Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Crystal Renn - Hungry

I loved Hungry, until I didn't. Co-written by Marjorie Ingall, a magazine contributor (at Self and the the late Sassy), the fact that some parts dragged on like the longest article ever...made sense. But let's start up with the good stuff.

As no stranger to the eating disorder memoir, I dove right in, excited for fresh details cataloging the experiences and situations that ultimately led Renn down the rabbit hole to disorder. She uses clear logic to explain how she ended up unhealthy and makes every effort to reiterate that her disordered actions were just that. The early part of the book, about her childhood and how nature and nurture both added up to ultimate destruction of her self-esteem and body as a result was told really well. You really get a sense that Renn was a girl you could have known growing up, by the way she tells her story. It's relatable and really interesting.

Where the book falters is the recovery portion. It seems as if one day, after enough frustration, she simply decided not to be sick anymore. Her weight fluctuated and she was unhappy for a while, she eventually found her "normal" weight and everything was fine. As she tells her story, after choosing plus size rather than "straight" modeling, she'll interject that she was still screwed up about weight and food, but I would've liked to hear more about that, what work she put into herself mentally and physically to get better. I want to know what battles she had to fight to get taken seriously in an industry prone to tokenism and flightiness, instead of switching between statistics about eating disorders and the awesome people she's been able to work with.

I get that Renn doesn't want to burn any bridges, should she continue to bust down the barriers to work in high fashion and work for those who had previously shunned her. I was disappointed that she wasn't able to get any more specific about her struggles, and the second half of her book was the poorer for it, but it wasn't a bad book by any means.

Renn and Ingall use a casual style, but sometimes the magazine style takes over a little too much. I could have done without the clothes-porn descriptions of Renn's wardrobe and the awesome things she's worn in photo-shoots. Ditto for the overt praise toward designers and photographers. If you're more into fashion than I am, maybe it'll be a plus, but I hardly expected to hear what any photographer is really like from a still-working model.

It's not as serious a memoir as others I've read, it's not the most dramatic book about a disorder that I've ever read either. It is, however, an interesting look at the messages that women are sent, explicitly and implicitly by the world of fashion and the attitudes of those around them, for better and for worse.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sara Shepard - Pretty Little Liars

Now I can see why this series got picked up for a television show after Gossip Girl was so successful.

Pretty Little Liars was the perfect vacation read; scandalous, mysterious and funny. It's basically Gossip Girl with slightly less abhorrent male characters.

Much of this book alludes to past events when five girls, Alison, Spencer, Aria, Emily and Hanna were best friends, in between 7th and 8th grade. After the bossy ringleader Alison disappears, the group fractures and their secrets stay kept. When Aria returns to town and the girls are entering their junior year of high school, strange texts and emails, all signed by "A," start to plague the girls.

I really enjoy that Pretty Little Liars has a bit of mystery to it and things take a darker turn than the Gossip Girl series did. If you liked those books, there's no reason why Pretty Little Liars won't go down just as easily. If you weren't into the Gossip Girl series, but you enjoy frothy scandals, give this series a try. It's definitely a quick and fun read.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cherie Bennett - Life in the Fat Lane

Lara Ardeche, a voice in my head said to me, you are not a quitter. You can change this. And you don't need anyone's help. All you have to do is stop eating. Totally. No matter how hungry you get, or how bad that is, it can't be as bad as this is.

Yes. That was what I would do. I'd just stop eating.

One of two things would happen.

I would get thin again. Or I would die.

Either way I would win. - Life in the Fat Lane description from back of book, 1998 edition.

I love a good eating disorder (ED from here on out) story. Let's get that fact out of the way first. I find the psychology of them endlessly fascinating and one day, I hope to work with and help those that suffer from EDs.

Perhaps my more-than-casual interest in EDs colored my perception of this novel too strongly. Maybe author, Cherie Bennett, did not intend to address EDs at all, though much of the story centers around typical disordered thoughts and some characters are governed by what is usually looked at as disordered behavior, though Bennett refrains from using any specific terms (purging, binging, etc.) to refer to Lara's behavior. This story is not strictly about an ED, but it is firmly entrenched in that world. What Bennett did intend to do is a mystery to me.

Beauty queen and conveniently-named (for a completely unimaginative fat joke in the novel's latter half), Lara Ardeche (pronounced Ard-ash, can you see it coming?!?), is the straight-A, perfectionist, popular girl with parents who have no problems obsessing about her weight and eating habits over the dinner table. That's about 3 precursors for an ED right there. I'm willing to give Bennett one point for correct information, but I'm about to take away a million points for negligence.

Chapter numbers are, instead of chronological, beginning from one, Lara's weight measurements as they change through the book. Convenient for the reader, sure, so you don't have to do math or flip back chapters to add up Lara's weight and the plot points are all centered around weight, so the subject matter changes with each weight change. On the other hand, how gross and patronizing, to completely reduce this character to her weight and size, offering minimal plot with plateaus.

Also, when Lara is deemed to be at her perfect weight in the beginning of the novel, it gives someone who might tend toward disorder a goal weight to attain. Numbers are known to be triggering for those who are suffering with an ED. Although anyone with an ED picking up a book with this title is probably looking for trouble, a good bit of fear-based "thinspiration" and Bennett provides plenty of it.

Lara is under an insane amount of pressure from almost every source. Her parents have a rocky, seemingly loveless marriage, her friends are superficial and make derogatory comments about Lara's less popular plus-sized best friend to her face, her boyfriend is deemed unsatisfactory though she does love him, she has beauty pageant demands and she has self-imposed high academic standards. When she gains a little bit of weight, the pressure mounts and her barely-existent self-confidence falters until everything threatens to give way. Then does, when she continues gaining weight. Her grades take a dive, her parents relationship fractures, her friends turn on her, she can't even diet "right" (she abstains from eating during the day and sneaks food at night), and continues to gain weight to the point of hospitalization.

Being the person I am, I analyzed the clues given: Lara diets and "cheats" when failing to succeed at adhering to impossible restrictions, she works out to extremes. This has ED written all over it. Even when her weight gain was minimal, her mother provided immediate scrutiny. God. Her mother. What a piece of work. She set a terrible example, smoking and restricting her own eating for fear of weight gain and in the interest of keeping her man. All this set up to tell a pretty good story of what can happen when a perfect storm of pressure breaks down the spirit and body of a seemingly perfect girl.

But no.

I was debating revealing the next detail, but the following fact can be found on the back of another 1998 edition, so it's technically not a spoiler: it turns out that Lara develops a FICTIONAL metabolic disorder that causes her to gain weight, regardless of calorie intake.

I read the acknowledgments, where Bennett thanked someone for medical references, so I assume the disorder is based on something real. That's fine. The fact is that the doctors tell her that she's retaining insane amounts of water, her body is highly efficient, the less you feed it, the more "efficient" her body could get, leading to more weight gain.

Seriously? I mean, wouldn't she at least have some kidney problems or something?

Whatever. She gets "fat" (I won't reveal her weight at either end of the scale but she and everyone else calls her this), word spreads in her hometown that it is out of her control and she gets some pity, even though her old superficial asshole friends turn against her.

I understand the appeal of using an outside force as the controlling factor - completely governing the weight she will be. Most bodies have a set-point at which they will return with normal eating habits, which is out of anyone's control.

Why, then, was that not enough to be a compelling story? Looking at how a "perfect" girl dealt with weight gain -- flying in the face of what everyone around her seemed to judge about her -- would have made for an empowering story, had Lara ever for one second stopped hating her new body.

No. Life in the Fat Lane supplied the perfect bogeyman, an unstoppable force onto which Lara could place the blame for her weight and could safely hate her body without hating herself...though she kind of did that too.

After Lara's family moves, she loses all her social capital as well as the pity she'd gained at her old school. Lara's new school was a horror show of fat-hating stigma (which, to be fair, a lot of high schools probably are for most people that fail to fall into a narrow ideal) and everyone else's disdain for her was only compounded by her own self-loathing.

Even as she allowed herself to start a new life in a new town, deigned to make friends with the other outcasts (she was horrified that they gravitated toward her, as if she was one of them) and found a way to enjoy a talent that didn't rely on her beauty -- she never seemed to stop hating herself. What she went through didn't make her change her opinion of anyone of size who were surely to blame for their own weight problems, except, OMG, some of them can apparently dress themselves and still have style! And sometimes they can find guys that like them, if they're blind or probably still want them to lose weight.

For fucking real?

The unnecessary disease, on top of the incessant weight bashing made for an unbelievable, yet still entirely depressing read. I cannot recommend this book for anyone and can only view it as a strong example of what not to do. Don't pull explanations out of thin air. Don't supply hate directed at a character (and a large segment of the population) that never gets resolved unless you want your characters irredeemable. And definitely, do not feed on the fears of those with actual diseases and/or endorse those behaviors, giving them perfect justification for disordered reasoning without attempting to frame any of that as such.

Sensationalistic, irresponsible bullshit.

Friday, July 30, 2010

John Nolan - "Height"

Oh John Nolan. I want to like you so badly. I'm super glad that you're back in Taking Back Sunday, because that's badass, but wow. Honey. Um.

I've had Height in my car for a while now, and I've only listened to part of it. But since I was stuck in traffic for a solid hour yesterday, I decided "why the hell not give this a listen, since I'm just sitting here!" So I did.

It's... strange. Nolan doesn't seem to have the ability to keep his voice from going super gratingly nasal on occasion, which is a blower because otherwise he's got a pretty nice voice. But his solo album is like the bastard love child of Straylight Run's The Needles, The Space and Brand New's The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me. The bastard love child that nobody wants to claim.

The first track, "'Til It's Done To Death" is weirdly electronic, and sets the tone for the rest of the album. It's all pretty weird, and it's strange to say that his cover of Primitive Radio Gods's "Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand" is hands down the best track on the album.

Instead of getting this, you should pick up Live At Looney Tunes CDs, which is a live acoustic album (which you can get here at ThinkIndie for five bucks) to hear the good songs without the electronica weirdness, the cover, and a bunch of in-between song banter that involves the other dudes in Taking Back Sunday heckling him.


Robin Stevenson - Inferno

Dante thinks high school is an earthly version of hell. She hates her new home in the suburbs, her best friend has moved away, her homeroom teacher mocks her and her mother is making her attend a social skills group for teenage girls. When a stranger shows up at school and hands Dante a flyer that reads: Woof, woof. You are not a dog. Why are you going to obedience school?, Dante thinks she’s found a soul mate. Someone who understands. Someone else who wants to make real changes in the world. But there are all kinds of ways of bringing about change…and some are more dangerous than others. - Inferno jacket copy from Robin Stevenson's website.

So this book came up when I was on a search for LGBT YA literature on Amazon to round out an order so I could get free shipping (I'm thrifty and it's books). So I bought it and it arrived and I read it.

It's kind of like a sub-par lesbian version of Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being A Wallflower. Only instead of music, Dante is into running.

So Dante is this sixteen-year-old girl, and a huge part of the plot is that she's just changed her name from Emily to Dante, because she's super obsessed with Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy. I mean, so of course her parents let her change her name to something totally ridiculous that she's only gotten into the year before!

I'm sure you can see where I have a problem with this premise, yes?

Anyway, there's all this fuss about how her name was Emily last school year and now it's Dante and nobody wants to call her Dante and seriously, this book would have been SO much better if she'd been a transman. I am not even kidding you, because the whole book sort of feels like maybe Dante as a character wants to transition, but the author didn't go there with it because she was too chicken to follow through with what she started.

Seriously. But maybe that's just me.

So she meets this chick Parker, she falls omg head over heels in love with her. Because that's what you do in high school, gay or straight. But see there's no actual conflict in the book unless Dante falls for Parker, because everything Dante does after that point is to make Parker like her. Even though Parker is straight.

As a sidenote, I recently read Julie Anne Peters's Far From Xanadu which had basically the same premise. And the same fucking fruitless ending.

SPOILER: Dante doesn't get the girl. Because Parker is straight. Also she has battered spouse syndrome. /SPOILER

Anyway, so there's some pathetic high school prankage anarchy and blah blah wow, this book really did not go anywhere.

It's not badly written, to tell the truth. But I found myself rooting for Dante to realize she was just bisexual and hook up with Leo because unlike with Parker, they actually had chemistry/made sense. But oh no, they're both in love with Parker.

Yeah, uh. If you're really bored and borrowing it from a friend or the library, you might read this book. Don't spend your money on it, though, 'cause it's not worth it. Pick up Peters's Xanadu instead, because it's got a better plot.

- Julieann

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

When in Rome

After an unnecessarily awkward beginning, When in Rome started sucking a lot less! I guess that's not exactly high praise, but when you have read reviews that set your expectations so low, they're in the basement, you often end up pleasantly surprised.

That's really what this blog is all about, I guess: enjoyment via managed expectations. That and embracing the pleasurable part of guilty pleasures.

Enough of that. I'm pretty sure no one even reads this blog but I probably don't need to incorporate our raison d'être into every post.

When in Rome is supposed to be about the dumped single girl, Beth, disrupting a magical, love-enchanted fountain and a bunch of guys fall in love with her as a result while she also finds herself falling for someone after being closed off and broken-hearted. What it was actually about was Kristen Bell being dressed up and adorable while she navigated being stalked and nearly groped by said entranced men. Creepy!

Danny Devito was the standout love-stalker because he was so unexpected and awesome, but he was also the creepiest, and not because of the age factor either. Anjelica Huston stuck out for being Anjelica Fucking Huston and she's awesome, obviously. What the hell was she even doing in a movie with Fergie's husband? Yes, Josh Duhamel was the love interest. Bell's real life beau, Dax Shepard, was a self-obsessed model, stunned with his ability to suddenly be in love with anyone (almost) as much as he loved himself. Jon Heder played the same character he always does (Efren Ramirez even had a small part, just in case you could ever forget his and Heder's association) and Will Arnett had a bad fake accent which...seems to be par for the course for him.

Every other character could have been played by a cardboard cutout for how much they were utilized, which was especially sad in the case of Alexis Dziena who can ditz and crazy around like no one's business. Dziena's role as Beth's younger sister Joan was justifiably not that prominent, but I was happily surprised by her presence.

Anyway, the love story was cute but not sickeningly so. The ending was completely predictable if you are at all familiar with how movies work, but the rest of the movie leading up to the inevitable ending was pleasantly diverting without being nearly so obvious.

I was watching this with friends, which automatically made this a better time, but I wouldn't have been mad if I spent the half an hour watching it by myself. I wouldn't seek it out to watch again, but it's good for a single-serving time killer.

The verdict: don't pay to see it, probably don't even bother to dvr it, but if you come across it and there's no better Jennifer Lopez or Kate Hudson romantic comedy on right then...go for it!

- Lanie

Sunday, May 09, 2010

First Listen: Beyoncé "Why Don't You Love Me" + Video

I'm not a huge Beyoncé fan, but I cannot talk shit about her videos. Whatever craziness they're about, she goes 110% into it and delivers. Her latest, Why Don't You Love Me? is no different.

It's weird to have a first listen also be the first time you see the video because I'm pretty sure the dedication to the theme actually made me like the somewhat lackluster song better. I wouldn't even take a free download of this song (okay, who am I kidding? I would, if itunes was giving it away) but I enjoyed the video so much, I am tempted to take a second listen. That's what every video wants to do, right?

I agree with Trent at Pink is the New Blog that the video and the song don't seem thematically linked in any way but, like Lady Gaga and Beyoncé's "Telephone," sometimes videos just spawn from some random idea and are definitely visually interesting...but not related to the song whatsoever. When the concept is fun and weird and interesting, you tend not to care so much.

- Lanie

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

David Levithan - Boy Meets Boy

In the acknowledgments, Levithan said that this book began as a Valentine's day gift, a story for his friends. It read as a love letter to them, their inside jokes and their lives. Given that premise, I totally fell in love with this book and the fantasy town in which it takes place. In the real world, I could see where people would have problems with the easy lives and outlandish characters in the novel. Taken as a gift, I suspended any disbelief and just enjoyed the sweet story.

Valentine's day is hard for a lot of people and it's hard to shake if it gets you so down. It was so syrupy sweet and sentimental, but in spite of all that or maybe even because of it, I loved it. If someone told me about the book before I read it, revealed the utopian/gay-friendly fantasy world that housed the absolutely ridiculous characters, I think I would have rolled my eyes and hated it. Because it came with a sweet disclaimer, I was completely taken under the story's spell. Maybe it's because I know what it's like to write, knowing that someone else will see the words I've put down. A wink to real life, maybe a nickname or a joke that someone's made, it's fun for you and for them. It can be nice for an outsider to look in on that too, to escape to that world.

Boy Meets Boy is the story of Paul, his relationship with his best friend, a bitter ex and a blossoming new relationship. Not everything is sunshine and rainbows, (I promise, despite the utopia I described above) but no matter the stumbling blocks that the characters come across, you get the sense that everything is going to be just fine in the end.

Recommended for people who have had a hard day, who want to wrap up in a blanket, curl up and read a story from beginning to end.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

First Listen: 30 Seconds to Mars - "Bad Romance" cover

I was hoping that this would be hilarious. It wasn't, really. It was moody, scary, and it's safe to say that they put their usual 30STM spin on it. As a lover of profanity in my music, I love this cover, but I'm not sure it was good. - Lanie

I'm confused by the alt-country vibe Jared Leto is working on his vocals in this track. The vocalizations have this bizarre twang to them that I'm really not feeling. Every time I start getting into it, that twang throws me back out. The instrumentation, however, is fabulous. I'd love to get my hands on an instrumental track for this, because it was just that good. I'm used to Live Lounge stuff being acoustic (Panic! At The Disco's version of "Maneater," Fightstar's "Battlefield," Paramore's "Use Somebody"), so this is a nice change. The lyrical changes are interesting, to say the least, but I have to say that they lost points with me for removing the Hitchcock references. One thing about the song, other than the instrumentation that I wholeheartedly approved of was the near-scream going from the bridge into the last chorus - I just wish he'd carried it all the way through to the chorus instead of backing down. On the whole, not my favorite cover of "Bad Romance" (I really like A Smile From The Trenches's cover from the Classic Vs. Modern compilation), but it's not terrible. If it shuffled up I'd probably listen to it, but I'm not going to be putting it on repeat. Interesting, on the whole. - Julieann

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

First Listen: Christina Aguilera - "Not Myself Tonight"

Apparently Christina Aguilera is supposed to be revealing a new sound on her upcoming album Bionic. With her new single, "Not Myself Tonight," that sound is apparently cacophonous electronic pop. Make no mistake, I have no problem with electronica or even most bad pop music. That what this blog's about, having questionable taste but enjoying it anyway.

That said, this track is not good.

It starts with a spoken intro and gives way to what seems to be the music behind Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack." And then the vocals. Oh the vocals. I literally could not understand the melody of the verses. Half-spoken, half-sung and at the end, scream-censored: I was very confused. I'd just like to say that I was reading the lyrics along with the song the whole time. It wasn't that I wasn't getting the words through all the quickly varying sounds, but as a whole, I'm not sure it made any sense.

Maybe I'm getting too deep with it, expecting to find meaning in a Christina Aguilera song. As a club track, it won't be terrible. When she's not singing, I actually don't hate it. But there are so many layers, bleep bloops and voices coming from every direction that even her own voice is lost in there. That's a problem. - Lanie

Look, I used to like Christina Aguilera a lot. That said, I haven't been into anything she's done since Stripped. Yeah. So I knew this wasn't going to be good for me. And then it started with spoken word and I cringed. Then I started singing Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" along with it, which, okay, if that was what you were going for, Xtina, then good job? I know people are doing that lately. (See example: being able to sing Britney Spears's "Womanizer" to Cobra Starship's "Nice Guys Finish Last" or being able to sing Blondie's "Call Me" to Muse's "Uprising.") But being able to sing "SexyBack" along with it was genuinely the best part of the song for me, and ... I don't like Justin Timberlake. The verses were a disaster, the entire concept of having a "pre-chorus" longer than the actual verse is something that grates on my nerves, and the chorus was nearly non-existent. And for this to be a pop song, the lack of a chorus is kind of going to be a huge flaw - pop music should have a catchy hook, and this track doesn't.

And let's not even discuss the faux-orgasm scream censorship and the idiotic spoken word at the end. - Julieann

Monday, March 29, 2010

Whip It!

This movie is too cute to live!

Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, Whip It! is the feel good comedy of the year! I mean, no, okay, but it really is her debut, and she's also playing a character named Smashley Simpson (Lanie laughed really loudly at this when it was said in the theatre - she hearts Ashlee Simpson-Wentz) who is permanently stoned. And ridiculous!

So it's about this girl Bliss (Ellen Page) whose mommy is forcing her to be a beauty queen when clearly she just wants to be a hot probably-lesbian alternative girl. I mean, I don't know. (Ellen Page! Seriously!) So she ends up going to roller derby and then she tries out for roller derby and the rest is history.

Also, fucking roller derby, man. It's great to watch. I love it. I'd do it but you have to have health insurance, and I don't, or I would've tried out to be a DC Rollergirl. Just sayin'.

Anyway, it's really cute and kind of heartfelt and I almost cried just a little bit because seriously she just wants her mommy to be proud of her! And he hooks up with a douchebag boy in a band who is a douchebag but she pays him back and she makes the woman who wants to kick her ass into her friend or something and SERIOUSLY. Seriously this shit is great.

I loved it. I'd go see it again. I'd buy it on DVD! Yeah.

- Julieann

Sunday, March 28, 2010

An Evening with Andrew McMahon @ Sixth & I Synagogue, Washington, DC 10/18/09

First, let me start by saying that seeing a concert at the (historic!) Sixth & I Synagogue in DC may sound like a really strange thing, but it was actually kind of incredible. Of course, sitting in a pew in a house of worship lends itself to a great many jokes about religion. (I was raised Baptist and am not Agnostic, for the record, and this was my first time being in a synagogue - or anything but a Christian facility, actually.)

The Sixth & I Synagogue is beautiful. It is absolutely, positively gorgeous, and the sound, sitting and watching Andrew McMahon play with just the piano and Bobby Raw accompanying him on acoustic guitar (and occasionally mandolin) was an experience unlike any other. It was pure, auditory perfection. In the balcony, Lanie and I couldn't see that well (in fact, it took me several minutes to realize Bobby Raw was onstage at all), but it didn't matter. The sound was so perfect that I didn't need to be able to see anything.

I love Andrew McMahon. This is a thing I am completely unashamed of. He is one of my heroes in life. If you are not familiar with him, he is the frontman of the piano rock bands Something Corporate and Jack's Mannequin, and had a bone marrow transplant in 2005 while battling leukemia. The current tour is in support of the documentary he made while going through treatment, Dear Jack, which I'm sure we'll review as soon as it comes in. (I've got it on preorder for the release date of November 3.) His music has helped me get through difficult times in my life, and his personal battle has made me aspire to be a better person.

That said, I went into this show with the knowledge that I would probably cry, and that I had put on my regular mascara instead of the waterproof stuff. And yes, I teared up, right from the very beginning as McMahon opened the set with "Hammers and Strings (A Lullaby)" from Jack's Mannequin's 2008 release The Glass Passenger.

I don't remember the precise order, but the songs played are vaguely as follows.

from Jack's Mannequin:
Hammers & Strings (A Lullaby)
Swim (Music Box version)
The Resolution
Holiday From Real
Dark Blue
La La Lie (West Coast Winter version)
There There, Katie
The Mixed Tape

from Something Corporate
Walking By
Punk Rock Princess
The Astronaut
As You Sleep
21 and Invincible

Friend of the Devil (Grateful Dead)
Moon River (Audrey Hepburn)
Dream (Everly Brothers)

Bobby Raw also played one song, which I don't remember the name of, other than McMahon sang harmony on it and it was very nice.

Yes, seeing him in a synagogue, watching him drink wine and tease Bobby Raw about drinking Mexican beer in a synagogue was strange, but the entire experience is one that I am extremely glad to have had. -Julieann

Thursday, March 25, 2010


(Another post from the archives of the past few months. We're working on new content to show up once we're done with these posts!)

Uhhh, holy shit.

That's kind of all I can say about this flick. Seriously. I didn't know a lot about it when I went in, other than some friends of mine saw and adored it on Friday night, and that it was supposed to be a zombie-fest in the vein of Shaun of the Dead.

It was hilarious. It made you like these characters and genuinely worry that they were going to get eaten by these zombies. It had Bill Murray.

Nothing about Zombieland really fell flat. It was funny from start to finish. It had great use of on-screen captions as it illustrated Columbus's (Jesse Eisenberg) rules for survival. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) was a riot in his quest for a Twinkie. All the man wanted was a Twinkie.

And man, you don't think a 12-year-old girl can be a badass? I give you Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). She'd blow your brains out and not think twice about it. And Witchita (Emma Stone)? Distractingly gorgeous. No seriously. Should she be that pretty whilst killing zombies? She's gonna give Milla Jovovitch a run for her money, ladies and gents.

Haven't seen Zombieland? Do it. After work today, go to your nearest theatre and catch this flick. It will make your day so much brighter that you'll wonder how it didn't exist before now.

- Julieann

This movie was 81 minutes of pure glee. By the time we saw this movie, the Bill Murray secret was still under wraps but oh holy shit. If you were a baby of the 80's and you have any affinity for the man, the entire time he's in the movie, you will be bouncing in your seat with excitement. It is awesome.

Seriously. Weeks later and I cannot wait until this comes out on video.

- Lanie

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

First Listen: Paramore - "brand new eyes"

lanie: it is really hard to appreciate the epicness of paramore on a first listen, can I just say that?
julieann: yeah, probably this is a bad plan
lanie: it's not like you can't appreciate them but their singalong quality is a huge part of why they're awesome
julieann: truefax
julieann: mentally i'm prepared to turn this whole thing into a plethora of eisley jokes, just like the brand new review.
lanie: noooo
julieann: think of how much stuff we listen to that lends itself to a lot of eisley jokes.

Track One: Careful
I don't like the repetition of "more" in this. I think mostly, I have issue with with the way it breaks into what's pretty much two distinct words. I hate that in singing. It makes me crazy. Otherwise not a bad track, but that one little annoying thing is putting me off. It's whatever. - Julieann

This track is par for the Paramore course. I love when Hayley sounds angry -- and she does, but this song is just here. Not a great pick for a first track. Not everything can be the most epic song ever, but I was hoping for something a little more impressive. - Lanie

Track Two: Ignorance
This is actually the first review ever posted on this blog. View it here.

Track Three: Playing God
The title didn't really hold up to what I expected, which was blasphemy. I like this track. Hayley Williams is pissed. Better watch your fingers boys, because she's about to break those suckers off. And then Lanie gave me a Taking Back Sunday earworm. She's a whore. - Julieann

There's a line about pointing someone's finger into a mirror that was a little cheesy and kind of ruined the end of the chorus for me. It was better than hearing about the three fingers pointed back at oneself when pointing fingers but still. It's a good mid tempo jam and I can't find much fault with it. - Lanie

Track Four: Brick By Boring Brick
So I'd heard this one before, because I think it rolled through on my iPod or something since it's been lurking on the internet a while. I don't know what that says about the song that I listened to it then couldn't remember it, but probably nothing good. Then I heard the "ba da ba da ba ba da" shit and remembered why I didn't enjoy this track in the first place. Also, I want someone to explain to me what "bury the castle" is supposed to refer to. Hatchets, yes. Castles? Not so much. - Julieann

I'm not sure where I'd heard this one before either, but I knew that I liked it. Something about the ending freaked me out a little but it was decent enough. - Lanie

Track Five: Turn It Off
I'm not sure if this track is too religious or what. I get icky when God is brought into things, you know. Cranky-like.

lanie: I'm not sure it's literal more than it is just using religious imagery to discuss losing faith in someone...or something like that
julieann: that's a lot of expectation in a band who prosletyzes on stage

As someone who has seen The Almost, Paramore is almost not religious at all. I do get cranky as well when religion is brought into music because it forces people to choose sides rather than bringing them together, so I wish this track didn't involve that. It was, otherwise, a nice song about losing your faith in someone, I feel like. - Lanie

Track Six: The Only Exception
This song sounds like another song to me, but I'm not sure what. But holy shit, is Williams ever going to regret this song later in life when she grows out of being "omg in love!" with her boyfriend after two weeks of dating. - Julieann

julieann: i like this one the least so far.
julieann: i hate this chorus, omg
julieann: it's so ... lackluster?
julieann: SAD? PATHETIC?

It's so weird when young people sing about love, especially the kind of thing you could dance to at a wedding. It's so bittersweet. Of course you want other people to be happy but the other half of you is screaming "oh honey, no" because when that breakup comes, crap like this will be soooo embarrassing. No one wants to end up like Taylor Swift, singing through tears at your asshole ex in the front row of some award show. One good thing about growing up will be that she will be able to better hit a really low note that she doesn't quite get in this song, if it's not too awkward to sing later on. ...Also the chorus was really repetitive and a little annoying. So maybe it won't be so bad to leave this one in the past. - Lanie

Track Seven: Feeling Sorry
This song sounds like "For A Pessimist I'm Pretty Optimistic," which, boo recycling your own stuff, but yay not recycling other people's stuff? (I'm looking at you, All Time Low.) I can't understand most of what she's saying, though. But hey, her voice sounds good! It's getting better with age. Which is good. That means she's less shrill. - Julieann

Hayley uses some of her vocal power in this song, not so much of her range but that's ok. Just one is enough. The girl's got a lot of talent. If she wasn't so outstanding, though, I'm not sure there would be much to this track. - Lanie

Track Eight: Looking Up
This would've benefited from Williams not throwing in some "woah oh oh oh" bullshit. But hey. And then the song went on too long. It was just too much. I threw up my arms in defeat and asked for a beer. So sue me, I'm old. - Julieann

Oh my god. If you need to get up off your ass, listen to this song. At the time we played this, I had to be on a flight in 8 hours and still hadn't packed...and had to review the rest of this album. It made me too tense to enjoy it. It was too much! I couldn't take it! And yes, we felt so old. - Lanie

Track Nine: Where The Lines Overlap
So, there's some repeat lines I don't like. Have I mentioned I don't like repetition yet? This is a bizarre phenomenon because I listen to Taking Back Sunday fucking religiously. They're the exception to the STOP REPEATING THAT SHIT SO MUCH rule. Them and Brand New. But since Daisy sucked, Brand New don't count. I digress. The bridge of this track doesn't really sound like Williams, but fortunately, this is another track where you can hear what her voice is going to sound like when she's a bit older, and her voice is fully matured. And that voice is awesome. - Julieann

This song kind of ran into the track before it. They were similar, not in a terrible way, but in a way that makes Paramore seem like their range as a band is even smaller than it already is. I wish they'd separated these. Otherwise, I'm not sure I have many complaints. - Lanie

Track Ten: Misguided Ghosts

julieann: take your bet on whether this is a ballad or not
lanie: ugh I don't want to
lanie: I hope not
julieann: BALLAD
julieann: I WIN

So... I just... don't like this track. It's weak, and the ending is a total blower. The track ends with "they echo in circles" and then ... that's it. REALLY? YOU'RE GONNA LEAVE IT ON THAT, WILLIAMS? - Julieann

This song almost put me to sleep. - Lanie

Track Eleven: All I Wanted
I like a nice rock ballad from Paramore. Not the sappy, Plain White T's (or as a friend of mine calls them, Plain White Crap) style mopey garbage that was "The Only Exception." This song blew my face off. This song inspired me to burn a copy of this for my car, and listen to this track in my car at (the volume usually reserved for songs like "Helena" and "Everything Must Go", which is to say - really fucking loud). Hayley Williams sounds fucking incredible on this track. The solid power of her voice over the dead space going into the last chorus? Both times I've listened to this track since this first listen, it's given me chills. - Julieann

So how about I almost cried at the end of this song when it's just Hayley's voice all by itself? I definitely got chills. Even though she had already hit that high note in the song already, the silence made it feel even higher and more powerful than it had been already. This song is gorgeous. The CD should end here, leave the kids wanting more. Instead, there's Decode (which we've already reviewed), but I guess that's fair. Kids should not have to buy some awful movie soundtrack to get one of their songs. - Lanie

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ring of Darkness

Wow, so um. This movie was recommended to us as "boybands that are vampires!" by the girl that was cashiering at Torrid a few weeks ago, and we just now got around to watching it. And wow, is it ever bad. It's also totally homoerotic, to the point where I actually told Lanie it would be hilarious if it turned out to accidentally be porn. It didn't. (Whether that was a good thing or not, I will never know.)

Anyway, it's about this... boyband made up of vampires and they kill their old lead singer right off the bat because he's peacing the fuck out because he realizes that there's crazy shit going on. So they eat him and then they're holding an audition to find a new lead singer. They pick three guys, a mixed-race cutie named Max, a journalist named Jonah, and Our Hero, Shawn. (Actually, when it first started I thought they said "Jon Walker" and I looked at Lanie and said "I am not going to be able to take this seriously at all if that's really his name.")

Anyway, they hold an audition, it's really bad, there's a lot of lip syncing, then they go to the Island of Boyband-itude and continue their auditions. One of the guys is super racist and hates Max the Mixed Guy Who Looks Like Corbin Bleu.

Crazy shit happens. Ryan Starr is in this. It's really dumb and there are a lot of scenes that are inter-cut with TERRIBLE BOYBAND MUSIC VIDEO. And by terrible I mean it looks like Blink-182's joke video that made fun of all the boybands ("All The Small Things," I think).

Blah blah, they want to turn Max into a vampire, Max doesn't want to have group sex, they eat him. Then they set their sights on Shawn, because he's a Real Musician (evidenced by the acoustic guitar he carries around the entire movie and plays, like, once) and they're moving on to be the Vampire Fall Out Boy (or Vampire Nickelback, I'm not sure).

Blah blah, it's really short, thank god, 'cause it's kind of bad in a "now I can say I've seen this" sort of way and never watch it again. It will get funnier with hindsight, I'm sure. I hope. Maybe? - Julieann

Holy shit, what a waste of time.

I think it's no secret that we enjoy some pretty horrible movies here at Lose Your Cred, but this one was a complete waste of what could have been an awesome cheese-fest or parody. I spent the entire hour and 18 minutes praying that Ring of Darkness would get better or, please, just end. Thank God it did one of those, eventually.

The thing that kills me is that this movie had great potential. In the right hands, with even a slightly better cast, it could have been amazing. Don't boy bands lend themselves perfectly to horror? They could have been killer robots, or demons that live off the sound of young girls screaming frantically that occasionally need an actual young girl snack. The band Whoa! (the rival band in the 2gether movie) was scarier than these guys were. The Josie and the Pussycats movie made more sense in "the music industry can be pure evil" genre. Ring of Darkness seemed to want to be among these movies, with their cheesy music video that was interspersed between almost every scene, oftentimes in places that made no sense at all. If they didn't force you to see the whole video in the beginning of the movie, repeat the song three whole entire times during the audition scene or somehow revealed the secretly evil intentions of the band, which, by the way, was named "Take 10." Wouldn't that indicate parody? Why wasn't this movie funny?

If you think that this all sounds awesomely bad, please believe me, it's not. The pacing was awful, chase scenes went on forever but lacked any suspense whatsoever, unless you were interested in when it would actually end. The acting was atrocious and I feel like if I noticed it, it had to be horrible. There were plot holes everywhere and some things just didn't even make sense, period. The tiny plot twist at the very end was surprising but I don't know if it should get pity points because it came out of nowhere, like the writer needed an ending and a motivation and just pulled one out of his ass, complete with some revisionist logic straight out of a soap opera; you know when they try to convince you that someone lived through their decapitation or falling down a well or whatever?

There was one cute moment at the end, surprisingly not ruined by Ryan Starr's mumble acting but it was a false payoff for watching this crock of shit, since you were only given a reason to give a shit about her about 2 minutes prior.

I try to enjoy whatever I'm watching and make my own fun, whatever whatever...that's half the fun of watching shitty movies, you snark all over them, laugh at whatever's stupid at the moment and have a good time. That was almost impossible with Ring of Darkness. Were it not for the super-random homoerotic moments, this movie would have been totally without comedy. I'm not sure why it's necessary for them to drop their pants en masse and perform satanic rituals or whatever, but it made for one of the very few funny moments in the whole movie.

If you feel like you MUST watch this movie, please gather a big group of friends and add alcohol. Hopefully you'll be too distracted to notice that the movie's even happening. - Lanie

Friday, March 19, 2010

First Listen: The Academy Is... - "Lost in Pacific Time EP"

Track One: I'm Yours Tonight
The first thing I said to Lanie when we started this listen was that if this EP sucked, I was going to be super pissed that I paid the $5 to download it. I was pleasantly surprised by at least this song, and decided that I could definitely say at least this track was better than anything on Fast Times at Barrington High, which I liked, especially in comparison to Santi, which I loathed. This song gave me total warm fuzzies inside, because it's so power-ballad-y and William Beckett is kind of made for power ballads from the top of his head to his Steven Tyler mouth to his toes. - Julieann

Like I said to Julieann, it's like they cracked the power ballad code and now TAI finally know what they're doing, after their past stumbles lead them astray. They're a band really built to do a power ballad and they seemed to be denying themselves. Sure, it's a retro thing to do, but if you can do it awesomely, why the hell not?! - Lanie

Track Two: Days Like Masquerades
This track's a little bit of a backslide from the first one. It's not as good, but it's still better than anything on Santi, and with TAI that's pretty much a win. I kind of hope they play it when we see them live November 1, because I feel like I could really dance around like an asshole to this one and it would be better that way. - Julieann

Eh! - Lanie

Track Three: Sputter
THIS IS THE ONE WITH ANDREW MCMAHON. And you can tell, because it sounds like a Jack's Mannequin song even though you can't really hear McMahon's backing vocals hardly at all. I like the echo-y quality they have when you can hear them, though. This track basically sounds like McMahon did everything on it but sing lead vocal. McMahon's inclusion, though, means this song has a totally unfair advantage in me liking it. Cheating, Beckett, cheating. - Julieann

McMahon's fingerprints are all over this song, in the phrasing, in the melody. It's like they're doing a cover of a Jack's Mannequin song. Which is fine but it's not what I thought we were here for! - Lanie

Track Four: New York (Saint In The City)
This song is boring and sounds like it was something that got cut from Fast Times at Barrington High. And, like much of Fast Times, it doesn't make me want to dance, and it doesn't excite me. It's just there. Definitely the low point of this EP. - Julieann

See review for Days Like Masquerades. - Lanie

Track Five: In The Rearview
When I see the title of this song, I start singing Midwest Kings's "Rearview," which is dumb, because they're exactly nothing alike other than referencing rearview mirrors. Whateverrr. This song pretty much rocks as hard as I think the Academy Is... are able to rock. It's a lot more guitar heavy than their stuff usually is, and I spent most of the track imagining scarves tied around mic stands while Beckett stomped around on stage. - Julieann

I was less stoked on this song than Julieann was, but I didn't hate it. - Lanie

Basically, it's a decent little EP. Track four is kind of a throwaway, and track two isn't far behind. Tracks three and five are decent, and track one's a solid little tune. At least two of these songs are probably going to go into heavy rotation on my iPod ("Sputter" and "I'm Yours Tonight," and maybe "In The Rearview"). Good job, TAI. It's not Santi. - Julieann

Months later, I have not asked Julieann to send me this EP. Our computers are about 10 feet apart. Just saying. If you're a die-hard TAI fan, go for it, get it. Likewise if you are in love with Andrew McMahon, you won't be disappointed. It's a few more tracks to add to the list, but I find it hard to care too deeply about any of them. -Lanie

New Posts! State of the Blog!

Hi! This is Lanie! I am the sole reason that any posts have been held up for the past three months. You see, I am prone to extreme cases of the winter blahs where I find it hard to simply exist in the colder seasons, much less keep up with other aspects of life that aren't necessary to being socially acceptable. That is to say, I eat, breathe, ensure a certain level of personal hygiene and pretend not to loathe life in the company of others. The loss of my job in this "delightful" economic climate was the nail in the coffin of my good mood. Blogging fell off the map.

But there's a bright side! Pun not intended. Now that the sun has come out, we're going to be getting back into the swing of things since my extreme lethargy isn't going to hold us up any longer. Not only that, but we have a small backlog of posts that will go up today and in the near future.

If you've been waiting, we can only thank you for your patience. I promise not to abandon you with a read-a-thon and a plethora of promises ever again! If you're new to the blog, welcome! There's fun and snarkiness ahead.