Thirteen Reasons Why Review: A thought-provoking show that lets itself down with needless shock-factor.

I remember reading the bestselling book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher when I was maybe 15/16 years old. Not much younger than the characters depicted, I found the book heart-breakingly honest about people’s natural self-involvement and lack of compassion for others. I heard several years ago that attempts were being made to adapt the book for the screen so when it popped up on my Netflix homepage I clicked to watch the first episode immediately.13-reasons-why-netflix

Note: This does include plot spoilers.

The premise of the story starts a few weeks after the suicide of Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford). The protagonist Clay (Dylan Minnette), an awkward teenage boy who you learn later on has feelings for Hannah receives a  box full of cassette tapes with the numbers 1 to 13 painted in blue nail varnish upon them. When played he is startled to hear Hannah’s voice who then tells the tale of the 13 reasons as to why she ended her life as well as instructions on an elaborate chain-message to pass the tapes along to the people she deems responsible for her death. The exchange of the tapes is being monitored by an initially unknown person (although in the Netflix series it becomes obvious very quickly who this is) and the recipients of the tapes are kept quiet under threat of the information on the tapes becoming public.

The main difference between the book and the adaptation is a huge expansion of characters due to Clay no longer listening to all the tapes in one night and having an emotional journey that built up to the conclusion, the world is expanded having Clay instead listen to them over a series of weeks and confronting the characters involved in Hannah’s story.  In some ways I think this strengthens the stories, giving a voice to these character’s experiences which aren’t Hannah’s point of view. More aspects become connected and thrilleresque subplots develop around the central storyline which adds more suspense to the story and allows the characters and story to become far more complicated and nuanced than in the original text. I particularly liked how Hannah’s parents were handled within the show and how the show explored grief and loss both from Clay’s and Hannah’s parents perspective.

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However, some scenes feel manipulatively distressing particularly the key scene in the final episode in which you watch step by step as Hannah commits suicide graphically in a bath and how her parents find her lifeless body. The scene is clearly supposed to be horrific and upsetting but I don’t think that watching the full suicide brought anything to the show other than being purposefully shocking for shocking’s sake. On the other hand, I will note that there are disclaimers at the start of the episodes in which these scenes are shown. Other aspects of the show feel overly dramatised and stray too far from the main point of the story, especially the pretty weak attempt at setting up a second season.

Despite this, the show is compelling. The two leads are fantastic pulling off great chemistry as well as bringing a sense of longing from both sides of the relationship. I enjoyed some of the new subplots as well as Clay’s (much longer) journey to discovering the reasons and I still think the story has a clear and important message of looking outwards and encouraging you to reach out and connect with those who may be hurting.

If you have Netflix, and especially if you enjoyed the book it is definitely worth checking out this adaptation.

Best Worst Movie (2009) Review.

Best-worst-movieThe “Best Worst Movie” is a documentary about the making of the film “Troll 2” (1990) and how it went from being named the “worst film of all time” to a widely popular cult classic. It was made by Michael Paul Stephenson who was a child actor in the film itself. The documentary mainly follows dentist-by-day George Hardy who became a cult star due to the sudden popularity of “Troll 2” in the past few years, 20 years after the film was originally released with little response.

Whilst I have not seen “Troll 2” the documentary tells basically all you need to know about it to fully enjoy this strange cult classic phenomena. Directed by Italian filmmaker Claudio Fragasso, the film was originally titled “Goblin” But was then changed to “Troll 2” to give it more comercial value despite having no connection to “Troll” (1986) and not even mentioning the word “Troll” throughout the film. From the clips shown in the documentary the film looks hilariously bad. From the acting to the costumes even the plot line and dialogue. None of it connected, and none of it making any sense.

The documentary is a great look into the making of a cult classic. It reiterates many times that “Troll 2” is a bad film, and there’s no reason that it should be this popular. But somehow it is. I think there’s something very interesting about what attracts people to genuinely bad films, there’s obvious aspects such as comedy and making fun but what’s different about a bad film in comparison to say a bad novel is that dozens of people were involved in the making of it. This isn’t just one persons creation, lots of people came together and created something terrible. Which possibly just adds to the hilarity of the concept of bad films.

There are points in the doumentary that do make you feel  bad for all the laughing. Most of the actors in the film have never worked again, there is even one point in which Connie Young who played the daughter in “Troll 2” knows that if  at an audition someone recognises her from “Troll 2” she knows she is not getting the part. That must definitely be  a frustrating thing  for her to be haunted by a role she played 20 years ago when she was a teenager. Not to mention that the director, Claudio Fragasso completely believes that he made a good film. As someone who wants to make films I did sympathise with him, it must be difficult for your project to be laughed at when you truly believed in it.

All in all, I did thoroughly enjoy the documentary. It was funny, thoughtful and interesting. I recommend!

A Night Discussing Misogyny.

nakedNaked Debate+Blurred Lines

Last night I attended “The Naked Debate” which discussed the issues surrounding Page 3 in The Sun newspaper. The debate was about whether this page consisting of topless women should be allowed to still be printed in this day and age. The founder of the “No More Page Three” campaign; Lucy Holmes was present to give her argument against the use of Page 3.

The night consisted of four people; Phil Ives, a writer for “The Knowledge” and Charlie Green, the Vice President of the SU for Plymouth University giving their argument in favour of Page 3 followed by the Women’s Rep for Plymouth University (Jessica Horner) and Lucy Holmes giving the opposite view. Lucy Holmes’ speech was a particular highlight as she was particularly articulate and passionate on the subject (as you would expect from the founder!). Upon entering the debate you had the opportunity to mark whether you were for or against page 3, this was repeated at the end to see if the debate had changed anyone’s minds. I, however am 100% against Page 3 and my mind did not change throughout the process. The results will be posted online within the week, it will be interesting to see the results. All in all, “The Naked Debate” was incredibly interesting and though provoking whilst being a great platform to see both sides of the argument.

Interestingly, the same night the documentary “Blurred Lines” was aired on BBC Two. (It’s still on iplayer if you’re interested!) The documentary hosted by Kirsty Wark explores our culture showing how acceptable it is to show women in a sexually explicit and often abusive way in the media and whether the internet has made this behaviour more socially acceptable by blurring the lines of what is “casual banter” and what is serious sexism and misogyny posing as a joke. Throughout the hour Kirsty Wark covered a lot of issues surround this topic, often not having an in depth discussion about each of the areas but I feel that the point of this was to show a much broader view of how wide spread this issue is in our culture. The angle of the documentary was very much about how our culture says “anything goes” and if you’re offended you simply don’t have a sense of humour. The documentary raised a lot of interesting points on both sides of the argument in relation to online and offline misogyny and it worth a watch if you can.

3D and my doubts.

It’s hard to remember what started the fad of 3D films again. It was probably James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ that started the trend “Must See in 3D” which you can now see at the bottom of many film posters.

3D was a huge novelty in the 1950s; films such as Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder” were released in 3D  even though Hitchcock himself was dismissive of 3D, calling it “a nine-day wonder, and I came in on the ninth day”. 3D films quickly subsided when the novelty wore off just like it is starting to now. However, most films released now still have the option of seeing it in 3D unnecessarily such as Disney’s “Frozen” and “The Lego Movie”. Furthermore, some old films are re-released in 3D such as “Beauty in the Beast”, “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” and “Titanic”. My question is most of the time, why bother?

Even flicking through Empire Magazine’s “20 Best 3D films” I agree with very few that it was worth seeing them in 3D at all. 3D-movie-without-glasses-610x374

http://www.empireonline.com/promotions/20-best-3d-films/

Although it may have died down a bit in cinemas the 3D trend has spread to our TVs and I just can’t see the fascination with it.

I feel like it very rarely adds a new layer of depth to the film (With exceptions such as “Gravity”) and can often make special effects look less realistic.

Also, when Filmmakers use the cliche trick of having objects ‘fly off the screen into the audience’ I think it can actually take you out of your engagement with a film rather than engrossing you further.

Obviously there are good aspects of 3D technology such as stated by a study done by Mindlab who found that people are 7% more attentive watching films in 3D than they would in 2D.

“3D is a fully immsersive format, increasing engagement in viewers. The fact that subjects were witnessed as having increased eye movement and head movement is testament to this. The 3D technology draws attention to peripheral images on the screen and, coupled with Blu-ray quality definition, it is able to deliver footage that increases engagement and emotional response over all the formats”. – Mindlab’s Duncan Smith

(http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/109277-3d-better-than-2d-says-bda-mindlab)

However all in all, I think most 3D films are not worth spending the extra money for.