TBT – The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)

TBT – The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)

I have a secret shame that has been eating away at me for years. In my first year of university, a depressing 7.5 years ago, a male friend and I hid ourselves away and watched a film so embarrassing we vowed never to speak of it again. Until that point I’d allowed myself to openly mock the narrative as I imagined it to be. It was a source of derision between me and my school friends because we were teenagers and it’s what we did. Having kept the secret deep within for so long, I go through periods where I forget that I’ve even seen the film but then it comes crashing back into my memory. When researching ideas for my next few TBT posts I discovered my dirty secret, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, was celebrating its 10thbirthday. It seemed like fate.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is the 2005 film based on Ann Brashares’ novel of the same name. It follows four teenage friends – Carmen (America Ferrera), Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), Bridget (Blake Lively), and Lena (Alexis Bledel) – who are devastated to discover that they will be spending their summers apart for the first time ever. Lena finds herself destined for Greece and her Grandparents; Bridget will be attending soccer camp (it fucking pains me to Americanise myself but needs must); Carmen is reconnecting with her father; and film-maker Tibby is left at home on her own.
Obviously, not seeing each other for a few weeks is the worst fucking thing to happen to these girls so they spend as much time as possible with each other. On one of their final days together they go shopping and, for some fucking weird reason, these four girls, all different shapes and sizes, decide it’d be fun to try on the same pair of jeans. It’s something I didn’t understand in 2007 and something I understand even less now.
Thankfully, in the magical world of movies, the jeans fit all girls perfectly. In an attempt to feel closer during their soul-destroying absence, the girls buy the jeans and vow to share them over the coming weeks. Just imagine the hassle and the cost of mailing one pair of jeans to all the girls: if you want to feel closer, why not just text each other every day for fuck’s sake?
Well, that’s just not Hollywood now, is it? So the four girls all set out on their different Summer journeys waiting for the chance to wear the same jeans as their friends. I do hope they wash them in between owners. There is the usual mix of teenage girl drama to be had here: there’s a boy, another boy, father/daughter drama and boring summer jobs. The film splits between the four girls’ separate stories in such a way that none of them get the chance to outstay their welcome. It limits the amount of fucking teenage drama you have to sit through.
Although, I have to admit that there is actually a lot more depth to TSTP than I originally thought there would be. Though it may contain certain familiar elements, the film is nowhere near as brain-meltingly bad as the usual guff created for this audience. Each girl gets their chance to experience the world and grow as young people. Despite my ingrained need to mock everything not intended for me, I actually found the film to be annoying sweet and strangely touching.
When the proud Puerto Rican Carmen comes face-to-face with her absentee father’s picture perfect, suburban family, she is forced to face the realisation that he is not as wonderful as she thought he was. She begins to question her identity and her sense of self-awareness. How can she compete with his ready-made family and why should she?
In Greece, Lena comes the closest of the four to teenage melodrama with her own version of Romeo and Julietbut, thankfully, without the double suicide. She meets a lovely Greek boy only to discover some unknown feud running between the two families. Fucking Greeks. Although, they should be thankful as TSTPwould have been fucking priceless marketing for the country. Endless footage of sun-drenched villages, with kindly old people always ready to throw a massive feast should the need arise.
While Lena is stuffing her face with Greek food, Bridget is causing a stir at soccer camp in Mexico. Using the magical pants of the title to seduce her older, camp counsellor. The group should probably have planned ahead and created a sex clause when they came up with their arrangements. I dread to think about the sand issues the next wearer was having. Of course, being a teenage film, this is a worrying area to deal with and, after ‘doing the deed’, Bridget spends much of the rest of her Summer hiding away in shame. Well who needs a fucking healthy attitude towards sex anyway?
Finally, we have the most engaging and also the most infuriating plot of all. Tibby, pulling all kinds of Dawson Leary shit, gets a boring job in a grocery shop so she can make a ridiculously pretentious documentary. Luckily, she meets an enthusiastic, kind and warm-hearted young girl who designates herself as Tibby’s assistant. This young girl, Bailey, shows Tibby that looking at life through a lens isn’t always the best way and, inadvertently, forces her to face up to some of life’s toughest realities.

Now, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantswill never be my favourite film. However, for something I would have once deemed too silly for me to even bother with, I was surprised by how good it actually was. The young actresses playing the main four were all doing great work before this and manage to bring a touching reality to this strange, magical tale. It is, at times, heart-warming and charming whilst still having enough comedy to fulfil its major goal. Despite nearly 8 years of secrecy, I think I’m finally ready to come to terms with the fact that I watched this film. Even if I’m in no real hurry to watch it again.
TBT – Hitch (2005)

TBT – Hitch (2005)

During the end of last year I was thinking about how I approach this little sideline of mine and decided it was high-time that I started being a bit more reliable. Now that I’ve got a slick new look (thanks to http://www.designerblogs.com) I think I need to start sticking to a posting schedule… well as best I can. I have every intention of getting ahead of myself, planning posts and following a rigid structure but, to quote the great Dr Ian Malcolm, “life finds a way”. Never mind though, for now my intentions are good. As part of my new plan, and suffering from a lack of original ideas, I’m stealing an idea from social media – Throwback Thursday. It’s a fucking simple concept: I review an old film for your pleasure. It’ll be great… or something I abandon quite eagerly after two attempts.

Indulge me readers, think back to Valentine’s Day 2005. What were you doing? If you’re anything like me, you won’t have a fucking clue. However, there is every chance that you were celebrating the day of love by watching a romantic-comedy starring the picture perfect coupling of Will Smith and Eva Mendes. Yes, just over 10 years ago the film Hitchfirst hit cinema screens. A film that was apparently so fucking good it’s been remade with Kevin Hart and retitled The Wedding Ringer.
Well it does possess one of the most run-of-the-mill narratives that you’ve ever seen. The insanely charming Eva Mendes plays journalist Sara Melas who is stubbornly single and cynical. Avoiding romance at all cost, Sara offers advice to her heartbroken friends and throws herself into her work. Wow, why has nobody ever thought to create this kind of character before?! Then we have the man she is destined to meet, Alex Hitchens (Will Smith) or ‘Hitch’ to his friends. The wonderful man that he is, Hitch teaches hopeless men how to pick up attractive women. It’s a pre-Tinder world and awkward geeks needed their guardian angel Will Smith to help them. He tells them how to dress well and act like the perfect man. If ever there was a film that summed up that time when everyone fucking loved Queer Eye,but with a heterosexual twist, then its Hitch.
Hitchtries its best to stay away from the inherent fucking sleaze that’s associated with a man claiming to be a dating guru and helping men schmooze their way into the romantic lives of women who could do better. Hitch’s own promiscuity is glossed over as much as possible and he quickly begins his careful pursuit of Sara, in which the tables are turned and he becomes the kind of awkward man he’s been receiving payment from. Ah bless him. Of course, there is more to Hitchthan the great man himself. We find ourselves with a subplot adding necessary comedy, drama and endless misunderstandings. It also gave birth to a fucking hilarious (wait… I need my sarcasm flag) display of Will Smith and chubby, funny man Kevin James getting their respective grooves on. Nothing funnier than two heterosexual males dancing together and that, my friends, is fucking scientific fact.
Anyway, this parallel plot concerns Hitch’s current client Albert, the fat accountant, who hopes to pursue the much more attractive, sophisticated and wealthy Allegra Cole. Back in 2005, if you needed a humorously awkward, slightly chubby actor then Kevin James was your only man. Thankfully though, James is charming and silly enough to take away some of the fucking self-importance from Will Smith’s brooding bachelor. He adds some much needed heart and a human side to a film that constantly sits on the edge of horribly offensive to every possible social group.

Partly because this romantic-comedy is neither very clever nor very funny. It’s just a very traditional rom-com where you know exactly how everything will turn out in the end. Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter how the narrative is going to get there. Of course, despite all of this Hitch is nothing more or less than a run-of-the-mill romance that is neither truly offensive nor highly memorable. Even Will Smith manages to be less annoying that he has proved to be lately. It’s a fine watch that won’t stay with you very long after watching but that you could sit through happily enough. With a professional production and a cast of mostly charming actors, Hitchprobably wasn’t the worst way to spend your Valentine’s Day back in 2005 but it definitely wasn’t the best. 
Roald Dahl Day: Who is your favourite character?

Roald Dahl Day: Who is your favourite character?

As you all may know today marks the anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birth and the world has taken to celebrating the much loved children’s author. Especially considering this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This milestone is partially being marked by Penguin through their new Classic edition which, as we have discovered recently, is a pretty controversial topic. To be honest, and at the risk of feeling the wrath of the internet, I’m not as opposed to the questionable picture as most seem to be. I admit there is a certain amount of sexualising the young girl at the centre of the photo but, after watching far too much Toddlers and Tiaras over the last few days, maybe I’ve become somewhat immune to it. Plus, I also quite like the combination. Dahl was a lot darker than people tend to appreciate. Of course, he wasn’t thatdark but I like the idea of an adult addition that pays attention to it.

Anyway, this wasn’t supposed to be a post where I, once again, weigh in on a topic that caused outrage online. This is intended to be my small way of paying respect to a writer that meant the world to me when I was a child. Dahl and Dick King-Smith were the two authors that flooded my bookshelves growing up. (Hell, King-Smith’s Sophie stories and Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Foxare probably still in my top books of all time.) Dahl understood children and there is a sense with his books that he was writing books for children written by children. They are funny, emotional, scary and memorable. He’s one of those authors that has been a large part of pretty much every child’s early years.
Today, the Telegraph ran a piece in which writers discussed their favourite Dahl character and it got me thinking. Who is my favourite? Instinct would suggest that I’d pick Matilda. She is a pretty awesome heroine: a girl who is not only magical but also a super intelligent, book lover. If I was ever going to be anyone in a Roald Dahl story then it would probably be Matilda. But is she my favourite? I’m not even sure that Matilda is my favourite character in her own story. I mean doesn’t every child love to hate Miss Trunchbull? She’s deliciously evil.
Then you have another favourite book of mine, Danny The Champion of the World. Danny is a fantastic character whose plan for poaching pheasants is not only incredible but much more humane than his father’s method. Danny was Champion of the fucking world so why wouldn’t he be the champion of my heart? Still, he’s not the most exciting of characters in the Roald Dahl cannon.
Of course, I could very easily go on like this for paragraph after paragraph whilst I extol the virtues of the bugs in James and the Giant Peach, the BFG, the Twits, Willy Wonka, George, the Giraffe and the Pelly. Lets be honest, all of Dahl’s characters are vastly superior to a lot of the alternative offerings. He has a way of bringing to life such crazy and unbelievable characters. It’s am impossible task trying to pick just one. Although, having thought about it I think I’ve got it down to two.
The first, Mr Fox. Those of you who read my review of Wes Anderson’s film adaptation will know my feelings towards this character. He’s amazing: a cheeky, cunning and brazen fox who, despite his role as thief, has you jumping for joy every time he gets one over his awful foes. Also, lest we forget, he’s a man that continues to do what he must despite the loss of his tail. How can you not love a guy who doesn’t let disability stop him from providing for his family.

Then there’s my second favourite and I’m tempted to say it’s a bit of an unusual one. I remember reading Esio Trot with my mother when I was younger and I loved it. I think this was probably due to the magical spell made up of backwards words. Plus, it contains a lot of tortoises. The story has been one of the tales that has stuck with my as I grew up and I now appreciate it on much more complex level than “hmmm tortoise”. My Hoppy, the hero of this delightful tale, has to be one of the greatest characters around. How can you not love him? He’s an adorably shy and caring man. We can all relate to him on some level. Then there’s the fact that his plan is just so incredibly romantic. This is a man who understands the meaning of a romantic gesture. A man who understands love. And what is love? Love is a bigger tortoise.
The Day of the Doctor (2013)

The Day of the Doctor (2013)

To quote, River Song “Spoilers”.

I’ve made no real secret of the fact that I’m not the biggest fan of Steven Moffat’s time as head writer on Dr Who. I think the quality of the writing has decreased and the focus has become spectacle and viewing figures instead of good characters and well-executed narratives. Plus, his last 3 seasons have included far more complete duds than the Russell T era was ever guilty of and, in my opinion, the vast majority of great episodes come from the first 4.5 series of the rebooted show. However, I was just as excited as the vast majority of the world about last night’s 50th anniversary special and sat in front of my TV praying Moffat would pull it off.

The Day of the Doctoris to Dr Who what Skyfall was for James Bond: namely a completely geeky celebration of the classic science-fiction show. It starts from the get-go with subtle and slightly less subtle references to the episodes of the past. We have the classic Who opening titles, the opening scene, a returning enemy and more than a few familiar faces. It’s an action packed adventure that sets out to reinvent the show as we now know it.
Unfortunately, right off the bat, I find my first hint of disappointment thanks to the unnecessary, just writing it so we can use a lot of green-screen, scene which sees the Doctor hanging out of the Tardis as it lands in Trafalgar Square. Just because we have a bigger budget doesn’t mean we need to use every bit of it, guys. Less is, as they say, more. However, it was great to have UNIT back and the reappearance of Kate (Jemma Redgrave), who made an amazing first impression in the otherwise forgettable Power of Three. Also worthy of a mention is the bescarfed and asthma suffering Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) who I definitely hope to see her return at some point. She’s pretty much your typical fangirl (complete with Tom Baker inspired accessory) and, from the looks of it, has been a hit with Whovians the world over.  
UNIT need the Doctor and Clara to help them solve a mystery surrounding something new: Time Lord art. Our introduction to this new section of Time Lord society was wonderful and not only served as a large part of the following narrative but offered breathtaking visuals. Featuring traditional ‘bigger on the inside’ Time Lord technology, the painting on show contains a single moment in history. A very important moment in history as it turns out: The Moment. The last seven seasons of Dr Whohave been leading to this point where we finally come face-to-face with the exact point that this supposedly good man made the decision to destroy his people in order to save existence. Before he pushes the big red button he has to justify his actions so, thanks to a weapon of mass destruction that handily has a conscience, the War Doctor (John Hurt) gets the chance to meet his future self.
Thanks to another flashback we get a glimpse of Number 10 (David Tennant) enjoying some down-time with Elizabeth I (Joanna Page) in 1562 and trying to prevent an invasion by the Fourth Doctors old enemy the Zygons. Our current doctor (Matt Smith) is eventually transported to the same time and the stage is finally set for the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Matt Smith and David Tennant work really well together on screen. They both have a similar way of approaching the character and it is great to watch their dialogue. The two over-grown children are initially wary of each other but, ultimately, have a great deal of

respect for their different selves. The pair has a great back and forth and the little bitchy lines are a welcome break in moments of heavy plot development.

Smith plays his Doctor with the same relish and skill that we have come to expect since he took over for series 5. I think he’s done an admirable job and his over-excited child-like nature is infectious and easy to embrace. However, this episode was all about the return of Tennant who, despite a 3 year gap, fits back into the old suit perfectly. It’s always lovely to see an actor to return to a key role in their career and you can tell he had a lot of fun doing it.
That is something that The Day of the Doctor does well. Moffat is at his best when he is writing on a very personal and close level because he can play with language, drama and comedy. In terms of his writing, this episode has to be one of his finest Who episodes to date. Anyone who makes the brave decision to mock large aspects of your own work is alright by me. The Day of the Doctor is self-aware and tongue-in-cheek despite all of the dark themes on show. It is out together very cleverly and, despite all of the jumps through time, it is easy to keep up with the action. Unlike a lot of Moffat’s recent episodes, there is no sense that the drama just peters out towards the end. The action and the emotions are running high from the opening to ending credits. Most importantly of all, because he was preoccupied with something more important, he didn’t make the mistake of going too big. The moments when this episode really flies are in the quieter scenes starring our main three men.  
After a brief glimpse at the end of series 7, John Hurt finally gets the chance to show us what he is made of as the War Doctor works up the courage to make the ultimate choice. He is a weary and defeated man who can see no other way out. However, it is only after he comes face-to-face with his youthful future that the sparks really fly. Hurt gets some utterly amazing lines to throw about and fits wonderfully in the role of the disapproving parent. I’d describe Tennant and Smith’s approach to the Doctor as one full of eagerness and
glee. Hurt is calm, collected and totally badass. The younger men hold their screwdrivers aloft in the same manner that a Shakespearean actor would hold a sword whilst Hurt stands alongside and gets straight to the point. It’s an attention-grabbing and completely engrossing performance.

As is the supporting role played by Billie Piper. Thankfully, Moffat decided against attempting to bring back Rose Tyler once again but used her image, or more specifically Bad Wolf Rose, as the interface of The Moment. Piper has some great moments whilst guiding the War Doctor to his ultimate decision and she plays her role with a great deal of subtlety and skill. Considering part of me was dreading her arrival, I found myself rejoicing that she could make it back to mark the occasion.

Rose Tyler may have recently been voted the greatest Doctor Who companion ever by a BBC3 poll but there can be no denying that Clara is well on her way to proving herself. Having spent much of her first series just moving the story along, it was nice to see her make more of a mark here. Unlike Amy (who, as you may remember, I couldn’t stand), she is clever, independent and strong. Jenna Louise Colman is a fine actress and, provided she is given the correct material, she should continue to flourish under Peter Capaldi’s guidance. Just look back at that phenomenal moment where she stood up to all three Doctors and managed to change the course of history.
That is, after all, what Moffat wanted to do with this episode. The narrative of the Zygon invasion is just your run-of-the-mill Who story: shape-shifting aliens, confusion about who is real, confrontation and eventual resolution. Whilst it has some important and clever components to it, the plot is, ultimately, inconsequential and the story is never even fully resolved for the audience. This is about the Doctor and the  choice he made. A decision that has haunted him since well before 2005’s Rose. It never really seemed to fit that the Doctor, as we know him, would accept that there was no other way to stopping the war. He has faced a great many foes and has always failed to accept defeat. The Doctor deserved a second chance and that is exactly what Moffat gave him.
A second chance that led to one of the most extraordinary sequences in television history and the moment that Peter Capaldi’s eyebrows almost broke the internet: all of Doctors to date coming together to save their planet from destruction. I defy anyone to sit through it without feeling like a child again. Any viewer who didn’t watch as all of the familiar faces of the past (and one from the future) flooded our screens and didn’t jump for joy had no right watching the show at all. Similarly, if anyone watched that final scene, where all of the Doctors line up side-by-side, without shedding just a little tear has no heart.
Even the slightly shameful and cringey Tom Baker cameo was forgivable and the conversation between him and Matt Smith was a wonder. He was the man who defined the Doctor for such a long time and it wouldn’t have felt right without some sort of appearance. Plus, the idea that regenerations can backtrack in some way is an interesting one that will of course leave a lot of fangirls hoping David Tennant and his great hair will fall on hard times and find his way back.
There is simply too much to say in praise of this episode and far too many references and moments to discuss that I could write forever. Of course, there were flaws here but the positives more than outweigh them. Even the use of CGI and special effects worked in this setting. If I’m completely honest, the opening shots of the Time War felt a little bit like the flat and lifeless CGI of the Star Wars prequels but there were some scenes where it really worked. Can anything compete with the visual of three slow-mo Doctors facing off against a Dalek in the middle of the Time War before crashing through a painting into the tower of London? No? Didn’t think so.
Ultimately, this episode gave a great deal of closure to a terrible part of the Doctor’s past, it celebrated who he was, allowed him to come to terms with his actions and left him with a new direction. Whatever happens in Matt Smith’s final outing at Christmas, we all know where Peter Capaldi is heading: home.