It’s 9pm on a Saturday night, and since I am apparently incapable of sticking to a deadline, that must obviously mean this is another edition of the 3FING3RS classic Fresh Look Friday. I have just finished a screening of the 1999 teen “comedy” She’s All That, starring Freddie Prinze Jr and Rachael Leigh Cook, and you guys? This movie blows. Like, not even in the good way that Twilight blows, but in the way that it would blow if someone came into your house, cut out your tongue, and then made you swallow it whole. The late 90s and early 2000s birthed a great deal of these types of movies in what I guess was meant to be some sort of resurrection of the high school comedy genre that dominated the 1980s; except unfortunately, where 1987 had John Hughes and Molly Ringwald, 1999 has Freddie Prinze Jr and….wait, who directed this noise? I’m not even going to look it up, because I don’t want to attach a name to the embarrassment.

Now I won’t lie, I have a soft spot in my heart for these types of romantic teenage comedies of the black hole that was 1999. Never Been Kissed is quite likable, 10 Things I Hate About You was a fantastic example of how to cater to a young audience without dumbing yourself down, and even Drive Me Crazy was surprisingly fresh (as in tomatoes, not as in Prince of Bel Air). What I truly hate about She’s All That is how dated it is now. Something that contributes to my enjoyment of a movie, no matter how cliche, is how it adapts itself to that particular cliche of its time period, and how it translates a year, 10 years, or 50 years later. She’s All That is a re-imagining of My Fair Lady, which is a re-imagining of Pygmalion, and that story keeps on getting told because it’s universal. It’s something that anyone, in any place, from any time can relate to, and when given something so easily translatable, I should think that’s it not hard to NOT fuck it up. The scent of desperation in this movie is thick and goopy, like a mixture of molasses and the stank of my feet after a day at work, and I became more and more uncomfortable with every scene.

Here is the famous dance scene from the movie, and the scene that best encompasses everything that was wrong with 1999:

……..

Okay okay okay. It is now 11:13 on a Sunday morning. I wrote all that last night whilst still in the throes of a 40 of Miller High Life, and perhaps I was a bit harsh. Yes, She’s All That is totally terrible, but if you were 13 in 1999, watching it again in 2010 is strangely enjoyable just because it makes you realize how totally lame you must have been in 8th grade. I mean, I remember actually saying things like “whatevs” and wearing belly chains and listening to Sixpence None the Richer and thinking I was awesome because of it. How I feel about movies that cater too much to their time period in order to seem cool absolutely still stands, but if you are at the age where you remember actually having a crush on Paul Walker or wearing Airwalk sneakers, then give this movie a Fresh Look. Just make sure to do it with a bottle of Jack Daniels to numb the pain.

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Sweet No-body-Should-Have-Made-This-Movie

It’s Friday night here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. so that means another glorious installment of Fresh Look Friday where we here at 3FING3RS take another look at the garbage pail movies of the days of yore and let you know whether or not they’re worth giving a second chance. Up tonight on the chopping block is the 2001 movie Sweet November starring Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron. In this modern masterpiece, Charlize plays Sara, a quirky, free spirited bohemian soul in San Francisco, and Keanu is Nelson, some high powered ad exec on the top of his game, livin’ life in the fast lane. Tell me: how much did you hate reading that sentence? How insulted did you feel by the time you got to the period? As your eyes danced over the words “bohemian” and “high powered” and “livin'” with its dropped G, how much did you suddenly find yourself loathing me for subjecting you to such lame ass cliches? I’d like for you to multiply that feeling by 13 billion and  you will have some vague idea of how I felt sitting in my living room watching this movie.

As anyone who knows me will tell you, in addition to having a deep appreciation for films where shit gets blown up (i.e. anything with Michael Bay’s name attached to it), I also love a good romance. If you were to come over to my house and look at my DVD collection right now, you would see a that right next to my copy of Die Hard is the VERY DELIGHTFUL AND NOT AT ALL EMBARRASSING Notting Hill. I am a lady who enjoys punching the air when Hans Gruber shoots that dude in the face (seriously awesome) as well as one who cries like a baby when Julia Roberts tells Hugh Grant that she’s “just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” Is that line a bunch of dicks in a blender? Absolutely. But the sincerity in its execution makes it work. I am not bothered by cliched, recycled storylines when it comes to romance movies, because part of what makes them so enjoyable is knowing exactly what it is you’re going to get. So what is it about Sweet November that literally had me wishing I was gargling hobo toenails rather than watching that gob-awful movie?

Let’s start first with the story. Sara is some hot hippie who wears pajama pants instead of regular pants and eats vegan sausage. She has made it her life’s mission to “fix” the men of San Francisco by making them realize how much more meaningful it is to eat ice cream sundaes and do cartwheels on the beach instead of have a real job and, you know, a purpose. Nelson is, naturally, her polar opposite in that he drinks a lot of coffee and drives a Jaguar and  is always screaming into his cell phone about affiliates and demographics and all those other things advertising executives like to yell about. After meeting at the DMV Sara decides she is going to make Nelson her “November.” You see, Sara limits herself to one month with these men she is so graciously saving, saying “it’s long enough to be meaningful and short enough to stay out of trouble.” After a month she kicks them out, unemployed and dumped, but with a new lease on life because Sara has opened their eyes to the wonders of wearing used clothing and eating cous cous.

OH YEAH. Also, Sara is dying. Of what, we never have any idea, except that it involves her getting headaches every time she doesn’t want to discuss something and having enough pill bottles in her medicine cabinet to medicate every single living person on the planet for the rest of their lives. I don’t know what I hate more; Sara’s mind blowing conceit that she thinks just because she has hot-lady death syndrome that she has all the answers and has the right to tell other people how to live their lives, or that this conceit is meant to be passed off as romance to the movie going masses.

The acting is truly terrible. I will make the concession that it’s pretty difficult to act well when you’re given such a mind numbingly awful script, but remember how Charlize Theron has an Oscar? I really think she’s a great actress, but she definitely doesn’t let anybody know about it in most of her films. Keanu Reeves is just Keanu Reeves. I think the forced, stiff delivery he is so famous for is actually pretty well designed for comedy, but in a weepy melodrama it’s honestly just embarrassing to watch him.

The only thing I actually enjoyed about this piece of dogmeat was sitting with my roommate Lance and identifying all of the San Francisco neighborhoods the movie is filmed in. FUN FACT! The park where the last scene takes place is actually up the street from our apartment. It is a place famous for the fact that it gets overrun by hipsters drinking tall cans of PBR out of paper bags at 1 in the afternoon, so it was amusing to see it as some romantic backdrop symbolizing lost love or endless possibilities or whatever the hell. If you do decide to give this movie a Fresh Look, make sure to notice the little white building alone in the grass; that’s the exact location where some dude wearing a pair of pants made out of garbage bags offered to sell me weed and then when I declined called me a “butt burglar” If that doesn’t scream romance, I don’t know what does.

So I do this thing where I’ll be walking down the street listening to Herbert (Herbert is my iPod, and we are very much in love) and the perfect song for that particular moment will come on. I instantly get this cooooooooool swagger and imagine myself in one of those scenes from a movie where all of the sudden the protagonist, a real hip, misunderstood cat who must overcome various obstacles in order to reach her full potential as a rock star/movie star/independent woman realizes how friggin cool she is, and confidently walks through the parted crowds in _____ (insert big city here) as the camera pans up and some inspirational yet totally righteous rock song plays over the credits. Now, I’m not a cool lady by any means, but when that moment happens it’s like this adrenaline laced confidence boost punches me right in the face. I instantly become the baddest motha to hit the mean streets of San Francisco, and I honestly can’t fathom how difficult it must be for every single person who passes by to not throw their clothes at me. This is the exact feeling that watching The Runaways gave to me because it was a solid two hours of hot girls using bad language, playing rock and roll, and being tough as nails, and that is absolutely something I can get behind.

Before I try to analyze a film for its various artistic qualities, the most important thing I try to focus on is how it makes me feel. Movies are such a personal experience, and even if something is completely terrible, if it ignites something in you that makes you happy, then it did a good job and was absolutely worth watching. I understand that that sort of subjectivity has a very limited place in movie critiquing, but I think it’s such an important element of movie watching that it really can’t be ignored.

Separate from my personal feelings about it, The Runaways is actually a pretty solid film. It narrates the very quick rise and even quicker fall of the all girl 70’s rock band The Runaways (imagine that) and stars Dakota Fanning as lead singer Cherie Currie and Kristen Stewart as guitarist Joan Jett. The Runaways as a whole were an “experiment” of record producer Kim Fowley (played by the terrifyingly awesome Michael Shannon) to see just how far he could get in sexually exploiting the novelty of a bunch of hot teenage girls with guitars. One of my favorite lines in the movie is when Fowley screams at the girls as they rehearse “This isn’t about women’s lib! It’s about women’s libido!” Granted, this is a creepy thing for a grown man to be saying to a bunch of 15 year old girls (which is how old Currie was at the time) but I think it perfectly describes the tone of the film. And really, the tone of the film IS the film; there truthfully isn’t a whole lot going on in terms of character development, and one really never knows why anybody is doing anything. The story gets linked together by the viewer’s general idea of what happens when kids become rock stars, not by any sort of attempt on screenwriter/director Floria Sigismondi’s part to actually tell you.

Dakota Fanning was great, as she usually is in most anything she does. It’s almost boring how good she is, and it kind of makes me wish she’d develop a meth habit or get knocked up or something just so I could say something about her other than, “yep, she’s good.” Kristen Stewart, who I think gets a lot of unfair flack thrown her way simply because she happens to be in Twilight, was fantastic as Joan Jett. Stewart channels the idea that is Joan Jett, which is a whole lot of black leather and fuck you attitude, and she does so with a sincerity and frankness that I would have found surprising if I didn’t already think she had the capability to become a really great actress. Now, if only somebody would take her aside and tell her to quit it with that goddamn lip biting, then we’d be in business.

All in all it’s certainly worth seeing in the theater if you’ve got an interest in it, especially because rock and roll is meant to be played at maximum volume. If you find your appetite whetted and feel the need to watch more jail bait play guitars, first make sure Chris Hansen isn’t trying to catch you, and then check out the 1981 film Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains

Why don't you have a seat over there.

It’s Friday night, kiddos, which means another edition of Fresh Look Friday here on 3FING3RS. Tonight we’ll take a second look at the fourth installment (but first chapter) of George Lucas’s Star Wars Saga, The Phantom Menace. Now, truthfully, I hadn’t seen this movie since it first came out back in 1999, when I was but a wee lass of 13. When the original Star Wars trilogy was re-released in 1997, my mom let me miss school to go watch all three movies in the theaters, and I don’t know if it was that I was 11 and stupid, 11 and awesome, or that I got to skip a test on fractions, but I LOVED THAT NOISE. Watching the original Star Wars trilogy marks the first time I truly remember being excited about movies, and I have always thought it was so cool that I could have the same feeling in 1997 that someone else felt 20 years before. That being said, I’ve always kind of struggled with the problem of “do I like Star Wars because it’s good?” or “do I like Star Wars because it’s totally effing sweet?” It’s hard to think objectively about something that you’re so personally attached to; which is why when the 3 prequels came out in this past decade, I found it so easy to serve them all up a nice tall glass of Haterade. I guess I felt like if I ragged on the new ones, that somehow solidified and legitimized my love for the original. This is stupid, obviously, but give me a break; teenagers are dumb.

So I’ve gone through the past 11 years saying mean things about The Phantom Menace whenever the subject happens to be brought up (which is a lot, since I hang out with a bunch of nerds) but I don’t really think I’ve ever given it a proper chance. Tonight was the night that I tried.

It still sucks.

BUT OKAY. It sucks less than I thought.

The dialogue is atrocious, the acting is embarrassing, the plot blows, and the casting is beyond awful. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to cast Jake Lloyd, the kid who plays the young Anakin Skywalker, in anything other than a short film of me kicking him in the face, should be shot. I’m not expecting some classically trained thespian, but seriously. And I know, George Lucas’s writing doesn’t exactly make it easy to not come off sounding like one of those computer automated messages credit card companies call you with when you owe them $1300 (not that I would know), but shouting “Yippee!” shouldn’t be that hard for some 10 year old kid who’s just been cast as the most badass mothafucka in the universe.

My mom claims immaculate conception, but those midichlorians probably came from Satan

While the pacing and execution of the plot is pretty bad, the story is awesome. George Lucas obviously has some pretty cool ideas, I just wish one of them was to hire a scriptwriter. That all being said, I’m reminded of an interview I read years ago with Ewan McGregor (who plays Obi Wan Kenobi in the sexiest way possible) where he says something to the effect of, “Yeah, it sucks, but it’s Star Wars. What am I supposed to do, go up to George Lucas and tell him his writing is crap?” I guess this is pretty much how I feel about it. It’s Star Wars, dudes. It’s awesome because it’s Star Wars, no matter how many of the individual elements scream “I AM A BAD MOVIE!” Save the phenomenal special effects, The Phantom Menace is pretty terrible on it’s own; but watching it again, doing my best not to compare it to the original trilogy but rather allowing it to serve as a spring board into the badassery (yeah, I said it) that is A New Hope, I’m definitely glad to have given it a Fresh Look.

We are so attractive and tortured! Let's be tragic together!

So I’ve just returned from the theater where I took in an 11 DOLLAR MATINEE of Remember Me starring Robert Pattinson (henceforth known as Footface Sparkledong), Emilie de Ravin of Lost fame, and Pierce “holy shit, I look fly in this suit” Brosnan. In it, Footface plays a disaffected student called Tyler, and in his introductory scene you can already tell he’s like, way tortured because he smokes cigarettes on his Manhattan apartment’s fire escape and drinks beer at 9 in the morning. ANGST! Tyler is a walking time bomb just waiting to be saved, and since the only way to liberate yourself from the bonds of oppressive authority and dads who just don’t understand is to make out with a hot blonde, in walks de Ravin’s Ally. Ally orders dessert BEFORE dinner, which means she is a free spirit! She’s going to teach Tyler a thing or two about “living in the moment” (which also happens to be the movie’s tagline) and in the process will learn more about herself. Lovely.

It’s not that I have an issue with this sort of plot, or with romances in general. What bothered me is how damn seriously everybody takes themselves. Remember Me is meant to be a film about tragedy and loss, and about how love can help you work through it; a wonderful and absolutely true sentiment, but a lofty one to translate to the screen, and this movie just doesn’t do a good enough job with it for you to care.

Truthfully, the performances are good. Emilie de Ravin is sweet and sympathetic enough. All I’ve seen Robert Pattinson ever do in any movie he’s been in is brood, so he’s got that down pat. He is at his best in the scenes with his little sister, played by Ruby Jerins; their relationship is endearing and quite believable, and Jerins brings out of Pattinson a relaxation I don’t think I’ve ever seen in him. Chris Cooper does what he can with an inconsistent character, and Pierce Brosnan, though only in a few scenes, manages to create a character that would have seen quite one dimensional in someone else’s hands.

Though rather trite, Remember Me is good and interesting enough to sit through, until the last few minutes when the music starts to swell and a close up of the date on an elementary school classroom chalkboard says September 11, 2001. Seriously? We’re gonna tack that one on there? I had forgotten that the movie was set in 2001 and kept asking myself why the hell everybody was wearing cargo pants, but thankfully I had screenwriter Will Fetters to remind me by exploiting the most horrifying event in our nation’s history in order to make his mopey 20-something even more of a tragic figure. Gross.

If you’re gonna see this one, save it for when it shows up on Starz, which I can guarantee will probably be in like, 2 months. Until then, satisfy your sexy brooding youth craving with a viewing of Rebel Without a Cause.