Monday, April 21, 2008

Movie Review: Princess

The Movie: Princess
Channel: ABC Family
Starring: A bunch of people I never heard of, and Eden from Heroes. OK, Kip Pardue and Nora Zehetner

Brief Plot Summary: Princess Ithaca is an eccentric princess who lives on the outskirts of some city or another in America and never leaves her castle. That bugs me. Anyways, she is holding a charity benefit ball, and William, a shiftless Princeton grad whose life has gone nowhere since graduation, attends the ball with his friend, a successful internet businessman who was his classmate at Princeton. He immediately is taken by the princess. So when she auctions off a date and a dance, he outbids everybody with $50,000. During the dance, William says something that catches her, and she is convinced that he is "the searcher". Prodded on by his friend, William plays along with this in order to date the hot princess. But she's really worried, as he only has one week to find whatever it is he's supposed to be looking for. He blows it off and basically takes advantage of her. Eventually, he becomes convinced that there's more to this eccentric princess than meets the eye, and maybe there's something to this "searcher" business after all.

Spoilers, Since Nobody Will Watch This Movie: It turns out Ithaca is "the healer", an important role featured by one person in a generation. Basically her job is to heal mythical creatures that become injured (mermaids, manticore, etc.). Also, at one point a squid, which is not a mythical creature. The problem is she loses her powers when she turns 25, and she needs "the searcher" to help her find the new "healer" and bring her to the castle by sunup on her 25th birthday. But Will, and the audience, don't know this for a while. What happens is Will sees a manticore in her castle. Once Will sees the mythical creatures in her castle he justifiably freaks out and breaks up with her. She explains the above to him in extremely clunky exposition, but he doesn't care. However, eventually he realizes that he is "the searcher" after all and helps Ithaca find the new healer and they end up together and happily ever after.

But wait: Ithaca is an American who lives in America and never leaves her castle. She is definitely not a monarch of any nation. She is a mythical healer. SHE IS NOT A PRINCESS. Yet she is referred to as a princess throughout the movie, she dresses like a princess (in really fancy and expensive clothing that there's no way she could afford since she doesn't have an income producing job), and the movie is called princess. That angers me.

Commentary: Princess is an obvious attempt to cash in on the Enchanted phenomenon, in terms of the way it is presented and marketed, but it is not really all that similar to Enchanted. True, it's about a love story between a mysterious "princess" and a commoner, and it has a complicated mythology, but beyond that there's not much to it.

Here's the thing. I didn't plan on watching this movie, but I tuned in to the first 15 minutes, and the developments therein intrigued me enough to make me want to watch the rest of the movie. I mean, what's "the searcher"? What's the deal with the Princess? Then, for the next hour nothing happens. There's a little bit of development in their relationship but all in all, this is basically a love at first sight thing. So these are two people in young love hanging out with each other and not saying or doing anything interesting. Then, the entire plot of the movie plays out over the last half hour, and a lot of it plays out in a single clunky conversation between Ithaca and Will. It's pretty absurd. The mythology of this movie seems complicated typed out, but there really isn't much to it, and I have to think that they could have pulled this off better.

Then, there's the love story, which is really the point of the movie to start with. The romance is very cute, and the characters are believably in love. I can't point to any specific bad dialogue or anything either. But I found this romance extremely boring. It's kind of a weird experience for me to watch a cute romance play out, while I sit there non heartwarmed and non choked up, even during the big reconciliation. It's good to know that I actually have a filter for this sort of thing; I was really starting to wonder for a while.

What bugs me is that the plot and the idea of this movie are pretty interesting. I'm almost positive that a good movie could be made out of this, if the plot and the romance had been paced better. You wouldn't even need to change the actors! The actress who played Ithaca was cute and did OK for the most part, and the actor who played William was competent. The actors who played William's friends were awful though, they would have to be changed. The point is, there's more than a kernel of a good movie in here.

Final Grade/Comments: I promised myself I would never watch another ABC Family original movie, as I've hated all the ones I've seen. The last one I let myself get hyped up over was Hello Sister, Goodbye Life, which I wrote a review of very early in this blog's life, and it was very disappointing (the movie, not the review). But the way this movie was being marketed in an Enchanted like film had me intrigued. A second rate Enchanted would still be a really good movie. And it could have been one, but this was a real blown opportunity. I can't recommend that anybody watch this movie. Basically, this was a cute movie that I didn't like, and that's saying something. Hmm, let's see, what did I give Hello Sister Goodbye Life? 4/10. That sounds about right for this.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Since the "muxtape" site is popular right now, I decided to make a muxtape for one of my friends who just listens to a lot of indie and alt-country. So basically it's a mix of indie friendly pop. I figured I could post it here, and since this is my blog I'll include commentary. The muxtape is here: Just click on a song title to listen to the song.

Track List:
1. Amy Diamond - "Domino"
Comment: This my favorite song off of the semi-underrated third Amy Diamond album. And since "Stay My Baby" was just outside my top 10 last year, that means I like it a lot. The album wasn't that good, and it was far inferior to her second album, but it had a few really good tracks, including this driving up-tempo number with a killer chorus. I also like the main instrumental riff a lot.

2. Dido - "Hunter"
Comment: Ah, pleasant, sweet-voiced female music. Will your charms ever cease to grab me? Although I'm not generally a big Dido fan, this is one of my top 5 favorite songs in that "genre" of this decade, and it's definitely my favorite Dido song. It's really pretty and catchy and I like Dido's voice. Basically, it's a better version of "White Flag", which is a pretty good song as is.

3. Natalie Imbruglia - "Intuition"
Comment: I've previously written about this song. It's not my favorite Natalie (it's probably not in my Natalie top 10), but it's really good, and it's the one that fit in best on the mix. The problem is that Natalie's style is so distinctive that she doesn't fit well on a standard mix. It's so sunny! Natalie is usually best in desperate, pretty longing mode, but this is one of her better relentlessly upbeat songs. It's kind of cheesy but I love Natalie and I love this song.

4. Blake Shelton - "She Don't Love Me"
Comment: One of my 10 or 20 favorite songs of last year, but I haven't really talked about it because it was never a single. I really like the central lyrical conceit, and the chorus is very catchy. Plus, Blake gives a great vocal performance.

5. Sheryl Crow - "Can't Cry Anymore"
Comment: This is a standout album track from her first album, Tuesday Night Music Club. The stuttering guitar and rambling, talky melody in the verse makes the song roll along nicely. The song doesn't go anywhere necessarily but it floats into the background, and the lyrics are really weird!

6. Rachel Stevens - "Funky Dory"
7. Darren Hayes - "Crush (1980 Me)"
Comment: I'd imagine that almost anybody reading my blog would already know these two songs. But, I'm sure my friend Rich doesn't know them, and they are two of my favorites of this decade. "Funky Dory" is very sleek and "Crush" is just so unabashedly poppy and catchy. I have found that "Funky Dory" holds up better than any other Rachel Stevens, excepting "I Said Never Again (But Here We Are)" and "Sweet Dreams My L.A. Ex".

8. Miranda Lambert - "Guilty In Here"
Comment: Like the Blake Shelton, this is a superior album track from 2007. Actually, I included it on my top 10 songs of the year list to Poptimists. This was one of the most acclaimed tracks of last year, and I don't have much to add to the acclaim. Miranda is a great singer, and the lyrics to this song are really good. It was the best country song released last year, and one of the top 10 of the decade.

9. Connie Francis - "Stupid Cupid"
Comment: I guess there wasn't really any reason to include this on the mix. But, it's one of my favorite 1950's hits, and I think it sounds really modern compared to most of the stuff that gets played on oldies radio. It has one of the best all time melodies and awesome lyrics! Any pop fan should know this song, it's one of the early songs that set the template for pop music to come.

10. that dog - "Every Time I Try"
Comment: The purpose of this mix was to provide indie friendly pop for my friend to enjoy, but I threw him a bone and included a genuine indie song. That dog were the first band who I ever saw in concert, opening for The Wallflowers, and I loved them when I heard them. This album was one of the very first I ever bought and was one of the first pieces of music I really loved. It's a key part of my musical autobiography. So, obviously I have a very personal connection to it, and I love this driving, pretty ballad. It's probably my third favorite song on the album, behind "Retreat from the Sun" and "Minneapolis" (which is probably my favorite indie rock song of all time). But it's very poppy and has really good piano, even if the indie guitar does get a little tiresome.

11. Jaci Velasquez - "On My Knees"
Comment: I've slowly been reacquainting myself with my past of listening to contemporary Christan music. Most of it wasn't that good, but I've previously repped for a couple ones that hold up (Point of Grace - "Circle of Friends" and Amy Grant). Other than the very best of Amy, this testament to the power of prayer is probably my favorite contemporary Christian song. It's really pretty and Jaci is a really good singer. When she lets her voice loose at the end it's awesome! I love the way the pre-chorus builds up into insanity, and then it flows into the more subdued chorus. But then the chorus gets crazy too! This holds up with the best ballads of Celine and Mariah, and if it wasn't a Christian song I think it would be similarly remembered today.

12. Third Eye Blind - "In The Background"
Comment: I decided to close the mix with my favorite Third Eye Blind song. It's very simple, but, like the title implies, it fades into the background nicely and is pretty and pleasant. I realize that these may sound like insults to some people, but I like those qualities in songs! This is one of the best rock ballads of the 90's.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

A Peek through the RD Top 30

I have not listened to Radio Disney in several months. Checking the top 30 I noticed many songs I haven't heard. Let's see what I'm missing...

1. Jonas Brothers - "When You Look Me In The Eyes"
Did I Already Know It: Yes
Review: Actually, this song has generated some airplay on one of the local top 40 stations, and is slowly climbing up the Billboard Hot 100 (currently #27). And I have absolutely no idea why, cause it sounds pretty damn boring to me. Actually, you know what it sounds like? A teen pop Rascal Flatts. And I don't think anybody needs that. 3/10

2. Miley Cyrus - "See You Again" <--Still no official video! Did I Already Know It: Of course. Review: Yeah, I like the song. 10/10

3. Aly & AJ - "Like Whoa"
Did I Already Know It: Yes
Review: This is a superior track from Insomniatic, which was one of my favorite albums of 2007. There's a few other tracks on the album that I like more ("Potential Break Up Song", "Division", "Like It or Leave It"), but this is still a fun and catchy song. Also, I like the video. It's really sassy. This will contend for top 25 of the year. 8/10.

4. Chris Brown - "With You"
Did I Already Know It: Yes
Review: This was a Billboard Hot 100 number one hit, and it has crossed over apparently into Radio Disney. This strikes me as a basically mediocre R&B ballad. I dunno why anybody would listen to this over, say, Ne-Yo or "No Air". But it's not bad I suppose. 6/10.

5. Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana - "Rock Star"
Did I Already Know It: Yes
Review: I think this song is pretty good, though not as good as it could be, but the fact that they've gotten this far means that maybe they've dipped a bit too far into the singles well on the Hannah Montana 2 soundtrack. I mean, this is, what, the 8th or 9th single from it? Some songs were just destined to be pretty good album tracks. 7/10.

6. Sara Bareilles - "Love Song"
Did I Already Know It: Yes
Review: People who know my tastes will not be surprised at all to hear that I love this single. It's just that type of sweet piano based female BS that I always seem to go for. And what's more it's one of the best songs of its type in this decade (behind some TashBed and "Breathe (2AM)" and maybe "Whie Flag"). But it's pretty and catchy and has good lyrics and even though it's been ridiculously overplayed it still hasn't really diminished for me. A possible top 10 of the year entrant. Awful video though. 9/10.

7. Taylor Swift - "Teardrops on My Guitar (Pop Remix)"
Did I Already Know It: Yes
Review: I've never been as big a fan of this song as some other people are, and I like the pop remix even less than the original mix. I'm glad it's catching on on pop radio, if that's a sign that it's OK to play country on top 40. But as an actual song it's kinda boring, and the plainly emotional lyrics kinda go nowhere. A little too weepy for me. 6/10.

8. Selena Gomez - "Cruella De Vil"
Did I Already Know It: Yes
Review: This is at least the third cover of a "Cruella De Vil" by a Disney actress that I know of (the other two are by Hayden Panettiere and LaLaine). And hey this one's got a little edge to it! I like her singing and the arrangement is pretty catchy. This is a lot better than I thought it was going to be. Still, they should have released a full version of the (totally awesome) theme song to Wizards of Waverly Place first. 7.5/10.

9. Mitchel Musso - "Lean On Me"
Did I Already Know It: No
Review: OK, this is the first song on the countdown I have not heard before. And I assume it will be a cover of the classic Bill Withers tune. What I did not expect is that the nerdy kid from Hannah Montana would release a RAP single. And he is a terrible rapper. Holy crap, what a bad idea this was. Not only is this awful, I don't see how anybody could think that it is not awful. This is an embarrassment. 0/10.

10. Miley Cyrus - "Start All Over"
Did I Already Know It: Yes
Review: This was my #25 single of 2007, and if anything it was underrated there. Yeah, energetic and catchy and totally shallow. I really like the instrumental riff that plays below the chorus. Really good video too! 8/10.

11. Emily Osment - "I Don't Think About It"
Did I Already Know It: No
Review: So this is the fifth single so far out of eleven that is by a star of Hannah Montana. Like the Mitchel I have actually never heard this song. After one listen I'm convinced that it was an outtake from the Hannah Montana 2 recording sessions. It's not bad but it is highly reminiscent of a decent Hannah Montana track, and Emily's voice is not nearly as good as Miley's. Also, the track is incredibly repetitive. Despite all this, it's a decent track thanks to its catchiness. 6/10.

12. Jonas Brothers - "That's Just the Way We Roll"
Did I Already Know It: No
Review: This one is certainly upbeat, and I tend to like the uptempo JB songs more than their ballads. And this is supposed to be some kind of band theme song or something? And is that a Hanson bash I hear in the middle? Weird lyrics and pretty lame guitar riff, but the song is catchy and the vocals are decent. I have no desire to ever hear this song again. 5/10

13. Corbin Bleu - "Run It Back Again"
Did I Already Know It: No
Review: Generally, I have liked the Corbin Bleu solo career a lot more than I thought I would. And, whoa, this is a dance track! With dance-y vocal effects and everything. This is from that time travel Disney movie starring Jason Dolley that I've already forgotten the name of. But, man, this is not what I expected at all and it's pretty good. Even though I historically have bashed Corbin, his run of pretty good singles continues. Maybe I'll actually listen to his album. 7/10.

14. Raven - "Double Dutch Bus"
Did I Already Know It: No
Review: Ugh, I am not looking forward to this at all. This is a pretty standard R&B/rap song these days, with the exception that it has horrible vocals, apparently no hook. Man, it just noodles on and on with no content for minutes. I admit that I wanted to hate this song going into it, but the song does a pretty good of making me hate it on its own merits. Still it is marginally better than the Mitchel Musso track. 2/10.

15. Jordin Sparks - "Tattoo"
Did I Already Know It: Yes
Review: This was an inescapable radio hit for a few months there, and I've really really grown tired of it. There's not much to the melody or production and, yeah, Jordin's vocals are good but that doesn't go very far any more after 100 listens. It's not the song's fault that it was so overplayed, but I have to call it like I see it. And the way I see it this is a very mediocre track. 4/10.

Part 2 to come later.

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