“My dick is going to get so wet tonight ” declares Costa the foul-mouthed ringleader of a trio of sex-starved teens in the opening moments of Project X the new “found-footage” comedy from director Nima Nourizadeh and producer Todd Phillips (The Hangover). Believe it or not this qualifies as one of his more charming moments in the film. All of 17 but blessed with an obnoxiousness lesser men would take decades to cultivate Costa (Oliver Cooper) is the perfect mascot for a film that makes no bones of its mostly prurient intentions proffering what is essentially a succession of debaucherous montages intermingled with uneven attempts at comedy and held together by the slimmest pretense of a plot.
Caustic as he is Costa at least exhibits something of a recognizable personality; the same cannot be said of his two cohorts the tubby dweeb J.B. (Jonathan Daniel Brown) and the earnest blank Thomas (Thomas Mann). None of them seem to enjoy much in the way of popularity at their high school located in the fictional suburb of North Pasadena but Costa has a plan to fix that. On the occasion of his 17th birthday Thomas whose parents have conveniently departed for the weekend reluctantly agrees to host a party that Costa promises will be a “game-changer” for their lowly social status.
Hardly a game-changer is Project X’s script co-written by Matt Drake and Michael Bacall which mostly treads a predictable teen-comedy path. At its outset the party appears to be a bust. Soon however hordes of eager revelers descend upon Thomas’ house and the event swiftly devolves into a festival of wanton hedonism that would impress Charlie Sheen. The orgy of booze drugs and sex is captured by Nourizadeh in one impressively slick sequence after another set to a vibrant soundtrack.
To maintain the guise of an actual movie – and to occupy us between shots of topless beauties downing tequila and frolicking in the pool – Project X tosses in a few familiar tropes to push its story along: an unstable drug-dealer bent on revenge a buzzkilling neighbor seeking to end the night’s festivities prematurely a budding but hesitant attraction between Thomas and his childhood friend Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton). But the scenes are so hollow and contrived that you get the sense even the filmmakers don’t buy them and only added them to the film in a transparent ploy to forestall allegations of complete and utter vapidity. The efforts serve only to add a dash of the banal to the proceedings.
Project X’s natural forebears – R-rated teen comedies Superbad and American Pie – tempered their crudity and outrageousness with a surprising degree of depth and sincerity. Moreover they were actually funny. Project X is a shallow affair to be sure but a dearth of laughs is what ultimately dooms it. A belligerent little person who goes on a crotch-kicking spree after being tossed in an oven amounts to the film’s most sophisticated attempt at humor. More often it relies on recycled gags from previous films (including Phillips’ own library from Road Trip to The Hangover Part II) and Jackass-inspired mishaps.
The found-footage approach has proven to be a potent (if overused) tool in horror films but its utility in the service of comedy at least in the hands of Nourizadeh is limited. It mostly comes across as a needless gimmick good for marketing purposes but little else. Perhaps acknowledging as much Project X’s backup plan calls for an incessant raising of the stakes. As the once-innocuous gathering metastasizes into a fully-fledged riot one so dangerous that even the police dare not intervene the specter of parental disapproval gives way to the threat of incarceration and finally to the potential incineration of the entire neighborhood. The scale of the destruction is impressive – especially for such a (presumably) low-budget film – but like much of what precedes it almost entirely pointless.
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S3E14: Is it possible that The Vampire Diaries is actually getting better in its third season? No, I’m not talking about the idea that Damon has become like Stefan and Stefan is more like the old Damon. I'm talking about the plot between Klaus and Caroline, the intrigue amongst the Originals, and the manner in which Elena’s hold on the Salvatores is more and more like Katherine’s original hold every day. Of course, I’m also pretty excited about the increasing amount of horror tropes being phased into the series. There are vampires about, things should be pretty terrifying, so keep that coming please!
“Can we back in time to the old Stefan who cared if Elena lived or died?” –Damon
“What for? That’s your job now.” –Stefan
Elena is leaving the hospital where Alaric is recovering, and Rebekah is there to try to kill her. Elijah shows up and saves Elena so he can tell her about the news: Esther is the original witch who Bonnie and Abby released from the fourth coffin. He shares Esther’s promise of family and he promises that the originals won’t hurt Elena, Damon or Stefan. Elena says she believes him, then an invitation shows up from The Michaelson Family (the Originals) with a note from Esther saying she and Elena can finally meet. Damon won’t let her go, insists on going in her place because she can’t protect herself, but it’s obvious that Stefan and Elena don’t agree with his plan. And this comes shortly after Stefan admired Elena for becoming so much stronger and independent - she can protect herself, actually.
Before the ball, Caroline tries to get Elena to take Stefan, but she doesn’t want to deal with either of the Salvatores. She can’t go with Stefan because he’s all hurt and angry and when she gets to Damon, Caroline says she knows they kissed and she’s hurt that Elena didn’t tell her. This just goes deeper into Elena’s troubled “I don’t know how I feel” speech. What else is new? Most of us don’t know how we feel about it either – choosing between Damon and Stefan becoming increasingly difficult.
“You look ravishing in that dress.” –Klaus
“I didn’t really have time to shop.” –Caroline
“What about that bracelet I gave you? What’s your excuse for wearing that?” –Klaus
But Caroline’s got confusion of her own. Tyler calls to say he’s devoted to her just as she gets a knock at the door along with a present and an invitation to the Originals ball from Klaus. She’s pretty taken by the gorgeous blue dress, but quickly closes the box, later calling it a sick Cinderella fetish. She reluctantly wears Klaus’ dress – but takes the extra step and puts the bracelet on too. She’s rude to Klaus from the get-go, but it seems she’s softening in a few ways. (Yeah, finding a guy who uses words like “ravishing” can do that.) After they share a dance, he finds her outside near the horses. She demands to know why she’s there and he’s very frank: he “fancies” her. She says she’s with Tyler, but it’s apparent that Klaus’ tender story about how his father beheaded his favorite horse (The Godfather anyone?) chips away at her a little. She says he should have tried talking to his father, but he says she wouldn’t understand – um, actually she would. Her father did burn her to try to de-vampire her. Still, Caroline has reached her limit and storms off, destroying Klaus. How is it that I’m feeling bad for him now? (Oh, maybe because his mother wants to kills him.)
But it goes even further. Klaus shows her his art collection, stolen via compulsion from The Louvre, and the bracelet belonged to a princess “almost as beautiful as” Caroline. It turns out that Klaus is an artist, which just makes me like him even more. (I know, it feels unnatural.) Caroline says she’s never been anywhere, he says he’ll take her wherever she wants. They laugh, but then she insults him again, saying he needs his hybrids so that he can get whatever he wants when he snaps his fingers. She tells him to let Tyler go so he can have his life back – is anyone else thinking he asked Tyler to bite her just so he would clear the way for Klaus? Caroline isn’t making it easy for him (which is why I think this storyline is going to be great). She says he didn’t get love from his father and assumes he can't get it elsewhere, so he needs it from hybrids - “You don’t connect with people because you don’t even try to understand them.” Pretty astute for an 18 year-old and all the more reason for the 1000 year-old to want her more. Plus, good job, Caroline, for being a strong woman on top of being the compassionate soul she already is.
“What did he do, give you five minutes of his attention?” –Kol
Rebekah asks Matt to the ball, originally as a torture device for Elena and Co. She and Kol plan to kill Matt, even though Esther’s rules prevent such behavior. And perhaps it’s the jealousy his attentions towards Caroline creates or the fact that when she takes him outside to kill him, he romantically puts his letterman jacket around her shoulders, but Rebekah changes her mind. At heart, she’s just a girl who wants to feel pretty and liked, and Matt is making her feel that way. She calls off the kill, but Kol gives Rebekah a hard time. And when her brother tries to kill Matt later that night, none of us are surprised. Rebekah is such a heartbreaking character because she lives with her whole heart. If she’s hurt, someone’s dying, but if she’s feeling good, everything is wonderful all the sudden. I suppose that’s what happens when you combine vampire sensibilities with teenage girl hormones.
“You’re going to help us kill Klaus, aren’t you?” –Elena
“One thing at a time, Elena.” –Esther
Despite Damon’s command, both Elena and Stefan show up, but he’s sure to forbid Elena from speaking with Esther alone. When she challenges him, he diffuses the situation by asking her to dance, and Stefan is visibly pissed. Damon says she looks stunning, and this scene is reminiscent of the debutant ball when Damon had to stand in for blood-driven Stefan. Then through the dance’s requisite partner swap, she’s thrown into Stefan, who says Damon needs to realize that Elena can take care of herself – which is exactly what new Elena wants to hear. She pulls Stefan off the dance floor to talk. She asks Stefan to help get Damon off her back so she can see Esther and she says she asked him because he cares more about killing Klaus than anything. He’s visibly hurt again but he says it’s true and that he’ll do whatever she needs. And when Elena expresses her happiness at his ability to trust her and let her be independent, like he did when they were dating, Stefan broods even harder.
Stefan’s favor is knocking Damon out when Elena lures him into the study. On her way to see Esther, Elijah stops her asks Elena to tell him what she says because he doesn’t trust his mother. Elena reaches the room and learns that Esther’s body was preserved with a spell and only the Bennett line could open the casket. She’s been on the other side for 1000 years as penance for the unnatural act of turning her family into vampires and she needs Elena’s help. Though she did it to save her children, Esther sees their lifestyle as an “abomination.” She needs a drop of Elena’s blood (because Doppelganger blood is the 21 Seasoning Salute of supernatural potions) for the ritual: she’s binding the siblings, so that if one dies they all die. She needs Elena to convince Elijah to drink the Doppelganger champagne because he’s suspicious. Elena does it, even though she feels terrible. Later, Esther adds the final ingredient, the blood of her son (who is ready and willing to die with his siblings when the time comes) finalizes the bond, but she is terrible sad that her good, moral son Elijah will also have to die. (Me too!) Clearly, there will be something else to this secret bond – this is the year of the Originals after all.
“Now you’re mad at me for including Stefan?” –Elena
“No, I’m mad at you because I love you.” –Damon
“Well, maybe that’s a problem.” –Elena
Damon wakes up from his broken neck and fights Stefan, who says Damon cares too much and his emotions are getting in the way of his and Elena’s plan. Damon has become Stefan, and more importantly he’s become a liability. Damon grabs Elena and demands they leave. They fight and he says he’s just trying to keep her alive, she says he would have ruined everything. And in his anger, he spills his guts about that four-letter word. And just like that, Elena crushes him. I said she’s getting a little Pertova-esque and this scene proves that, but she’s still not Katherine. She just happens to be doing a little more hurtful tugging that she has in the past. The difference is that Elena feels remorse for it.
Damon is hurt and finds Kol trying to kill Matt so he starts ripping into Kol. Stefan stops him and Damon walks away crazed and angry – and just like that, is the old Damon back? He finds Rebekah at the Grill later right after Matt has rejected her because the risks of a supernatural lifestyle are too much for him. They’re both feeling sad and needy, and there was that flirtation earlier in the episode (not to mention earlier in the season) so they have messy, rough vampire sex in the bathroom. And you know what, Damon deserves at least a little release, but something tells me Rebekah’s going to wind up hurting after all is said and done – she’s a fragile little flower.
Caroline calls Tyler and says she misses him and wishes he was there. Then she notices a present on the bed: a drawing of her and a horse with a note that says “Thank you for your honesty.” It’s from Klaus, and man, is he trying. This is going to be an interesting slow burn and I like it. I like it a lot. The Salvatore love triangle is great, but the ballad of Caroline and the original hybrid? That’s a spicy storyline.
“I said something I didn’t mean.” –Elena
“So did I.” –Stefan
Stefan takes Elena home and she’s feeling guilty for signing the Originals’ death sentences. Stefan (who is truly protective, but trusts Elena’s judgment more than Damon seems to) says that the family has brought her pain, so it’s simple. They’re collateral damage. And then we get to the good part, Stefan admits that he said something he didn’t mean earlier, which I think it’s safe to assume was that bit when he said killing Klaus was more important than Elena’s safety. And that flicker is all Elena needs to burst at the seams, finally. She can’t turn off her feelings like Stefan, so she grabs him and begs him to come back and to feel something. And just when you think he’s going to break, he offers up an argument it’s pretty hard to refute: “If I let myself care, all I feel is pain.” It’s a little emo for my tastes, but it means that if Elena wants Stefan back, she’s going to have to be a man about it. She’s done all that growing, now it’s time to put it to more use than being able to pack a punch.
Look, I’m all for the struggle between Damon and Stefan. I’m usually fairly torn, but the whole independence angle is really rocking the boat for me. Damon does coddle Elena – he does it out of love, but it’s not what she wants and it’s not what she needs. If Stefan really thought she was unable to save herself, he’d swoop in a save her, but he trusts that she’s strong enough to take care of herself and make her own decisions. This episode, Damon treated her like a child, and her choice – whether it is to not be a vampire, or go to a ball, or talk to Esther – has always been incredibly important to Elena and right now, Stefan is the only one offering to preserve that right. So for the time being, team Stelena is where I’ll park it.
Do you agree that Damon treats Elena like a child? And what about Caroline and Klaus? Doesn’t that potential pair just make you giddy? What do you think is really going on with that binding curse? Could it backfire on the witch? (I’m certainly more inclined to want Elijah and Klaus to stick around over Esther.) Let me know in the comments or get at me on Twitter @KelseaStahler