, otherwise you'll fall into that bottomless pit!" She does no such thing however, and ends up losing her grip, falling into the crevasse along with her bag of loot.

"Do you think she survived?" bleats Robin. "A cat is supposed to have nine lives," replies Batman, while they pick up a cat that's been left behind in the cave. So instead of conducting any kind of search for her, or indeed the treasure, which was supposed to go towards the orphans of Gotham, they just shrug and leave with the cat.

Back in Wayne Manor, and back to four tier chess (still don't know why), until Aunt Harriet comes barrelling in, carrying the aforementioned cat, calling it a thief because it stole the lobster she was making for dinner that evening. "It steals everything it can lay its paws on!" I love it. Even Catwoman's actual cat is a villain. Robin's reasoning: "You have to understand, Aunt Harriet, that cat comes from a broken home!" Robin is weird.

Anyway, that concludes Catwoman's first appearance in Batman.