Monday, April 27, 2009

Now Playing: Knowing

Sitting in the darkened theatre, I frantically whisper "They're aliens!" and I get an equally urgent response, "They're angels!" ... so, who won? Neither, because we're two losers having this discussion while watching #4 in the "Movies I Would Only Watch if They're Free"series"- Knowing. Obvious puns of "if only I'd known!" aside... God, if only I'd known. There's 120 minutes of my life that could have been spent watching something, even paid.

Spoilers will abound; if you care, look away!

I've decided that Nicolas Cage has to be pretty high on a top-secret "bad actors" list. Okay, I don't have any such list, but if I did, he'd be up there. He also seems to act in a bunch of movies that match his acting abilities. I mean, what was he thinking when read this script? "Yes, I see... aliens who happen to look like angels! Why that's downright genius!" Every Heaven's Gate-esque cult within earshot is grinning with self-righteous glee that someone was making a serious movie out of their vats of crazy. Did you know that aliens will pluck up the Chosen and drop them down on an Eden-like world where they can "start again"? ... is it too late to add "random trench coat perv" to the angel/alien debate? Okay, that's unfair. They're not pervy, just really really nosey.

This isn't even a contender for Awards Season; yet, it's not mockingly bad enough to become some sort of cult classic. It's just dumb. And unlike the other movies in this series, it's not even trying to be self-aware. Therein lies its true issue: it takes itself way too seriously - from the "science" it uses to the "morals" it preaches, this movie is downright annoying. I would have given it a 2.5 like all the others, if for nothing but its special effects (I don't know why they pick NYC for every disaster movie, but there is something very satisfying about watching all of Manhattan Island get swallowed by waves of flames) and tense music; however, due to Knowing's clear lack of irony - 1.5 out of 5 stars.


This wraps up the MIWOWiTF series of movies for April 2009. Hopefully I've saved you some time and/or money. ...Who am I kidding? You wouldn't have seen any of these movies anyway. There may be more in future (cereal boxes hold untold treasures!), but I cannot wait for May. After what I've just stomached, how shitty can Star Trek possibly be?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras

Come to me, come to me.
Gather the pieces of me that I've lost,
The pieces of me all shattered and scattered.
Jagged shards of china strewn all about.
Here I am waiting. Come find me.
~ The Lullaby of Lost Pieces

Usually, when I read a novel that's been translated, I'm disappointed. The poetry is inevitably lost.. or, at the very least, become stilted and awkward. Not so with Charlotte Gingras' novel Pieces of Me. Originally published in French as La Liberté? Connais pas..., it went on to win the Governor General's award (in French) and has quickly been picking up English fans along the way.

The story revolves around Mira(belle), who is abandoned by her father at a young age and is forced to live with her "half-mad" mother. She has no friends and only wears black. From the opening line (I'm almost fifteen and I have no friends."), Gingras lays out her unflinching portrayal of a lonely teenaged girl who is trying to cope with all the normal teen issues and some very abnormal ones. A vibrant, faceted cast of characters surround Mira, strangely aligning to help our fledgling heroine not only understand the world around her but to encourage her to live within it fully: there's Cath, the full-of-life new girl; the Birdman/art teacher; Paule, the blind therapist; her ex/father and mildly insane mother; the string of ill-fated relationships ... it's amazing the amount of breadth and scope Gingras is able to stuff into a mere 144 pages. I read it in one sitting and it only took about three hours.

This is a wonderful read for teens and adults alike. Not to mention librarians, as Mira is a avid proponent and vivid example of the therapeutic nature of books.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Now Playing: Crank: High Voltage

The third instalment in the now internationally acclaimed ""Movies I Would Only Watch if They're Free"series" brings us a whole new level of desperate: Crank: high voltage. My feelings regarding Jason Statham are a matter of public record.

But I feel I should put all my biases on full display so there's no question as to my motives or hangups.
- I didn't watch the first Crank. I haven't watched the Transporter series or The One. I can barely recognise Statham from the hits of Snatch and Italian Job (handsome Rob, indeed). So, no, I wouldn't consider myself a fan - merely an admirer of very pretty man-flesh.
- I really like action movies, especially the well-choreographed kind. It can involve fights, brawls, cars or chases - no matter, as long as I find myself leaning forward, holding my breath or left with the uncontrollable urge to turn to my movie-mates and mouth "take that, bitch!" Some of favourite movies are action flicks.
- I can forgive a lot in the name of entertainment.

So, CHV. What can I say? This movie wasn't just over-the-top, it was practically begging you to throw up your hands and walk the fuck out of the theatre. It wasn't just a little condescending towards women, it flat out humiliates them ... I haven't seen that much gratuitous flesh on display since that porn marathon from fourth year. But just when you think "God, are they serious?" they throw in a porn strike with actual porn stars and you're left with "no, I guess not." This movie has no limits: Chelios goes from licking a battery to hugging a live electrical pole; not enough to slice off one nipple, gotta do it twice; can't just have an unmentioned twin or even an unnamed third brother/nemesis... nope, gotta have a floating head in an aquarium.

I don't what to say. It's honestly that insane. The movie is just bat-shit-crazy. And it knows it. It knows it and loves it and wants you to know that it knows. How do you rate a movie like that? Is this some sort of Shakespearean antic disposition that makes you say well it's bad movie only if it doesn't know it's a bad movie... but what if it does? Is it still bad if it knows it's bad and laughs at you for sitting there are watching it? and why am I having this deep cinosophical discussion about freaking Crank, for God's sake?

Alright, alright. Have to rate it. There were moments of uncomplicated amusement and some good scripting. But, was it better than Fast & Furious? Hmmm... No, I guess not. But it wasn't worse. If only it had ended in the fireball with which it was meant. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

"But his words of love and sorrow and hope remained muted like stones." ~ p. 692

I have read A Fine Balance twice now, revelling in Mistry's glorious prose like a pig in a field of truffles. I remember the first time I read it: crouched in a PIL booth in Pearson's old T1, using rough brown paper stolen from the bathroom to mop up unbidden (and embarrassing) tears, I tried to tell myself to stop reading in such a public place and but kept convincing myself that another chapter wouldn't hurt. That was years ago (seven? my goodness...).

Enter Book Club in February. Having finished our first (and hopefully annual) poetry reading, we sat around my living room trying to figure out April's read. As usual, in these times, I go to my bookshelves. There's always a stack of books I've bought but haven't read and, of course, books I would gladly read again. And there, from the top shelf of my patriotic favourites, Mistry called to me. I have, since that PIL booth, read most of Mistry's works published to date. I find him terrible and amazing, a true literary master, capable to drawing me into these people's lives - people so removed from my own life and yet so easily taking up residence in my heart. How is it possible, reading this tome twice that I'm still wiping tears (back of hand this time, but no less embarrassing), when I knew the outcome from the very outset?

But enough about me.

What praises may I heap upon this book that haven't already been laid at its feet. It's epic - truly, without exaggeration - spanning generations and detailing moments effortlessly. Seven hundred and thirteen tiny-print pages flew by. Every character, from stubborn widow to tailors, from reluctant student to Beggarmaster, from Monkey-man to Rajaram - every one is a lesson in a master class of character studies. But what really makes this book so special is its singular ability to bring the bitter cup of tragedy to the lips of the reader and have the reader drink of it deeply, forsaking its bilious content while, paradoxically, asking for more. Surely, that's the genius. Watching the four central characters weave themselves together into a tight and inevitable narrative is a joy that makes one hope for a happy ending, proving that "it did not always have to end badly." Are we fools to dream in the midst of such despair? Mistry doesn't think so - our hope and our belief in happy endings is what pulls humanity forward, through the darkest of days. I can't help but hope that, when I turn the page, it will work out. I am heartened that I am not yet so jaded. Perhaps therein lies the true brilliance of this work: not only its ability to make you drink from the bitter cup, but to convince you that the next sip will be sweeter.

I love this book. I am reminded of just how much as I type this at 2am, eye makeup smeared. Please read it; it's good for your soul (if you believe in such things).

Friday, April 17, 2009

Now Playing: Fast & Furious

Movie #2 in the famed "Movies I Would Only Watch if They're Free"series: Fast & Furious. What can I say? At least they didn't give away all the cool parts in the trailer - the trailer's material is exhausted before the opening credits roll. It was also nice to see that they weren't scared to kill off some big names. But neither of those things can make up for the trite acting, dry script and predictable plot. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Now Playing: Observe and Report

Due to a particular aligning of incompetence, cereal boxes and cheap pizza, I find myself with free movie coupons during a time when there are really NO movies I actually want to see. April is a cruel month indeed for Hollywood - full of films that aren't quite blockbuster enough for the May-August marathon nor Award-worthy enough to actually have been pushed to an extremely limited release in December. No, April is the limbo month where we find indie films, comedies and woulda-beena-contendas vying for your cinematic dollar.

So, I bring you the first installment of Movies I Would Only Watch if They're Free: Observe and Report.

Seth Rogen is an enigma. I want to like this guy - he's funny, chubby and Canadian, three things that I find make me feel really good for some reason. Everything I've ever watched him in has been pretty much gold (if you like that sort of comedy). I guess my problem really is that I don’t go for that "that sort of comedy" very often… heck, I don't watch comedies in theatres as a rule. I can rent it if I have to. Anyway, enter incompetent major movie chain that’s not Cineplex or AMC and suddenly I have a coupon that needs to be used by month's end and this is all they're really playing this month.

Hence, Observe and Report. Meh. its certainly had its funny moments (mostly whenever scene-stealer Celia Weston was onscreen) but it was pretty run-of the-mill. Aside from the obvious (and unfair) Paul Blart references, it ran its comedic course, only flirting with dark comedy when referencing bipolar disorder and leading to a that typical Hollywood ending that is orely wish they had avoided. Alas, it was a mediocre movie with only moments of brilliant comedy. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, April 06, 2009

cartoon wasteland

I had a minor epiphany this morning: 90's after-school cartoons pretty much shaped my entire life. So many things around me are direct links to my animated past

Gargoyles easily influenced all my architectural preferences in life - I even have them perched atop bookshelves in my home. I have cast-iron fixtures and accents everwhere and there's a certain affinity for candles that I can't quite explain. Yep, I'm a cartoon goth.

Batman has set up all the unrealistic expectations a girl needs for the perfect man (independent, wealthy, strong sense of justice and kickass... and perpetually unable to commit to a woman. sounds just about right.) ...but it's not just that! Also: a wicked car and a man who knows how to drive it *swoon*

G.I Joe gave me all the accent ranges I needed to learn the North American twang AND still do a wicked Baroness. It also showed me that red is good fire and blue is bad fire .. I like blue better anyway.

Jem has sparked a lifelong obsession with earrings, fun hair colours and a bad attitude.

TMNT taught me an important lesson: just because you're the smartest in the group (Donatello and I share a purple affinity) doesn't mean you'll be the leader. It's a sad fact of life.

X-Men had the most people in it that I wanted to hang out with: Gambit, Wolverine and, yes, the Beast. I've never wished so hard to be a mutant, if only to curl up in Beast's study and read all his books. (something I just thought of... perhaps Marpesia is based entirely from her connection with Gambit? hmm... therapy bills just doubled).

And, of course, Thundercats. This show is responsible for my head getting shaved (as punishment for using a permanent black marker to draw spots all over it and my neck), for my first sprained wrist (chasing "Liono" around a four-poster bed and mis-stepping) and for my continuing need fascination with all things dark and Egyptian, no matter how historically inaccurate it may be.