Pretty Vacancy: Bringitonathon Part 2

Aaaaaand we’re back. I’m making good time on this today (I have evening plans, believe it or not). At this rate the aforementioned oven foods may not be needed at all. And despite Bring It On Again, I’m still optimistic that there’s some fun to be had here. We’ve got a lot more ground to cover this time, so without too much preamble let’s get back into the game. Bring it, Bring It On. Here’s how films three through five went down:

12:58 pm: Bring It On: All Or Nothing (2006)

12:59: Studio logos. Recognisable pop songs = more money thrown at this one? We’ve certainly got a couple of ‘names’ in the cast this time. We open on prom night. Classic high school movie territory. The more jovial atmosphere of film one is back. And here’s our star, Hayden Panettiere as Britney.

13:00: A cheerleading routine at prom! In prom gowns! In a wise move, All Or Nothing openly ties itself to film one by doing the chant-intros for the characters. Hopefully this is a course-correction for the series.

13:02: And its a dream again! That makes three-for-three. Bitchy school halls chit-chat with credits. The Williamson / Whedon vibe is being rekindled. The colour palette is warm again. The humour is a little less sharp… but definite early points for trying.

13:04: Boyfriend = asshole? Check. This reverence for the first film is fine… but I’m also for some USP here…

13:07: ….how about the sour note of picking on the ‘fat’ girl who is nowhere near fat? Not *quite* what I was after…

13:08: Is that meant to be Panettiere’s mother? Did she have her when she was ten?

13:09: Teenagers really do just speak in acronyms, don’t they?

13:11: Ah the ceremonial burying of your pom-poms in the school football field (vandalism, by the way) when you find out you have to change schools. How many times have we all been there?

13:12: Enter Solange Knowles. Panettiere’s new school has a more inner city feel. I sense the potential for some fish-out-of-water time killing.

13:14: …actually Panettiere is totally deserving of any shit that comes her way. Who acts like that on their first day at a new school? Is she after enemies? Security check-in gag was all right.

13:17: The film is now in danger of some actual social commentary on the public school system.

13:18: Lunchroom tabletop dancing. Takes me right back.

13:22:  Cheerleading. I’m trying to discern the difference between good cheerleading and bad cheerleading. That looked like good cheerleading?

13:25: Well, well, well… try-outs montage.

13:28: What’s “I.D.T.S?” It’s possible these films have sped past the point in youth culture where I still spoke the language…

13:29: Panettiere’s fear of her new neighbourhood is pretty racist, seeing as her peers are playing in the street gleefully. It’s not quite the low rises from The Wire out there, and even then… It’s a credit to the film that she carries enough screen charisma, seeing as her character is quite often a douchebag.

13:34: Cheerleading.

13:35: Some slutty hijinx going on back at Panettiere’s old school. The film has nestled into a fairly uninspired soporific groove.

13:38: Panettiere is being goaded into street-dancing (‘crumping’) by the apparently effective method of guys groping her. Bring It On morphs closer and closer to the dance-off movie. Memories of Step Up day are flooding back. I could literally be doing anything else.

13:42: Wow! A ‘WIPE TO:’ That made me really happy. I don’t know if I’m happy about being happy about that.

13:43: “We get ass up the ass.” … … … …

13:44: … … …

13:45: … … … what!?

13:49: Gwen Stafani’s “Hollaback Girl” hits the soundtrack. Regardless of the song (which I do like), that takes me back to a pretty dynamite summer. My own nostalgia, which I won’t detail here, is personally more enjoyable than this movie at present. Which is not to say it’s a bad film. It’s certainly better than film two. But part of the reason I do these marathons is not just to snark at easy targets. That tends to come out of it, sure, but really I’d like to think I could watch anything and see the merits in it. These movies absolutely serve a purpose and for the people who really love them, that’s great. Every movie is potentially someone‘s favourite movie.  But at the same time, I have to admit that I can’t love every type of movie. And here, roughly halfway through today’s marathon, I’m starting to flag. These movies aren’t targeted at me, obviously. That doesn’t mean I think I’m better than them. I haven’t made any films. Critiquing films, even on an amateur basis like this, is part arrogance, and sometimes I wrestle with that. I don’t think my opinion is better than yours. Or that there’s any reason you ought to listen to me over others. Just another voice in the din is all. However…

13:56: Hayden Panettiere’s homecoming dress. Gahddamn.

13:57: “Dude, I’ll beat the dude out of you.”

13:58: “Cheertrocity” adds to the series’ lexicon.

13:59: Panettiere’s old friends turn out to be racist idiots. We realise how much she’s grown as a person. Her new teammates are her real friends. All Or Nothing is confidently back on track swinging through some tried, tested and trusted plot turns. And we’re back into chanting in posh dresses.

14:05: Panettiere eats humble pie, goes back to her inner city squad. “Cheersanity” follows “Cheertrocity” right out of the gate. I’m eyeing the Oreos already. Today’s supposed to be indulgent, right?

14:07: Cheerleading.

14:09: It’s Rihanna as herself!!!

14:10: Kicking the ass out of that WIPE TO: earlier, we just transitioned from one scene to another through a diamond shape. The spirit of 80’s music videos lives on.

14:11: Cheerleading.

14:12: What’s raising this film above film two is how it reaffirms that, yes, even cheerleading can be about something. In this case, self-expression, asserting one’s self, representing something you care about. And twerking.

14:14: Is an upskirt shot still an upskirt shot when the skirt is more of a belt?

14:15: Okay, so the bitchiness at the not-fat girl earlier got slightly redeemed… but in a way that at the same time made light of eating disorders a little too much. Not sure if that was a total save.

14:20: The inevitable cheerleading dance-off finale bit. I lose several minutes to that mild panic that overcomes you when you hear your phone going off but you have no ideas where it is. I hate the 21st century for shit like this.

14:21: It was in the duvet, somehow.

14:24 They’re still leading cheers.

14:26: Rihanna announces the winners. I smell credits…

14:27: Credits doubling as the behind the scenes of a very cheap-looking Rihanna music video. Which, considering her minimal involvement elsewhere here, isn’t all that surprising. Nevertheless, this was a serviceable film which even tried to make a point or two, even if it didn’t quite live up to the initial spark and hope for something actually dynamic. BUT it gets some extra credit for squeezing in something I have a soft-spot for; an end titles roll call of the principal cast; names, faces and, appropriately, a little version of themselves dancing. Which is fun (2.5/5).

*     *     *     *     *

14:37: Bring It On: In It To Win It (2007)

14:38: Studio logos. Steve Rash becomes the first discernible name to carry over from one film to another, picking up directorial duties for the second time in a row. 2007 was an astonishing year for films. There Will Be Blood. No Country For Old MenThe Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Lust, Caution, Control, Juno,  Lars And The Real Girl, Zodiac… and plenty more. Will Bring It On: In It To Win It add further esteem to this golden year in recent cinematic history?

14:39: Casting my eyes over this film’s imdb page, I don’t recognise a single name. Not that it matters. We start at cheer camp and with a horror movie fake-out. Ski mask. Chainsaw. But of course, as we’ve come to expect… it’s just a dream!

14:41: It’s a little damning (not to mention unusual) that this series never sees any of its character carry over. They’re genuinely only linked by their shared central motif of cheerleading. Back at the start of part one I rhapsodised that teen movies at their best unpack the anxieties and emotions of adolescence, wisely documenting these formative years. So far not a single Bring It On entry has aspired to much in this vein…

14:44: Does this movie even have central characters? I can’t tell if we’ve opened at a high school, a beach or a theme park. One could interpret this rambling, ensemble opening as a lofty tip of the hat to Robert Altman…

14:46: “I want to lick his abs” …or crushing ineptitude.

14:47: Maybe it’s a mall…?

14:48: A banner that says “Teamwork makes the dream work”. Unfortunately(?) it doesn’t come with that cute picture of a cat riding a dog that ANYBODY WHO HAS WORKED IN AN OFFICE HAS BEEN EXPOSED TO AT SOME POINT.

14:49: This is less cheerleading, more flashmob gymnastics. Presumably the entire cast were sourced from flashmobs also. At this stage I’m going to be genuinely surprised if this movie makes it out of here with more than a 0.5/5.

14:55: Sorry, just catching up on my emails. This film is atrocious.

14:59: You know that bit earlier where I said that every movie is potentially someone’s favourite movie…?

15:00: …If this movie is your favourite movie, then you are a dickhead.

15:01: What I can tell: Blandest cheerleader of them all, Carson (Ashley Benson), is at cheer camp, likes a boy cheerleader (didn’t get his name) but there’s a ditzy-but-mean cheerleader named Brooke (Cassie Scerbo) who doesn’t like her. Not sure why. Her boy cheerleader crush is on a different cheering team. So that’s a big no-no. They’re currently on a rollercoaster together. I think that’s the whole story so far.

15:05: Carson’s nickname might be Schiz. As in schizophrenic. Suggesting a level of psychological complexity that is evidenced nowhere else so far.

15:07: The neighbours’ continuing ‘music’ – booming through the walls with the joyless relentlessness of porn stars everywhere, sounding like the rejected soundtrack to Spring Breakers – is more welcome in my life than this movie.

15:10: Update! I just put the inverted commas around the word ‘music’ above. Yeah, just like that.

15:13: Nobody’s even fucking cheerleading anymore.

15:14: Oh. Cheerleading.

15:14:15: Brief cheerleading.

15:15: Montage. Of what? Who the fuck even knows.

15:17: The summoning of cheer spirits to find some missing cheer stick involves the burning of a strapless bra. Obviously.  This leads, inevitably, to a moonlight cheer-off apparently in the middle of Sunnydale high street.

15:19: “What happened tonight was an all-time low.” No shit.

15:29: Went to the bathroom. Didn’t pause.

15:40: ‘Luz showed up in a red SS396 she kept saying she’d borrowed from her brother, though Doc thought he detected a boyfriend someplace in the subtext. She was wearing cutoff jeans, cowgirl boots, and a tiny T-shirt that matched the car. They found an empty house and went inside. Luz had brought a bottle of Cuervo. There was a queen-size mattress with cigarette burns in it, a French Provincial floor-model TV with the screen all kicked in, a number of empty five-gallon joint-compound containers that people had been using for picnic furniture. “I see in the papers that Mickey’s still missing.” “Even the FBI don’t come around no more, Riggs split again for the desert, and Sloane and me, we’ve become very close.” “How, ah, close would that be?” “That bed downstairs Mickey would never fuck me on? That’s ours now.” “Uhm…” “What’s this I’m lookin at here?”…’

15:41: (I may have given up on the film and gone back to reading Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon).

15:44: Wait… are the neighbours listening to Radiohead’s Amnesiac…? Tempted to turn down In It To Win It

15:48:  Okay, I put down Inherent Vice. I’m not being fair on this movie, which could have really turned around in the interim. Looks like we’ve made it to whatever this film’s version of the final dance cheer-off is. I think I can safely say I’ve missed nothing whatsoever though. “Cheersaster” and “Cheertastrophe” have also just been deployed. Who said this movie wasn’t self-referential? Because, Bring It On: In It To Win It shows just why even films I dislike extremely (your Ender’s Games or your Foxcatchers) can always be beaten for sheer offensive awfulness.  Bring It On: In It To Win It is the worst film I’ve seen since Star Trek: Into Darkness (okay, so I only saw that on Thursday, but that’s totally immaterial).

15:54: ‘Cheerleading.’

15:55: I’m spending my time weeding some of the typos out of Part 1 of this sorry enterprise.

16:00: Wait, what is this blue screened Tower Of London bullshit?

16:01: Oh! It’s the CREDITS. THANK. FUCK. I try to avoid being this mean, but that was totally worthless (0/5). I’m making myself a rum and coke to help prepare myself for whatever comes next. Nearly there. Nearly there…

*     *     *     *     *

16:09: Bring It On: Fight To The Finish (2009)

16:10: Studio logos. Soooo…. I couldn’t be bothered to go downstairs, so I made my rum and coke in the ceramic Pot Noodle mug (see part 1). I see Steve Rash has been kicked off of the franchise as director. Good.

16:11: We jump right into a scene outside of a high school. Looks like, refreshingly, our hero team are going to be a minority team this time around. There’s some dancing going on in the parking lot. It’d be strange to jump from film one to this one. Each iteration along the way has blurred the internal reality, to the point now where Bring It On has the look and feel of an extended music video. Kirsten Dunst would not know what to do in this situation.

16:13: The movie is now trying to instill back story during a dance routine. Which is pretty ambitious, really. Oh… wait…

16:14: It’s a dream! Five for five! Our lead this time is Lina (Christina Milian). Milian’s name rings a bell. Former pop star? I’m going to try to credit Fight To The Finish with a little more respect than I did In It To Win It, so I won’t look it up. I’ll just assume I’m right…

16:16: Okay, it was like an itch I couldn’t scratch. She was once married to The Dream. I don’t quite know what that means.

16:17: We’re back in high school. Back to recognising the basic necessities of narrative storytelling. It could be that In It To Win It was an experimental piece of dynamic cinema, and one day I’ll eat all those words above. But I doubt it. Regardless, Fight To The Finish wisely seems like a return to formula (and maybe even form?)

16:18: “Cheericide”. Like suicide. Or homicide. But cheery.

16:20: Cheerleading.

16:22: Milian doesn’t like her new dad. But it’s a bantery sort of dislike. I think seeing her new room in her new home – which is a mansion – may soften her up to him. Maybe not though.

16:24: The neighbours’ brief love affair with Radiohead is over. As is my brief love-affair with the neighbours. Outhere Brothers? REALLY?

16:25: “Cheerseum” Like museum. But cheery. The rum is helping. Take half a point off of whatever I give this at the end.

16:28: The school’s mean girls have been established. Fight To The Finish exists in a post-Mean Girls world. That film’s influence on the high school movie was far-reaching and Bring It On is not immune.  It might not be original, but at least it’s aiming sturdily for solidly unsurprising.

16:30: Why would you blue screen a high school hallway scene in a high school movie otherwise clearly filmed on location at a high school? Re-shoots? Unless this scene isn’t blue screened… but just looks it. I’m confused. More rum.

16:31: “Step up!” Wrong franchise, idiot.

16:35: Cheerleading. More rum.

16:38: More George Bush* references. What’s with that? *wrote ‘Bish’ the first two times. Could be the rum is working…

16:39: Is a crop-top still a crop-top if it doesn’t even cover your bra, or does it have a different name at that point?

16:40: Is crop-top even the right term? I feel like it is.

16:41: That girl’s earrings are big enough to be the spaceship in Elysium.

16:44: Wait, the school’s team are the Sea Lions? Not quite sure what that inspires… Regardless, recounting the plot is somewhat pointless. It’s exactly what you’d expect. But at least it’s competent. A limp to the finish line? Maybe. But at least we’re not crawling over broken glass here.

16:48: The team mascot is a whale. … … … …  I worry about these kids’ education… More rum.

16:52: Milian and her squad are getting backup from the street dancing crew. Which is probably against some rules in this somewhere. Might as well hire fucking Stomp.

16:57: “Could somebody tell me what just happened?” says one character (this movie’s clueless redhead – what’s the deal with this trend, Bring It On?). I’m clueless too.

16:58: Milian’s bed covers look like a Paisley design as orchestrated by Chupa-Chup. Or a hippie being sick in a whirlwind.

17:00: cHEERLEADING.

17:01: The above is emblematic of the rum situation going on here. Someone just gave out shoes. All the girls are happy about it, but I’ve seen groups of girls lose their shit over wearing the same shoes out. All of these shoes are the same. So I suspect this is some kind of sneaky opposition trick to cause a major rift later on in the movie.

17:04: Ultimately, despite being light years ahead of In It To Win It, I know I will never watch this again, and probably wouldn’t still be if I wasn’t a little tipsy now, blog or no blog.

17:06: Fuck there’s still 42 minutes to go. Why do I do this to myself? Even if it is only once every six months or so.

17:07: How is the fifth one the longest one? WHY???

17:08: A scene of confusion over the ethnicity of Tila Tequila. Which certainly won’t date this movie.

17:09: “Not in my worst cheermare”. Like a nightmare? Only…c heerier?

17:10: ‘Cheerier’.

17:13: I’m a 31-year-old bearded man, sat in a Sonic Youth t-shirt getting tipsy watching cheerleader movies on a sunny day with the blind down. Obviously this is a cry for help.

17:14: Coming in the next week; legitimate reviews of Lost River and John Wick. Just sayin’.

17:15: At least the neighbours have gone out.

17:19: Dancing. Not even slightly cheerleading anymore. Just dancing.

17:20: The antagonist in this movie is really racist.

17:22: Relationshiop drama.

17:22: Relationshio.

17:22: Relationship. Damn it.

17:23: I think there’s a secret earring-off going on here. It’s like that one Itchy & Scratchy cartoon where Itchy and Scratchy keep aiming larger and larger guns at each other, until they dwarf continents, their two guns flicking out over the curvature of the Earth. JUST LIKE THAT.

17:25: Holy shit, Milian has the biggest pile of noodles on her table I’ve ever seen!!! False alarm; its her pom-poms.

17:26: “Cheerial killer”. Really?

17:28: Dancing. To quote The Room, “Who are these characters now?”

17:30: The movie overall: acceptable stuff, I guess. Nobody’s particularly embarrassing themselves. Likewise, nobody’s really going to take this seriously. Totally forgettable. Is that worse than being memorably inept (like In It To Win It)? That’s hard to say. You could argue this is the worst of the series simply for how anonymous it is. Having said that I can’t remember what happened in the second one. This morning seems like it was a long time ago. When I started watching Bring It On I was a young man. No more.

17:34: Oh cool, a cameo from an E! Entertainment News reporter. Guess Rihanna was busy.

17:36: Dancing/cheerleading. I’ve left the rum alone now.

17:38: As we draw to the end I still have no conception of what makes good or bad cheerleading, only a greater suspicion that what I’m seeing isn’t cheerleading at all.

17:39: Perhaps the biggest indictment of Fight To The Finish: it’s the final dance-off and I can’t be sure which team I’m even watching. Oh, right, those were the ‘baddies’. Boo, I guess.

17:41: Back in movie one I felt shamefully inactive. Now, after five of these, I have no enthusiasm to change that. I am thinking about that frozen pizza I have though…

17:43: They stopped dancing/cheerleading. Now for some heavy product placement for Toshiba laptops as suspense builds. I feel like I’ve reached the top of the mountain. Some of it’s been fun, a lot of it’s been punishing. I was a fool to think this would be the easiest of the marathons I’ve attempted, but deep down I just think I was hoping that –

17:45: Oh! Credits. I can shut up and fuck off (1.5/5).

End.

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