Sunday, 31 March 2013

Susan Powter - Burn Fat and Get Fit

Susan Powter is, I understand, famous in the US for her “Stop the Insanity!” fitness infomercials. She published a book of the same name in 1994 and released this – her second workout DVD in the same year.

How to stop Insanity. Step 1: Place hands above ears.

She’s a strange shouty lady but she seems encouraging and enthusiastic in that evangelical way that ex-fat people sometimes have.
However, looking at her website, she appears to have gone full-on batshit crazy recently.

There is a section on the site called “Ask Susan” where people can ask for diet and exercise advice and Powter responds with nonsensical haikus inspired by a Magic 8-ball before being distracted by a shiny piece of paper or something.
Um... right? Thanks, Suse.
The below video is Susan’s attempt to improve your Self Esteem. Or tell you that Self-Esteem doesn’t matter. Or get you to buy her longer Self Esteem video. Or something else. I have absolutely no idea what’s happening here.

Still, back in the mid 90s Susan was on top of her game. She even appeared in an episode of The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air in 1994 which is the nearest thing Americans have to a knighthood.
She was permitted to breathe the same air as this man. She is truly blessed.
‘Burn Fat and Get Fit’ is an interval training workout which Susan is keen to emphasize is suitable for all levels of fitness. She passionately cares that everybody gets moving regardless of current fitness levels. There are frequent reminders to modify the moves so even the rolliest polliest tubs of lards can jog on the spot if we can’t do the step ups, sit on a chair of we can’t do the floor exercises or enthusiastically nod our heads if we are comically stuck in the doorway or something.

She is joined by her two workout buddies Sally and Eric and claims that the workout is being filmed in her own home. In which case, it’s very nice. It could do with a bit more furniture though.
Also, is that ivy growing over your worktop?
Being an ex-fat person, Susan has a photo of her old glum tubby self to show us in the usual “Can you believe I literally used to weigh more than I do now?!?! Crazy, huh?” fashion. As it's a US workout, she is not required by law to stick this on the front of her DVD in greyed out tones otherwise reserved for miserylit as celebs are in the UK.

Susan talks non-stop. Her most used phrase is “Think about it!” which she utters hundreds of times over the course of 54 minutes.
“Knees forward. Think about it!”

“Chest press. Think about it!”
“The energy is in the ham strings. Think about it!”

During the leg strength exercises, she tells us: “This is the sort of strength that gets you out of the house. It gets you from the car to the house”. Thanks, Susan. I was actually already aware what legs are.

The workout includes both aerobic and anaerobic. Is it safe to combine the two? Or is it like mixing matter and anti-matter?
Weirdest Bit
Powter’s scary enthusiasm reaches fever pitch when she congratulates Sally on her breathing. “Listen to Sally breathing, class!” she shouts. I’m not sure if she’s means us at home who have no chance of hearing anything over Powter herself or if she means Eric who’s the only other person in the room. Quite an awkward moment for Eric, if so.

Difficulty Level
Even without modification, the workout is quite doable. You switch between jumping about stuff and stretching stuff and nothing goes on long enough to get really boring. This might be quite similar to the techniques used in Hannah Waterman’s workout a few weeks ago. If I retained any of the information from these workouts longer than the time it takes to write the reviews, I might be fairly knowledgeable on the subject by now.

Would I do this Workout again?
I haven’t decided yet. Maybe I should ask Susan.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Barbie - Dance Workout with Barbie

I know what you are going to say : “Are you shitting me? How the buggering fuck is Barbie a C-List celebrity, you whoremongering imbecile? Barbie is clearly a fucking A List celebrity if ever there was one.” And you’re right, CLCW reader. You’re harsh and you swear way too much but you’re right.

Barbie is probably the biggest celebrity there is. Except maybe the Queen. And until her Maj decides to release a “Right Royal Workout DVD” this is the starriest workout we’ve featured here.
Barbie has starred in 25 films tackling roles as diverse as Clara in the Nutcracker and Odette in Swan Lake as well as delivering a stunning performance in Toy Story 3.

The Many Faces of Barbie

 She played both the princess and the pauper in an imaginative retelling of the Mark Twain classic story which boldly reinterpreted the slums and political machinations of sixteenth century Britain as a magical fairyland full of pink glitter and wisecracking animals. Which is how Twain would have written it in the first place if he’d been any good.
See, this is how you put a story together
On top of her successful film career, she is also a certified pilot, ballerina, veterinarian, primary school teacher, computer programmer and member of the Starship Enterprise. Actually, forget what I said earlier about the Queen. She’s got nothing on Barbie. Frankly, I think we’re putting the wrong woman’s head on the stamps.

At some point in 1992, Barbie took time out from cheerleading, working at SeaWorld , training as a palaeontologist or whatever else she was doing released a dance workout video.
The video is also fronted by Barbie’s friend, Kim Breux. Well she says ‘friend’. Clearly Kim’s not in Barbie’s league at all but Barb’s a giver. She looks out for the little people. Not physically little in comparison with Barbie, obviously. Giant people.

I am choosing to believe that Kim Breux's surname is pronounced ‘Bro’ because I am saying it that way in my head. In Barney Stinson’s voice

I think Kim may have been a formative influence on Stephanie from Lazy Town who seems to have adopted her perky pink style and relentless enthusiasm as her own. The shiny, shiny leotard that Kim sports does rather make it look as though she is concealing a penis which is unfortunate. Unless of course she does have a penis in which case it’s grand and I fully support her decision to wear tight dancewear.

I was originally concerned that Barbie might pull a ‘Pussycat Dolls’ on us and rather than feature in the video, merely content herself with lending her brand to the exercise. But no! Barbie is on hand throughout the workout to demonstrate the Street Tap and the Sidewalk Strut

She doesn’t quite have the flexibility that she demonstrates nine years later dancing the Pas de Deux in the Nutcracker but what she lacks in believable animation, she more than makes up for in joie de vivre and awesome legwarmers.

As well as Kim, there are a herd of perky American tweens demonstrating the dance moves. They’re the sort of uber-confident little stage-school brats that I would have instinctively hated as a 9 year old. There a ‘freestyle’ section of the dance where everyone is encouraged to express themselves however they want and the dancers can’t help but fall into step with one another. The producers may have misjudged the desirability of ‘doing your own thing’ to girls of this age. Conformity is everything.

Perkiest of all the little princesses is ‘Love’ who bops around next to Kim and wears a look of such deranged enthusiasm that she appears to be tripping.

Turns out that Love is Jennifer Love Hewitt, star of ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ and ‘The Ghost Whisperer’ and author of the seminal discourse on relationships: “The Day I Shot Cupid”.

The workout also features Jennifer Fenton who went on to appear in an episode of Baywatch 4 years later and Arike Rice who has 7 films in her IMDB listing including The Rum Diary as “dancer” and Hairspray as a member of the dance group the Dynamites. She also appeared as “Club Dancer” in Centre Stage: Turn it Up and “Casino Dancer” in Viva Laughlin. Which proves Barbie can spot dancing talent when she sees it.

Although she leaves the bulk of the work to Kim, Barbie is constantly on hand with encouragement. “Great job, everybody!” she says, “You’re wonderful!” and most importantly, “You’re doing fine if you can still say “I’m OK””.

Which is a handy maxim for life. Barbie knows about these things. She’s probably a trained Cognitive Behavioural Therapist.
Best Bit
Jennifer Love Hewitt was also responsible for the songs on this video which are a bunch of perky little upbeat numbers which encourage you to don your leotard and bright pink legwarmers and start doing the Barbie Basic. The best move was the Hoppy Bunny. Who doesn’t love a good hop?

Worst Bit
There you are bopping along to Love’s singing and soaking up Barbie’s feelgood spirit like an emotional vampire then suddenly – Bam! – it’s all over. The workout is only 30 minutes long. There are no sections, no separate cool down session, not even a costume change which is something I always look forward to on a C List celebrity workout. Barbie’s costume changes would have been fabulous. I don’t believe for a minute that the woman only has one keep fit outfit.

Of course she doesn't

Difficulty Level
While this wasn’t the hardest dance workout I’ve done, it wasn’t exactly a breeze. I think the manufacturers of this workout were relying on girls in the 6 to 11 bracket relentlessly watching the video over and over again until their moves were perfect and their manic grins were permanently etched on their faces.

Would I do this Workout again?
You know I would but I’m not sure I’m going to have the time. Watching this has made realise the gaping holes in my Barbie film knowledge. Would you believe I’ve not seen one of the Fairytopia oeuvre? Not to mention my shocking lack of understanding of the themes of Barbie: Princess Charm School. If Barbie can take the trouble to become a United States Navy Petty Officer and an Ambassador for World Peace, the very least I can do is fully apprise myself of the extent of her contribution to the arts.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Penny Lancaster – Ultimate Body Workout

The DVD I have is titled the “Hot Legs Workout” and in tiny writing on the back of the box, is the message “previously released as the Ultimate Body Workout” which is the name that’s splashed throughout the DVD on the menu, credits and before every single section.

You can't fool me. I can read words.

So why change it? Is there a “Hot Legs” reference I’m not getting? Or is this a cunning ploy to try to get people who loved the workout under its original name to accidentally buy it all over again. In which case, shame on you, Penny Lancaster!
The DVD I had looked like the cover had been badly printed on a printer that was running out of yellow. It was definitely legit though, I bought it in Poundland. It still had the cellophane on it and everything,

Nothing but the best for you people

Penny Lancaster is a model, reality show star and the wife of croaky voiced crooner, Rod Stewart for the past five years. The pair presumably having bonded over their shared love of big shaggy hairstyles.
For the workout, Penny is joined by her qualified fitness instructor brother Oliver Lancaster and his girlfriend Louise Crocker.

I have no idea why.
The pair literally do not say a word for the entirety of the DVD.  Penny takes centre stage and does all the talking. The other two just silently get on with her routine in the background. I’m not sure they even make eye contact with her.

I worry they might have had a massive spat just before shooting and Penny cut all her brother’s lines along with a planned “Robot-style Jazzacise” routine in the middle.
Do not say a word, you two.
Penny herself is a trained aerobics instructor and used to do this sort of thing for a living before she took up modelling and married into pop royalty. She tells us that these are her own personally choreographed routines and excitedly tells us that the routines contain:

  • Muscular Strength & Endurance exercises
  • Aerobics
  • Cardio-Vascular exercises
  • Boxing
  • Dance
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Even Floor Work!
Even Floor Work? Seriously, Penny? You thought that was the best one to leave to the end, did you? That was the special treat that would get us all excited.
Penny Lancaster : A Model
This picture has nothing to do with the previous sentence.

For all its build up, it’s a pretty humdrum set of exercises to be honest.  Maybe I’ve just been spoilt by other celebrities.

The warm up reminded me of the Wii Fit Step. It consisted of taking steps to forward then the odd step to the side. All it really lacked was an audience of Miis living in a world so starved of entertainment that they’ll applaud wildly at anything.
This is the level of appreciation I need
The DVD extras contain an interview with Penny with a very over-excited interviewer who doesn’t seem to warrant a mention on the credits.  I bet she’s a T4 presenter. She’s got that vibe about her.

Who is this woman?

“So” our unnamed lady squeaks, “Rod’s inside having lunch! You’ve got the beach outside! And you’re just about to shoot a fitness video! Is this just a normal day in your life?!”

To be fair, love, her husband having his lunch probably is a fairly routine occurrence. I don’t believe Rod was really on set. Surely they’d have dragged him in for one scene just so they could stick a special “Appearance by Rod Stewart!” sticker on the box. He wouldn’t have to do a routine or anything. Maybe just dribble a football in the back of the shot in order to sprinkle some A List Celebrity fairydust on the whole endeavour.

Penny takes her man for a walk

Still, young Penny is clearly a strong, independent woman.  She was originally approached to make a fitness DVD as a model alongside her very own Radu Teodorescu or Roy Gayle. But she was clearly all “Nu-Uh. You think I got those aerobics instructor certificates for nothing? I’m running this show!”
She says that she took the project on 5 weeks before the shooting began. Initially, it sounds like short notice but if you think about it all, she had to do was come up with some routines – which she claims she does all the time in her real life anyway.  I doubt very much she had to take responsibility for booking the location or hiring the camera crew. Hell, I reckon even I could throw together a fitness video in less than 5 weeks. Mine wouldn’t have Rod Stewart in it either.
Of course, Rod really should release his own workout.
Best Bit
Penny tells us about her eating habits. Initially maintaining that she eats just a regular person, she then recommends that rather than eat chocolate, you should just sniff instead as a low calorie alternative. I’m not sure anyone who can pick chocolate up, smell it and then set it down again is an actual human being. When hostile aliens start infiltrating our planet and attempting to disguise themselves among us, this is one of the tests that humans will use.

This lovely Penny Lancaster collage was on
I think it may be the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

Worst Bit
The style in which this workout is shot with colour footage intercut with grainy black and white is reminiscent of fellow model Cindy Crawford’s workouts. I suspect that she is deliberately paying homage. Which seems a bit sad, really. Penny Lancaster is literally the poundshop Cindy Crawford.
Using one colour camera and one black and white camera, she could have paid homage the Blair Witch Project instead. That would have been great.  Everyone loves Celebrity Workouts. Everybody loves horror. Why has nobody ever made a crossover?

Difficulty Level
Silent Louise was quietly getting on with the beginner level moves in the background but nothing was all that taxing here. Which on the one hand is great because I like my life to be easy but on the other hand, leads me to suspect that Penny doesn’t just rely on these moves in order to keep herself in shape. I suppose sniffing your food rather than actually eating it must help though.
Would I do this work out again?
Nah, life’s too short to be joining uninteresting models jogging on the spot in locations that are presumably meant to look tropical but actually look a bit cold and windy.

Unlike this sunny location where Rod is literally having to use his wife as a sunshade.

Although, if she keeps releasing this workout under different names, there’s every chance that I’ll review the “Penny Lancaster: Wearing Shorts by a Swimming Pool Workout” or something in a year’s time and just think the whole thing looks terribly familiar.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Happy Mothers Day!

I am taking today off from my punishing CLCW schedule in order to spend the day celebrating both being and having a mum. I know, right? I'm mothersdaying it in both directions. What are the chances, eh?

In order to celebrate parenting in general, here's Tom Hanks' devotion to dadhood.

Note for our US readership : You may not think today is Mothers Day but it is. Trust me on this.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

You Got Served – Take it to the Streets

You Got Served is a 2004 film about competitive street dancing  in Los Angeles and not – as you might have a supposed -  a reboot of 1970s comedy Are you being served? There is a disappointing absence of lilac haired old ladies making veiled vagina references

Not the same thing at all
What the film does have, though, is an abundance of cool dance moves. So if cool dance moves were what  you were after then this was the very film for you. Particularly if you were none too bothered about convincing acting or a decent plot.
And if after watching it, you walked away thinking “Man, I’d love to dance like that. If only the choreographer would give me step-by-step instructions on how to dance like David and Elgin and their crew” then, boy, were you in luck. They totally had your back, bro.

This could be you

You Got Served: Take it to the streets was released the same year and is fronted by the film’s choreographer Dave Scott who invites you to “Learn the Dance Moves Step by Step”
Dave is joined by the coolest bunch of people you ever saw. Dave’s an unbelievably cool guy himself.  Trainers on workout DVDs always try to act cool but you can usually see through their bravado to the panicked desperate persona beneath. Not so, Dave. He got nothing to prove to nobody, He probably didn’t even need to make this DVD he just did it to give share the street dancing love with the little guy. He’s that kind of badass.

Choreographers do not get any cooler than this.

All Dave’s crew are dancers from the movie. This includes Robert James Hoffman III who played the bad guy’s sidekick, Max. Unfortunately RJHIII is by far and away the least cool guy there. And not just because he’s white. Dante next to him probably displays more attitude cleaning his teeth than young Mr III does busting his very best shapes.

But then Dante wasn't in She's the Man so Rob probably wins after all
The DVD starts off with a warm-up which requires greater flexibility and quicker reactions than most celebrity workout DVDs do in their entirety. There are two dance routines based on particular dances from the movie as well as an extra one that Dave made up just for us. Because he loves us.

The dance instructions basically can be broken down to this: (1) Do a million different things quickly and in succession. (2) Look cool while you’re doing it. I didn’t excel at this.
At the beginning of the third dance routine, Dave starts his introduction when, oh my goodness, who should turn up all unexpectedly but Chris Jones or “Chris Jones!  Christopher Jones from the movie. Hey, my man.” as Dave greets him. To be fair Jones’ mum probably welcomes him the same way when he nips home for Sunday lunch. Jones played Wade the spiky haired nemesis of the film’s main characters. He’s still sporting the same Dragon Ball Z hairstyle in this which means he’s either turned up in character or he actually does have hair like that.

Spot the difference

The film’s two leading actors, Omari Grandberry and Marques Houston bust some freestyle moves on the  DVD extras luckily for the DVD producers who can then stick the most famous guys on the box with gay abandon.
Difficulty Level
This was insane. Crazy, crazy difficult.  You might think it was difficult learning all the moves to Hannah Montana’s Hoedown Throwdown. And you’d be right hypothetical reader, it was. But it’s got nothing on this.  There are eight million different moves for each dance and they all involve weird things like pretending to pull someone’s trousers down.

Best Bit
The big freestyle party at the end. Even the DJ Richard gets to show us his dance moves. Robert III seems to be doing an impression of a velociraptor because why not.

Would I do this workout again?
I would have to watch this many, many, many times in order to have a hope of doing these dance moves in vaguely the right times. Literally hundreds. I’m not sure where I would find the time. There is an interview with Chris Stokes, the director of the original film on the DVD extras. He tells us we can achieve anything we set our minds to and we should never let anyone else get the way of our dreams. Which is nice but I still think I may have to shelve my ambitions of becoming a freestyling hip-hop street dancer.  I’m not entirely sure I have what it takes to pop, lock, flip freeze and do that thing where you spin on your head for ages. It’s a tragic loss for the world, I know. In a very real sense, we all got served.