Saturday, June 19, 2010

Pretty Little Liars: "The Jenna Thing"

     A couple years back, I received the first Pretty Little Liars book as a bonus that came with a book I was reviewing for the Harper Teen "First Look" program. By the time I was finished with Pretty Little Liars book, I was hooked and quickly bought the rest of the books in the series that were in bookstores at the time. I greatly enjoyed the series and continued to read them until the fourth book. After reading the fourth book, I was disappointed and lost interest. I believe that several more books have been written since then, and I may one day check them out.

      I know what you're thinking, "Why is she going on a tirade about the book series when this is a review of the show?" The answer is that I thought I should mention that I've read the books because that could influence my view of the series.

      The second episode of Pretty Little Liars seemed to be more of a filler episode than anything. To be honest, that's not necessarily surprising. Many events and quite a bit of exposition was revealed in the first episode. This episode spent most of its time developing these ideas rather than adding a lot of new ones.

      So, what happened in "The Jenna Thing?" (This whole paragraph is spoilerific. So, beware if you haven't watched yet). Aria attempted to suppress the attraction she feels for her English teacher, Ezra, by avoiding him. Unfortunately for her, the attempt is unsuccessful. Her request to drop his class is denied, and she runs into him at a movie theater, leading to a extremely awkward movie watching experience when her mom invites him to sit with them. Then, she later catches a ride home with him (I didn't really understand where her mom disappeared to), and I think, she makes out with him in the car (I'm not 100% sure that happened, but I feel like it did). Spencer, who honestly looks like she's about 40 (maybe that's her real secret), makes out with her sister's boyfriend (whose name I can't remember). Her attraction to him seems to stem from his normalcy that contrasts to her family's overachieving nature, and most likely, his Britishness. Ok, maybe I'm just projecting on the British-accent-attraction thing. Hannah goes shopping with her friend, Mona, and is given a threatening "I know you know who killed your friend" speech compliments of the cop that hooked up with her mom. Emily continues to be attracted to Maya and has a steamy PDA session with her boyfriend, Ben (I'm pretty sure that's his name). Then, there are several flashbacks, revealing juicy secrets like: the "Jenna Thing" was accidentally blinding Jenna in an attempt to get revenge on her pervy brother and Ali made them all friendship bracelets. Then, at the end of the episode, Spencer sees Jenna with some texting device set up. Because, of course, they'd reveal who A was in the second episode.

      Overall, I thought this episode was kind of blah. I understand that a slower-paced episode was needed after the fast pace of the first one, but this episode kind of bored me. It had some nice moments like Spencer's families one-upping each other game and any moment where Spencer's sister's boyfriend talked. I also enjoyed the relationship between Aria and her mom. I thought it was cute how her mom was gossiping with her about people. Also, the acting is still not great on this show overall. I know that this is an abcfamily show, and that I shouldn't expect emmy-winning performances.  Maybe it's not Secret Life level of bad, but it's bad just the same. Still, this is only the second episode, and there's a good chance it will get better as times goes on.

      While that last sentence was in reference to the acting, it pretty much describes my thoughts on the show. I'll probably keep watching for a while to see if it improves.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Last Song

If you are a person who cringes when you see The Notebook on television or look with distaste upon the placement of a Nicolas Sparks novel on a bestseller list, you're most likely not going to like his newest movie, The Last Song.

On the other hand, if you loved watching A Walk to Remember and anxiously await each new Nicolas Sparks novel, you probably still won't like The Last Song.

The Last Song is the story of a sullen teenager, Ronnie Miller, and the summer she spends with her estranged father. During the summer, she forms friendships, makes enemies, finds love (shocker), faces tragedy (what else would you expect from Nicolas Sparks?), and forms a strange attachment to a nest of sea turtles. Sure it's not an Oscar-winning plot, but it's typical, cheesy Nicolas Sparks fare. I enjoyed the novel adaption of the book for what it was--a fun, short read. However, I found no such enjoyment in the movie.

There were many problems I had with The Last Song. The first of which being the movie's lead, Miley Cyrus. It would've been shocking if Miley's acting in the movie had been great, but I at least expected her to be able to tackle this fairly unchallenging material. Unfortunantly, even a decent performance was too much to ask of her. When Miley wasn't unflatteringly puckering up her lips seemingly in an attempt to copy Keira Knightly's signature expression, she was spitting out lines with acting even less convincing than you find on her show, Hannah Montana.

In fact, as I watched The Last Song, I felt as if I were watching an extended episode of Hannah Montana--a really bad extended episode of Hannah Montana. When Ronnie tells her crush that she has a secret to reveal, I half expected her to tell him that she's secretly a pop star. Most of the jokes seemed to be geared a those 12 and under rather than at a teen audience. I found one scene, in which Ronnie has a cartoonish faceoff with a raccoon to be particularly excruciating. 

The movie's faults cannot be solely contributed to Miley's poor performance. Even a more talented actress couldn't have saved this train wreck of a film. Given that I enjoyed the novel, I was surprised to find the Sparks actually wrote the movie script before he wrote the book. That being so, I would have to say that the movie was like a really poor rough draft that he cleaned up to publish as a book. While the book had blatant foreshadowing that would be nearly impossible to miss (in fact, it probably could have done with less foreshadowing), the movie had almost none. Events just seemed to happen with no building action. Ronnie goes from a rebellious teenager (although that really seemed to consist of a pout, black clothing, and a nose stud) to a sunny girl admitting her love for a boy (that she's dated, at most, a couple of weeks) in the span of a song.

I'd try to sum up my opinion of the movie, but I think I've already made my distaste of it fairly clear.