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