Tag Archives: The Breakfast Club

Starter for Ten

Starter-For-Ten-1-D25UKS4LJM-1024x768This movie was recommended to me months ago, and I just got around to seeing it.  I could not believe the amount of recognizable British actors that are in this one movie.  James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall, Alice Eve, Mark Gatiss, James Corden, Dominic Cooper, Catherine Tate, Guy Henry, the list goes on.  Well, no, that’s about it, but it’s a pretty long list!

The movie is about James McAvoy, a working-class Essex boy obsessed with gaining knowledge, knowing the answers.  I can relate to that. Not the Essex boy part, the knowledge part.  He is accepted to university at Bristol to ‘read’ English literature.

He is leaving behind his 2 non-intellectual friends, played by James Corden and Dominic Cooper.

dominic cooperCooper is doing his best impression of Ralph Macchio in this movie. Or, if Ralph Macchio was a T bird:

Brian (McAvoy) has barely arrived in Bristol before he spots a poster for tryouts for the ‘University Challenge’ team. I think I remember watching a few episodes of University Challenge when I was in London.  I didn’t have a TV, so I was limited to whatever the BBC iplayer was willing to show me.  QI and University Challenge are about the only British TV I managed to see while I lived there.  Ironic.  But I digress…

If you don’t know University Challenge, it’s exactly what you would expect. Teams from a specific college go and compete in a sort of academic decathlon. Apparently it used to be hosted by someone named Bamber Gascoigne.  If that’s not a name from Middle Earth, I don’t know what is. Anyway, this movie takes place in the ’80s, when Bamber was the host. Mark Gatiss, almost unrecognizable, plays Bamber.

Brian immediately wants to audition for the team. He used to watch the show with his (now deceased) dad, who always encouraged his thirst for knowledge.

But Brian wanders off his course really quickly.  As soon as he sees Alice (played by Alice Eve) at the audition, he is smitten to the point of being pathetic.  He helps her cheat, and then she ends up on the team instead of him, because of the 2 answers he gives her.  Why are men so dumb? Luckily, the Pete Best of the team ends up injured or sick or something, and is never seen again. Brian, as first reserve, is now on the team:


The leader of the team is Patrick Watts (Cumberbatch) and oh my god he is annoying and so unattractive. It doesn’t help that it’s the ’80s and all the men have hideous outfits (except Dominic Cooper, because he looks like he’s in the ’50s).  No one looks good in high-waisted acid wash jordache jeans, okay? It was just a terrible time to be a human being. He wears awful sweaters and awful pants, and slicks his hair off to the side and it’s just all bad.  Worse, he’s got a really intolerable personality!

Brian falls for Alice pretty quickly, but he also meets Rebecca, played by Rebecca Hall–why do all the women in this movie have characters with the same first name? Anyway, Rebecca Hall is clearly doing her best Molly Ringwald impression.

imagesAnd she does look and act a lot like Molly Ringwald…or maybe I am just associating the two because it takes place in the ’80s, but I think if Andie Walsh had gone off to university, she probably would have been protesting nuclear power or nuclear weapons or sexual harassment, etc., etc.  That’s what Rebecca Hall’s character does.  Brian makes a joke that ‘the lady doth protest too much’.  It’s funny if you’re very familiar with Hamlet…

The movie is a bit predictable, and I did find myself relating all of it to a John Hughes movie.  By the way, if anyone reading this is not familiar with the John Hughes oeuvre, go, now.  Watch at least The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Uncle Buck, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. You’re an incomplete human person if you don’t know these movies.  Go on, get out.

Starter for 10 falls into that predictable trope of someone falls in love with the wrong person, and finally realizes at the very end that they really belong with the person that was next to them the whole time.  A bit tired, and, quite frankly, not done quite as well as John Hughes could do it.

But it was still an interesting movie, and an excellent place to spot people who are much more famous now than when they made this movie.  So I enjoyed watching it, even if it was a bit overly-simplified. If you’re not sold, you should look at this picture:


So many questions must be occurring to you…  Is that really Mark Gatiss???  Why has Benedict Cumberbatch been punched in the face? Did James McAvoy have a nosebleed? No, but seriously, what is up with Mark Gatiss and that wig? For all these answers, and more, just watch the movie.

Still not sold?? The movie features an amazing selection of ’80s music, including Kate Bush, the Cure, the Psychedelic Furs, Buzzcocks, Motörhead, The Smiths, Tears for Fears…come on.  What more do you need than early Morrissey?!

TV Show Review: The Book Group

I found this show on my Netflix instant recommendations a month or two ago. I had heard good things from fellow bloggers, so I gave it a chance. I really enjoyed it, though it ended abruptly and that makes me very irritated when shows aren’t given a proper ending.

The show is really an ensemble, but the first episode at least centers around Clare (Anne Dudek, aka Amber from House), an American who has just moved to Glasgow and starts a book group in an effort to meet friends.  The first meeting is at her new flat, and she is rather shocked by the people who turn up.  I will say that none of these people would normally all be in a room together.  Claire is an intellectual (or she would describe herself that way, at any rate), and I imagine she expected people with tweed jackets and elbow patches to turn up, ready to discuss Jane Austen and do in-depth analysis of literature.  She does get one PhD student, Barney,  doing his dissertation on Garcia Marquez, and she immediately takes a shine to him, especially in light of the others in the group.  There’s:

Kenny, the wheelchair-bound aspiring novelist, who turns out to be the nicest of the group by far.

Janice, the footballer’s wife, who wants to be a TV anchorwoman.

Dirka and Fist, both of whom are vapid and superficial. One is from Sweden, the other Holland. Both are dating/married to footballers, if my memory serves.

Rab, who has zero interest in books it turns out, but is very interested in football (and the sexy men who play it).

None of them seem particularly interested in books, except Clare and Barney.  It’s obvious quite early that Clare looks down on the others in the group, but this fact is tempered by the fact that it is so easy to look down on her while you’re watching the show.  She is really rude, and despite hosting the book group at her flat doesn’t offer refreshments of any kind or attempt to be hospitable. She is rude and ignorant about UK culture, which makes me cringe.  Even worse, in the second season her sister comes to stay, and suddenly Clare seems to be worldly and wise, and the sister’s stereotypical ignorance is even more pronounced.  She says’ Edinburgh’ the way it’s spelled, and when a Scot corrects her, her answer is this:

“You say tomaaahto, I say tomaayto. But you’re wrong, because it’s tomaayto.”

No wonder the world hates us.

The show, unfortunately, only lasts 2 seasons, and it has its problems.  The plots sometimes pick up and let go in weird places, not following much through to fruition. Relationships among the book groupers are fairly incestuous, short-lived, and tempestuous.  But there are also really funny moments that equally mock the intellectuals and the athletes.  It’s a bit like if a couple of cheerleaders, the quarterback of the football team, a girl from the honor roll, the water boy, and a drug-addled student teacher got together to discuss books–to use a thoroughly American high school analogy.  Wait…did I just describe the Breakfast Club?  The point is, it’s a very odd group of people to be in the same room, and that makes for some really interesting and funny situations.

The downfall of the show, in my opinion, is that it is so farcical. The characters let their minds wander away into deep fantasy and I found those scenes jarring and weird, even when they were funny. And when one character dies in the series, the same actor comes in to play his brother, and stays for the rest of the show.

Just a note so that you won’t be disappointed like I was–they almost never talk about the actual books that they read. When they do, however, it’s pretty hilarious.  After watching this, I can comprehend why people hate it when English majors go to their book clubs.  I only hope I’m not like that!

In the end, it’s a fun show, if you don’t expect it to be deep or life-changing. It’s good for a laugh.