Sunday, February 3, 2013

Never Been Kissed (1999)

Directed by Raja Gosnell (1)

Cast: Drew Barrymore (2), David Arquette (3), Michael Vartan (4), Leelee Sobieski (5), John C. Reilly (6), Molly Shannon (7), Jessica Alba (8), Marley Shelton (9), James Franco (10), and Octavia Spencer (11)

My favourite quotes - "There is a big world out there... bigger than prom, bigger than high school and it won't matter if you were the prom queen, or the quarterback of the football team, or the biggest nerd in school. Find out who you are and try not to be afraid of it.""Somebody once told me that to write well, you have to write what you know. This is what I know... I am 25 years old and I have never really kissed a guy. A geek to the core, most of my childhood years were spent doing extra homework I requested from the teacher. High school was more of the same. Then at 17, it seemed as if my luck was about to change; the cutest guy asked me to the senior prom. But it turned out he invited me as a cruel joke. And I have never fully recovered. Yes, it is embarrassing to share this with the world. But it would be hard to explain what I learned and how I learned it without sharing this humiliating history. I received an assignment, my first as a reporter, to go back to high school and find out about kids today. What I ended up finding was myself, and that high school hasn't changed. There's still that one teacher who marches to her own drummer. Those girls are still there. The ones that even as you grow up will remain the most beautiful girls you've ever seen close up. The smart kids, who everyone else knew as the brains, but I just knew them as my soul mates, my teachers, my friends. And there's still that one guy, with his mysterious confidence who seems so perfect in every way. The guy you get up and go to school for in the morning. South Glen would not have been the same without him. High school would not have been the same without him. I would not be the same without him."

Blink & Miss It - Martha Hackett who plays a villain on the television series Star Trek Voyager has a small role in Never Been Kissed. Can you spot her?

I've heard that to write well, you have to write what you know. This is what I know... I'm 30 years old and since I was a young girl I've always wanted to be a writer. Sure, my ambitions changed and evolved through the years, but ultimately, I still ended up becoming a writer. I received an assignment to go back to the schools of 4 local celebrities for a new show called School Days (click on the title of the series to watch it on catch-up TV). And although I'm not an undercover reporter like Drew Barrymore's character Josie Geller, going back to school has brought up a lot of memories and emotions in me. You see, one of the celebrities featured on School Days went to the same school as I did - Temasek Polytechnic. As such, while he was walking down memory lane and sharing with us about his school days, in my head, I was reliving my school days as well. And that is why I felt the urge to watch Never Been Kissed again.

Tracy: Hey Rob, what do you want to be when you grow up?

Rob: Ball player.
Tracy: No I know. But I mean, what if you don't make it? I mean, you don't want to be working at the mail place for the rest of your life. It's okay for an after school job and all, but 'Hi I'm Rob, and I run the tiki post'? Totally lame.

During the interviews I had with these 4 celebrities, I realised that quite a number of them dislike the subject Maths. As do I. When I was in Junior College, I wanted to go into the pure Arts stream. That meant that I would be doing Literature, History, and Geography for my 'A' Levels. However, my mother insisted that I take Maths even though I hated the subject. Her reason was that if I didn't take Maths, I won't go far in life. I think what she meant was that my options would become limited. But truthfully, I find that most of what I learnt in A Level Maths, I never needed them because I wasn't in or interested in the line of work that required them. 

Gym Teacher: Little bit more commitment Geller! Move it! Come on!

Josie: Must. Have. Water.
Gym Teacher: What do I look like? Your waitress? Now you are going to complete these sprints, because if you don't, you fail. And if you fail gym, you're never getting into college.
Josie: You guys are still telling that lie?
Gym Teacher: That's it Geller, drop, give me twenty.
Josie: No...

I didn't have to go for gym classes for a number of years during my primary and secondary school days because I was diagnosed with a heart condition. It was a mild case but I was exempted anyway. But I do remember that during my early school days it was a must to pass PE (Physical Education) class and to participate in ECAs (Extra Curriculum Activities) in order to graduate. Even though I was exempted from PE, I never understood the need to pass gym class or PE class to graduate. It's all just to get us more active perhaps.

Josie: Gus wants me to be friends with these people. The popular kids. Its impossible.
Rob: Why is it impossible? 
Josie: You know what it was like for me in high school. All I wanted was to be accepted and they just tortured me. I can't go back to South Glen South.
Rob: You're at South Glen South? They have a killer baseball team!
Josie: Focus please.
Rob: Okay, okay. You're an adult now Josie. You're successful, you graduated at the top of your class, you work for a newspaper, you wash your hair now. You're not Josie Grossie anymore.
Josie: Don't you know how much I just wanted to be you in high school? Just for one day to know what it was like to be popular.
Rob: It's not that hard Josie. All you need is the right person. One person that think you're cool and you're in. Everyone else will be too scared to question.
Josie: Is that true?
Rob: Yeah, its a little known fact. Don't you want to show 'em? Gus? Billy Prince? Yourself? Don't you want to show 'em that the cool kids don't freak you out anymore. That you can go in there and you can be friends with them and you can get your story. 
Josie: Yes, desperately.
Rob: Plus if you quit now then you're no better than me.
Josie: Better than I.
Rob: That's the spirit. So let's hear it. Come on. I'm not Josie Grossie anymore.
Josie: I'm not Josie Grossie anymore.
Rob: That's it. Now scream it.
Josie: I'm not Josie Grossie anymore! That's good.

What kind of student were you in school? Were you like Josie Geller, a geek? Or were you part of the popular group? Me? I guess you could call me an outsider. I didn't have many friends and kept to myself. In Secondary 1 and 2 I looked up to the school prefects who seemed so cool at the time. And so I made up my mind to become a prefect. Eventually, I did become one. Well, let's just say not all prefects are liked. Suffice to say I wasn't one of the popular kids. And I think I might have wanted to be popular for a while when I was in school but that faded away rather quickly.

It's funny because just when I was given this project School Days, my Secondary School classmate actually contacted me and the rest of the class to try and arrange a get-together after 15 years. We haven't set a date yet but I think it'll be interesting to meet old classmates again after so long and to see how much all of us have changed. And if I'm honest with myself, yes, I desperately want to show them that I am successful and I'm no longer the weird kid who didn't have any good friends in class. I'm not the old Monica Goh anymore. And I'm working towards my goal of being an awesome writer.

"Let me tell you something, I don't care about being your stupid prom queen. I'm 25 years old. I'm an undercover reporter for the Chicago Sun Times and I have been beating my brains out trying to impress you people. Let me tell you something Gibby, Kirsten, Kristin, you will spend your lives trying to figure out how to keep others down because it makes you feel more important. Why her? Let me tell you about this girl, she is unbelievable. I was new here and she befriended me no questions asked. But you, you were only my friend after my brother, Rob, posed as a student and told you to like me. All of you people, there is a big world out there... bigger than prom, bigger than high school, and it won't matter if you were the prom queen, or the quarterback of the football team, or the biggest nerd in school. Find out who you are and try not to be afraid of it."

Our school days was a time of exploration and learning. It's a time when we can find out who we are, what we want to be, and to go out there and try to achieve our dreams. It's a time when you can afford to make mistakes so that you will learn from them. I love the quote above because I think no matter which country you're from or which decade you grew up in, what Drew Barrymore's Josie says here is very true. "There is a big world out there. Bigger than prom, bigger than high school, and it won't matter if you were the prom queen, or the quarterback of the football team, or the biggest nerd in school." All you need to do is "find out who you are and try not to be afraid of it".

Friday, February 1, 2013

So Undercover (2012)

Directed by Tom Vaughan (1)

Cast: Miley Cyrus (2), Jeremy Piven (3), Mike O'Malley (4), Josh Bowman (5), Megan Park (6), and Alexis Knapp (7)

(Watch the trailer)

My favourite quote - "If binging and purging were a crime, she'd be on death row."

Okay. So this movie is totally NOT going to win any Oscars or Emmys, and while it smells very much like a Miss Congeniality cum Nancy Drew cum Legally Blonde wannabe , it's not THAT bad. The reason why I call So UndercoverMiss Congeniality cum Nancy Drew cum Legally Blonde wannabe is because like Sandra Bullock's character in the former film, Miley Cyrus' Molly Morrison has to shed her tomboyish looks and demeanor to go undercover. Instead of wanting 'world peace' like the contestants in Miss Congeniality, now, it's just a 'pearl white Bentley'. And to further prove my point let's check out these two scenes and their dialogue.  

This is from So Undercover.

Armon: This right here is your brand new Volkswagen EOS.
Molly: Come on. Can't I ride my own bike to school?
Armon: Girls your age would jump up and down at the chance to drive this thing.
Molly: Well I'm not like most girls.
Armon: Brooke Stonebridge is.
Molly: Who's Brooke Stonebridge?
Armon: It's your new identity.
Molly: Are you serious? That's not a name, it's a gated community. 
Armon: I really don't care.

And this is from Miss Congeniality

Eric: This earpiece lets you hear anybody on our frequencies. They can hear you.
Gracie: Don't need that with all this foil in my hair, I'll get an HBO.
Eric: This is a pin camera, actual little lens in there. Provides a digital video feed to our hookups. Alright here's your new IDs, your pageant identity. 
Gracie: Gracie Lou Freebush?
Eric: Yeah, I remember you liked that name.
Gracie: Yeah, my IQ just dropped 10 points.

Yup. So Undercover's Molly gets a make over courtesy of the FBI just like Gracie does in Miss Congeniality. Personally, I think Sandra Bullock's Gracie and her dialogue is funnier. And if you didn't like Miss Congeniality, you sure as hell won't like So Undercover. I think with a comedy, your laughs need to come hard and fast, and very often. So Undercover doesn't have that. I think it's trying to be a little too serious when they should go all out outrageous and trivial, especially with regards to the case Molly is supposed to help the FBI on. The twist did take me by surprise and I found myself laughing at the antics in the film, however, I think it complicated the film too much without a suitable payoff for all that trouble. 

The idea is simple, the case is not. Miley Cyrus' Molly is a private investigator who works with her father played by Mike O'Malley, and who since losing his job as a cop has taken to gambling and drinking. The two of them work together to expose cheating spouses until Jeremy Piven's FBI agent character Armon offers her a chance to go undercover as a college student at a sorority. So we have a 'too-young-to-be-a-private-investigator' girl, Molly Morrison, who is tasked to use her street wise deductive skills to solve a crime. Sounds awfully like Nancy Drew don't you think. 

And I'm sure you can imagine why I made the link to Legally Blonde. Sorority of course. And sisterhood. And crime. 

This is from So Undercover.

Sasha: Brooke, what is going on?
Molly: What's platinum rule number one in the Kappa chapter book?
Hunter: Never wear sweatpants.
Molly: Rule number 2.
Sasha: A sister in need comes before anything else.
Molly: Girls, we have a sister in need.

And this is from Legally Blonde.

Professor Callahan: According to this communiqué from the prison, our client apparently had a visit from her sister. A Miss Delta Nu. Anyone you know?
Elle: Yes. I went to visit her.
Professor Callahan: What the hell do you mean you went to visit her?
Elle: I went to get her alibi.
Professor Callahan: Did you get it?
Elle: Uhmm, it's really good. 
Professor Callahan: Well great, what is it?
Elle: Oh I can't tell you.
Professor Callahan: Why the hell not
Elle: Because I promised her I'd keep it a secret. And I can't break the bonds of sisterhood.
Professor Callahan: Screw sisterhood! This is a murder trial, not some scandal at the sorority house. I want the alibi. 
Elle: I can't give it to you, but I can tell you she's innocent.

Of course what's also similar between So Undercover and Legally Blonde is the stereotypical portrayal that sorority sisters are ditzy and materialistic and how the 'ditzy blondes' help to solve a big case. I never went to a US college, or lived in a sorority, so I don't know if what we see in films are an exaggeration or if sorority girls are like that in real life.

Nicholas: You don't go to school here do you?
Molly: Course I do. Why would you think that I don't? I'm in my late teens, I'm walking on campus, I got a pretentious name and a sparkly cellphone. 

Maybe it's because I had very little expectation, but I didn't find the film too bad. I expected it to tank, but it has it's moments. Few, but still, it has it's moments. Miley's performance is pretty decent. I didn't want to run out the door every time she appeared on screen. I think she got the ditzy character down to a pat, but the serious bits didn't resonate with me as much. I think she has a long way to go before she becomes a good lead actress. But, having said that, she has improved since her last performance, in the film LOL

Jeremy Piven. He is so funny as Armon in So Undercover. Unfortunately, he's not funny enough to save the film from falling short. Megan Park as the uber ditzy and insipid  Cotton is actually surprisingly not as insipid as her character is scripted. I found Cotton to be endearing and one of the characters I bonded with through the film. Sasha is the typical queen b***h of the sorority and Eloise Mumford plays her well. Kelly Osborne's character Becky seems like the odd duck in the sorority and her role in the film seems too purposeful. It feels like Becky was added into the cast just so that Kelly Osborne could play her and so that she could "help" Molly with the case in some way. I think Becky's role was too contrived and insignificant but decently portrayed by Kelly Osborne. 

Give it a try is what I'm saying. Although it's not a top notch film, it still managed to get me to root for Miley Cyrus' Molly and her sorority sisters to solve the crime and save the day. So Undercover is actually a film I am embarrassed to say I kind of enjoyed. 

(1) Tom Vaughan has directed films like Starter For 10 (2006), What Happens In Vegas (2008), and Extraordinary Measures (2010). 

(2) Miley Cyrus has acted in films like Big Fish (2003), Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009), The Last Song (2010), and LOL (2012). She is well-known for playing the role of Hannah Montana/Miley Stewart in the Disney television series Hannah Montana (2006-2011). She is also a singer who has music albums as Hannah Montana and 3 albums of her own.

(3) Jeremy Piven has acted in films like Say Anything... (1989), Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), The Family Man (2000), Serendipity (2001), Rush Hour 2 (2001), Black Hawk Down (2001), Runaway Jury (2003), Scary Movie 3 (2003), Chasing Liberty (2004), Two For The Money (2005), Smokin' Aces (2006), The Kingdom (2007), RocknRolla (2008), and Spy Kids: All The Time In The World (2011). He also voice the character of Harv in the animation Cars (2006). He also played the role of Spence Kovak in the television series Ellen (1995-1998) and the role of Ari Gold in the series Entourage (2004-2011). He also guest starred in television series like Seinfield, Chicago Hope, Will & Grace, and The Twilight Zone.

(4) Mike O'Malley has acted in films like Deep Impact (1998), Pushing Tin (1999), 28 Days (2000), The Perfect Man (2005), and Eat Pray Love (2010). He also played Jimmy Hughes in the television series Yes, Dear (2000-2006) and has guest starred in television series like Law & Order, My Name Is Earl, and Glee. 

(5) Josh Bowman is known for playing Daniel Grayson in the television series Revenge (2011-present). 

(6) Megan Park is known for playing Grace Bowman in the television series The Secret Life Of The American Teenager (2008-present) and has guest starred in television series like Entourage, Happy Endings, and The Newsroom. She also acted in the film Charlie Bartlett (2007). 

(7) Alexis Knapp has acted in films like Couples Retreat (2009), Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lighting Thief (2010), and Pitch Perfect (2012).

The Eclectic Reviewer thinks... So Undercover has some entertaining bits. But watch it only if you're into Miley Cyrus, chick flicks, and the sorority-sisterhood-bond type thing. (2.3 of 5)

* Movie Poster from Wikipedia 

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