"Who is this Veronica Mars chick and why is she all over Twitter?"
It's a question that must have struck many Internet-savvy folks after Wednesday's Kickstarter project to raise money for the former UPN/CW crime drama's followup film took over social media. But Rob Thomas' Veronica Mars isn't just "some chick" all over Twitter, the teen series is an important piece of television history, and one whose light was snuffed out far too soon after being cherished by too few TV fans back in 2007. To put it simply, Veronica Mars is wildly significant, whether or not you were lucky enough to experience its magnificence.
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I get it. Not everyone was glued to UPN on Wednesday nights, clamoring to see what bad assery Veronica (the impossibly loveable Kristen Bell) would pull this week to solve the next piece of a season-long mystery. If they were, we'd probably still be following Mars through her post-collegiate sleuthing adventures. The San Diego-based teen sleuth wasn't your cheesy caricature of a young detective, like some schlocky version of Harriet the Spy hits puberty. She was a complex, dark character who towed the line between the dark recesses of gang life and petty crime worlds and the equally dark realm of high school, and one who did so with all the pithy charm of Lauren Graham's Loreli Gilmore. In a landscape of teen dramas where the biggest problems were parents' rules and moody boyfriends, Veronica Mars gave us a series about high school that didn't talk down to us, that trusted its young audience with a truer, gritty depiction of the hell that is teen life.
Veronica Mars: Feminist Hero?
It wasn't just the realm of high school drama on television that got a boost from Veronica Mars. The realm of pop culture heroines got a bit of a payout from her entry into the television lexicon too. True, Veronica had her share of boyfriends - including rich boy with a heart of gold Duncan Kane (Teddy Dunn), rich boy with a penchant for bad behavior Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), and for a short time the persistent young cop Leo D'Amato (Max Greenfield) — but even when that romantic drama was drawing us in (and leaving us gasping in terror when the final episode ever left the Veronica-Logan question unresolved), Mars' true draw was her wit, wisdom, fearlessness, and intelligience. Veronica really could do anything, and not because of some super power or element of uncanny access (if anything she had a lack of access as she and her private eye father lived in a cheesy San Diego apartment building on the wrong side of the tracks), but because of her lightning-fast brain and street smarts.
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Veronica is a character who solves the age-old problem of a strong lady sleuth overwhelmed by elements that undermine her abilities in many of the same ways Buffy Summers' vampire aggression did for teens in the horror genre. Even Alias' Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) occasionally fell prey to the sexy femme fatale element of sleuthing that Bell's character manages to sidestep. Yes, Veronica was a sexually active character, but she is truthful to the truth of the teenage experience without wearing her sexuality on her sleeve. Her clothing of choice was a light jacket over a t-shirt and jeans, leather boots and her ever-present messenger bag. Even while her high school cohorts were tempting boys with short skirts and low-cut tops, Veronica was all business. At the end of the day, she was more concerned with helping her school mates and finding the truth than wearing the right clothes to attract some drooling dolt (one of whom was played to perfection on the series by the ever-present Ryan Hanson).
It's an element that allowed Veronica, who was very much a high school student, to feel relevant to more than just teen audiences. The gritty reality of Veronica's character was something that could appeal to viewers from every demographic, even if the cheesy promos didn't do their best to draw those folks in.
Is that Veronica, or Phillip Marlowe?
One thing that drives careful TV viewers crazy is a mystery for the sake of a mystery. With the sheer number of crime shows on television, it's impossible not to be a whiz at solving a CSI or Law & Order mystery halfway through the episode (or if you're really good, five minutes into each episode). The beauty of the season-long and one-off mysteries on Veronica Mars is that they truly were mysteries and oddities. The answers were never predictable, but without the big reveal dropping in like the world's most obnoxious red herring. Mysteries on Veronica Mars didn't carry the schlocky feel that the word itself seems to contain; they felt real and immediate and most importantly, there was never a moment in which Veronica's journey ever felt safe. At any moment, our spunky blonde pixie could find herself in a world of hurt at the hands of Irish gangsters, weathly crooks, or even serial campus rapists. Veronica's uncovering of the truth never stopped short of the uncomfortable reality of her education-adjacent profession, the series consistently presented a more truthful reality for Veronica's chosen life.
Critics and even horror writer Stephen King compared the critically acclaimed series to beloved mystery writer Raymond Chandler and Thomas' teen sleuth to Chandler's hero Phillip Marlowe (famously portrayed by Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep). For any work of fiction aimed at mystery-solving, this is just about the highest compliment anyone could pay.
Sure, it could be argued that a hell of a lot trouble came upon this teenager, but much like Walter White asks for every bit of drug world drama he finds himself in, Veronica relentlessly goes looking for deeper, darker, and more dangerous mysteries. Also, her father is a P.I., so it's kind of her God-given mode of operation.
Most Importantly: It's Fun
Ideas of feminist progression and the high-minded praise of the series' eye for mystery aside, Veronica Mars is simply the best kind of entertainment: the fun kind. It combined the entertaining class-warfare of Fox's The O.C. with Chandler-level mystery and quippy dialogue that would make Amy Sherman-Pallidino (Gilmore Girls, Bunheads) proud. The audience draws were stacked, so much so that I still can't understand why more viewers weren't tuning into the impeccably-written drama.
Veronica's cohorts including her father (Enrico Colantoni), her best friends (Percy Daggs III and Tina Majorino), her nemeses (Ken Marino, Steve Gutenberg - yes, really - and Michael Muhney), and even guest stars (including Greenfield, Jessica Chastain, Amanda Seyfried, Krysten Ritter, and Dianna Agron, to name a few) were all fantastically complex characters too with their own mysterious backstories and skeletons in their respective closets. And some of them, namely Daggs, Marino, and Greenfield, were almost as hilariously witty as Veronica herself.
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Naturally, when this fantastic, teenage-experience-defining series ended abruptly with a cliffhanger and no hope of future resolution aside from a disappointing faux-trailer on the final season's DVD that teased Veronica heading off to join the FBI, fans were left writhing in withdrawal. If you can't understand the fervor from a place of experience, we understand, many a Veronica Mars fan was lonely in their praise of the short-lived series. But hopefully, with a little context, the outpouring of joy all over the Internet after the Veronica Mars movie met its $1 million goal in just a day finally makes sense. And if we (and Warner Bros.) are lucky, it just might give you the push to accept Veronica Mars, the incomperable spitfire, into your life too.
Of course, if all this pontificating isn't enough to convince you, you could always enjoy this compilation of great Veronica moments, complete with the full Dandy Warhols-provided theme song and everything:
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: The CW]
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Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
G.I. Joe is a top-secret multi-national special forces unit comprised of highly-trained physically attractive military personnel from around the world. Equipped with the latest in superawesome vehicles and weaponry and guided by the tough but fair General Hawk they take on the baddest of the bad guys the kind of terrorists that scoff at conventional organizations. As the General himself so aptly states “When all else fails we don’t.”
That credo is put to the test however when a shadowy terrorist group armed with even awesomer vehicles and weaponry like crazy-ass laser guns and computer-guided zombie troopers infiltrates the Joes’ compound and makes off with a cache of four WMDs each of which is capable of leveling an entire city. Do the men and women of G.I. Joe have what it takes to defeat these menacing new adversaries before they mount their next devastating attack?
WHO’S IN IT?
It takes an elite group of actors to play an elite group of soldiers and the cast of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is stocked with an abundance of Hollywood’s most talented performers all adorned in various types of leather fetish apparel. White Chicks star Marlon Wayans plays Ripcord a flight specialist who can pilot any type of airplane even enemy crafts that respond only to voice commands uttered in Celtic. Channing Tatum star of Step Up and Step Up 2: The Streets plays his best pal Duke a badass infantryman who knows no fear. Preeminent ginger chick Rachel Nichols showcases her fiery crimson locks as Scarlett a shrewd intel expert whose stoic exterior hides a growing attraction to Ripcord. Barking out the orders as General Hawk is Enemy Mine star Dennis Quaid.
On the side of the bad guys is the Baroness played by Factory Girl star Sienna Miller in a push-up bra dirty librarian glasses and a raven-colored dye job. She’s the point woman for McMullen a shady Scottish weapons magnate played by Christopher Eccleston. But McMullen is no ordinary shady Scottish weapons magnate; he’s covertly amassed a huge terrorist empire headquartered beneath the polar ice caps. It’s there that “The Doctor ” a horribly disfigured mad scientist played by (500) Days of Summer star Joseph Gordon-Levitt concocts all sorts of diabolical new weapons and gadgets to unleash on the innocent.
Oh and there are ninjas too. Good guy Snake Eyes played by Ray Park wears sleek black body armor while the evil Storm Shadow played by Byung-hun Lee runs around in a updated version of Elvis Presley’s classic all-white jumpsuit.
Loaded with scene after scene of high-tech action-movie eye candy G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra assaults the senses with such a relentless barrage of over-the-top stunts eye-popping visual effects and stylized fight sequences that only the most coldly cynical of viewers will be able to resist submitting to its visceral charms.
As with most sugary indulgences the sweet dizzying high is followed almost immediately by a painful crash. Feelings of guilt and shame start to simmer as you kick yourself for yielding to such soulless gluttony. The next morning you awake with a throbbing headache and a heart filled with regret. The following day a doctor informs you that you have adult-onset diabetes. So in a nutshell G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is the cinematic equivalent of adult-onset diabetes.
The scene where they have the big fight with all the advanced weapons and a whole bunch of stuff blows up. Oh wait that’s EVERY scene.
For the bulk of his performance Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s face is obscured by a bulky breathing apparatus and his voice is altered to sound like the computerized movie trailer's narrator. Which makes one wonder why they bothered to hire a name actor for the role in the first place.