Tag Archives: young adult

Binge or No? – Netflix’s 3%

Cross-posted at Agony Booth.com

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Though it may have been ever-so-slightly overshadowed by a certain other Netflix series whose name may or may not rhyme with Shmilmore Shmirls, November 25th brought with it the debut of 3%, an eight-episode Brazilian series that may not be quite as innovative as it believes itself to be but that doesn’t make it any less engaging or timely.

Imagine a world where the economic elite build a wall to keep out the lower economic classes, and then take it one step further, by putting an entire island’s length between a small percentage of rich privileged folks, and the poor underprivileged masses who make up the societal majority. Crazy, right? Unfortunately, not in this day and age.

looking-over-masses

At first blush (and second, and third), 3% is a dystopian young adult fantasy, the likes of which you’ve seen before in countless successful novel trilogies and films. The premise is simple: at some point in the not-so-distant future, society alters itself in some way that it believes will increase the peace among the people. So, a group of young attractive folks of varied social backgrounds and dubious moral compositions, must compete with one another, to prove they are worthy of living in the upper echelons of this new society.

elimiinated

What’s refreshing (albeit, a bit frightening) about 3%’s view of future dystopian society, is that, unlike some of its predecessor’s visions (A society based on individuals’ possession of singular random personality traits? HUH? A society based on the fact that rich people, with terrible taste in clothing, get their kicks out of watching poor teenagers murder one another? WHAT?), this series’ premise actually seems fairly plausible.

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In short, this is a future society based, at least ostensibly, solely on merit. Every year, all the 20 year olds in the poor part of the world (“the Inland”) compete with one another in a series of mental, physical, psychological, emotional, and team-building tests known as “the Process.” Those who score in the top three percent on those tests get to join the world of the elite on an island referred to as “the Offshore.”

I even liked how the tests involved in “the Process” actually required some intelligence, leadership, and cooperative thinking, and weren’t just about people beating the crap out of one another . . .

building-blocks

This is not to say that I think the fictional society created in 3% is a good idea. In fact, the series takes great pains to show you that it is not. Specifically, like any form of society premised upon separating the haves from the have-nots, it breeds corruption among those in power. It also seems to reward those most capable of deception, manipulation, and, at times, out-right violence, at the expense of those individuals who are honest and more docile.

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And, of course, like many series involving a dystopian society, this one includes a rebellious faction, hell-bent on overthrowing the current status quo, in exchange something “better.” In the 3%, these folks are referred to as “the Cause.”

But unlike some of the more simplistic dystopian stories, 3% is a bit less black-and-white in how it views its society. In fact, the arguable main villain of the story, Ezequiel, the person responsible for creating and running the process whereby the 3% are ultimately selected, is easily the most complex, multi-faceted, and interesting character in the series. Likewise, the members of “the Cause,” the would- be heroes of a tale like this, are shown to have some dubious, less than noble, motivations of their own, for doing the things they do.

covered-up

Character is something the 3% offers in abundance. There are some juicy intriguing characters here, ones that don’t fall into the pat stereotypes that tend to pervade this particular genre. The episodes are structured in the now-familiar format made popular by the TV series, Lost. Namely, each character (at least the important ones) get their own “centric” episode, which flashes back to key moments of their past, before whisking them back to the present in the Process, thereby illuminating how their experiences in the former, dictate or inform their actions in the latter.

climbing

To keep you entertained and guessing, the series also offers some clever twists along the way. Some of which you will guess quite easily, early on, even before the characters do. Others may genuinely surprise you.

One of the things I enjoyed, particularly about the earlier episodes of the series was the fact that, since I didn’t know any of these actors and I wasn’t reading a book about them told from a first-person perspective, I was never entirely sure which participants in the Process would be eliminated in a particular episode. In fact, more than once, a character I thought would be important to the story suffered an early elimination and became a complete non-entity.

elite

I would be remiss not to mention that the actors in 3% speak in Brazilian Portuguese. So, if that’s not your first language, some adjustments will have to be made before beginning the series on Netflix. A number of dubbing options, including English, are available. But the message boards are informing me that the English dubbing kind of sucks. Therefore, I recommend watching 3% as I did, in its native tongue, with your chosen language as subtitles. I promise it won’t detract from your viewing pleasure.

Another caveat: Given the heavy amount of exposition generally required for the world-building of dystopian series’ like this one, I found the first episode of 3% to be a bit slow-moving, and some of the dialogue involved in it to be unnatural, at best, and clichéd, at worst. If you feel as I did after watching episode 1, I recommend trying episode 2, anyway. It gets better.

surprise

In Summation: The 3% offers up many of the structural, thematic, and narrative devices you’ve come to expect from dystopian young adult stories. However, it’s use of a plausible premise that will have you and your friends debating the merits of a sociological oligarchy based on merit, complex characters, and clever plotting overrides some of its more clichéd aspects for an entertaining and intelligent viewing experience . . . provided you’ve selected the proper subtitle settings prior to viewing.

FINAL ANSWER: BINGE IT!

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Step Inside The Secret Circle – A Look at one of the CW’s Most Promising New Fall Series

“Hi!  We are a group of extremely attractive, well-dressed, early twenty-somethings, pretending to be teens.  One of our favorite hobbies is to stare at the camera, in a vaguely angry (but, not too threatening) way.”

I’ll start off by saying that I don’t have the best luck writing these types of posts.  The last new “fall premiere program,” I previewed on my blog, before the pilot aired, was a show called My Generation.  Don’t remember it?  Maybe, that’s because it got CANCELLED AFTER TWO EPISODES!

And yet, given that THIS new program is (1)  is based on popular book series, written by the same author who penned The Vampire Diaries; (2) is being produced by Kevin Williamson, the Big Kahuna behind The Vampire Diaries; (3)  will air on the CW, Thursday nights, directly AFTER The Vampire Diaries, I feel fairly confident that this show will last AT LEAST half a season, if not longer . . .

I am so insanely beautiful and talented, that merely by standing in close proximity to me, YOU will also appear to be more beautiful and talented.”

So, now that I’ve (hopefully) proven that reading this blog post will not be a TOTAL waste of your time maybe just a partial waste? let’s delve into The Secret Circle, shall we?

The Source

As I mentioned earlier, this upcoming CW series (like the successful Vampire Diaries franchise before it) will be based on a collection of L.J. Smith novels bearing the same name.  The Secret Circle book series was a trilogy comprised of the following novels: (1) The Initiation, (2) The Captive, and (3) The Power.  Both the television and the book series revolve around a girl named Cassie,  who learns that she is a powerful teenage witch, who just so happens to belong to an elite “circle” of OTHER powerful teenage witches.  And yet, if The Secret Circle television series is anything like The Vampire Diaries television series, that’s about where the similarities between the books and the TV show will end . . .

One main difference between the books and television series that already has fans buzzing is the size of the titular Circle, itself.  The book calls for a coven of twelve teens to complete the circle, whereas the show only seems to require six.  Granted, in terms of consistent character development, a twelve-member regular cast can seem a bit overwhelming to some writers . . .

On the other hand, a number of fans question the showrunner’s decision to excise so many potential HOT MALE WARLOCk roles, on a show geared predominately toward young FEMALES.  In terms of teenage male leads, The Secret Circle only has two, for now.  Will a choice between just two dudes be enough to please fangirls, in the long term?  That remains to be seen . . .

The Cast of Characters

Leading lady, Cassie Blake, who undoubtedly will eventually become romantically involved with BOTH male leads (Sound familiar?) . . .

 . . . will be played by Brittany Robertson.   Some of you might remember Brittany as Lux from the recently canceled CW series, Life Unexpected. You also might recognize her as one of the many dead girls in Scream 4.  (Sorry to spoil the movie for you guys!).

Thomas Dekker plays the brooding and soulful, Adam Conant, boyfriend of “Good Witch” Diana Meade, and main love interest of Cassie Blake.  You might remember Thomas as John Connor from the recently canceled Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, or as, one of the many dead guys in The Nightmare on Elm Street remake.  (Am I the only one who is starting to notice a pattern, here?)

Phoebe Tonkin plays the bitchy, power-hungry, Mean Girl / potential “Bad Witch,” Faye Chamberlain.  Aussies might recognize Phoebe as Cleo from the the television series H20: Just Add Water.  She also played Fiona in the film Tomorrow, When the War Began.

Speaking of Aussies, Louis Hunter, who plays the flirtatious and slightly arrogant (but still sexy) Nick Armstrong, is, perhaps, best known for his role as Kyle in the Australian series, Out of the Blue.

Kind-hearted head witch, Diana Meade will be played by Shelley Hennig, who soap opera fans might remember as Stephanie Johnson on Days of Our Lives.

Rounding out the titular Secret Circle as Faye’s Mean Girl Sidekick witch, Melissa Glaser, is Jessica Parker Kennedy, who fans of the CW’s Smallville might remember as comic book villain, Plastique.

Arguably the shows most recognizable cast member, Gale Horold, plays the murderous Thomas Meade.  Television credits for Gale Harold include Hellcats, Queer as Folk, and Desperate Housewives.

And finally . . .

While perhaps best known as a freaky man-killing alien from the movie, Species, Natasha Henstridge, who plays the not quite trustworthy Principal Chamberlain, also had starring roles in television programs, including, Eli Stone and She Spies.

Analyzing the Extended Promo

Now, that you’ve met the cast, it’s time to take a look at the Extended Promo, which I plan to discuss in more detail below.  So, watch and learn, Witches and Warlocks! 

(Note: Due to some SUPER ANNOYING copyright restrictions, it looks like they’ve removed the extended promo for this show from EVERYWHERE it was posted, except for the CW Website, itself.  Nevertheless, if you still want to “watch with ME,” feel free to click on this link, either before, or while, you are viewing the analysis below.)

:00 – “My sweet Cassie, I did not want you to have this life.  But Destiny is not easy to run from.”

“Grrrrrrrr!  ROAD RAGE!”

Poor Cassie!  Apparently, “Destiny” is not easy to drive from, either.  We aren’t 30 seconds into the trailer, and already, Cassie has been driven off the road by some Asshat Driver, got a flat tire, and is about to lose cell phone reception, while stranded in Middle of Nowhere U.S.A..  Of course, judging by what happens to her next, this is probably the BEST part of her night . . .

:30 – “I know how to change a TIRE, MOM!”

Here’s a hint:  Don’t get too attached to Mommy, kids.  Because THIS ONE isn’t going to make it out of the promo alive.  I actually think this might be the first time I’ve ever seen a cast member DIE in the PREVIEW for a pilot episode.  Talk about a SPOILER ALERT!  I mean, that’s gotta be a first, right?  And we all know how much Kevin Williamson likes his BIG BODY COUNTS! 

I’m just wondering why (since Cassie’s mom is supposed to be this Big Powerful Witch) couldn’t she, I don’t know,  cast a spell to prevent her from . . . BEING BURNED ALIVE IN HER OWN HOME?  Weird . . .

:45 – [Insert sound of burning flesh here.]

We are just under the one-minute mark, when we get our first look at the EEEVIIL Thomas Meade, as he bakes Cassie’s mom for dinner.  I found the whole scene pretty shocking, the first time I saw it.  On a Non-Dead Mom note, notice how the Four Elements come into play in this scene.  Witch shows always tend to be big on the whole Four Elements thing, “earth, air, fire, water” and all that.  Notice how, the Evil One drops a bottle of water on the floor to trigger the burst pipe in Cassie’s kitchen, and lights the matches to trigger the fatal gas leak. 

Also, Dude’s got some SERIOUSLY FREAKY EYES!  Are we sure he’s not a vampire?

*sniffs*  “Do you smell something burning?”

1:04 – “Cassie.”

“I think I may have left the oven light on.”

Cassie’s mom .  . . DEAD .  . . in under two minutes.  Impressive.  You know what else I found impressive?  The fact that this good-hearted Mommy’s final thoughts were of her daughter’s soon-to-be orphan status.  (No word on “Daddy” yet.   I’m thinking there’s some sort of Big Backstory there.)  That sure was nice of Mommy to think so selflessly of her kid, while her body was getting barbecued. 

Because you know what MY final thought would have been, if I was in her position?  I suspect it would be something like, “Hmmm . . .  I wonder how painful it is to be burned alive in your own home.  I’m going to guess excruciatingly painful.  Time to test out this theory.” 

Then again, perhaps, it would be something a bit less eloquent, like, for example, “F*&K, I’M GOING TO DIE! AHHHHHHHHHH!”

1:15 – “Welcome to Chance Harbor.”

I noticed that, in the books, the town where the story takes place is called New Salem.  I’m kind of glad they changed it.   Because that would be a bit TOO MUCH Cheesy Witch Symbolism, don’t you think?  And yet, I can’t help but notice all the OBVIOUS parallels between THIS sleepy town, and TVD’s Mystic Falls. 

I mean, think about it, you’ve got the whole Small Town Hiding a Big Supernatural Secret thing . . . the Founding Families thing . .  . even the whole Old Diaries and Letters from the Past Inform the Present thing.  Plus, I’m willing to bet there’s only One Bar / Social Establishment HERE too!

“Been there, drunk that.”

1:25 – “Cassie!  I’m really glad you’re here.”  But I’m not glad that my kid died of some Weird Witchcraft Accident . . . because that would be, you know, inappropriate.”

 “This is the part where my eyes glow bright red, and I snap your neck.  Oh . . . wait . . . wrong show.  Sorry!”

Hmmm . . . Grandma looks pretty young to have a grandchild in her late teens, doesn’t she?  Come to think of it, most of the “parents” on this show, appear to be a bit young looking.  Maybe being a witch comes with anti-aging powers, or something?

I have to say, I’m already worried about Grandma’s fate on this show.  After all, we all know full well that the statistics regarding Grandmas surviving supernatural dramas are not exactly in her favor.  Just ask Sookie’s Granny on True Blood . . .

 . . . or Bonnie’s grandma on The Vampire Diaries .

Oh wait, you can’t ask them . . . because they are both DEAD!

1:35 – “And she will soon discover that her arrival will bring the Town’s Dark Secret to light.”

“If I see anything I haven’t seen before, I’ll throw a dollar at it.”

I love how when the voiceover teased that the Town had “Dark Secrets,” they chose to show us an image of Open-Shirted Nick, of all things . . .

Hot?  Yes.  Damon Salvatore-caliber hot?  No.

So, is that supposed to be the town’s Big Dark Secret, that hot guys hang out in windows with their shirts open?  Still, the fact that this six-minute preview featured BOTH a death, and a half-naked hot man, I find VERY promising . . .

1:37 –

And . . . here we are at Chance Harbor High.  So, do you think Cassie will actually GO TO SCHOOL on this show, or will she be a TOTAL derelict, like Elena Gilbert?

“Hey!  I resent that remark.  I am a VERY good student.  I attend EVERY school dance!”

1:40 – “We are happy to have you here, Cassie.  I’m Principal Chamberlain.  Your mother was  . . . very special to me.  And by “special” I mean I wanted to use my magical powers to turn her into a slug.

I once saw the woman pictured above in a movie, where she enticed a man to have sex with her, seconds before MORPHING INTO A SERIOUSLY UGLY ALIEN LIFEFORM, AND IMPALING HIS HEAD WITH HER SNAKE-LIKE TONGUE!  So, yeah, I don’t care how pretty Principal Chamberlain is, or how nice of a smile she has . . . I don’t trust her!

1:46 – “Have you seen her yet?”

“Did I SEE her?  I did a little striptease for her in front of my bedroom window.  She is now pregnant with my children.  Magical Powers ROCK!”

Well, HELLO LOVE TRIANGLE!  The romantic aspects of this tale COULD prove to be particularly interesting, considering that both of Cassie’s suitors are, at this time, technically “taken” by other members of the Secret Circle.  I’m eager to see how this plays out in the show’s first season.  However, beyond that, I already feel like, if this show wants to last, it’s going to need MORE hot male blood infused in it, and FAST!

1:53 – “She’s meeting a new Circle of Friends.”

Was it just me?  Or did this scene IMMEDIATELY make you think of the movie Mean Girls?  Phoebe Tonkin was ABSOLUTELY channeling Regina George, when she pulled that little locker trick.  Is it any wonder that her sidekick, Melissa, played Plastique in Smallville?  Get it . . . Plastique?  As in . . . The Plastics?

2:02 – “I saw you in school today.  How was your first day?”

*brood, smoulder, smirk, brood, smoulder, smirk*

Adam, i.e. Love Interest Number 1, is clearly angling for the “Dark yet Sensitive Type.”  How original!  It could work though.  So, far, I’m kind of seeing him as a cross between Stefan Salvatore and Jeremy Gilbert.  Anybody else getting those vibes from him?

2:20 – “With her here, we have REAL POWER now!”

 

And so the power to control the Circle begins between the “Good Witch” and the “Bad Witch.”  For the sake of the show, I’m hoping things are a bit more complicated than that.  Otherwise, the dichotomy will get real old, real fast.  I’m definitely liking Faye, as the edgy, yet vulnerable, villainess on the show, however.  She shows real promise . . .

2:33 – “How did the fire go out?”

Only YOU can prevent witchcraft-induced car fires . . .

It’s interesting that Faye, in trying to make Cassie recognize her supernatural abilities, chose, of all things, a Car Fire, especially considering that a Witchy Fire just so happened to be what killed the poor girl’s MOTHER.  And just like I wondered why Cassie’s mom, who KNEW she was a witch, didn’t use her powers to put out the fire, Faye seems to be wondering the same thing about Cassie.

As for the whole Rescue Thing . . .

. . .  did the writers REALLY expect us not to think about Twilight, here.  I know, I know, the book series on which this show is based came out LONG before Twilight did.  But those books also came out before a lot of the future fans of this show were BORN!

For better or worse, Twilight is what we remember NOW.  So, how could the creators of this show not see the quiet brooding supernatural creature, putting out the fire with his “powers,” and rescuing the damsel in distress from the flames, and not immediately think of Edward and Bella?  Just sayin’.

Oh, and Cassie TOTALLY screams like a girl! 🙂

3:09 – “Cassie, wait!  I think I can help.”

Umm . . . yeah, because THAT place isn’t creepy, AT ALL!  It kind of looks like the house at the end of the Blair Witch Project.  *shudders*

We are now half-way through the trailer.  And FINALLY, Cassie gets introduced to the titular “Secret Circle.”  It’s about damn time!

3:32 – “Oh, for god sakes, SPIT IT OUT!  You’re a witch.  You are a full-blooded, 100% witch.  We ALL ARE.”

Haha!  Well, thank you, FAYE!  I always hate when books and television shows take about 35 minutes to come clean about something you already figured out from reading the book jacket or watching the trailer.  At least ONE of the characters on this show has enough sense to call the REST of the characters out on their B.S.  3.5 minutes in, and Faye is already, by far, my favorite character on this show.

3:45 – “Each family has a book.  A book that lays out each family line.”

Ahh, yes the Obligatory Ancient Book wherein you can find the Convenient Cure Alls for all your Plot Problems!  You can’t have a  supernatural series without one!  Speaking of TVD-parallels, as I mentioned earlier, I also found the “six families” concept, to be very “Founding Families-esque. 

Oh, and for those of you who have ever seen the film The Craft, Melissa’s speech, about the Circle only being able to do “lame” spells, until Cassie came along, ABSOLUTELY reminds me of a similar comment made in that film.

 

4:03 – “We can’t let it happen AGAIN.”

Oh, Silly Naive Granny!  Don’t ask the Evil Alien Lady questions like that!  Have I mentioned yet how worried I already am about the fate of this character?

4:17 – “It was covered up.  Something went wrong.  People got hurt.   So, they abolished witchcraft.”

The way they ordered the images in this particular 10-second sequence definitely made it seem as though Thomas Meade killed Cassie’s mom, so that she would be forced to return to Chance Harbor, and complete the “Circle.”  The question is “Why?”  What sort of spell does he want them to cast?

4:28 – “With Cassie here, our powers are magnified ten times over.”

Uh oh!  SOMEONE made it rain, but didn’t remember to bring her umbrella.  Not too swift.

The next sequence features a few images of Faye being “bad ass” with her “rain-making” powers.   I don’t know why they always do crap with the weather in these witch shows.  If I had witchy powers, I’d make myself a millionaire, who looked like a model, and force all hot male celebrities to fall instantly in love with me.  It’s called “creativity” witches.  It’s time you got some .  .  . And I mean that in more ways than one . . . 

We also see that Cassie’s Return has spurred an already restless Faye to more vigorously challenge Diana’s position of power within the Circle.  The problem is, with only six members, being the “leader” of the Circle doesn’t really seem like that big of a deal.  This is definitely a situation where having more “coven” members would have bolstered the plot.

4:45 – “My dear, sweet Cassie.  You finding this means I am gone, and for that I am so sorry.”

Speaking of cliches in supernatural stories . . . here comes the Mandatory, Mildly Touching, Plot Explanation Letter from an Important Dead Person in the Protagonist’s Life  . . . YAY!

4:57 – “It’s incredible.”

Oh, Hell to the NO!  Not another, Romantic Use of Magic Moment!  Where have I seen THIS before?

Oh, that’s right . . . EVERYWHERE!  And, then we have the Almost Kiss . . .

Now, THAT is what I call an appropriate use of your powers, Adam . . . the power to get into your not-girlfriend’s panties.  Well played, Stud . . . at least, until she LEFT YOUR ASS in the forest!

5:15 – “Bad things happen, when you mess with fate.”

And even WORSE things happen, when you mess with Evil-Eyed Thomas Meade, Random Guy!

5:29 – “I was a good friend of your mother’s (and by ‘good friend’ I mean ‘murderer’).”

I LOVE the twist that Evil Thomas Meade is actually GOOD WITCH Diana Meade’s DAD!  I genuinely didn’t see that one coming.  Except, I REALLY don’t think this guy is old enough to have an 17 or 18 year old daughter, do you?  Like I said . . . Witch Fountain of Youth. 

5:37 – “You did the right thing bringing her here.  She has the gift.”

A-HA!  I knew the Alien Principal and Evil-Eyed Meade were in CAHOOTS!  (Just so you know, “cahoots” is my new favorite word.  Except to see it a lot on this blog in the future . . . )

5:40 –

Awww, Nick is writing Cassie grammatically incorrect love letters from his window!  Next thing you know, he will be connecting two soup cans together, with pipe cleaners, and trying to use it as a cell phone.  Speaking of cell phones, doesn’t NICK have one?  I mean, he can’t CALL Cassie, and ASK her if she’s OK?  Talk about LAZY!

5:47 – “I don’t have to do a thing.  The Circle will take care of that without even knowing it.”

[Insert Evil Laugh Here]

OK.  So, how manyof you were actually fooled into thinking that Principal Chamberlain was a “nice lady?”  Yeah, I didn’t think so . . .

5:56 –  “Believe in the power of the Circle . . . You have incredible Power.  People will come for it.  They will come for YOU.”

“Make it stop.”  (My sentiments exactly, Cassie.  This trailer needs to STOP, before you spoil the entire first season . . . or, at least, the first episode.)

And so, we come to the point in our script, where Cassie finally embraces who she is, and uses her powers to stop that Freak Rainstorm that Faye made, earlier in the trailer.  Should we be happy, that Cassie is doing what Fate has seemingly intended for her to do?  Or do we fear that she is playing right into the hands of the Evil Adults? 

I guess you will have to WATCH this Fall to find out . . .

And there you have it, an extended preview of this falls new “hot” supernatural drama, The Secret Circle . . .

So, what did you think?  Will you stay tuned to the CW after TVD, and try this one out, for a “spell?”  Or do you plan to vanquish this series from your memory, forever?

[www.juliekushner.com][Fangirls Forever]

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