11.30.2008

ROLE MODELS.

I believe I’ve said this in a prior comedy review, but you know those times when you go and see a movie in theater and find it hilarious, but then you buy it and watch it at home, and it’s not even remotely as funny as you remember? And then you realize that the only reason you were laughing the first time was because of the crowd experience (i.e. THEY were laughing, so you were laughing, too). But all alone, you don’t laugh nearly as much. Well, that happens to me quite often. And I have to say that this movie… is not one of those movies. I laughed so much during this film, the majority of which was on my own accord (and a lot of which I know why, so I can get into that later in the review).


Danny (Paul Rudd) and Wheeler (Seann William Scott) are two guys who just float through life selling a disgusting energy drink to high school kids as part of a drug-free program. But after a really bad day that escalates to Danny getting broken up with by his long-term girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks) and climaxes with a police assault and sexual innuendo-related car wreck, both Danny and Wheeler are given community service so that they can stay out of jail. The program, led by ex-druggie Gayle Sweeny (Jane Lynch), pairs adults (“Bigs”) with kids (“Littles”) in a buddy program. But the pairs made here, while at first seem terrible, turn out to be perfect. The negative Danny is teamed up with Amptgard-loving Augie Farks (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), while the ladies man Wheeler is teamed up with foul-mouthed Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson). So now all they have to do is survive together long enough to get through the service hours… but wouldn’t you know it, relationships form.


I won’t deny it: the plot is formulaic. You know pretty much how everything is going to turn out early on. But that didn’t stop me from loving it. Sure, it started out a little slow, and the best joke prior to meeting the kids is shown in the trailer (“Congratulations, you’re stupid in three languages”), but once it gets to the gimmick, it really doesn’t pull back.


Unfortunately, Seann William Scott didn’t get to use his full arsenal in this movie and was really just a tag-along to the plot (hell, technically, he really didn’t do anything to get in trouble in the first place). The majority of the plot rested on Paul Rudd and Mintz-Plasse, which was fine, because that was the most interesting relationship in the movie anyway. Though that doesn’t mean Scott and Thompson weren’t good. In fact, Thompson had most of the funny one-liners of the film. But what I found funniest were the nerd jokes, mostly because I knew everything they were talking about. (Time to show true colors): back in high school, I actually knew people who played Amptgard and even played with them a couple times. It really is a ton of fun, though we never got as into character as they do in the movie. But anyway, the point is, I understood all the jokes on a more personal level.


But then there are the supporting cast members, such as Jane Lynch, Ken Jeong, Joe Lo Truglio, and Matt Walsh. To start with the negative, I found Jane Lynch to be one of the biggest downfalls of the film. She was funny the first couple times, but after that, it started to get old. It was the same jokes over and over again, and it started to get more tiring than funny. But then you have the likes of Ken Jeong, who you might recognize as the delivery doctor from Knocked Up (and he’s a real doctor, too, I believe), whose outtakes on the DVD were almost ten-times funnier than the movie itself. And he’s not wasted in this film, either, as the King (the ultimate villain in the Mintz-Plasse part of the story). Between his facial expressions and his slight hints of homosexuality, he was hilarious. And I pray that he has more outtakes on the Role Models DVD, too. And then, of course, you have the Amptgard loyalists, Joe Lo Truglio and Matt Walsh, whose dedication to the sport makes them great (especially Truglio).


Overall, I really loved the film. I know this review focused more on Rudd/Mintz-Plasse, but I honestly felt they were the best part. Scott and Thompson did have equal screen time, and they did have hilarious scenes (just so I can get that out there), but the plot was seemingly more dedicated to the former than the latter—again, at least in my opinion. I would really recommend this film, whether or not it’s predictable. Let me put it this way: I probably only once stopped to think about reviewing the movie while I was watching it (which is very rare these days) because I was so taken in by it. It’s one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a while.


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A Keanu 'Whoa'

11.29.2008

Overrated Movies: Enter the Dragon.

So I finally got around to seeing Enter the Dragon for the first time. And I’ve got to say, while I respect Bruce Lee as a Martial Artist and also respect the film for its cultural breakthrough, I felt it a bit overrated. For those that don’t know, the movie is about three fighters who are handpicked by Han (Shih Kien) to visit a remote island for a special fighting tournament that is secretly a cover for an opium den. First is Lee (Bruce Lee), a Shaolin monk asked to check into the opium den and bring down Han. Second is Roper (John Saxon), a businessman who is in some debt trouble and owes a lot of money to some bad people. And third is Williams (Jim Kelly), your basic black 1970s stereotype.


Let me start there, really, with the characters. Han, the film’s villain, is pretty much absurd. He talks like William Shatner and acts like a bad James Bond-villain rip-off (white cat and missing hand included). Hell, Williams even says at one point that he seems straight out of a comic book. And while we’re on the subject of Williams, I realize that this was the 70s, but good Lord, could they have added any more black stereotypes into the one character? He was the very definition of ‘token black guy’. Lee and Roper, on the other hand, were actually pretty good characters.


As for how they acted, outside of Han’s Shatner-esque abilities (which I’ll get to a little more in a minute), Bruce Lee acted fine… when he wasn’t fighting. In fact, I really liked his characterizations when he was just being normal. But when he fought, it was so over-the-top and exaggerated that it was ridiculous—though I do understand that a lot of it is part of what makes Bruce Lee a classic figure in martial arts films.


But that’s not to say the action was bad. In fact, I thought most of the action was actually really good (when I wasn’t laughing at what probably wasn’t meant to be funny). Like I said before, I do respect Bruce Lee as a martial artist. He’s pretty damn good (which is probably an understatement from other things I’ve read). There were just moments where you could tell it was fake, such as when it didn’t exactly show the hits, or the camera cut just at the right moment so that you could see a foot coming into view from off screen to touch somebody’s face (with a loud ‘smack’ sound). Or sometimes there were moments when it was clear there wasn’t any contact, but it was acted out like a hit anyway. However, the final fight at the end in the hall of mirrors was freakin brilliant, and probably one of my favorite fight scene moments now.


For the plot, I really couldn’t help but think, the entire time I was watching, of Mortal Kombat. I know MK came later, but I the whole time I was thinking “wow, did they rip off this movie.” I didn’t find out until afterward that MK purposefully based itself heavily on Enter the Dragon. I mean, I could probably write an entire post on their similarities, but I won’t.


But let’s get to the bigger reasons as to why I feel the movie is overrated. Again, I realize the movie was made in the 70s, but it just looked awful. I’ve seen better visual work from 50s films. And then the sound mixing was doubly terrible. And there was a reason that I felt while watching that the entire movie sounded as if the whole thing was dubbed over… because it was. The movie was filmed silently, and everything (including dialogue and sound effects) were dubbed over in post-production. It was incredibly distracting, though. And this was part of the reason for the Shatner-esque acting. Shih Kien didn’t know English, so he just mouthed the lines and somebody else voiced him.


Overall, while I do feel the movie is overrated, I still think it was entertaining enough and good. It just wasn’t great, in my opinion. There was too much poor quality, cliché, and cheesiness. But it does make me want to check out other Bruce Lee films. So unlike some of my other “Overrated Movies” posts, wherein I gave incredibly low scores, this movie is still going to get a pretty good scoring. In fact, here it is.


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I Am McLovin!

11.26.2008

TRANSPORTER 3.

When you take an action franchise staring Jason Statham, co-written by Luc Besson, choreographed by Corey Yuen, and then give it to a director named Olivier Megaton (seriously… Olivier-freakin-Megaton), you know you’re in for something special. Now, I am a fan of this franchise, so to speak. I really liked the first film, anyway. The second film was way too over-the-top in action and too little on story (When your action requires you to use CGI in order to do a car-related stunt, you know something with your movie is screwed up). But I had high hopes for the third installment after seeing the trailers. I wasn’t let down.


Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is taking some time off, fishing and relaxing with his old friend, Inspector Tarconi (François Berléand), after turning down a transportation deal he didn’t feel suited for. But when the case comes back and falls in his lap once more, he’s forced into the job. All he has to do is drive his car, along with sexy passenger Valentina (Natalya Rudakova) to different destination points, where he will get the next set of coordinates and continue until he finally reaches the drop-off point. There’s only one catch: both Frank and Valentina have bracelets around their wrists that will explode if they go more than 75 feet from the car.


First let me discuss the new concept of the story: the bracelets. Not too long ago, I reviewed Battle Royale 2, wherein each student wore a collaborating necklace that would explode if either the pair got too far apart or one of them died. I mentioned how disappointed I was with the poor execution of such a good idea. Well, let me just say that Transporter 3 basically takes that same idea and uses it the right way. There are some really good moments of suspense where you have no idea how Frank is going to survive and stick with the car; and then there are other moments where having to stay near the car is a hindrance that he has to find a way around. Either way, they really played well with the idea, and it was good fun.


Next I’d like to bring up the actors/characters. Jason Statham is Jason Statham; every fight scene basically has to find a way to get him out of his shirt. And his fighting is rough, which is good. Then there’s Natalya Rudakova, who is very hot in this movie. The only disappointment was that the movie gave some good eye candy for the ladies with Statham, but not nearly enough eye candy for the guys. Another brief complaint I do have to go along with the characters of these two actors is that the love story that bubbles up between them was too forced and contrived. It didn’t feel natural at all. But anyway, then we have Inspector Tarconi, who was used much better in this film than in the previous. In the last movie, he was mainly used for comedic relief. And while he has some funny lines in this one, as well, he went back to his roots in the first film and actually acted like an Inspector. Finally, the villain was actually villainous. He wasn’t over-the-top or goofy. He was actually very malignant.


The story was much darker this time, as well. Actually, the whole movie was much darker than both of the previous films. And, believe it or not, there actually was a story. Granted, the motive behind everything that was going on was a bit odd (and slightly weak), but it was there, nonetheless. There were twists and turns throughout the film (not jaw-dropping or anything, but they were there). And there was actually more story this time around than action.


But there was action, don’t get me wrong. And the action was all fun, for the most part. It was a bit choppier in editing, so it was rather fast-paced (think Bourne). I think the first film’s action was a bit more creative and fun (oil slick, anyone?), but this film still had some heavy punches. And there was more car-related action this time, as well. Not as over-the-top as the second film (except for maybe the two-wheel driving between the trucks scene), and more grounded in some kind of realm of possibility.


My final notes include a couple plot and/or logistical errors. The first, unless I just missed the explanation, was that how did Frank know they were on the train toward the end of the movie? Without an explanation (and granted, I just might have missed it), that’s a pretty big plot hole. Second, and more just on the logistics side of things (SPOILER WARNING):


Why did the bad guy jump off the car at the end if he knew what doing that would bring about? That just didn’t make sense to me. Falling off with the car would have been the wiser choice.



(END SPOILER)


All in all, I thought it was a fun movie. It has a decent story and some good action. It felt like it was missing just a little something special, but overall, it did what it set out to do: entertain the brainless masses. And for that, I give it a good scoring.


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A Keanu 'Whoa'

11.24.2008

The Student Teacher Chronicles: Week Thirteen.

(I forgot to post this yesterday, so here it is today).

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I was too tired to come up with a witty intro for this week; Here’s week two of my solo teach.

Monday


Monday wasn’t a bad day at all. First period went to the gym in order to do their required fitness exam. And one of the guys in the class actually beat the previous record for the amount of laps for the short run segment. He ran 167 laps (the previous record was 166). He was exhausted afterward, though, looking like he was about to pass out. For second through fifth periods, I began reading The Devil and Tom Walker. Pretty much each class had fun with it, especially with the wife character (who’s mean and sometimes physically abusive). And sixth period began reading the play version of “Bang Bang You’re Dead.” Any of you who had Dr. Plemons’ class with me a couple semesters ago should know what I’m talking about (I showed clips of the movie version). Half the class were assigned parts to read and did so. Funnily enough, the easy-going, funny guy in the class took the lead role, which is that of a school shooter… so that was ironic. And I swear, only that class could turn a play about a school shooter into a comedy. Alas. Seventh period conference until after school…did some random work and helped a student or two. Otherwise, I just went home with a headache (not sure why).


Tuesday


Tuesday was somewhat similar to Monday. First period began presentations over a chapter of a book they read and have to discuss (they each read a different chapter and all have to present about it). Second through fifth periods finished up The Devil and Tom Walker, and then I discussed the project that’s going along with it (I’m using a 2-5-8 menu which I created for it. It’s a list of options they can choose with options under ‘2 points’, ‘5 points’, and ‘8 points’. They have to choose either two of the 5 pointers or an 8 point with a 2 point, and each elevation of points makes them use a higher level of Bloom’s… with each point level also building on the previous information, so they’d have to know everything in the 2 pointers before they could do a 5 pointer). They also turned in a lot of late work, as three-week grades are due today. There was also yet another fire drill during third period, but that went pretty well. After all those classes, sixth period finished up the play before moving on to the movie version (which isn’t a direct representation, but rather taking the themes of the play with the main characters/story and juxtaposing it against those characters actually putting on the real play). Seventh period conference was mostly me grading and putting in grades. Finally, after school was a long tutoring session with a group of students while my mentor teacher held a parent/teacher conference. I left after 5 again, and also with another headache.


Wednesday


This day was a bit awkward. My mentor teacher was in and out of the room quite a bit all day long, so it was only partially ‘solo’. But she was only in the room to use the computer to type some stuff up. She also gave a couple comments here and there, but only when I really needed it… which I’ll get to in a moment.

So first period just continued with their presentations, which all went pretty well. But then second period came along, and I was teaching them how to go by the short answer model in answering a short answer question. No matter how hard I tried, nobody with the exception of about one or two guys were understanding it. But because the material seems so straight-forward, I just couldn’t figure out how to break it down any further than I already was. So my mentor stepped in (as she was in the room) and gave some ‘student-like’ responses to nudge me in the right direction. I tried that, which only slightly helped, but not much. Unfortunately, as class ended, she ended up chewing me out, basically. I mean, she really tore into me on everything I was doing wrong and how I needed to be doing things, etc. Needless to say, it didn’t put me in the greatest mood (in fact, I felt straight-up crappy)… which scared me even more, because my supervisor was coming in the next period for my final observation.

So when my supervisor got there, my mentor left the room so that we could be alone. But I took the criticisms I was given and put them in place. Third period went wonderfully. I mean, that class really got it once I started doing it in other ways. My supervisor even stayed the entire class period to watch the entire lesson and told me how great I was doing. That class lifted my mood almost immediately. And afterward, I went to tell my mentor how everything went, and she was glad. She also apologized for how she acted toward me previously, as she didn’t mean it to come off as bad as it did. She had just been really upset because she had seen me do so much better in the past and couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get out of my slump (because I really was at a loss for what to do). So I was glad she helped, either way, but I was also happy that she apologized, because she really did kind of go a bit far with her tone and such.

Fourth and fifth periods did pretty well, too. Fourth period, especially, did very well with their answers and examples. Fifth period had a bit more trouble than the others (as usual), but they pretty much got it down. Then sixth period continued watching the film version of Bang Bang You’re Dead… once I got the stupid laptop to work (it decided to wait until sixth period started to freeze and act stupid on me). Oh, and if that doesn’t make sense, I was using the laptop with an LCD projector and some computer speakers (that I brought from home) to show the movie.

But then after that, seventh period conference comes along and they had their weekly grade-level meeting (a couple of the other teachers were also teaching the short answer model, as well, and I heard some stories on how their classes were having a couple difficulties, too). After that, I helped do tutoring stuff for students who came in after school while I got some other stuff together for grading. Once the students were gone, I worked with my mentor to re-grade the literary terms pre-tests that a huge chunk of students bombed… at least those who turned in their corrections. But I was doing bad with the math and grading part, so I think my mentor was getting aggravated with me because I suck at math. And then I think I annoyed her further because she asked for my help to spell something, and I misheard her and had to ask something else (which turned out unnecessary). But then she was fine again a bit later. Long story short (too late), it was a weird day bouncing back and forth with my mentor’s mood/temper and all that. And maybe I’m just too sensitive about it, or maybe I’m picking up the vibes correctly, I don’t know… but I always feel that she gets upset with me when she’s annoyed with the students (which happens often), like I’m part of the reason they’re screwing up. I don’t know… like I said, I could just be paranoid. Anyway, I got out of there slightly before 5, so that was fine.


Thursday


Today was a good day, though slightly chaotic. First period did more presentations, which went fine. Second, fourth, and fifth periods did the group work with white marker boards that third period did the day before on answering a short answer question. They were hard to control and keep on task, but a lot of them at least got three or four steps into the five-step process. I learned never to have such big groups, though. That was my own personal lesson of the day. Third period, on the other hand, worked in pairs to do yet another short answer question. They all did pretty well. Sixth period finished the movie of Bang Bang You’re Dead. They all loved it, pretty much (except the haughty girl I mentioned last week, who didn’t care for its open-and-not-everything-is-spelled-out-for-you ending… which isn’t even THAT big of an open ending if you just use common sense). Afterward, during seventh period conference, my mentor teacher and I had our final meeting with my supervisor, who had nothing but glowing, glorious things to say about what she had witnessed the previous day (and that she’s already sent a letter of recommendation to VISD). After that, I just did a bit of copying of papers and then some grading. I also helped one of my creative writing students catch up on stuff, and we had what was one of the longest conversations we had ever had (because he’s usually pretty quiet). So that was good. I also helped another teacher with some technical stuff, too. I didn’t get out of there until about 5:15, but I didn’t even realize it was that late until I left, because time just flew by.


Friday


I knew before even going into today that today was going to be chaotic. It’s the day before Thanksgiving break, and I knew the kids weren’t going to want to do anything, much less anything for a grade. Well, first period started off alright doing some presentations (finishing up all but one, wherein we had some technical difficulties and had to postpone the one until after Thanksgiving break). Second through fifth periods did a couple different things: I first had to have them use handouts to write out their vocabulary as opposed to the usual LCD projector, because my mentor teacher forgot her flash drive that the vocab is on at her house. Then I discussed with them how to integrate/embed sources into a research-based paper, telling them more about how they need to write their papers which are due the week after we get back from Thanksgiving break (along with another project, too). Then they all had to write, for a grade, and alone, a short answer for a short answer question. And it wouldn’t normally have been hard, because the question included three things (ethos, pathos, logos) which they had learned for their homework over the last three weeks, and it was based upon The Devil and Tom Walker, which is basically all we’ve talked about this week. But of course, those who were there to have read the short story didn’t seem to remember it, and even those who had done the homework couldn’t remember, for the life of them, what ethos, pathos, or logos were. That all made everything doubly difficult.

But that’s only the half of it. Fourth period, for instance, even though I told them the previous day that we weren’t going to have a party, had a couple people bring some stuff anyway (cokes, cookies, etc.). I just let them have it and whatnot… and then laughed when, after lunch, everybody felt sick with a stomach ache from all the sugar. I told them they should have just listened to me. And then two girls lied to me and told me they were going to get checked out of school, and they both skipped the second half of fourth period, only to be found by my mentor teacher.

There’s a hilarious (and ironic) side-story to go with how she found them, too. So she had seen this one girl that’s in my sixth period class wandering around during first lunch, so she figured the girl just had first lunch. Then my mentor teacher, right after second lunch, popped back into the class to get something and noticed the two girls were gone and questioned me about it. I told her what they had told me, and she was all upset about it. Then she went searching around and, lo and behold, she found that same girl from my sixth period wandering around during third lunch, too. So she goes up to her, knowing she’s skipping, and tells her that she’ll forget she even saw her at all if she would tell her where those other two girls are at. And in a split second, the girl from my sixth period snitched on them both. So my mentor went to the gym (where they were at), found them, dragged them back to the classroom, had them apologize to me, and then had them both call their parents and explain what they had done. It was epic. The ironic part of the story here is that the girl from my sixth period class… had come to me during second period to pick up work for ISS, in which she was supposed to be all day. So she was basically skipping ISS the whole time.

And then fifth period was just insanity. Everybody, besides a select few, basically refused to listen to me or do any work. And then I had one guy squirt a little bit of water onto another guy from a water bottle, which upset the other guy… so he took a big mouthful of water of his one and spit it all on the first guy (and then ran off). I had to stop and calm down the first guy so he wouldn’t go fight the other guy. And then I had a girl who refused to sit in the classroom, so I had to have her sit right outside the door to do her work. And then I had the one guy who spit the water on the other guy tell me he was refusing to come to the detention I had assigned him last week, even though I put my neck out there to move the dates around twice so that he could come on a day that didn’t conflict with anything, and he’d just go to a 4-hour Saturday school. Then I had the love-him-and-hate-him-super-ADHD kid back in the room with me, because my mentor teacher (who had been taking him out to do personal tutoring in the lounge with him) was off calling those two girls’ parents, so everything was chaos with him just being there. I yelled at all of them numerous times (with only little effect). I even tried the silent treatment, which didn’t work too well, either. And then there were these two girls who kept alternating going to the bathroom/water fountain until I realized they were just attempting to get out of the classroom numerous times for whatever reason and so I finally stopped letting them go. But the highlight of my day was in this class, too. One of the guys in the class thought it was my last day (I have three more), so he brought me some pigs-in-a-blanket that were purely amazing. But besides that, fifth period was a complete disaster (I didn’t even bring it up to my mentor, because I didn’t want to get ‘the talk’ about it. She was in a pretty good mood, and I wanted it to stay that way).

Finally, sixth period came along, and they all just took a vocab test and all did pretty well on it (I did some grading while they did that). Seventh period conference I did some more grading, and then a parent of one of the students came in and had an out-of-the-blue parent/teacher conference with her, which I listened in on, so that was interesting. I continued doing some grading after that, getting in as many grades into the online grade book as I could. I helped one girl who had been absent for a while do some catching up, which was pretty easy, as she had most of the work done already. And then I hung out in the lounge briefly to attempt a crossword puzzle with my mentor and another friendly teacher before we all just gave up and left for the day. I was out of there by 4:10, thus ending my two weeks solo and starting up a week-long Thanksgiving break. And after that… only three days to go.

11.21.2008

TWILIGHT.

As some of you might know, I’ve read all the Twilight books. I don’t consider myself an avid fan, but I have read them all, and I believe there are some pretty entertaining bits to be found within them. I also have often said that, as opposed to the norm, the Twilight series would probably work better as a film series than a book series. Tonight, I have taken a step further into believing that very theory.


After Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) moves away from her mom in the big city of Phoenix, Arizona to the small town of Forks, Washington with her dad, Charlie (Billy Burke), she doesn’t think anything will ever get better for her. She’s clumsy, and she hates the cold and the rain, so of course Forks, a town laden with constant rain and chill, would be ideal for her, right? But then she meets Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a mysterious young man at her high school who seems to loath the very sight of her upon their first meeting. But as they start to know each other, they start to get closer. And when Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) entices her curiosity over the true nature of the Cullens, Bella starts on a journey to discover the truth about the family… that they’re vampires (though they feed off animals instead). But this cannot stop the true love. Oh no! It must prevail… even after a dangerous Tracker vampire by the name of James (Cam Gigandet) shows up and will stop at nothing to get Bella all to himself.


So first let me talk about the movie as an adaptation. I’ve been reading a lot of things about how this movie is so different from the book and how you shouldn’t go in to this film expecting it to be anything like the reading experience. Did we see the same film? Seriously, the movie was pretty dead on with the book. Sure, there were a few new scenes, a couple cut scenes, and other things like that, but every major scene was there, every major character was there, and basically every important element of the book was counted for. There was even dialogue taken straight from the book, and a voice-over narration very much like Bella’s first-person narration in the book (in fact, some of it is directly from her narration in the book).


The casting was pretty much perfect, specifically the Cullen family, even more specifically Alice and Emmett. They were pretty much dead on with my imagination. The others worked really well, too. The only complaints I have in casting were Bella and Jacob, and only moreso the latter. And it’s not because the acting was bad. In fact, I thought Taylor Lautner acted it just fine. But in the book, Jacob was this massive hulk of a guy, nearly twice Bella’s size (something more like Emmett). And even if he were thin in the first book and got huge later, I have no idea how they're going to pull that off with this guy in the next couple films. But besides his looks, he was good. And my Bella complaint was moreso on how she acted the character, which is probably more of a director complaint than an actress complaint. The Bella in the book is much funnier, wittier, and sharp. The Bella in the movie is so freakin serious and overdramatic all the time. She so totally doesn’t become whiny, serious, and overdramatic until book two. Oh, and one more complaint when it came to characters… what the heck was up with Carlisle’s super-thick white makeup upon his introduction? It got better later, but damn… that was some hardcore thickness right there.


To get into a few more of the movie workings, I had a few issues with logistics in things they did in changing/adding stuff. First of all, they made it the middle of March at the beginning of the movie, as opposed to the book when I believe it’s closer to January. This doesn’t seem like that big of a deal… until you get to the parking lot wreck scene when the whole place is icy. Granted, I don’t live in Washington, but will the ground really be covered in ice in March/April? Another thing is that Edward is so overprotective of Bella, mostly because of how clumsy she is. So why on Earth would he take her to the top of an incredibly tall tree and then let her loose to climb it on her own (much less Bella actually be willing to do so)? That just seemed incredibly out of character for the both of them.


On some other positive sides, there was some good chemistry between characters, though the two characters I felt had the most chemistry aren’t the two most would think. I felt that the relationship between Bella and her father Charlie was done very well. When a specific thing happens towards the end of the movie, I actually felt really bad, much like I did when I read it in the book. There was also some good chemistry between Bella and Jacob, and I really did like Jacob in the film despite his size. And they even added more of him in, which was smart. In the first book, he had a really bit role, and then becomes this huge character come the second installment. But they upped his role in the first film, which, again, I really liked. Finally, of course, there was the good chemistry between Bella and Edward. It was pretty tense most of the time, as Edward gets upset a lot in the first book. Though there wasn’t nearly as much humor between the two of them in the film as there was in the book (I mean, it was there… just not as much. They focused more on the serious stuff in the film).


But one of the biggest flaws of the film is also one of the biggest flaws of the books: Edward and Bella's relationship is purely superficial. And what people aren't seeming to grasp, including the uber-fans of the book, is this flaw. In the movie, Edward and Bella argue a lot before suddenly falling head-over-heels for each other for no apparent reason, and then will do anything for each other. Well, sorry to break this to you, but the books are exactly the same. If you take away every superficial quality about Edward (and even Jacob brings this up in one of the books), there'd be absolutely no reason that Bella would love him like she did. The relationship comes from nothing, is based on nothing, and stays hollow for the entirety of the series. And that was emphasized even further within this movie, even to the chagrin of the fans who thought it otherwise. So, yet again, the movie keeps to the heart of the books just fine.


The film is no masterpiece by any means, just like the book isn’t a new classic (no matter how much the fan base of 15-year-old girls thinks it is). Both the books and the films, once they make the others, will simmer down with time. But I figure that if they stick to it like they’re doing now, by staying close to the book, yet altering it just slightly so that it fits good for a movie, and taking out all the bad writing and annoying little descriptions of Edward’s godly breath and godly this and that (though they did almost allude to all of that during one part of the movie), then I really do believe that the movie series will be much better than the book series. I anticipate the next film now, especially since I hated that book the most in the series… I can’t wait to see if they actually make it good. After all, they did a pretty good job with this one (and the following score is more based on entertainment value and adaptation abilities than actual quality of film... plus, when it comes to the Twilight series, you aren't in it for quality to begin with anyway, so it's all good).


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A Keanu 'Whoa'

11.16.2008

The Student Teacher Chronicles - Week Twelve.

It’s the first week of solo teach… boy do I have a story to tell.


Monday


If ever there were a Monday that began the tradition of “Mondays are God-awful,” it would have been incredibly similar to the one today. As my first day of solo teach, I went into it with a deep breath and a crossing of the fingers. Sure, I’d taught on my own before (even with no teacher in the room)… but this was somehow different. And boy, was it.

I start my day off by making copies. I’m sure you know where this is going. It’s a ONE PAGE document, front and back, on WHITE paper. This should not cause any problems.

Alas.

It decides to jam over and over again on me, including when I only have three freakin copies left to be printed. Can you tell this machine loathes me in a degree that no other has ever felt before? So that’s sign number one.

Then first period starts and I get them rollin (after announcements) with what they need to be doing. We do some reading, and then I have to split them up into their groups in order to work on different segments wherein they take notes on a section and write it all up on this butcher paper to post around the room. Well first, I have this crazy German girl who starts throwing a hissy fit because she doesn’t want to be in this same group she’s been in with this other guy. So I try to put her in another group, and she throws a hissy fit again. I try to work with her, but moving other people around gives me hissy fits from other people. Then everybody else was getting annoyed with this girl, so I finally told her to suck it up and work in her original group. She was all broody and silent (as were the rest of that group) for the rest of the period. Then I had to deal with yet more McCain vs. Obama ignorance from another group that drove me up the wall. Needless to say, first period did not bode too well on my patience.

Then second period comes around. They aren’t really all that bad behavior-wise. The biggest issue here is that I wasn’t overly prepared to handle the situation on what my mentor teacher was having me do. It was basically a make-up day wherein I passed a lot of papers back and they had to do a lot of make-up work for the last week or two. I didn’t have everything all situated just right, so I got a lot of the same questions over and over again and everything was a lot of chaos. I also had a similar issue in third period, though that was added on with how everybody was acting like they had turned all this work in on Friday (when I wasn’t there), so I got a lot of blank stares to mix in with the chaotic confusion.

By the time fourth period rolled around, I got a bit more order on the horizon, though they’re a bunch of idiots in that class, so I still had to explain everything twenty thousand times. And I thought I was having a crazy day up until that point. But everything that had happened thus far was like heaven in comparison with what was to come. Fifth period was a literal madhouse. I had people making random noises, things being thrown across the room, people running out into the hallway, students sitting at the teacher’s desk, the same questions coming at me nonstop, phones being out in view, and particular students refusing to sit in their desks and work (or listen to me when I told them what to do). I eventually had to start threatening detentions, which quieted them down a little bit. But Wednesday is going to Def Con 3 with that class. They pushed me way too far. They’ve been rough before, but they have never been that bad. I told them they had a choice on whether or not this was going to be a good, fun two weeks, or a very long two weeks. They picked the latter, so that’s what they get.

And then sixth period, I had normal chaos, and one of my best and most confusing experiences of the day. The best was when one of the kids in the class got up to perform his ballad (they all wrote ballads for the poetry project). His was a rap… but it only started as a rap, and then halfway through it turned into this high-pitched R&B melody. Everybody was laughing so hard we could hardly hear the entire thing. It was brilliant. But the most confusing experience was with this one girl. She had lost her voice over the weekend, so it was very quiet and raspy, and especially hard to hear in the normal chaos of that period. So she’s trying to tell me something, and I’m leaning as closely as possible to hear her, and she’s trying to tell me about how she can’t read this one poem to the class. So I tell her not to worry about it that she doesn’t have to read it. So she replies with a death glare and the response of “God, if you weren’t a teacher’s assistant, I’d be cussing you out right now.” I was like “Wait… what?” But then a ballad was performed (the aforementioned one, actually), and I went back to her on what she said. She was like “I was trying to ask you if you wanted to read it for me.” “Oh… sure, that’s fine, I can do that.” “No, Nevermind, I don’t care anymore.” “Um… okay then.” It just totally came out of nowhere. Oh, and then I got a talk from Crazy Girl and this other girl in the class about how I need a total fashion makeover because I dress in the same boring clothes every week and don’t look like a human. I was like “These are my professional clothes… I do wear more everyday clothes outside of school…” So that was interesting.

Then seventh period conference came along. And because, oh yes, the internet had been down, I couldn’t take roll in sixth period (or check missing work, as some students decided to start asking me about once the internet was down). So I had to finally print out the roster once it was back up after-the-fact and take it down to the attendance office. And then I did a crap-load of grading from then on until after school. My mentor teacher left at around 4:15. I thought I was almost done, as well. But after I put in all the grades and all that, I realized I still needed to get stuff together for Wednesday, so I had to put together the vocab tests that are scheduled for Wednesday, and then create an entirely new modified version for those kids that need it. By the time I finished that, it was about 5:15 PM, so I just gave up at that point and left for the day. My legs were emanating with how the day was on the whole. I hope to whomever that the rest of my solo teach is nothing like the first day.


Tuesday


No school this day due to Veteran’s Day.


Wednesday


This day was SO much better than Monday had been. I seemed to have more control over first period, letting them get through most of what they needed to get through in the day. Second through fifth periods did a few different things. First we discussed the Seven Deadly Sins and Dr. Faust because they’re linked to a short story we’re going to be covering soon, The Devil and Tom Walker (though I did get some interesting answers... every single class had some joker who had to say "Is Dr. Faust anything like Dr. Phil?" And there were some difficulties with the Seven Deadly Sins... one period started listing off the 10 Commandments, while another tried to list the 12 Plagues. But when we did get into it, connecting it to the movie Se7en, a few were able to pick out the easy ones, like Gluttony and Lust, the latter of which they had a lot of fun with, of course). After that they all took a vocab quiz, and, even though they were all apparently freaked out about it, I had never seen so many 100s on a vocab quiz this entire semester as I did on this one. Fourth period was slightly rowdy, but nothing that I couldn’t handle. Fifth period went into Def Con 3 (as I’ve detailed in my blogs before). They didn’t like that very much, nor did they have an easy time complying with it. I did end up having to give one detention, and I had to take up one cell phone. Sixth period, we all went to a computer lab, and they typed up their poetry to be put on the website I developed for them. And seventh period conference I started messing with all of that, starting to get some of it up on there. I didn’t really stay too late after school, either. It was a relatively good day, overall. And then, rather unrelated (only really related because it deals with high school), I went to a high school production of “Annie,” though it was in Goliad, not Victoria. It was pretty fun. And that was basically my Wednesday.


Thursday


This wasn’t really a bad day… but an exhausting one, nonetheless. I actually woke up really tired, so that didn’t help much. First period did more group work, and they all had different/new groups this time. And even though I did that, I still had to break up a verbal fight between those same two aforementioned students. It’s ridiculous. Then second and third periods did alright behavior-wise. All they did was work on a pre-test for literary terms. Fourth period got to go to the gym to do this fitness test thing (so I got a bunch of groans and complaints), but they were done before lunch. So after lunch, they started their pre-test. And then fifth period did their pre-test, as well, though I had to re-explain the Def Con 3 stuff for those who hadn’t been there the previous day. And they all did pretty well, too. I did have to make one deal, however. One of my students can’t sit very still for very long and has a lot of focus issues, so I made him a deal that he can get up and move around for a bit whenever he’s feeling antsy, as long as he doesn’t talk to anybody and he does his work. It worked out pretty well. He didn’t talk (mostly because he ended up taping his own mouth shut)… though he didn’t really do the work until I had to force him into it.

And sixth period, we all went to go back to that computer lab, but another class decided to be in there today. Luckily, one of my previous teachers from when I was in high school (my computer science teacher) was right down the hall, didn’t have a sixth period class, and let us work in her room for the period. I should use ‘work’ more lightly, though, as they didn’t really work too hard at all (a lot of computer games). And that one girl who told me Monday that she would have cussed me out had I been anybody different continued to get on my nerves with her extremely bad and haughty attitude. She kept trying to ask me stuff about eSembler program (grades and such) and the computer because things weren’t working properly for her… and I had no idea how to help her with any of that… so she proceeded to say something along the lines of “God, don’t you know anything?” (There was a pause before she added the ‘about computers’ to the end of it). I also found out I had gone to high school with the Crazy Girl’s sister (she had been friends of some of my friends, so I saw her quite a bit).

But then seventh period conference came around and things got a bit hectic. My mentor teacher decided to tell me how infuriated she was with all the regular classes due to them all horrendously bombing this pre-test, and it being some of the easiest material ever. So now I had to push back the material I had planned on teaching Friday so that they could make test corrections instead. And on top of all of that, over half (sometimes over two-thirds) of each regular class is currently failing (because nobody is turning in any work), so we had to make phone calls to each of their parents. I was given third period… though out of everybody, I was only able to get a hold of about 2 of them for various reasons (incorrect numbers given, disconnected numbers, etc.). And I thought I was going to get out of there by 4 (almost a little before), but right before I was almost out the door, one of my students came in to do some work and turn stuff in. And before he finished, another came in and needed quite a bit of help. And because my mentor teacher had to go off to a meeting, I stayed in and helped the student out quite a bit (she needed to be passing in order to play basketball). Though I didn’t get out of there until about 4:40. But oh well. Such is the life of a teacher.


Friday


Friday wasn’t bad, just chaotic. My mentor teacher wasn’t there, so there was a sub. But the sub didn’t seem to like the idea of having to sit in the lounge so I could be in the room alone all day. She kept having to go talk to the person who sets all this stuff up at my school to figure out different things. She also was curious about leaving halfway through fifth period because she was having some issues at home or something like that. So in the end… she stayed in the classroom during first period, even though I asked otherwise (and talked to some of the students the whole time, not letting them do work)… and took roll first period, even though I told her I would do it (and/or had already done it). After that, she stayed in the lounge and graded other teachers’ stuff for them. Then she left around fifth period, and another sub was called in to sit in the lounge during fifth period, though she was much more complacent. And to pull it full circle, when I took sixth period to the computer lab to finish typing stuff, I had to get the key from the woman who does the sub stuff to unlock the room, so I got to talk to her for a bit about how I was doing (though that was fine, because I’ve known her since I went to high school there).

Anyway, about the classes themselves… first period was fine. After they finished up the previous day’s work, they had three options to work on, all of which were essentially homework. Then I got to yell at (sort of)/lecture every regular class because they did so horribly on what was essentially the easiest test they’d ever take. And I also told each class how miserably they were doing as a whole because nobody was turning in work (for instance, fifth period had 19 out of 21 students failing due to pure laziness). And what else was pathetic (and I told them that), was their weekly homework was so absurdly easy and the majority still didn’t turn it in. It was ONE short paragraph to read (Chief Joseph’s “I will fight no more forever”) and answer a few questions on. And it’s not like they were difficult questions. Some of the answers were the exact same as each other. And, again, using fifth period as an example, only 4 people out of 21 turned it in (and it’s not just fifth period. Each of the regular classes were pretty equal in their patheticness… yes, I believe I just made that word up). So the day was used to either finish up the pre-test (in fourth period’s case) or make corrections on it (everybody else)… and then try to get missing work turned in. It was nearly pure chaos with everybody swarming me, all asking the same questions (“What am I making? What am I missing? Answer me this, answer me that, do this, do that, etc.”) so that by the end of the day, I was annoyed and mentally exhausted. I’m not even going to get into the behavior of fifth period (not terrible, but needs work. I nearly gave out yet another detention).

Then sixth period came along, and that one haughty girl comes to me and asks if I’d graded and put in the work she had just given me the day before… and when I said no, that I’d be doing that during seventh period that day, she basically demanded that I do it right then and there (because she’s all OCD and needs to see me putting it in with her standing over me so she can be certain of her grade). So I took the two papers to the computer lab with me… and realized I forgot the key for the vocab sheet. But I graded the other one, which pulled her grade up to a B… but she got all whiny because “this is the only B I have!” I tried to assure her that, assuming her vocab fill-in-the-black was done well, her grade would definitely be pulled up to an A. She refused to believe me unless it was put in right in front of her, and, in quite a demeaning tone, said “What do you need a key for? You’re a teacher; you’re supposed to be smart, right?” In which I responded “Yes, I am. However, I’m also human, and I want to make sure I give you a fair grade by grading it correctly.” She stormed off back to her spot and glared at me for parts of the remainder of class, and then left the class about a minute before the bell even rang. I even tried to tell her to come back to the room with me after class, because it would take about one minute (if that) to grade it, and another minute (if that) to put the grade in. She didn’t have a seventh period class, nor a job to go to immediately afterward… she had to prepare for the pep rally (which wouldn’t have been for another 30 minutes afterward), but refused to spare 2 minutes to check this grade she was so adamant about seeing first-hand.

Then seventh period conference, I thought I’d get a bit of grading done quickly and escape before anybody could run in and catch me, but one of the other teachers came in (one that I’m pretty friendly with) and we talked for a while. I had been thinking about this the night before, so it was interesting that she brought it up, but the other teacher and I discussed how (what Dr. Riedesel warned about all along) the teacher’s lounge just breeds negativity. I noticed how I began student teaching, and y’all might have noticed this through the evolution of this blog, with so much positive enthusiasm and high expectations… all of which has devolved into negativity, cynicism, hatred, and an overall poor experience on all levels. I’ve grown more annoyance with students and their capabilities, and I’m no longer sure if it’s because I honestly feel that way, or if my thought process has been twisted into it by those of the teacher’s lounge (and I don’t want to degrade those teachers… some of them are truly wonderful, as I have observed some of them… but they still vent). I know some of it is my own feeling, as some of these students really do need to be smacked upside the head, but it’s further fueled and enhanced by everything that I hear from the others. So this other teacher and I had a talk about that and how she’s been staying out of the lounge recently for that very reason, as she’s been affected by it, too.

Anyway, I didn’t wrap up grading until after school ended, and didn’t leave school until a little after 4. But that’s fine. I was just glad to get out of there, wrap up this hell week, and have a nice weekend off. I feel next week will be much better and much less chaotic (mostly due to the subject matter of what’s being taught). I can only hope.

11.15.2008

LKMYNTS: The Movie Hero.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Little Known Movies You Need To See, and I figured this would be as good of an opportunity as any. I first saw this movie months ago, though I had missed the first 30 or so minutes. I just got around to seeing it again, this time the entire thing. And now I feel I can write a full review for it.


Most would see Blake Gardner (Jeremy Sisto) as insane; after all, he goes around talking to his ‘audience’ as if he’s the star of his very own movie, and titles other people with generic character names as he meets them. For instance, upon seeing a man in a trench coat with a guitar standing at a street corner, he dubs him The Suspicious Character (Peter Stormare) and basically stalks him to find out what’s going on with him. He ‘hires’ a Sidekick (Brian J. White), and labels his newly given therapist as his Love Interest (Dina Meyer), telling her that she must eventually get over her Doomed Fiancé (Carlos Jacott) in order to be with him. But the more that he insists that he has an audience watching his every move, the more he talks to this apparent audience, the more he follows The Suspicious Character and deems him a villain, the more he looks insane.


I have to say, this movie is brilliant. It does get cheesy at times, and some of the acting (especially toward the end) is questionable, but the story and the overall product given is great and fun. To start with the camera work, because that’s the big thing with this film, I have to say that even though the main character looks directly into the camera for the majority of the movie, it works. Every angle of the camera has its purpose. Blake goes into details of why his audience is in a certain place at a certain time (different emotional effects, to avoid boredom, etc.), which, in effect, tells anybody interested in film-making how to use a camera and even setting for different effects.


But the movie would have fallen apart if it weren’t for Jeremy Sisto. This whole movie rides on his charisma and believability as the Movie Hero, Blake. His pure, unwavering devotion to the fact that he has an audience that nobody else can see, along with his brilliant love of cinema and everything it does, makes him a great character, even though the character’s biggest flaw (in the film) is that he has nothing going for him and he’s not the best leading man whatsoever. But Sisto rolls with it all, making what could have been horribly cheesy into great comedy and real fun.


But he’s not the only actor that pulls through. Brian White as Antoine the Sidekick has some great charisma, as well, and he and Sisto pull off some really good chemistry. Dina Meyer (almost indistinguishable from any other recent role) also has some pretty good chemistry with Sisto, knowing when to pull back in emotion and when to go all out. Peter Stormare is a bit over-the-top, and his character adds more of a fantasy aspect to the film, but it works for what it is.


But what I love about the film the most is what I mentioned a couple paragraphs ago, which is its self-consciousness toward film. If a character or scene is being cliché, Blake won’t hesitate to point it out and try to remedy the situation so that his audience won’t be bored or annoyed. If a certain character is having a specified ‘moment’ that occurs in every movie for that type of character, he will make a brief statement to his audience (the camera) before letting it continue. And then, like I said, all the work with the camera as the audience taking different angles, etc., was a brilliant part of the story.


The one part that bugged me a little bit was the inclusion, toward the end, of an actual theater setting for potential audiences. It was slightly cheesy and took me out of the moment. But otherwise, the movie was great. There’s even a great message to go along with it (make the best of your life and do good). I really recommend this film, especially to people who are interested in film-making and/or how films are made in general, because there are huge nods to true fans of cinema.


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A Keanu 'Whoa'

11.12.2008

BOO-EFFIN-YA!

A couple days ago I posted this, linking to an article wherein Simon Pegg discusses zombies. Today, I read an article about none other than Danny Boyle himself, director of the amazing 28 Days Later..., who was asked about a possible third film in the series. This led to a brief mention in the article that I would like to showcase:

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What else? Not to go all Columbo on you here at the end, but Boyle, well, he does have just one more thing he wants from you: for the love of all that is holy, stop calling his infected monsters zombies.

“There was an article in the paper the other day by Simon Pegg. He wrote this article begging people to let zombies stumble again and not run. He was trying to turn the tide back because everyone has zombies running now. He’s like, ‘No, please. Can we go back to the old days when you knew you could get away from them?’ That was sort of the thrill. These idiots didn’t lock themselves in car and died,” Boyle laughed. “That’s why I keep saying, ‘It’s not a zombie movie, everyone. It’s not a zombie movie!’ Because the aficionados - it’s sacrilegious what you’re doing by changing things like that. They’re infected. They’re not zombies.”

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So to that, I say BOOYA, BITCHES.

11.09.2008

The Student Teacher Chronicles: Week Eleven.

Politics, politics, politics. “Oh.” That about summarizes the week.

Monday


This day wasn’t too bad. I made some copies in the morning before class started. I just sat back and didn’t do too much first period (as usual). In second through fifth periods, we did our vocab word of the day, we went over the new week’s homework, we went through our grammar workbooks and discussed subordinate clauses/conjunctions, and we also went over MLA format for periodicals. Sixth period I introduced ballads for poetry, so we listened to some ballad-form songs (including Devil Went Down To Georgia, Hotel California, and Piano Man). Then I discussed parody for ballads, in which I played Weird Al’s “Spider-Man,” which is a parody of “Piano Man.” Seventh period I helped a student who came in during conference period, and then I ended up leaving pretty early (not too long after school ended) because there wasn’t anything for me to do.

But the interesting things happened fourth period. First, they had a mini-party because they had the highest percentage turn in homework for the last nine weeks, so my mentor teacher bought them a whole load of Mexican food… and it smelled so good, but it was all for them (and they’re all pigs). Dang it! But then… the biggest thing of the day involved this girl in my fourth period class who talks to me about personal matters quite a bit. Well, she comes up to me today and is like “I’m scared.” “What?” “I’m scared.” “Why?” “Oh, I haven’t told you yet, right?” “Nope… why are you scared?” And so she starts doing a bunch of random hand signals, and I’m like “I can’t read sign language.” So she takes both of my hands and slowly puts them on top of my stomach. Then it hit me, and all I could say was “OH…. Oh…” And just repeat that over and over again. She said she wasn’t positive yet, but she was really worried about it. Yeah… that was an interesting experience (for those whom that wasn’t clear enough for… she’s afraid she’s pregnant). But yeah, otherwise, that was my Monday.


Tuesday


There’s not too much to say for Tuesday (except that practically everybody, students included, were all riled up due to it being election day). But other than that, first period did timed essay writing, so I just sat and read a short story I’ll be teaching in a week or two. Second through fifth periods did work on more MLA documentation forms and then discussed research report topics and the grading rubric for the report and presentation. Fifth period, I also had my supervisor come and observe. She left all positive comments, even though I was in there without my mentor teacher and they were being insane (more after my supervisor left, but some while she was there—is it illegal to kill and/or brutally maim students? Just wondering). Sixth period started on some new vocabulary and continued working on their poems, all of which are due Friday. Then I got to leave early during seventh period conference because I still needed to go vote, so my mentor teacher let me leave early.


Wednesday


This day was slightly boring. First period analyzed John McCain’s concession speech (and Thursday they’ll analyze Obama’s acceptance speech) looking for rhetorical devices, etc. Second through fifth periods were in the library getting the common spiel from the librarian on how to conduct research by using different methods available in the library and all that good stuff (so I just sat back and did… not too much, basically). And then sixth period, we all did an ABC Poem (which is basically a couple sentences wherein every word must begin with the next letter of the alphabet)… so everything was all random and bizarre. It was a lot of fun, and they all had a blast with it. Then seventh period conference we had a grade-level meeting. After school, my mentor teacher and I discussed some of the things I could do for my two weeks solo (I think it should be some pretty cool stuff). I left around 5 PM, but it flew by really fast. And that was my Wednesday.


Thursday


First period went over and analyzed the Obama acceptance speech. Second through fifth periods were in the library beginning research. It was chaotic as heck in there, as nobody listened to any instructions (as usual), and nobody had listened on previous days on how to do things… so of course nobody knew what the heck they were supposed to be doing and/or how to do it. I got the same dumb questions over and over again and had to re-explain almost everything over and over again. I was running around the entire library all day long going from person to person. It was most difficult when five+ people are trying to ask me questions all simultaneously (and then getting upset when I attempt to answer somebody else’s question first). My legs were killing me by the end of the day. Sixth period worked on a ‘Found Poem’, which is just blacking out words/sentences in a newspaper article until you only have specific words left that flow together to make a story/poem. Seventh period conference was used to make a bunch of copies, and after school was used to go over everything for the next two weeks (for my solo teaching) with my mentor teacher. I got out around 5 PM, though, again, it went by pretty fast. Though I was told by a student that another student in my sixth period class (and the last student I would ever to have thought to do this) had been skipping the last two days (I think most likely due to a new boyfriend and she tried skipping once and felt the rush, so she attempted a second try). We had to deal with that, too. And that was about it.


Friday


There was no student teaching on this day due to (the final) student teacher seminar.

11.08.2008

2 In 1: Battle Royale II: Requiem and Feast 2: Sloppy Seconds.

This time around, I felt I should discuss two sequels that aren’t as good as their predecessors, though vary in range from terrible to still oddly entertaining. Both have large casts, and both are sequels of movies with large casts (and both have survivors of the previous mingling with the new bunch). Ironically, both also have relatives of somebody who died in the first coming back to seek revenge on the one seen as responsible. And as both are sequels to movies in which a lot of people die, expect spoilers (for the originals, anyway). The first on the list is the sequel to a decent film (based on a much better book), Battle Royale, which I just recently reviewed. The second on the list is a sequel to one of my favorite horror/comedies, Feast. So without further ado, here are the reviews.


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Battle Royale II: Requiem.


So I finally watched the sequel, which I had heard was not nearly as good as the first film (and as I didn’t think the first film could have been as good as it should have been, either, I found this slightly difficult to believe). Unfortunately, they were right. The movie picks up three years after the first film. Shuya has turned into an international terrorist, forming a group known as the Wild Sevens (Wild Seven being his own nickname in the book). The government decides to reinstitute the Battle Royale program, though by altering it a bit first. Instead of the class having to kill each other, they are taken to a remote island where the Wild Sevens are hiding out and are told to work together to kill Shuya. Also, the collars are back, but slightly different. They work in pairs now, so if your other half dies, so do you. And to add in some more drama, the daughter of the first movie’s teacher transferred herself into the game so that she can take vengeance on Shuya (even though, you know, she hated her father).


This movie did have some really good ideas. However, they were all executed poorly. Whether it had to do with a rushed scripting or the death of the movie’s original director early on (his son took over), something happened here. Much like the first movie, I felt a lot was being left out. The movie, to me, might have worked a lot better as a book with a lot more details and background information put in. For instance, I did love the idea of the daughter of the first teacher coming back. Unfortunately, the teacher sub-plot in the first film was not in the book, which is sad, as it was one of the best things about the first movie… so there would have to have been some massive re-writing for the original author to include that whole sub-plot. There was also a cool little connection to Shinji’s (from the first movie) uncle, who nobody who hadn’t read the original book would probably pick up on. A relationship between those two could have been fleshed out so much better. I also really liked the paired-collars idea, and that was one of the worst-executed ideas. It had so much potential; imagine one of the really good students and one of the more evil students paired together and being forced to work together; one student had a diabetes issue, so she was having insulin issues… imagine the suspense that could have been added for her partner had they done it right. There are so many things they could have done with that idea, and the only thing they used it for was to get the class size down from 42 to 12 in about 10 minutes.


And that leads in to another big issue. Like the first movie, there was no character depth or character growth. I didn’t care about any of the characters (except those from the first film). I didn’t really even know their names or anything else about them. There was no personal connection to anything happening to any of them. It was just pointless death after pointless death.


And the characters they did spend time on were so horribly acted that you didn’t like them anyway. I’m not even going to point out specific characters that were over-acted… because they all were (with the exception of maybe two… which were the teacher from the first film in one short flashback, and Noriko, who has one short scene at the end). I also didn’t like how Shuya was portrayed in the first film, and that pretty much carries over to this one, as well (he’s still more awkward than anything).


A couple other notes: The cinematography and the music were both really good; the ending was just dumb and silly; and don’t even get me started on all the plot holes (and I’m very rarely one to pick up on plot holes myself). And they could have told us where the hell Noriko was for the entirety of the movie instead of making us wonder the entire time. So yeah, the movie had a lot of good ideas, but it ultimately fell on its face (hard). If it were to be altered and done in book form (though I do think that was done to some degree for a manga sequel), I believe it could be really good. Too bad that for now, it’s really not.


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The Zed Word



Feast 2: Sloppy Seconds.


I really loved the first film, Feast, a little-known horror/comedy made during the final season of Project Greenlight. It had a lot of unexpected things and followed none of the horror-film clichés (save for Monster Vision). It was hilarious, suspenseful, and all-around outrageous in the things that occurred. So when I heard they were making it into a trilogy, I got excited. But then I started hearing that this first sequel, finally released, was just plain terrible, if not God-awful. I had to see for myself.


Feast 2 picks up right where the first one left off. Biker Queen (Diane Goldner), twin sister of the first movie’s Harley Mom (also Diane Goldner), starts to seek revenge after finding her sister was dead. She stumbles across Bartender (Clu Gulager), a barely-survivor of the first film who had been left for dead. He tells them that Harley Mom’s death was due to Bozo, one of the other survivors of the first film. So off they go, with Bartender as a hostage, to meet up with other members of the all-female biker gang to find Bozo and seek revenge. Then there’s Honey Pie (Jenny Wade), another survivor who only did so by backstabbing the others of the first film and escaping via one of their only methods of doing so. They all find themselves in a nearby town that had also been attacked by the monsters, and end up meeting up with some of the other survivors, including a sleazy car salesman, his wife, the man his wife is cheating with, two Spanish midget wrestlers with a key-making shop, and their grandmother. They’re stuck out in the open, though they know if they could just get to the jail, which is apparently an impenetrable fortress, they’ll be safe. Unfortunately, it’s been locked from the inside by the town’s meth junkie, who refuses to let anybody else in.


This movie was not as good as the first, I do admit, but it was still pretty entertaining in its ridiculousness. The first 15-20 minutes did have me worried, though, as it started off pretty badly. But the more the movie goes on, the more ridiculous it gets, which means the more fun it becomes. What the Feast films seem to have going for them is their total, utter capacity for transcending the norm. The monsters are men in suits, but they’re men in suits done well. They aren’t afraid of hitting the taboo (going after children/animals) or even showing the unusual (monster sex). There are even always the new levels of disgusting with bodily fluids and such.


The first was much grittier, however, and the characters were much more interesting and real. Replacing waitresses and family with an all-female biker gang and midget wrestlers is a bit extreme. If I could make a comparison, it would be like moving from (the films) Resident Evil (dark/gritty/suspenseful) to Resident Evil: Apocalypse (more action and ridiculous scenarios). Though, again, it was still pretty entertaining as it went on, if you can shut off your brain and just enjoy absurdity.


On the subject of the characters, the returning characters were the most entertaining, even though there were only technically two (Bartender and Honey Pie). There is a dream sequence with a previous character, but that was just weirdly random (and slightly disgusting). The main three survivors of the first film never make an appearance, even though Biker Queen’s original plot had to deal with finding them. I’m not sure if it’s for budgetary reasons that they didn’t return, or if they’re just going to return in the third film, but their presences were missed.


The cinematography, on the other hand, was brilliant, much like the first film (if not more so). There are a lot of great shots, lighting, and camera work in this film. There was some of that in the first one, but it’s a lot more prevalent in this first sequel. And for any that hated the Monster Vision in the first film (I didn’t, but I know there are some out there), it is not in this film at all (at least, I didn’t catch any).


Some final notes… if and when any of you ever decide to watch this one (make sure you’ve seen the original first), please try not to be easily offended by anything, as there is one major movie taboo that is broken in this film which has caused a lot of controversy among fans. And don’t turn off the film until the credits go black or else you’ll miss a very vital part of the ending (which is vague and open as hell as it is, setting it up for the third). I suppose one good way to look at the two films, because they are so different, is that the purpose of the first film was to take horror clichés and throw them out the window; the purpose of the second film is to take horror clichés and embrace them while simultaneously mocking them (in a satirical way). Again, the first was much better, but if you’re up for some brainless entertainment, a bit of suspense, and some really bizarre (and very dark) comedy—and you’ve seen the first one—I say just check it out. One viewing, at the least, won’t hurt.


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I Am McLovin!

11.04.2008

Alphabet MeMe.

In order to procrastinate writing my newest novel even more, I've decided to take Fletch's Alphabet Meme challenge (and then set the timer to post this tomorrow, which will be today by the time you read this), which is thus:

The Rules

1. Pick one film (your favorite film) to represent each letter of the alphabet.

2. The letter "A" and the word "The" do not count as the beginning of a film's title, unless the film is simply titled A or The, and I don't know of any films with those titles.

3. Return of the Jedi belongs under "R," not "S" as in Star Wars Episode IV: Return of the Jedi. This rule applies to all films in the original Star Wars trilogy; all that followed start with "S." Similarly, Raiders of the Lost Ark belongs under "R," not "I" as in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. In other words, movies are stuck with the titles their owners gave them at the time of their theatrical release. Conversely, all films in the LOTR series belong under "L" and all films in the Chronicles of Narnia series belong under "C," as that's what those filmmakers called their films from the start. Use your better judgement to apply the above rule to any series/films not mentioned.

4. Films that start with a number are filed under the first letter of their number's word. 12 Monkeys would be filed under "T."

5. Link back to Blog Cabins in your post so that I can eventually type "alphabet meme" into Google and come up #1, then make a post where I declare that I am the King of Google.

6. If you're selected, you have to then select 5 more people.

Angel-A

Bang Bang You're Dead

Cube

Dawn of the Dead

Eleven:Fourteen (11:14)

Feast

Game, The

Hot Fuzz

Inside Man

Jacket, The

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Matrix, The

Napoleon Dynamite

Oldboy

Pitch Black

Quarantine (just because I've never seen another movie that starts with Q, apparently)

Rundown, The

Shaun of the Dead

Twenty-Eight Days Later...

Usual Suspects, The

V For Vendetta

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

X2: X-Men United

Ying Xiong (also known as "Hero" with Jet Li)

Z
oolander

(Man, that was more difficult than I thought).

And now to tag some people:

Kano from Kano's Kogitation.
Al the Gal at His Gal Friday.
The guy over at Life (And Sandwiches).

And that's all I'm tagging, because Fletch basically tagged everybody else I probably would have tagged.