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Why I Love: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

In Film, People, Television on July 20, 2010 at 1:31 am

‘Because he’s just so damn cute’ doesn’t quite cut it.


“I kissed her,” said Cameron, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character in the teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You. “Where?,” quips co-star Heath Ledger as Pat Verona. With the cutest, most innocent smile, Cameron answers “In the car.”

Like that scene, Gordon-Levitt has capitalized on his boyish charm and bagged steady teeny bopper roles as a start in Hollywood, both in film (Beethoven) and television (3rd Rock From The Sun). This probably led to roles that are endearing enough even for pitiful ‘loser’ types that he is categorized in when it comes to the high school labels. In 10 Things, Heath Ledger was the main attraction, and Gordon-Levitt paled in comparison – looking physically and aesthetically lackluster.

The next film I see him in is The Lookout, this was when I acknowledged the fact that he has grown up and has detached himself of the ‘wholesomeness’ that often traps actors of his age. The acting was enough to engage me (to the entire movie) without any trouble.

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Next thing I know, he’s in Inception. Although Leonardo DiCaprio is the main attraction, and he again is the sidekick, it’s safe to say the contrast wasn’t that stark this time around. With a sharp suit and an uncanny resemblance to former co-star Heath Ledger and even Keanu Reeves for that matter, Gordon-Levitt delivers notable acting chops that make you look back at that kid Cameron in 10 Things and go “That was him?”

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So now that he got my attention, I took the time to know his earlier works, which sure enough turned out to be as impressive as his Inception stint.

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In 2004, he starred in Mysterious Skin where he played a troubled teen haunted by sexual abuse as a child. The film touched bravely on the long term effects of sexual abuse on boys, and how it breeds homosexuality – the role had Gordon-Levitt perform probably one of his most challenging and commendable roles to date. Taking a huge leap from the innocence of boyhood that he initially invested in, he succeeded where most child actors often failed.

Furthermore, 2009’s (500) Days of Summer propelled him into positive critical reception, earning his first Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor. The film opened the 2009 Sundance Festival and received a standing ovation from the audience.

The film was evident of Gordon-Levitt’s diversity as an actor – playing a man in different stages of love – happiness, confusion, anger, depression and, ultimately, acceptance. With his old boyish charm bordering on the effeminate, he pulled off a dance routine and at the same time tapping on his recently-discovered dark side to look like he was pulled straight out of the gutter when things in the story turns out to be a huge disappointment.

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In the film industry’s constant changes and fickle audience, it’s nice to know that child stars like Gordon-Levitt can go beyond that lovable high school loser and do so much more – beyond drugs and alcohol – and evolve to become (and possibly replace) his predecessors, and for once be the main attraction.

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‘Parks & Recreation’: Why it’s not ‘The Office’

In Television on July 6, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Carell vs. Poehler 

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I’ve always admired Steve Carell for bringing an authentic personality to ‘The Office’, the mockumentary style comedy that turned many heads, critics and audiences alike. It introduced a new method of filming for television that audiences may have only previously seen from real reality shows as early as ‘Cops’ or MTV’s ‘The Real World’. Unlike these reality-based shows, however, ‘The Office’ is a perceived ‘reality’ where the events are scripted and plot-driven, but made to look like it isn’t – using single-camera shots and the absence of canned laughter – hence the pseudo-genre ‘mockumentary’.

Despite rumors that NBC’s ‘Parks & Recreation’ was a spinoff of Carell’s ‘Office’, the only similarity it shares with the show is the mockumentary aspect. The premise, story, and characters are completely different. Yes, it’s still life in the office, but compared to Carell’s designation as a small private company’s head honcho, ‘Parks & Rec’s’ Leslie Knope (played by SNL’s Amy Poehler) is a government employee and semi-head honcho trying to impress the cameras that ‘follow’ her around in a day-in-a-life manner.

It’s not everyday that local or US television poke fun at government issues, more specifically a comedy sitcom or series. With this I find ‘Parks & Rec’ a welcome addition to redundancies in the pile of television junk we see everyday. Whether you are indifferent, pro or against government, if you look closely, certain truths are hidden inside this little show that goes beyond the purpose of merely cracking up. It does make you think about your own government, and how things differ or are similar to the show. It might even breed sympathy for the very few people left in government who stand by certain ideals and beliefs, despite the tempting benefits of corruption and power.

Humor is the common denominator for the two shows, but one that is on different sides of the coin. While Carell got immediate comedic effect being the manic and insanely insensitive boss that he plays, Amy Poehler, on the other hand, has to play a very serious character who doesn’t even try to be funny – but is. One that probably amounted to a lot of outtakes and bloopers during filming. Anyone who is familiar with Poehler’s work in Saturday Night Live will know that she’ll go to any lengths (or prosthetics) to make people laugh. In ‘Parks & Rec’, Poehler looks like an average boss running the Parks & Recreation Department with an enthusiasm that ranges from annoying to endearing, and she still can make you laugh and look you straight in the eye without flinching.

In a nutshell, while ‘The Office’ is as blatantly hilarious on a regular basis, ‘Parks’ is subtly smart – and funny when it really shouldn’t be.

To watch ‘Parks & Recreation’ online, click here.

First Look: Pretty Little Liars

In Television on June 24, 2010 at 2:31 am

Never trust a pretty girl with an ugly secret

It’s probably too early to write about how exciting and refreshing this new series is, but it’s never a bad thing to be a few episodes ahead.

ABC Family’s new teen drama/mystery series Pretty Little Liars, like most shows in its genre, is based on a series of young adult novels of the same name written by Sara Shepard. The premise is of four old friends – Aria (Lucy Hale), Spencer (Troian Bellisario), Hanna (Ashely Benson) and Emily (Shay Mitchell) – haunted by their  ‘queen bee’ Allison’s (Sasha Pieterse) disappearance which later on turned out to be a tragic death.

Very much like Desperate Housewives in that respect, the show builds its suspense around a mysterious presence in the girls’ everyday life after Allison’s funeral – manifested through text messages and e-mail making it seem like our young ladies are being watched. What’s more, the messages always end with a signature “A”, which puts the creepiness to an even higher level, with the girls doubting if Allison is really six feet under or playing a seriously elaborate hoax.

The supporting cast features one Holly Marie Combs (Charmed), who plays Ella, Aria’s cool, easy-going mom. Her presence on the supernatural hit drama series Charmed, however, will not bear any resemblance in this role as a clueless wife of an unfaithful husband. Also in the supporting actor line-up is Bryce Johnson (Nip/Tuck) as the detective whose good looks the poor girls are trying too hard to ignore.

In a recent interview with The New York Post‘s PopWrap, Lucy Hale who plays the main character Aria, mentions that the show may not all be sugar and spice and everything nice. It deals with issues like drugs, sexuality and indecent romantic relationships (teacher-student). “For some reason TV shies away from it because they don’t think teens can handle it. But teens can handle more than you might expect and it’s awesome ABC Family is willing to give them this show”, the lead actress explains.

Another eye candy (if there weren’t enough already) is another face Filipinos will proudly take credit for once she gains popularity synonymous with Charice. Shay Mitchell makes her TV debut as Emily Fields, the athletic jock who struggles with her sexual identity among other things in life. Mitchell is born to a Filipino mother and an Irish/Scottish father.

If these aren’t enough reasons to check out the show, one last thing would be that there aren’t any superheroes, vampires, werewolves or witches on this one. Just pretty girls with dirty secrets.

Watch Pretty Little Liars online.

Review: True Blood Season 3 Premiere

In Television on June 16, 2010 at 11:52 pm

And the plot (and blood) thickens…

True Blood, HBO’s version of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire series seems to have outdone the books themselves. To a point when I stopped reading the books because the TV series was so much more interesting. Whatever supernatural gore and weirdness Harris serves up in print doubles itself on television.

So it’s not surprising that the third edition of HBO’s successful vampire drama kicked off with over 5 million viewers on its first airing. Season 3 will air 12 episodes, which started with Bad Blood, aired last June 13 simultaneously on HBO and HBO Canada.

The plot is loosely based on the third book of the Charlaine Harris series Club Dead, the key word here being loosely. True Blood is one of those screen adaptations which twists the facts to its advantage rather than disappointing the viewers. Unlike other failed attempts to translate Young Adult literature into a film success, the TV series has mastered the art of adding and omitting with tact and purpose.

The episode starts with Bill Compton’s (Stephen Moyer) marriage proposal to Sookie (Anna Paquin), which ended up with Bill disappearing in thin air. Sookie is then torn with dread and anxiety as she seeks Jessica’s (Deborah Ann Woll) help to find her maker, who  Sookie believes was kidnapped. Unfortunately, the sheriff’s office doesn’t really put kidnapped vamps on top of their priority list.

This leads our Southern heroine to where all vampire roads in Bon Temps do – Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård). The inevitable prospect of a love triangle – or just a change of love interest is at hand, as it was first suggested from the previous season’s finale. And as confirmed by Stephen Moyer in this interview. In other affairs that involves Eric, he is paid a surprise visit by the Vampire Queen and plays out a dangerous game following Bill’s disappearance.

After defeating Mary Anne in the last episode, shape shifter and club owner Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) is off to a mission to find his birth family. He also starts having sexual dreams about Bill, which caused a very uncomfortable or interesting (depending on how you view things) scene below. I’m guessing it was Bill’s blood that Sam took to save his life? Let’s hope so.

I like that the minor characters also had their share of loud introductions this season. Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley) had her share of drama and depression (like there wasn’t enough of it already) and attempts suicide after her lover’s death. Detective Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer) has made a life-changing decision to quit drinking and even help Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) out of a bad situation. One wherein he delivered the classic line “Conscience off, d*ck on.” To which Jason wasted no time in obliging. Although, of course, we all know that Jason has grown some amount of wisdom since the last season, if that is at all possible.

In contrast to its visually violent scenes, humor is wittier and even endearing at times, allowing for a few snickers only a series of this genre can offer. The secret of True Blood is the lightness of conversations with deep, unsaid emotions, very much like the simplicity of a small town with dark, hidden secrets. It doesn’t show everything all at once, and for someone who hasn’t watched one episode, things might never make sense. Which leads me to end this article with Arlene’s line: “I’m sorry you fell in love with a serial killer, all right? But honestly, who hasn’t?”

Glee’s “Journey” Ends

In Television on June 6, 2010 at 11:55 pm

As much as I love this show, I can honestly say that I’m glad it’s wrapping up its first tremendously successful season. On June 8, Fox will air “Journey”, the finale for the musical drama/comedy.

Apparently, Glee is not the perfect show it’s hyped up to be. The first thirteen seasons before they went on a four-month hiatus was nothing but good, solid episodes week on week. The last eight episodes which followed had iconic moments (Power of Madonna, Theatricality) which took the song sequences to the next level. Although the tribute to Madonna, Lady Gaga and even Kiss were awe-inspiring, the writers seemed to be lost in other parts of the story. There was the much highlighted relationship between Kurt and Burt Hummell, which was fine until it got too dejavu-ish. Some heads probably turned sideways in making sense of the Puck-Mercedes and Will-Sue love mismatch – which, although was integral to the whole storyline, seemed to be a bit on the silly side.

Hopefully, the next season lets us know the other characters more – like Other Asian Mike (can he actually sing?), or that guy who’s always “just there” to play the piano, or a deeper side to Santana and (dare I say) Brittany. It also won’t hurt if they let Lea Michele take a vocal break once in a while (I loved “Laryngitis”). That girl can sing but too much of a good thing is, well, too much.

Watch a preview of Lea Michele and Cory Monteith’s duet “Faithfully” (from the finale episode “Journey”) below: