CC – Good Morning Call (2016)

‘Hate to Love or Love to Hate?’

With a title like Good Morning Call it is quite hard to gage just what you are in for when it comes to this Japanese drama tv-show, nor are you able to predict both the levels of awe and frustration you feel while you watch. Take what you know western drama shows to be like, and then, forget it completely. To put it lightly, JDramas completely flip the concept of the ‘western’ drama tv-show, and then some. This being the first Japanese drama, or ‘JDrama’, I’ve watched, whatever expectations I had – if any – were definitely blown away in a whirlwind of screaming girls, borderline ridiculous facial expressions, and a protagonist pair which I honestly hated to love. Setting this aside, Good Morning Call (2016) brings you a selection of fascinating characters in a situation which seems to go from bad, to worse, to unbelievable…with a side of solid humour, but hey, that is this part of the genre.

Meet Nao (Fukuhara Haruka), high school girl, just moved out of home to live closer to her new school, and hopelessly in love with one of the ‘top three’ Uehara (Shiraishi Shun’ya) – the ‘top three’, we soon discover, are the three most popular and handsome guys in the school, one for each year. Uehara has just moved out in order to live alone, away from his older brother and his fiancé. It is here that things start getting crazy: one rental agreement fraud, a suspiciously smug looking elderly realestate agent, and a reluctant decision made by two almost strangers later…Uehara and Nao are living together. This turn of events leads way to not only the slowest burning love story between two teenagers, but also to the introduction to a character who makes you question why Nao likes him at all. It doesn’t take long though before Nao finds herself almost hating her new housemate, and you finding yourself wanting the secondary love interests to ‘get the girl’, even though you know there is no way they will.

After finding at watching some other JDramas as well, (one, Mischievous Kiss: Love in Tokyo (2013) is very similar in premise), it is easy to see this plot line as a popular trope. This is understandably so, you can’t help but get sucked into the series of endless mistakes being made by Nao in her persute or Uehara, or even get on board with the cycle of rejection her childhood friend Daichi (Sakurada Dôri) endures at the hands of his unrequited love for Nao. It is here you realise you beginning to not really like Uehara at all, as the main love interest he is surprisingly standoffish, quick tempered, and in some cases just plain rude, redeemed only – in the eyes of Nao – by his handsome face and popularity. Daichi, on the other hand, is doting, kind, and for one he actually likes her. So while you know that Uehara will always have Nao’s attention, you can’t help but sympathise with Daichi, and even after just one episode, you can tell this will be a somewhat frustrating show to watch.

Yet, somehow, you still want to know more…

After just one episode with a love sick female lead, and an almost unlikeable love interest you can see there is still a certain charm to the show which you don’t see in ‘western’ drama shows, and it is this which draws you in. You’d expect the main character to be likeable, tolerable even, but Nao – though sweet and good intentioned – is completely oblivious to the feelings of those around her in her persuit of Uehara, and you find yourself endlessly frustrated by her antics. Uehara on the other hand isn’t much better, as a love interest he is almost unreachable, and increasingly more rude as time goes on, even if it is provoked by Nao’s occasional stupidity. It is here you find yourself completely invested in the fate of the side characters: Daichi and his love for Nao, her two similarly clueless best friends, and the guy who works at the Ramen Café. Not many shows could manage to hold an audience with such a frustratingly unlikeable main pair, yet Good Morning Call (2016) has cleverly collated humour, charm, loveable side characters, and the pull of such a ridiculous premise to keep you watching.

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CC – Baywatch (2017)

‘Welcome Back Buchannon’

“Welcome to Baywatch. Our team is the elite of the elite, we are the heart and soul of this very beach…”

Sixteen years after the final episode of the original Baywatch series aired, Baywatch is back! This time though, it’s in film, and the beach itself is just as much a beach of fun, sand, sea, drugs, and murder as it ever was. Yes, murder

Baywatch (2017) paints an idyllic image of both the beach and the Baywatch team themselves, however beneath the calm surface there is a much darker plot unfolding. It is this which carries the film, and in doing so, it manages to break away somewhat from the array of ‘beach bums’, toned chests, and slow motion running the film also has on offer. Once you wade your way through the elite of the Baywatch politics you find a simple but strong bond of friendship and trust amongst the lifeguards which is about to be turned on its head. The introduction of Matt Brody (Zac Effron), does this simply and quickly, with no regard for the other characters. He is a loose cannon who will not only butt heads with the team’s leader, Mitch Buchannon (Dwane Johnson), but nearly everyone on the team. So, in a film where ‘team’ is the word, Matt is an outlier who must conform fit in, which honestly, is easier said than done.

Challenge after challenge is thrown Matt’s way in order to prove he can be a team player but it seems that nothing will change the mind of this stubborn, swimming gold medallist. If possible, the more the team try and show Matt the way they do things it the better way to things the more he resists, and unsurprisingly so. As a main character, Matt is abrasive, and while on his own, honestly not overly likeable. In contrast with Mitch, who is the embodiment of charm and loyalty, Matt doesn’t come close. Yet it feels like you are positioned to sympathise more with Matt and his difficulty fitting in with the rest of the group. Once his personality smooths out it is much easier get on board with him as a character, and so follow him as he finally joins the rest of the team in trying to discover the truth of the dirty dealings for which the Bay is their base.

It is here that the film picks itself up, gets out of the calmer waters, and heads through the white wash to a very different world. We leave behind the Baywatch politics and delve into the much darker and grittier side of the Bay. Apart from the story though, and the revelation that all isn’t the perfect place they thought it was, there isn’t too much which changes. It is in this way, beyond their growth in the first half of the film the characters, in both themselves and their interactions, are much the same, and insight little interest beyond the humour they add. So though there is advancement in the story, which does well to keep the interest of the audience, there is little movement in the one way for the audience to really place themselves in the story.

It is here that the comedy of the film really comes into play. Against the backdrop of drug trafficking, murder, and a rather obvious villain, the humour really comes into its own despite the ‘cringe worthy’ way in which it is executed. It is here where, unlike in the beginning the humorous lines were punctuated with obvious places to laugh, the comedy is left to hold itself up and it really falls short of its goal. Though it in no way completely fails, it is easy to see the very forced way in which the humour was presented to the audience.

Beyond all its shortcomings, Baywatch (2017) managed to bring back a franchise with a well-worn history. They do this not only through adopting the tropes of the original series – slow motion running and all – but also through playing with them and trying to make them their own. There is no easy or correct way to bring back something so well-known but this has been done not only in an attempt to bring it back but also to give it new life, which is something it definitely achieved.

CC – Better Call Saul: ‘Uno’

img_0940‘An Origin Story for the Origin Story’

The silence is agonising; broken only by the ticking of the courtroom clock, the shuffling of papers, and the impatient click of a pen. It’s easy to tell they’re waiting for someone, by the time over a minute has passed, you feel like you’ve been waiting just as long as they have. An officer of the court finally leaves the courtroom to collect the mysterious ‘someone’, it is only now that a voice breaks the silence saying this:

Think back…your brain…it’s just not all there yet. Uhh…if we were all held responsible when we were nineteen- I remember what it was like to be a kid. Think back.” – James ‘Jimmy’ McGill

As with the both introductions of James ‘Jimmy’ McGill/Saul Goodman at the beginning of this pilot episode of Better Call Saul (2015), the first thing you become familiar with in terms of his character is his voice. The first, through the unseen ‘Better Call Saul’ commercials which introduce a character with a very big presence, a stark contrast to that of the Saul we see on screen. The second, is paired with the shadow of the speaker, Jimmy McGill on the wall of the bathroom, arms outstretched in an almost exuberant gesture. From those two quite similar introductions you get to see both the Jimmy McGill of the present, and the future embodiment of that same man, Saul Goodman. This choice in scene sequence for the first ten minutes of the show not only sets up the bold character for this series but also instils curiosity within the viewer. Leaving them with a sense of wanting to know more about how this character manages to end up in such a state that his old work advertisements would bring him to tears.

As a pilot episode, ‘Uno’ sets up a trajectory which both the plot, and main character will follow for the remainder of the series. It sets up the tone, theme and motive of both major and minor characters for the rest of the series with ease while not completely giving away the main plot. As events seemingly go from bad to worse, climaxing at the end of the episode as Jimmy has a gun held to his face and is steered inside a stranger’s house, you can easily tell just how this show simply won’t be just another criminal law show, whether you know the origins of this show or not. It isn’t just Jimmy as a main character though who makes this pilot episode so rich in terms of storytelling. The choices made by writer and director Vince Gilligan in terms of the overall design of the episode, take a much more ‘show rather than tell’ technique which, interestingly, is quite far apart from the direct storytelling methods used by our criminal lawyer protagonist in his day to day life. This not only enables for small scenes to tell a much larger story than that which could be said in words, but also in this way highlights both the benefits and constrictions narrative can have on the message one is trying to get across. In terms of Better Call Saul (2015), as a criminal defence lawyer Jimmy becomes a story teller, trying to convince the jury of his clients’ innocence or even in the act of trying to pick up more clients.

It is here that it is easy to see the importance of the connection between the introduction of Jimmy first in voice then in face, and that of his profession as a criminal defence lawyer. It is all in the story which Jimmy tells each time he takes on a client which determines his livelihood. As the episode progresses and you see just how much his work means to him versus how much he is actually getting back from it, you begin to sympathise with this character. So, whether you get caught up in the strong, and almost cliff hanger styled ending or the carefully compiled humour in the show, it will always come back to the complexity and strength of character of Jimmy McGill to keep you interested. This is a clever technique as Jimmy originated as a well-loved minor character in Breaking Bad (2008), the show which Better Call Saul (2015) is the spinoff of. As without Jimmy, there would be no Better Call Saul (2015) at all.

TV Review: Doctor Who ‘Thin Ice’

Hello!

This weeks Doctor Who episode brought us to Regency London where something is lurking under the frozen Thames, and worse, it’s feeding on the locals! This foe brings out a very different side to Bill as she discoveres more about the Doctor and his past. Overall, though lacking excitement in the plot, this was a thought provoking episode…

Read more of my thoughts on last week’s episode of Doctor Who ‘Thin Ice’ here, you can let me know what you thought aswell!

I hope you have a great week!
Anna 🙂

Book Review: The Monkey’s Mask, Dorothy Porter

Hello!

For those interested my review of Dorothy Porter’s The Monkey’s Mask was  posted on the RMITV In Review blog last night to coincide with last nights episode of the ABC’s, The Book Club. This post is a bit late but I thought it would be worth doing anyway, here’s a little snippet of the review:

“I want you, trouble,
on the rocks.”

Dorothy Porter’s The Monkey’s Mask is one of many novels I probably wouldn’t have picked up at all if it weren’t for uni, but I’m thankful I did. Porter manages to seamlessly blend the genres of crime thriller and lesbian romance into nearly three-hundred pages of verse. Yes, you heard me correctly! Verse. This somewhat unusual combination of crime, passion, and poetry makes for an intensely engaging read right to the last line….

Click here to read the rest of my review of this beautiful verse novel, and maybe take a look at some of the other review on the blog too!

I hope you all are enjoying your week! 🙂

TV Review: Doctor Who ‘The Pilot’

Hello!

So recently I joined the RMITV ‘In Review’ writing team, and as a part of that I will be reviewing each episode of Doctor Who Series 10 as they air and posting it to their blog. Though I can’t post the review here, I though it wouldn’t hurt to do a spot of ‘shameless promotion’ of some more of my writing!

“Well, most people when they don’t understand something, they frown. You…smile.”
~ The Doctor

So, Doctor Who is back for Series 10, and it’s not just back…it is back! And terrifyingly so!

The first thing I should say about this episode, is that it was bloody scary. There is no other way to put it. It has been quite a while since an episode has really given me the shivers, and sitting in that cinema tonight was no exception…

Anywho, click the link here to go have a read!

I hope you all had a lovely Easter or long weekend for those who don’t celebrate it! 🙂

Book Review: Bad Behaviour, Rebecca Starford

bad-behaviourGoodreads Blurb:

It should have been a time of acquiring confidence, building self respect and independence, of fostering a connection with the natural world through long hikes…

A gripping, compulsively readable memoir of bullying at an elite country boarding school.

 

 

 

 

My Thoughts:

Reading Bad Behaviour off the back of The Golden Child was either an interesting coincidence or just not a very well thought out decision on my part. I do not regret reading this memoir, more than that, I am so glad I did, but I feel there is a certain waiting time that I should have taken before reading a book of such a similar strain. The more I think about it now however, the more I come to realise that whenever I read it, I would still be just as shaken.

In writing Bad Behaviour, Rebecca Starford has written something which is incredibly, but beautifully raw. She paints a brutal picture of the pack mentality which can develop within large groups of school girls and how that can affect the victims of the resulting bullying. Her year spent in a Victorian boarding school not only brought out a side of herself which she never thought she had, but also left her scarred.

For me, this memoir left a much deeper impression than I could ever have expected. The scenes and actions of the girls a reminder of the first couple of years at my own all girls’ high school. Though for me and my year of girls the bullying never got as bad, it was all still was painfully familiar, and not just the group dynamic but the people as well. Despite this, it was written in such a way that even though the events recorded were true enough, to me they felt almost surreal. So that in finishing this book I was left with the feeling of waking up from a bad dream.

Reading the breakdown of the relationship between Rebecca and her mother however was what most struck a chord with me. It is something which I found to be the most heartbreaking to read. Lastly Rebecca Starford’s memoir is poignant, deep, and a real insight into the turmoil which teens experience and work through at this age. Beautifully written, this memoir something which I am sure will stay with me for quite a while.