Archive for May, 2012

Movie review: What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

What to Expect When You're Expecting

Look: You already know you aren’t going to read a glowing review of What To Expect When You’re Expecting here. The most positive thing to say about this movie is: It’s not any worse than you think it’s going to be. (The trailer really does tell you what you’re in for.) We probably all agree Hollywood is yet to master the “ensemble comedy”, and Expecting meets the standard set by previous efforts like Valentine’s Day and He’s Just Not That Into You.

Like that last movie, Expecting is also “inspired” by a non-fiction book that didn’t have a plot. So it invents several women, each preparing for a kid in different ways: Elizabeth Banks finally conceives after trying for a while, and discovers pregnancy is kind of super-gross. Anna Kendrick is knocked up after a one-night stand with Chace CrawfordJennifer Lopez is adopting with her reluctant husband Rodrigo Santoro. And Cameron Diaz is the host of a weight-loss reality show who falls pregnant to the guy she’s paired with in a celebrity dance competition (hers is the most relatable plot).

(The actors play characters with names, obviously, but as if anyone out there is calling Jennifer Lopez’s character “Holly” and not just “Jennifer Lopez”.)

I admit I’m way outside Expecting‘s target demographic. (Though I did eat a massive burrito the other week, which provided a valuable insight into what it’s like to know your body is inevitably going to expel something huge and squishy.) This maybe explains why people in the cinema laughed at scenes that I responded to with an expression that looked a lot like this. But a movie about pregnancy should have something interesting to say about pregnancy. And this movie about pregnancy… doesn’t.

Example: Banks endures a spectacularly awful, everything-that-can-go-wrong-does-go-wrong, she-pees-herself-a-lot gestation period.  She learns the miracle of life isn’t actually that miraculous – until she gives birth, and learns it’s exactly as miraculous as every movie ever says it is and basically her entire storyline is swept away! Worse example: Kendrick and Chase don’t want their kid, yet they never talk about abortion. (There’s one scene where it seems like they’re talking about it, but it turns out they’re actually pondering whether they should get married.)  That’s not just unrealistic. It’s cowardly. And it’s boring.

Like… no financially stricken couple struggling with the cost of having a child? No same-sex parents trying to fit into traditional family roles? No single mum attempting to do it on her own? No one deeper and more thoughtful than the milquetoast (yesssss I love when I get to use that word) lot on parade here?


Expecting has so little to say about pregnancy that it has to pad out its nine-month 110-minute runtime with subplots about the male characters. I guess these were included to make the film more accessible to men or whatever, though all the guys onscreen are so lame it has the opposite effect.

Especially Santoro’s plot, which provides the weakest, dumbest scenes in the movie: His character tries to get excited about fatherhood by joining a dad’s group, whose members are walking comedy routines. (One of them is played by Chris Rock, whose lines are basically just stand-up bits cobbled from lame ’90s sitcoms.) These so-called men are emasculated by their wives. They have pathetic man-crushes on alpha-bros. They bitch about the burden of their families. Oh, but it turns out deep down they’re all super-happy, like, of course they are because life is simple and uncomplicated and parenting is just the best ever.

I haven’t read the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting (I did leaf through it when my sister was growing my nephew; it’s full of icky revelations about how pregnant women’s toenails bleed mucus or whatever. Respect, ladies), but I know for a fact it doesn’t have any of that kind of embarrassing dad’s group B.S. in it, because no way would it’ve become a popular bestseller if it did.

Honestly, I walk away from movies like this thinking two things. First: Hollywood is really not trying hard to make smart films about women. We are not in a post-Bridesmaids lady-movie renaissance, you guys. Second: Christ, it’s good to be gay. Like, seriously, this is the model for heterosexual behaviour? These are the gender roles and expectations straight couples are told to aspire to? Ugh. Gross. I feel sorry for you breeders if that’s true.

Movie review: Dark Shadows

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Johnny Depp

Very short review: Tim Burton’s new film Dark Shadows is rubbish. “The term ‘hot mess’ was probably invented just to describe this film” rubbish.

Somewhat longer review: I feel like I’m pretty qualified to dub it rubbish. In the last couple months I’ve watched many many episodes of the original 1960s soap opera the film is based on, and I’ve watched the short-lived 1991 revival. (This makes me the second biggest Dark Shadows fan I know; the biggest fan I know is my friend Mat, who’s watched more than 24 hours of the original series – which, no shit, is still only a tiny fraction of the whole thing. There is a lot of it.)

The ’60s series is a tricky thing to pin down: it revolves around the Collins family, proprietors of a spooky old manor, and their servants, friends and enemies. Usual soap stuff. On the one hand, the show is shoddily made guff rife with laughable dialogue, cardboard characters, and plots that are somehow ludicrous and tedious. On the other hand, those things are what makes it so amazing. It’s camp, but not knowingly “ha ha look how funny we are” camp. It’s stupid, but endearingly so. And it’s really, actually kind of twisted – characters get murdered and kidnapped and mind-fucked. It’s a lot of fun!

Dark Shadows poster

Dark Shadows was, apparently, a pop-culture phenomenon in its time – it really took off after the introduction of the Collins’ vampire ancestor Barnabas (Jonathan Frid, RIP!), who ushered in an era of stupidly brilliant supernatural storylines. (Think Passions, in black-and-white.) It’s weird hardly anyone nowadays has heard of the show! And it’s a super-shame Tim Burton’s mishmash is the first introduction most people will have to it.

If you’ve seen any of Burton’s films in the last five years you know what to expect: first, Johnny Depp, who plays Barnabas, doing his Johnny-Depp-acts-kooky thing. Johnny Depp is good at acting kooky! But spaghetti tastes good, and nobody wants to eat it every night, right? Try something else, Depp! Second: Helena Bonham Carter… who is actually pretty great, so. Third: lavish cinematography, sets and costumes. The film looks stunning – but it looks identical to every other Burton flick (at least it’s not in 3D, I guess), and those beautiful visuals are really let down by…

Fourth: a rotten script. Really, truly, honestly lousy. Dark Shadows doesn’t have a storyline; it has a string of dumb, plodding scenes and never-very-funny jokes that limp towards a climax so stupendously boneheaded you’ll wonder whether the filmmakers actually watched the original series or if they just scanned the Wikipedia page in an airport lounge this one time.

Look, the original Dark Shadows is not Shakespeare. It really isn’t. It had its share of dumb, plodding scenes. But there are things I’ll forgive in an low-budget soap from the late ’60s that I can’t forgive in a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster released in 2012. Avoid the film, pick up the TV show and a bottle of vodka, have a really great night.

More Twitter spam accounts with unusual names

Friday, May 4th, 2012
Twitter spambots

Screenshot evidence

These are all 100 percent real names (of fake Twitter spambots). My favourites are highlighted in bold. Praise be to whatever amazing algorithm is generating all these whimsical wonders…

Blakeway Bush

Orrin Schlemmer

Roxie Glines

Lonnie Marcellus

Fidelia Altaras

Aleida Hnatow [sic]

Fernando Wickline

Hermine Rottner

Roslyn Schmeling

Diedre Dearmore

Elinor Fritsche

Carline Aichele

Cassassa Little

Duchesne Usher

Sau Plair

Vera Piel

Harmer Tilly

Gossow Dalles

Rocio Schadel

Kostohryz Edinburgh

Alita Sligir

Tania Gunkel

Marks St. Croix

Nutcharee Mascall

Borsh Garthman

Esperanza Watts

Fernando Kondo

Gangy Ockerby

Rutman Moon

Swinton Hayes

Larabee Kint

Vernita Okula

Stalls Smithers

Peart Oakes

Hartlen Summers

Piatek Pepper

Flom Wessex

Jacqui Encarnacion

Schwipps Boone

Fay Vadya

Lorenza Riling

Clinton Otterson

Katy Lino

Previously: Twitter spam accounts with unusual names