The World According to Renee

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Review- Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Once upon a time, there were best friends who lived above a secretive woman who was found murdered by a fellow classmate. Armed with a video camera, the friends investigate her home and stumble into a world that defies physics. 

Paranormal Activity:The Marked Ones is the fifth installment in the popular franchise and is filmed in exactly the same way: in first person with a handheld camera. This always sparks the question: What the hell were these guys doing to be carrying a camera around with them all the time? 

The answer is simple: they were filming themselves doing stupid stunts and putting it on YouTube. Unfortunately, these stupid stunts take up far too much film time which eats into the scary bits. 

Like the previous films, there’s no real scary bits. The film relies on momentary noises with no real substance: just as your heart starts beating very fast because something’s just happened, there’s another twenty minutes of rubbish before something else happens. 

That’s not to say that there aren’t cool bits. There definitely are, but they last 5-10 seconds maximum which is a real shame. Those are the bits I want to see more of, not the stupid stunts like going down a flight of stairs in a washing basket. 

I won’t give away the ending (which was surprisingly satisfactory) however I thought there could be more in the last 15 minutes and less in the first forty minutes. Get on with the spooky stuff and explore more into where Jesse was taken at the end. What were they doing there? What was the Final Ritual? What happened to Jesse? 

The franchise didn’t need another addition, and this film would have been better had it cut the filler and concentrated more on the markings and scary stuff- that’s what the audience came to see. The cheap frights without any substance leaves me wondering what the point was. There were more laughs than shrieks from the audience I saw it with. 

2 out of 10 popcorns 

January 22, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Wisdom Teeth: A Year Later

Today’s blog is short and sweet. It’s a follow up to the troubles I had with my wisdom teeth surgery. It’s now been exactly a year since I had them out. 

I still have a lot of scar tissue on my top left side, where the tooth had grown into the sinus. When I tilt my head, I can feel the scar tissue pulling. It doesn’t hurt and the nerves have grown back so I can feel hot, cold etc. During last winter, if I breathed cold air through my nose, I could feel cold air in that gum. I asked my dentist to have a look for holes but she says it’s completely healed. I don’t know if this is still an issue; I haven’t stuck my head into anywhere cold lately. 

I’m always going to have this scar tissue, with my special baby toothbrush to get past it to clean those very back teeth. But considering what I went through to get to here, it’s a small price to pay. 

January 14, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

365 Days of The Simpsons

Firstly, if you have no idea what I’m talking about… I have a blog about The Simpsons. A long, long time ago in a living room far, far away, I decided to take a month off work and watch The Simpsons for about 8 hours a day until I’d finished the series. Unsurprisingly,  that idea was shelved. In November of 2012, I wrote an essay about the show for uni (technically, the essay was comparing The Monkees with The Simpsons as television’s reaction to youth culture in the 1960s and 1990s) and the idea was again sparked to watch the show, but in a slightly more practical format.

Thus, Simpsons A Day was born. It’s a simple concept: watch one episode of The Simpsons every day and blog my thoughts about it.

Why aren’t I up to episode #365?
For those watching closely, you’ll notice I’m only up to #354. I lost a few days when I had no internet connection, and lost almost a week when I was in Perth for work in late September because I was too exhausted to do anything. I’ve never claimed it was a perfect system and life has a habit of getting in the way. Sue me :p

What I’ve learned from The Simpsons in the past year
It’s my belief that The Simpsons jumped the shark in season 9, with ‘The Principal and the Pauper‘. It’s hard to pinpoint why this is the ep where it all started to go downhill. The writers hadn’t changed (maybe that was the problem, the show needed fresh blood?) but the plot was so ridiculous that there’s no way you can recover from it. It’s like the writers gave up- they’ve had one bad idea and threw everything else to hell.

There are still some gems to be found, and season 14 was pretty good as a whole. There are episodes so bad that I want to poke my eyes out, but yet I force myself to sit through all of them because it’s a commitment that I’ve made to watch all episodes and then write about it before poking my eyes out.

When will it end?
There are currently 540 episodes as they are now part way through season 25. By the time I get to 540 sometime in July, season 25 will be over so there will be more than 540. At this rate it will be September by the time I’ve caught up, but season 26 will start late October or early November. So, to answer the question, it will end when the series is finally cancelled. Of course, at the end of season 25, I won’t be watching the show every day and season 26 will start with Simpsons A Week. Geddit?

January 12, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 2 Comments

Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

Jordan Belfort is young and rich. He’s doing what every young, rich guy does: Screw a lot of hookers and take a lot of drugs. 

This film is based on the bestselling memoir The Wolf of Wall Street, about Belfort’s time as a stockbroker. He did some not-so-legal things and made a ton of money from it, leading to a lavish life of debauchery.

While watching this film, all I could think of was this must be how Jay Gatsby would live had he been alive today. Jordan Belfort is a modern day Gatsby- throwing lavish parties and living the American Dream. Like Gatsby, Belfort’s world did crash around him but hey, that’s what you get when you’re doing illegal stuff. 

Leonardo DiCaprio is a fine actor, but I’m not really sure he pulls off playing an arrogant stockbroker. Anyone who has read the book will know that Belfort is not a likable character; he’s selfish, arrogant, and loves nothing more to laud his antics over the poor mortals who also inhabit his Earth. DiCaprio just doesn’t have that same sense of self-righteousness, but he does play the part very well. Jonah Hill is surprisingly good at acting- who knew he can do more than play stoners? 

However the biggest surprise was Margot Robbie, a young Australian actress who cut her acting teeth on the long running soap, Neighbours. How did a kid like that end up opposite one of the biggest stars in Hollywood with one of the most respected directors at the helm? Margot plays Belfort’s second wife, who has somehow changed her name from Nadine in real life to Naomi on screen. There are moments when she appears clearly starstruck by her leading man, and PR reports to hype the film agree

So, is the movie any good? Take a bathroom break before you watch it; like most Scorsese films, it’s very long. The first half is pure debauchery and the plot kicks in about halfway through. DiCaprio even says it in the film: you don’t care how they got rich, you just want to see the debauchery. Once Belfort & Co start laundering money to Swiss bank accounts, it turns into a different film. Peter Jackson surely would have turned it into a trilogy… 

It’s well acted, mostly true to the book (assuming the book is mostly true to real life) and if pedants can forgive the multiple name changes of characters and the constant swearing, you’ll probably enjoy it as well. 

Four out of five popcorns. 

January 11, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To Write and To Publish

I’ve been doing a bit of research about self-publishing in a digital format, i.e. Kindle e-books. Turns out, it’s ridiculously easy and not too expensive. This is great for writers because it means they can become a published author any time they like. Whether or not they sell anything is a different matter, which brings me to this post.

You don’t have to be a good writer to be successful
Confession time: I read the first book in the Twilight series. Everyone was talking about it and I wanted to see what the fuss was about. No harm in doing that. It was awful. It read like it was written by a dyslexic thirteen year old who had been locked underground her entire life. The entire canon of vampires was re-written to fit within a love story genre, with terrible grammatical errors. It was never going to be a winner for me, yet it’s outsold Harry Potter and, in some markets, the Bible. No one can argue with wasn’t successful, but you can argue that it is badly written.

You don’t have to have a new or unique concept to be successful
Following on from Twilight came Fifty Shades of Grey. The two are related: Shades began as Twilight fanfic. For those who missed the memo, fanfic is fiction written by fans using established characters from any media. There’s fanfic about Star Trek, Harry Potter, Dr Who, My Little Pony… and anything else you can imagine (Slashfic is a subset and is sexually explicit fanfic, often between same-sex characters who aren’t gay, canonically speaking).

Of course, erotic fiction is nothing new. It’s been around since storytelling began. But what is it about Fifty Shades that struck a chord?

Self-publishing: Curse or Blessing?
How many people move to LA to find an agent and become a working actor? Writers do the same to publishers and literary agents. The market out there is tough and I’m under no delusions that I will be picked up. Besides, I kinda like that I have complete control over my work. But first, I have to write something.

Whenever I do write something, there’s no shortage of people who I can turn my work over to and they’ll read it. Some will always give a glowing review, some will be critical, some won’t like it. All of these form a necessary mix in order to get something out there. The other thing is, plenty of people are willing to read it for free, would they pay for it? There are tons of websites that give marketing advice to new authors who have chosen to self-publish. Marketing requires a lot of time and effort but the rewards are obvious.

For me, the advantages of self-publishing outweigh traditional publishing… assuming that I could get through to a publishing house in the first place. Whatever happens, the first novel I publish will be an experiment, but one that I am excited to get started on. And the best thing about publishing? You’re never too old: Bryce Courtenay was in his fifties when his first novel was published.

January 7, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment