Saturday, December 31, 2011

goodbye 2011

I know I haven't posted in quite some time and I have no excuses.  Especially these past three weeks, when I've been home with a sprained ankle and unable to do much more more than sleep and sit.  Books, movies, TV and Christmas have kept me sufficiently distracted.  I realise that last year I made no resolutions; it kinda worked out.  I've had a very good year.  Before December, I didn't take a day off sick - this is a minor miracle!  I went back to school and despite a serious bump in the road, still scraped out an "A" in accounting.  My new job seems to be going well, with lots of (boring) work objectives completed.  I continued to travel to new places though I hope to be more exotic in near future.  One major bucket list item?  Check.  This year, Nish's work took her to Africa for five months and I missed her dearly; I also love how we click right back in when we do see each other.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Now Playing: Immortals

Last week, I went to see Immortals.  I had a few trepidations: would it be better than Clash of the Titans? would it be true to the myths? Would there be at least some focus on the plot (as well as action and imagery)?  Well, let's just say... no.  on all counts.  *sigh* Won't someone please just do an epic already? 

There WERE a couple of things I enjoyed: I liked that the Gods were young: really, if you were immortals, would you choose to be Santa or a Calvin Klein model?  I also enjoyed the kick-butt-iness of Athena, right down to her matching attire.  Finally, I liked that the Minotaur was a creative reimagining of the original man-cow.  Honourable mention to the silver bull torture device!  Creepy creative, that.

Should you watch it?  depends.  It is a very pretty movie.  Plenty of eye candy.  But that's really it.  2.5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

love letter, with my croissants

"Hello you. Adorable, quirky you. There’s no one like you in the world – I’ve looked! I’ve tried to find someone just like you, but it isn’t going to happen. Then I realised, I didn’t want someone just like you – I like you. I want you. You with your strange taste in clothes and even stranger habits. Those habits that puzzled me at first but that now I find comforting and familiar.

Monday, October 31, 2011

vicarious loss

Last week, I received a mass-BCC email.  When I opened it, I didn't even understand what I was reading at first.  I must have read it at least four times before it sunk in.  I am not prepared for this, the death of my friend's mother.  I'm just getting used to grandparents dying with alarming frequency; my uncle Len's passing earlier this year broached that invisible generational line.  Upon the fifth reading, it finally sunk in that the funeral was the next day and that, yes, she was only 55.

Honestly, I didn't know what to do.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

twelfth annual fright fest

On this year's docket: two sequels and a foreign film (what does this say about the American horror-wood?)

Rec 2: the original is still in top ten scary movies of all time.  Twisting plot, creepy cinematography, perfect ratio of loud and quiet moments.  Do not be sucked in by the US remake; watch the original.  Having been foiled once already, I had been looking forward to seeing how they would wrap up the original.  I must say, I was a wee bit disappointed.  The characters weren't nearly as likeable (I was rooting for those teenagers to die) and the plot took a crazy turn and I was left wondering if I was even watching the same franchise.  Not necessary to watch this in order to really enjoy Rec.

Friday, October 28, 2011

full circle

Last year, a dozen yellow roses signalled the beginning of a new relationship.  Though, it wasn't new at all - we'd dated before, we'd broken up like seven times, we haven't stopped being in each other's lives since we met (officially) over a dusty bank of computer monitors more than thirteen years ago.  This time, I think, we did the mature thing: laid our cards out right at the beginning, no games, no coy suggestions.  This time, I think, we did it right.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins


The third instalment, devoured in 72 hours flat, of the Hunger Games trilogy: Mockingjay.  A perfect example of the imperfect endings of real life. Seriously, you need to read this trilogy.  Like, now.

SPOILERS!


Katniss - boy, is she flawed.  And I like that Collins is not afraid to show it.  That conversation between Peeta an Gale on page 328?  I can't imagine it ever happening between two men given the situation they're in - but I do appreciate the candid assessment of the Mockingjay.  I find her selfish, easily addicted and generally morose.  I guess the parallel story is that of her on-TV personality which is what the people fell in love with and who the people decided to follow.  Had the public seen her meltdowns and general apathy, would they have loved her?  I didn't.  In fact, I always thought it shouldn't have been her at all.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Wow.  I haven't done this is in a very long time.  I actually stayed up all night reading.  That's right: all.  night.  There is definitely something to be said about plot-driven novels.  They're intense, suspenseful and downright gut-wrenching.  Not to say that there is no character development to be found in Collins' work - there is, certainly!  I think, however, it's the plot that propels us through it.  By the time I got to the end of Catching Fire, I was almost rabid for the third instalment; it wasn't until I turned off my beside lamp that I realised it was well past sunrise; my alarm ten minutes later confirmed it.  And you know what, poppets?  It was all worth it.  I look forward to Mockingjay.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fool by Christopher Moore

I read Fool in record time - just under 2 days!  I won't make it a long review, as my feelings for Christopher Moore are widely known.  Suffice it to say that if you're looking for a faithful rewriting of Shakespeare's King Lear, look elsewhere.  If you're looking for a serious post-modern retelling, look elsewhere.  Hell, if you're hoping that these intense characters will not be fucked with sideways and left bewildered by the shagging, that the historical context will be coherent or that even the story begins and ends the same... well, don't pick up this book.  This is a complete departure from the original play, with heroes becoming villains, extra characters appearing, entire plotlines added and best/worst of all, a copious amount of cursing.  This is an absolute romp!  I giggled and winced and wholeheartedly enjoyed myself through it all.  The word "irreverent" doesn't even begin to cover it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

massive love affair

There have been very few bands that have completely changed my life.  I will be the first to admit that I'm not an audiophile.  I listen to one radio station in the car, I own a dozen or so CDs, and I can't name anything new or hip.  I like dancing and I like music, but I'm not an aficionado by any stretch.  I like what I like and I LOVE Massive Attack.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Now Playing: Moneyball

Can you make a baseball movie thrilling?  Yes, I think we've proven that before.  So, what does Moneyball bring to the table that hasn't already been done?  Hard to say.

Here's the thing: I got a FB message from DK asking if I wanted to see either 50/50 or Ides of March.  Well, umm, I'd already caught both, so that left Moneyball.  In a bid that proves just how easy I am, I said okay.  After a delightful Thanksgiving brunch at Whole Foods, we settled into the movie.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Now Playing: Real Steel

Sunday is dedicated homework day for this semester and, as a reward for finishing all our work, we went to see a lovely little family flick about rock-'em-sock-'em robots called Real Steel.  Yeah, I know what you're thinking: can song-and-dance man Hugh Jackman really pull off ex-boxer?  and can Evangeline Lilly really play anyone but Kate?  Okay, maybe you're not thinking either of those things, but that's what I was thinking for sure.

Anyway, the answers are Yes and Kinda, respectively.  Jackman could probably sell sand in a desert and his leftover Wolverine muscles don't hurt the cause.  Lilly plays Bailey, who is what Kate could have been had she not had a number attached to her by an island.  They're both passable.  It's Dakota Goyo, fellow Canadian and all-round adorable sass-mouth, that is the real star of the movie.  he's likeable, believable and downright adoptable.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Now Playing: Ides of March

In order to avoid being stuck at home with a bunch of drunk old people, LilBro, Jadek and I took shelter at a local movie theatre and watched The Ides of March.   I didn't really know what the expect from this movie, since I had only watched one trailer.  But, given my newly buried hatchet with Mr. Clooney and the alternative of group singing "Take the Ribbon from your Hair", I thought "what the heck!"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

thirty-three

My parents celebrated their 33rd anniversary this weekend.  Christ himself didn't last much past this milestone.  I'm always awed by how much more in love my parents seem than when I was growing up.  Is it because they're less stressed out by their kids?  Their jobs?  Is it because my mom is over the worst part of menopause?  That my dad has totally mellowed in old age?  Is it me?  Am I just better at seeing them as humans and not prison guards?

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


Here's how I came about reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins:

On a beautiful morning in Stratford, walking through the non-chain book stores, VeCe looks at me all incredulous that I haven't read this book - just read the first page,she says, and you won't be able to stop.  I do and it's okay so I buy it.  Two weeks later, Jadek is asking me what he should read on the R66 trip and, being a good librarian girlfriend, I open my own shelves and hand this one over.  I convince him it's really good, even though I've only read the first chapter.  He finishes it and gives it back with glowing reviews.  I mean, he goes out and buys the trilogy in hardcover... that's commitment!  Two week after that and we're discussing a October's Book Club pick , trying to find something Halloween-themed but that isn't horror (our newest member was a bit squeamish and we didn't want to scare her away).  We settle on Hunger Games.  luckily, I had just finished my last book so I could get started.  Four days later, I was finished.  Poppets, you know how long it takes for me finish a book.  That should be testimonial in and of itself; but, in case it isn't....

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Now Playing: 50/50

Normally I don’t watch comedies in theatres, especially if they star Seth Rogen.  I think comedies are natural rentals.  I do make the occasional exception, however, and anything with the fantastic JGL certainly warrants that.  Enter, 50/50 – a story about a young man who gets diagnosed with cancer and how he deals with it.  Potentially very depressing stuff.  It’s a real credit to the scriptwriters and the acting team that they deal with the anger, horror and incredible unfairness of it all while still maintaining a realistic humour.  Anna Kendrick is the quiet scene-stealer as is Bryce Dallas Howard who plays reprehensible with great panache.  JGL is his usual thumbs-up and Rogen is his usual crazy.  But you know who got me? Angelica Huston.  We need more of her in movies.

I think it’s still a good rental movie but also feel good about supporting it in theatres.  4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

book fest

A mere four months into my new manager-ship, my boss says to me “I think you would be the perfect person to take on the annual literary festival” – by which, of course, she meant that “no one else wants to go through that hell again and, being lowest on the totem pole, you’re it, kiddo” … yikes.  There is no doubt in my head that the first emotion I felt upon that pronouncement was, well, fear.  I didn’t even know how to do anything in my own department yet, forget taking on a huge system-wide event.  An event that would soon be linked with the national Culture Days movement.  An event that, despite the best of intentions always seems to be a lot of work for very little recognition.  Double yikes.  But what does one say to one’s boss in this situation?  The only thing there is to say: “sure!”

Fast forward three months and we’ve got a newly christened event (the more casual and family-friendly “Book Fest” replaces the rather snobby “Literary Festival”) in a new venue (home turf!) with a new way of doing things.  As usual, my motto of “go big or go home” is the driving force behind all my planning.  The building we’re hosting the event in is turning 20 years old this year, so I went with a birthday theme.  Here’s some of what went down:
  • Three different tours are offered as part of our Doors Open commitment.
  • Fifteen local authors set up tables and mingled with each other and the public
  • Twenty exhibitors, from Anime Clubs to publishers, lined the atrium
  • A huge Book Sale doubled as a fundraiser for the library
  • Storytimes were held every half-hour
  • 20 book trucks were decorated and paraded around the brand new Celebration Square
  • An edible display of a 135-pound birthday cake and 499 cupcakes was wheeled out and thousand-plus people sing Happy Birthday to the Library.
  • The mayor says some very kind words and cuts the cake
  • Jeremy Tankard wraps it all up with a great talk to 150+ kids.
I was so exhausted after it all, I actually went to bed at 1800, woke up around 2030 for some soup and went back to bed.  I spent most of Sunday napping, reading and doing homework.

I took Monday off but I can’t help check my work emails – thankfully they’re full of congratulations.  My only worry now is that I’ll be asked to do it all over again next year.  At first, all I can think is "no thank you!"; now that it's a few days past, however, I'm thinking "why not?"

Friday, October 07, 2011

back to school

I don’t know what possessed me.  I mean, I’m busy enough with work and friends and family and a boyfriend.  I think I was just feeling a little intellectually… atrophied.  My job is challenging but it isn’t exactly rocket science.  Worse, I don’t seem to be able to use analytical and problem-solving skills enough to keep them sharp.  I needed…more.

So, now, on Thursday evenings I find myself in a building that’s like a bizarro version of my high school sitting in an accounting class.  That’s right, accounting.  Whenever I’d say that I’m going back to school, people would ask me (all excited) “ooohhh, what for?” and I (equally excited) would answer, “accounting” and, inevitably, the look of puzzlement crossed their face.  Yes.  Accounting.  I feel like my love for numbers and money has been seriously ignored these past few years.  I mean, the “budget” at work consists of staying under 100%; they don’t even give me real numbers.  Yawn. 

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Route 66

I returned from the Route 66 trip on September 11th and I'm only just getting to post about it now.  Many apologies poppets.  A number of things conspired to keep me from you - Book Fest, Accounting, Work and mundane things like cleaning the bathroom.  Here follows a brief breakdown of the highs and lows that was The Mother Road.

Chicago
Day One: Mississauga to Buffalo to Chicago (by road and then air)
AnCe, Jadek and myself climb into AnCe's car and make our way to Buffalo, where we catch our half-price plane to Chicago.  It's amazing to me that the 40 minute drive has us $300.  Each.  I LOVE my hometown, where if I fly straight home, I'm in my PJ's within 30 minutes of landing (with no connections!) and where, if I'm being cheap, I can cross the US border and catch a plane to anywhere in the States for half the price.  Anyway, we land in Chicago (I marvel at how, really, all airports look exactly the same) and are reunited with Nish, who had landed the day previous, coming from Madagascar (!!).

Day Two: wander around the beautiful Bean Town, with its amazing architecture and yummy food.  Th boat ride is a great way to explore the City.  We pick up our car rental (Nissan Rogue) after almost ninety minutes waiting for it.  At least we get a $250 "discount" (i.e. we're not charged for the extra two drivers).

The Bean (or Cloud Gate)
Day Three: early start to see the Bean (aka Cloud Gate) in Millennium Park.  I absolutely LOVE it.  I want to take it home as a souvenir and plonk it down in the Commons near my house.  Alas.  We pack the car and begin the search for the official beginning of Route 66; after 45 minutes (!!) of driving in circles we find it... barred from access by construction.  I laugh so hard I'm easily crying.  We do find a historical marker as a substitute, so that works out.  Today's final goal is Marshfield, Missouri by way of Lincoln's tomb.  849 kms later, we're there - after 2200 hours.  We also learn the Pontiac lesson today: do not trust any R66 signs that have dates - these are merely senseless detours.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I had to take a book with me on Route 66 and I chose to bring along Kathryn Stockett's The Help.  Did I read it at all while on the Mother Road?  Hellz no.  What with the average 5 hours of sleep per night and the thousand kilometres of driving a day, let's just say that sleep trumped all other basic needs.

So I read this in the comfort of my bed at home over the entire month of September, with some guilt.  See, September's Book Club was a non-fiction selection of our choosing, as long as it answered the question of "why is the world the way it is" in some fashion.  I totally cheated and read the Philosophy chapters in An Incomplete Education instead.  (it is how I got by at Queen's and it's still how I maintain a my thin veneer of sophistication).

The other major impetus for reading the books was the fact that I wanted to see the movie and I hate reading books after I see the flick.

Anyway!  The Help.  Spoilers abound below, so take heed.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Now Playing: Drive

A quick movie review for Drive: it was okay.  Ryan Gosling is always great, but even he can't hold up an entire movie.  It's not that the premise couldn't work - it could; somehow it just doesn't.  Gosling's Driver seems so ... cold and remote.  it's very difficult to see him caring about anyone or anything enough to get all wrapped up in the stuff he ends up getting wrapped up in.  There are some great sequences too: that pawn shop heist?  awesome!  And, as I would expect from a movie called Drive, the driving is particularly well done.  And on real streets with very real cars... I kinda love that.  Should you watch it?  Sure, as a rental it may not be bad at all.  I expect this will end up on Netflix and that would be best.  3 out of 5 stars.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Now Playing: Contagion

The day after I came home from the Route 66 Road Trip Extravaganza, I took in Contagion with Jadek.  Honestly, it was pretty amazing.  Steven Soderberg always surprises me with his pacing and storytelling skills.  And with a cast like it had, it's not a surprise that the acting was superb: Winslet's clinical front-line specialist, Law's questionable blogger, Cotillard's conflicted negotiator... all really good.
Really, though, the best part is the execution of the pandemic.  How it's the mundane things that will get us in the end - handshakes and kisses, elevator buttons and stair rails.  The quick decline of civility when you know it's got to be you or them, your kid or theirs.  I liked that the script didn't degenerate into a horror movie, but still kept intact the horror of humans going feral.  And I really enjoyed the realistic timeline of it all - no post-apocalyptic swelling of music or dystopian all-is-well - that leads us back to Day One.  I spent the entire movie asking "how" and I'm really happy to report that there is an answer.  Did I like it?  Will you?  You'll have to watch the movie to find out.

Friday, September 30, 2011

didn't see you in September

Did a whole month really go by without a single post?  Yikes!
While I can't promise to be better, I can promise to catch up.  I swear I have no less than SEVEN half-finished entries.  Oh dear.  Check back, post-Oct 3rd!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

gettin' my kicks

On Tuesday, we leave for the one of the last great road trips: Route 66!  Spanning nearly 3000 miles  (that's 4500 kms for the rest of the world) and taking us the better part of eleven days, we'll be departing Chicago and going west until we hit Santa Monica pier.  With so many detours in between, we broke Google Maps, you can see our major pit stops (read; where we bed down) in that picture up top.  This is the first adventure for AnCe, Nish, Jadek and myself - four people, one car.  Should be interesting at the very least.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Now Playing: One Day

I'm not usually one to watch girly movies in a theatre, unless it's Oscar season and they're on the list.  DK asked to see One Day so I went.  First of all, it was kinda nice to see a movie where things didn't blow up without a boy.  You know, so if I get all choked up, I don't feel embarrassed.  Secondly, there were two young ladies in front of us who were so obnoxiously immature I actually felt compelled to tell them to "shut it or leave" (they shut it).

Anyway: movie.  It was okay - these things are either sad or funny, sometimes both, rarely neither.  And, predictably, I knew what was going to happen less than a minute into the movie.  I really need to stop watching so many movies - most things don't even surprise me any more.  Hathaway and Sturgess are great, though I expect nothing less from these two.  Everyone else plays their parts.  Script wends its way through the emotional roller coaster of a romance.  All in all: a rental.  3 out of 5 stars.

Now Playing: Columbiana

We're hanging out and Jadek says "want to watch a movie" and I'm all "yeah sure, what's out" and he goes "I dunno, nothing I can think of" so we Google it and he's like "what about Columbiana" and I'm like "yeah, I remember that - Luc Besson I think - I like him."

And that's how we came to watch Columbiana on a Saturday afternoon.  Zoe Saldana, Cliff Curtis, and Jordi Mollà put in their lines and put their bodies through the paces.  Honestly, for a revenge flick, this wasn't too bad at all.  Saldana really pulled off an amazing catsuit for the first hit of the movie, which was choreographed beautifully.  If they had been going for an Eartha Kitt vibe, Saldana would have made an excellent Catwoman.

The story is much of what I've come to expect from Besson, though I would have preferred his directing to Megaton's style.  The action was great - inventive and quick.  The opening running sequence with Amandla Stenberg's amazing abilities was reminiscent of Run, Lola, Run (one of my faves) and put her on a list of future action stars (along with Chloe Grace Moretz and Saoirse Ronan).

Unexpectedly fun: 3 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Now Playing: Conan, the Barbarian

Normally, I think I may have passed on watching Conan, the Barbarian - I didn't watch the original, don't really enjoy plotless violence, and, well, it just didn't look very good. There was, however, one very compelling reason for me to go out and watch this: Jason Mamoa. I mean, just LOOK at him. Kripes. I like him with dreads, I like him cleanshaven, with short hair or long; I like him in SciFi, Fantasy and random airport footage; I like that he’s muscly in all the right places and has dimples to boot. I think he’s just about the yummiest thing I’ve seen since… since… I can’t remember the last time I drooled over a Hollywood actor! So, that’s why I went to watch Conan.

What was the movie about? I can’t really remember – it had a lot of plot holes, so it was pretty much incoherent. With a better script writer and director, it would have been halfway decent. The actors (not just mo!mo!ahhhhh….) weren’t too bad at all – pretty much wasted on a poor script. Sadly, I have to give it only 1.5 stars out of 5.  As compensation, here are some pics!

Monday, August 15, 2011

On Stage @ Stratford, 2011

The annual pilgrimage to the Bard's House happened this past weekend, with AnCe and her sister V.  Nish, who is currently in the exotic climes of Madagascar, had to give up her tickets, which was both sad and regrettably.  This would mark my first non-Nish Stratford.  As has become tradition, we checked into Ellerby's for the weekend.  Olive is her usual cheerfully spry self and gave us our key on the "Hope Diamond" because we were such pretty girls.  *giggles* she really is the cutest.  This would also mark my first non-sharing Stratford weekend, as I usually end up splitting a room with Nish.  So, I had a double all to myself (which meant one thing... NO PANTS!).  Unpacked, freshened up and ready to hit the town!  Weather was perfect: sunny, cool breeze, almost no humidity. 

Before we left, we made passing introductions with Ted, who was staying in the single at the end of the hall.  He would prove to be excellent fun at the breakfast table. 

Shades on, stepping out!

Friday lunch in Pazzo Pizzeria (a Soprano Pizza for me!)

Titus Andronicus in Tom Patterson: a little gore and guts in the afternoon!  Notably WillyShakes' bloodiest play, it did not disappoint in drama and death.  Near the end of the third act, there was a great gasping and wheezing sound near back left seats.  What I thought to be a rude patron snoring turned out to be someone having a seizure.  Yet another first: they stopped the play in the middle of a most dramatic scene!  Actors left, house lights came up, ambulance arrived.  Much hullabaloo ensued an patron is just fine.  All I could think was that there was no way the actors would be able to pick up where they left off - all that tension had been deflated... but no!  These guys aren't pros for nothing and we were right back into it.  All in all, much fun.

Friday dinner @ Boar's Head Pub (Mushroom and Steak Pot Pie)

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Now Playing: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Confession: I've watched neither the original nor the Tim Burton "remake" of Planet of the Apes; in fact, everything I know about this iconic movie comes from The Simpsons. So, when I first saw the trailer for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, there was a comical moment where I turned to Jadek and actually said "what is this, Planet of the Apes?" ...and then it was.  Clearly, I was going to watch it.  I will admit that I was a little leery of yet another remake; however, some franchises just beg to be rebooted - old doesn't necessarily mean gold (despite it rhyming).  I am happy to report that this is not a remake.  

I was pleased to hear see Andy Serkis got some work - he is his usual awesome self.  And I know that the apes were all CGI, yet they were very real and totally convincing.  The human actors weren't bad either: loved John Lithgow (unsurprisingly) and James Franco.   

Plot-wise, I thought the movie was pretty genius.  It actually answered the main questions I've always had: how did the apes kill the humans?  how did the apes get so smart?  how long did it take for the human/simian roles to switch?  I was really satisfied at the end and if this is the beginning of a new franchise, all the better.  Go watch it - a great summer movie.  3.5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Now Playing: Cowboys and Aliens

(Sorry for the weird upload - I needed a placeholder and it decided to just hold the first sentence!  Technology continues to confound me.)

So, when I first saw the trailer for Cowboys and Aliens, I thought: "WTF?"  Then I thought about the last time Indy hooked up with a Bond-James-Bond and decided to hold my reservations.  Besides, the trailer looked pretty good - funny and action-y.

Then I watched C&A.  This movie isn't really funny.  Like, at all.  There's abduction, body mutilations and violations, death, horror... very little comedy (though, I did chuckle a couple of time, I felt guilty doing it).  This is a perfect synthesis of Spaghetti Western (with all its over-the-top, anti-hero characters) and Sci-Fi (though not as creepy as the Alien series, a definite contender in the Independence Day realm).  Weird thing is, I totally bought it.  I totally believed that aliens showed up to harvest humans and gold.  Maybe I'm getting a little too good at this suspension of disbelief thing.  3.5 out 5 stars.

Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright

Last month's Book Club pick was Clara Callan, the 2001 Giller Award winner.  I will admit to judging this book by its cover and thinking "oh, God, this looks boring."  I was very wrong. 

Synopsis: small-town sisters Clara and Nora lead very different lives.  Clara is a school teacher in the village of Whitfield, lives alone and is generally living out her days quietly.  Nora heads to the Big Apple to pursue her dream of radio stardom, banking on her looks, charm and talent to pave the way for her.  Clara worries about Nora in the big city - worries that she will be taken advantage of or will be forced to have her illusions shattered by nasty show business.  Sadly, it is Clara who has her world shattered.  The story quickly takes unexpected turns, leaving the reader breathless and slightly dazed by what they see unfolding before them. 

Written in the fashion of letters and journal entries, I found it fascinating to have Clara and Nora's life stretch out before us almost as it happens, in the moment, despite it being seventy years in the past.  Large and small events, both familiar and unbeknownst to us, are treated with the casual air of someone who really is watching it happen without prior knowledge.  I was kind of expecting some heavy-handed foreshadowing, but no - just a gentle unfolding.  The often jarring stop and start of something - well, that's life isn't it?  How does one know that their her entire existence is about to change that afternoon when they wake up and make tea for breakfast?

I really did enjoy Wright's style and wit, his ability to give such unique voices to his characters (I didn't need to read the addresses in the top right corner - I could actually tell who was writing anyway).  A wonderful read and a worthy addition to the Giller shelf.

On Stage: The Tea Party @ Sound Academy

Back in May, I heard a radio ad that made me have to pull over and call AnCe immediately: The Tea Party will be performing at Sound Academy on July 21st.  Frantic message-leaving ensued; it sent something like this: "AnCe!  I know you're in NYC right now but I just HAD to call you and tell you that the TEA PARTY are playing on July 21st!  In some place called Sound Academy?  Anyway, you're the biggest Tea Party fan I know, so I thought I'd tell you!  Call me when you get back!  Sorry for the weird message.  I'm stoked!  Woohoo!"

Anyway, we're still friends and she was equally excited.  So we found ourselves, on the hottest day of the year (decade?) crammed into a standing-room only venue with about 1400 other crazies.  we were exhausted, dehydrated and surrounded by equally sticky people.  We didn't care.  When they took the stage, we were freaking out like we were seventeen-year-olds again!  Lost my voice somewhere between Save Me and Temptation.

When it was all over, my jelly legs barely made it to the parking lot.  Only later did I realise that there was no Babylon.  I think they may have been saving this for the second encore that never came.  it was hot; I can't really blame them.

The drive home took almost 2 hours though - the Gardiner on-ramps were ALL closed.  I think with the lack of water, the heat and and the ridiculous traffic at 1am, i may have wandered to the edge of madness - thankfully AnCe was there to keep me tethered.

Awesome night!

The Tea Party’s Setlist, July 21st:
1. Writing’s on the Wall
2. The Bazaar
3. Lullaby
4. Psychopomp
5. The Messenger
6. Fire in the Head
7. Correspondences
8. Heaven Coming Down
9. Sun’s Going Down
10. The Halcyon Days
11. Save Me / Last Goodbye
12. Release
13. Temptation
Encore:
14. Sister Awake / Paint It Black

Monday, August 01, 2011

unplanned

How to have an unplanned weekend:

1) Start Early.  I mean, if you can, take Friday off.  I did (having worked a Saturday previously) and so I started my weekend on Thursday night.

2) Watch an excellent movie with a cute Muggle.

3) Spend Saturday afternoon hanging out with good friends planning for your next blowout vacation.  This time, we bought tickets for our Vegas shows, confirmed our hotels and generally got very excited about driving the length of Route 66.


4) Get last-minute tickets to see a show downtown with your bestie.  Afterwards, go to a pub for drinks and confabulation; if the waitress asks for your ID, make a game of it!  Ask her how old she thinks you are and then feel really good about the answer for the rest of night.

5) Wake up early on Sunday, jump in the car and head off for an adventure.  The crazier the better!  If you happen to check off an item on your life to-do list while you're at it?  Bonus!

6) Head home for a shower and a quick nap.  if you get a call from your parents' asking if you want to go to a favourite Aunt's house for BBQ, say yes!  Hang out by the pool, eat heartily and, heck, watch the Women's World Cup final since you're there.  Cheer for the underdog; freak out when they win in OT penalty kicks.

7) Join your LilBro for a pay-per-view Wrestling event at the theatre across the street.  Relish that, for once, you came in after the previews started and still had a kickass seat saved for you.  Totally mark out with the crowd and indulge your secret trailer-trash fantasies.

8) Go home, take a long shower and marvel at your "boring" unplanned weekend.  Decide that life really is what happens while you're planning to live it.

wind beneath my wings


Local adventure seeking brought AnCe and me to a very hot sod farm in St. Jacob's.  This was a spontaneous trip, as it was originally Nish and AnCe going, but what with Nish in Madagascar (more on that later, poppets - it's not that I don't want to blog, it's just that I don't have the time to do it), she needed to offload her ticket asap.  So, there I am!  AnCe and I rock-paper-scissor'ed to see who would go first and I won the honour - so there you see the tiny me!  We climbed quite quickly to two-thousand-feet!  My instructor was pretty awesome, letting me call the turns and even letting me "fly solo" for a bit.  The video is short (we were up there for about 20 mins) but you get the idea. 

I continue to live a charmed life, poppets.  I must have been a very good girl at some point to have built up such good karma.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

On Stage: Hugh Jackman in One Night Only

I was first introduced to Hugh Jackman via X-Men as the deliciously sexy Wolverine.  Fast forward ten years, and I'm watching the same man put on a one-man Broadway show, singing and dancing and making us laugh and cry... what the hell?  Am I in some weird bizarro world?  (Wait, that's DC).  What can I say, Hugh Jackman is awesome!  Well, I kinda knew that already, from his turn as Oscar host, which I thought was so brilliant; they need to bring him back.  His limited engagement in Toronto ended July 17 (I caught the July 16 show) but I think he may make it to NYC and if he does?  Go see it.  It was entertaining as heck!

Now Playing: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part two


It’s been two weeks since I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2. I have to admit, I wasn’t ready to watch the last movie. Jadek kept saying that, for him, Harry Potter ended four years ago when the last book came out. To some extent, he’s right; however, I will absolutely admit to using the movies a crutch to deal with that loss. Sure, I closed the book in 2007, but I still had lots of Harry to look forward to! Two weeks ago, I was not at all ready to have no more new Harry-ness in my life.

The movie began exactly where the first part left off – no “previously on”, no montage flashback, just go. And go it did!  I won't bore you with plot details - suffice it to say, a lot of stuff happens.  Quickly.  Brutally.  Characters live, they die; they succeed triumphantly; they slink off cowardly; bad things happen; good things happen.  And then it all ends.  Through it all, the audience was almost reverent.  It was the quietest movie I'd seen in a long time (despite the giants, magical duels and stuff blowing up) and I found it hard to keep my pathetic little sobs to myself.  With the lights coming up and me still fumbling for a tissue (where are the days when boys had handkerchiefs?), I think I was still in denial about it all.

I watched the movie again, 4 days later with AnCe.  I'm not a movie-talker (despite what Nish says, which is funny, because I think we've seen two movies together in the theatre) and so I was pulled right back in.  Only  a few less tears this time, and I could really focus on the scenes that went by too quickly the first time.  And when it was all over?  STILL not ready to let it go. 

As a movie: this was pretty good.  I can't really think of a better way that they could have wrapped it all up.  Movie fans (but not book readers) I think may be confused by some parts, but that's always been the downfall of the movies when compared to the books.  As book-readers, I think we filled in where necessary and tapped into the emotions we remember having as we read these passages for the first time.  Yes, I think the whole series is worth watching; yes I think it's difficult not to rate this movie as a series finale instead of a standalone movie.  I would give this entire experience a 5 out of 5 stars.  And I'm sorry poppets, that I cannot disengage myself enough to look at part 2 on its own.

***
Some notes (and spoilers):
- I watched HP7b in 3D the first time and in normal the second.  Being a 'dark" movie - one that takes place mostly outside and at night, I found the normal version quite dark in comparison to the 3D.  This could have the particular screen I was watching, but anyway, I thought I'd mention it.
- Christopher Columbus from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone needs to be rewarded handsomely.  His insistence on having Radcliffe cast has really made this series.  In fact, the entire cast is a real work of art.  When we see Hermione in her Bellatrix disguise (basically, Helena Boham-Carter playing at being Hermione in disguise), it was just brilliant - her mannerisms and facial expressions!  I could actually see Emma Watson in Bonham-Carter's face!  And who would have seen that awkward Neville grow into such a brave man?  The cast, really, couldn't have been better.
- Dumbledore finally comes into his own and we get to see the funny, charming, witty headmaster that I've longed for since Richard Harris passed away.
- Snape's death scene was just perfect.
- Happy 31st Birthday, Harry (one day early).

For those of you who haven't watched the movies (or read the books) because you think all this hype is just exhausting, I think you're doing yourselves a disservice.  I find the stubborn refusal to do something solely on the grounds that it's popular just as silly as doing things for that purpose alone.  The books are amazing - they literally turned a whole generation back on to reading.  I cannot tell you the amount of little children I watched reading the tome (Order of the Phoenix) when it first came out - these same children who for years we've been led to believe couldn't read more than a few pages a time, needed pictures to make it interesting and had to have simple words only.  If nothing else, read the books - they are truly magical.  The movies?  They're like a treat, getting to watch the characters step off the page and on to a big screen.  It's too bad that latecomers to the book series will be "spoiled" by the images from the movies, but as Dumbledore would say, alas.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Now Playing: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Short review: Dark of the Moon wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  Actually, of the series, this may have been the best one.  Despite the weird Pink Floyd reference (but not), the movie was peppered with neat bits - like Buzz Aldren and Megatron's cape and toppling skylines.  Should you make an effort to watch it if youhaven't bothered with the other two?  No.  2.5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Now Playing: Green Lantern

God, I watched Green Lantern weeks ago.  It was nothing to write home about.  In fact, a lot of it didn't really make sense to me.  I should probably write a review eviscerating it, but that's so much effort for a movie that barely didn't suck.  The worst part was that it was boring.  You know, superhero movies have come a long way.  Now, we don't just expect a godo fight scene, we expect drama, comedy, plot.  Lantern really didn't deliver on any counts.  I'd give it 2 out of 5 stars.  Harsh, I know.

Monday, June 27, 2011

funny shit my dad says (that i share and others judge)

Yesterday, I posted the following two conversations on facebook as my status:

Dad: I could be a top chef.
Mom: Oh yeah? What's a truffle?
Dad: ...Cake.
Mom: What?
Dad: You know, the opposite of trifle.

Dad: listen, I want to get your Mom something nice for her birthday.
Me: okay, you got any ideas?
Dad: yeah, channel 5.
Me:... you want to get her the TV Guide?
Dad: No! The perfume!
Me: ...Chanel? No. 5?
Dad: that's what I said.

Most people got a good laugh out of it (as did we at the time of the actual conversation).  If there's anything my dad appreciates, it's a joke.  So, everyone chuckles, people choke on lettuce, whatever.  and then I get the snide comment (from one of my older cousins) "I am smarter than my parents..."

WTF?

Who said I meant that?  it was funny play on words.  Both times.  Like the time I mixed up Carniverous with Coniferous.  I swear, some people can suck the joy out of anything.  This is one of the reasons I really hate having family on Facebook.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Now Playing: X-Men: First Class

Yes, another prequel. At least it isn't a reboot.  For a blockbuster franchise, X-Men: First Class was actually done quite well. Can a brawny blockbuster be brainy too?

Plot-wise, the writers tried to keep some sense of continuity with the original movie trilogy. I mean, the opening scene is almost directly lifted from a previous iteration. I loved the cameo appearances of some big-name recognisable actors from the  previous movies as well. One glaring mistake is centred, however, around Emma Frost. In fact, it’s so obvious, I can only say that it was intentional. I’m sure you’ve seen the ubiquitous shots of January Jones playing Emma Frost as an adult contemporary of Charles and Erik; yet, there was a diamond-esque mutant names Emma (Kayla’s sister) in the Wolverine movie. I don’t think the timeline quite adds up. I’m sure Bryan Singer knows what he’s doing… this is huge, though. They’ll need to address it for sure.

Casting has always been excellent in these movies and, with the exception of the wooden acting of Ms. Jones, it is once-again outstanding. James McAvoy is a very convincing Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender is just about perfect for Erik Lehnsherr. Jennifer Lawrence, who stole my heart in Winter’s Bone, continues to impress as Raven. And Kevin Bacon? …who saw that coming! Even he was pretty good as crazy bad guy Sebastian Shaw.

All in all, really, a solid movie – entertaining and clever. 3.5 our of 5 stars.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Now Playing: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

As a rule, I’m pretty leery of open-ended movie “franchises” that go past three films; they always remind me of those bad 80’s movies. So, when I saw they’re making a Pirates of the Caribbean 4 (On Stranger Tides), I audibly groaned. Is there anything left for them to tap? Having just rewatched the original Pirates trilogy, I thought they had pretty much covered the good stuff. I was wrong.

Let me get the negative stuff out of the way: there was no Orlando Bloom. I really thought there’d be at least a cameo – I mean, he’s Davy Jones! But, no. Really, that’s it.

Ian McShane as Blackbeard has to be one of the most inspired casting moves ever (though, I’m sure Shrek had something to do it). The man oozes menace and charisma … in other words, the perfect pirate. Penelope Cruz as his daughter Angelica was great as well; she’s one of the few actors I know who can be silly and sexy all at once… the perfect love interest for Captain Jack. It was nice to see Gibbs back (but no others? Sad). Also, Gilette is back – you may remember him saying the prophetic mermaid line to Ms. Swann (though maybe not, as that would have been eight years ago).

The mermaids storyline is pretty awesome. These mermaids are the best mermaids ever – they are beautiful, relentless, vicious and tough as barracudas. No Ariels here. Seriously, I see a whole new movie franchise opportunity: Mermaids! Vampires of the Sea! They come out at night, they burn in the sun, they have fangs… loved them.

All in all, a good movie. Entertaining and, despite being #4, surprising. 4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

34th & 6th

This is the scene in front of me: my clothes are laid out out on my suitcase, drying out from being caught in a crazy, electric thunderstorm while wandering down Lexington from Central Park; Victoria Secret pink stripes, Macy's red, Daffy's yellow and Little Brown Bags are littered about, with frothy nothings spilling out; Ellie, the cat, is sprawled at the foot of the bed, having just snuggled us hello.  The last two days have been spent in a way that I can only imagine living in New York would be spent.  I've eaten, shopped and caught some shows... but really it's the stuff in between that makes the trip (so far) so fun.

But first, we had to get here and that in itself was enough of an adventure.  Our flight was at 0630 and so we left at 0500 to get there for sixty minutes before departure (as recommended).  Without getting into all the details, let's just say that the Lady and Fog made it so we didn't arrive in NYC until almost 1400.  After dropping our stuff off at our "hotel" (read as: picked up the key to ExPat's place), we walked up ten blocks to pop into my cousin's restaurant for lunch, before heading down to Macy's for some light perusing.  By the time we actually met up with ExPat, it was time for dinner, and we headed up to the NYC institution, ShakeShack in Madison Square Park.  Some of the most delicious burgers ever were found there.  Bedtime was perfect and I slept for 10 hours, uninterrupted even by a blow-up air mattress pump at 2am.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Now Playing: Priest

Sometimes, I don't know what makes me do it.  Is it the proximity to the theatre?  The super-cheap tickets?  The lack of alternative entertainment?  I don't know.  What I do know is that I spent a Friday afternoon watching Priest, starring the under-utilised Paul Bettany and kickassery of Maggie Q.  (Did you know that Q is the new Nikita?  I was doubtful of her ability to replace Peta Wilson; I no longer doubt.)  The movie was not good.  Again, I don't know why, really.  The special effects were decent, the storyline, while thin, was okay and you really couldn't get a cooler bad guy than Karl Urban.  It just felt... rushed. Lots of things were glossed over, like is this the past or the future or an alternate reality or an alternate past what?  And what happens when you get infected - do you become a vampire or a familiar?  And why, in a world of vampires,  would a city decide on a design that didn't maximise sunlight?  The movie does not hold up to analysis.  2 out 5 stars.

small fries

If you can imagine it, imagine this: a woman writes you a letter and in it she says that her and her family will be moving to Canada in six months.  You don't really know this woman.  You are somehow related, since her husband is the youngest child of your youngest aunt, neither of whom you've met.  You being the oldest child of the oldest sibling, there's over thirty years between you and this woman.  She writes in her letter that they don't know anyone in Canada and is asking for your help - could you recommend a place to stay?  someone to call?  ...How would you know?  You've been living here for over twenty-five years.  You have a crazy idea and, as you look around your two-bedroom condo on the quiet side of the DVP, you decide to talk to your wife about it when she gets home from work.  You're retired, she's about to and you have a new home in Barrie that is going to be your retirement present to yourselves.  That night, after dinner, you pen a letter back to the woman and tell her your crazy idea: why not come and stay with us?

I have no idea what my Uncle Len was thinking when he extended that offer to my mom, my dad, me and my (still a baby) brother.  The only reason my mom had his address was because she had been polite enough to send Thank-You cards to everyone who so much as RSVP'd to their wedding.  As a result, she was in regular correspondence with my Uncle Len, whose distinctive "ruler-writing" made his letters so recognisable.  In his later years, that writing would be the only part of him that didn't give in to age.  He and dad were indeed first cousins, but had never so much as exchanged words on the telephone (not like we had a telephone to make this easy).  And when we arrived at the airport, it was Uncle Len who recognised our young family first.

I have no idea what made him take us in.  Their condo was so posh, I remember thinking.  My dad had a slightly panicked look when he saw all the very breakable and stain-able furniture and had begun to pre-empt any future incidents by hissing to us just not to touch anything.  at all.  ever.  What would LilBro know about that?  He was barely eighteen months old and everything was so gosh-darned pretty.  Uncle Len's gentle "no-no-no" while moving my brother's hand from the lamp to a toy is an indelible memory from those two weeks we spent living with them.

Yes, it was only two weeks.  Remember that house in Barrie?  Well, it was move-in ready for September first and the Don Mills condo had been sold.  They offered for us to come and live with them up there (how different life may have been!) but told us truthfully that jobs would be scarce.  Not ten days after meeting us, Uncle Len met our first Canadian landlord and stood as a guarantor for our lease, because no one was willing to take a chance on this young, unemployed couple so fresh-off-the-plane, they were still jet-lagged.  Mom and dad didn't disappoint.

Over the years, Uncle Len became like a surrogate grandfather and cool older uncle rolled into one.  I had lost three of my four grandparents already and my Dada was quite frail by the time he, too, passed, five years later.  Uncle Len bought me my first Bible (first communion), Scrabble board (tenth birthday) and thesaurus (the last Christmas in Scarborough).  More importantly, he was a role model for my dad and (later I found out) would always stick up for us when my parents were being particularly harsh.  He's the reason I was allowed to attend sleepovers when I was little, a concept completely lost on my parents.  He was very good to my brother too - taught him to play pool, gave him his cue (a beauty named Matilda) and christened him Small Fry (the junior version of Frenchie, my dad).

Uncle Len showed us with every action and gesture what it meant to be a classy, dignified and decent human being.  When he moved to London, it became difficult to see him more than once or twice a year; but, it felt good just to know he was around, to see his ruler-writing on birthday cards and notes tucked into random gifts he would send (badminton rackets and coffee mugs came with a note saying that I'd need both while away at university and, if I changed  my mind, Western wasn't too far away from their place).

I have no idea what he was thinking on Friday night when, surrounded by family and in his daughter's arms, he slipped away from us peacefully.  Typically, he had done it on his own terms, having already arranged for the funerary services, having just taken his last rites, having waited for the whispered words "you can go dad; I'll take care of mom" before sighing his last.  I hope, whatever it was, that he knew just how loved and honoured he was, just how much he touched all our lives and just how safe and comforted he made a little girl feel when he said "welcome home" on a hot August afternoon more than twenty years ago.  Goodbye Uncle Len.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Now Playing: Thor

The latest in Marvel's Avengers line-up: Thor.   I really wasn’t expecting too much, at first. I mean, Thor isn’t exactly as famous as his compatriots. Then, the reviews began filtering in and it was very positive and I thought “well, at least it will be entertaining.” You know what? It really is. First of all, what great casting in Chris Hemsworth: he’s huge, he’s handsome, he’s charming, he’s capable of personal development… everything you want in a superhero! Also, a splendid idea to cast slightly shorter actors around him, which only accentuates his large-but-proportionalness. And since we’re talking about casting: hello Tom Hiddleston! That guy was awesome! I also really enjoyed the multicultural casting which allowed for an excellent Idris Elba to helm Heimdall – I now can’t picture anyone else doing it.

So, plot. I don’t know a thing about Superhero Thor, but I do know lots about Norse Legend Thor. If you know the legends, then many of the surprises will not be very surprising. Having said that, however, the explanations for the plot twists are intriguing and “new” so there’s still lots to leave audiences hanging. Technically speaking, the movie was pretty cool too. Einstein-Rosen Bridge = Bifrost? I bought it – and the special effect really helped to sell it.

I have to give Marvel serious kudos – they are on their way to making this Avengers adventure really epic. Can’t wait for the next instalment. 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

epic fail, Canada

So, last night Canada made history: we, the people, elected the first EVER party to be found in contempt of Parliament.  Way to go, guys.  Way to go.
Frankly, I'm not even sad about having the Liberals being decimated to 34 seats - really, we've seen worse defeats that have had no effect on the party's standing later.  Then again, when the Conservatives kept only only two seats after the Mulroney era and under Kim Campbell, the Liberals didn't yank their funding.  I doubt we can expect such fair play when it comes to Harper's Tories.

I still don't think Conservative voters know what the word "Conservative" means - it does not mean spending money into a deficit just so big business can continue to make a profit in recession times and it certainly does not mean being found in contempt of Parliament.  Harper is a megalomaniac who wears blue because he needs a recognisable party to hide his REFOOOOORM ideas - John A. is spinning is his grave at having his great party become much a divisive and polarising entity. Heck, if it wasn't for his ludicrous rich-get-richer platform, I would be a Conservative voter! Small Government, no tax hikes... yeah, I can get behind that.  But, really, who has an extra $5000 for a TFSA after paying taxes, RRSPs, your mortgage and groceries? I know who - people making $150000+.  And that's his priority, not you or me or the rest of us middle class schmucks who keep the engine of this economy running.

Frankly, people will see it for what it is, just as they did after Mulroney (seriously, TWO seats in Parliament... how quickly we forget) and just as they did after Mike Harris. Now is not the time to whine and complain about the democratic process - now is the time to remain vigilant and remind the Conservatives of what exactly the word "democratic" means.  We have a fairly strong Official Opposition in the NDP - let's give them the support they need to do their job to keep Harper in check.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Now Playing: Fast Five

It’s been a long time since I stood in line for a movie, but there I was on a Friday Night, averaging about 10 years senior to most of my fellow moviegoers, an hour before the show time… standing in line. I recently (re) watched the entire Fast & Furious franchise and so was excited to see the fifth (and penultimate) instalment, starring most of the original cast. Given the source material, I wasn't disappointed. The franchise has definitely evolved from a car chase aficionado’s wet dream to a more complex international professional carjacking operation, run by a Robin Hood band of Merry Men (and Women). For a mere action movie, this series really does its best to keep continuity and consistency of character in mind when planning elaborate plotlines that sometimes stretch the suspension of disbelief.

In short: it’s good.

Orignals Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster are back along with extended Furious family members including Ludacris, Gal Gadot and, my favourite, Sung Kang. This time, they’re operating out of Brazil, still on the run from the American feds, running out of money and geography. One bad call places them in the sights of a very angry Special Agent (Dwayne Johnson) and necessitates the need for a fast plan and faster cars. Good times ensue.

Should you watch this movie? Not unless you’ve watched the other four, otherwise half the dialogue won’t make sense. I can’t rate the series, but this movie was a solid 4 out of 5 stars. Can’t wait for #6.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Now Playing: Source Code

So, Source Code (Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga).  It was an okay film.  I thought repeating the same eight minutes over and over again would be annoying, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  Everything was pretty average, from acting to scripting to movie effects.  I'm going to give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

Spoiler Alert!  No seriously, I can't continue talking about Source Code without talking about the spoilers.  So, if you care about that sort of thing, do not read any further.

Really.

I'm not kidding.

Okay....

Ever watch a show called Quantum Leap?  Well, Source Code is like the movie adaptation of it.  Except it never says that (though, thoughtfully, they allow Scott Bakula a nice voice cameo).  There's even a military connection.  Anyway, plot-wise it was okay until the last minute "twist" of parallel timelines that actually intersect with each other.  See, I totally bought that the Captain goes back to relive the last eight minutes of some guy's life in order to prevent a bombing.  That's what Source Code is - an interactive memory print that allows people to solve a crime but not to alter reality because, by definition, the Code is a memory-print.  Instead, they decided to go the alternate universe route, which only make for a confusing mess.  This "hole" is the only reason i didn't give this movie a 4 out 5 - it actually unravelled itself completely! 

At least they've set themselves up for infinite sequels to get it right.

Now Playing: Hanna

Watched Hanna on Sunday; I hadn't even heard of the movie until I caught  a preview for it on the flight back from Cuba.  Or, perhaps I had, but blocked it as one its "stars" is Eric-Fucking-Bana.  Since i didn't recognise him on the tiny air-plane screen, I just liked it without hating him and thus relegating the movie to the "no" pile. 

On to the movie, which I actually liked, despite EFB's presence.  Possibly because he wasn't in it as much as I'd feared or because Cate Blanchett and Saiorse Ronan's combined awesomeness overpowered his stink or because I really really liked the soundtrack.  Anyway, it was good.  It wasn't great, but it was good.

Plot-wise, it wasn't too bad.  Clearly, this is written to be open-ended, perhaps even franchise-starting.  Great casting in Ronan/Blanchett, who could almost be related (spoiler?  twist?  you'll see...).  The choice to keep things as ambiguous as possible until the very last moment is also a great one - I mean, i had no idea where they were, who they were or even when they were.  Very edgy and suspenseful.

The most vibrant and tense character of this film, however, goes uncredited: the soundtrack.  The Chemical Brothers do for Hanna what the Dust Brothers for Fight Club: make it awesome!  I have already listened to the soundtrack on loop and it's still fantastic. 

So, should you watch it?  Yeah, probably, but don't hurt yourself hurrying.  I think you can even watch this one at home, as I didn't get the sense that it was relying too much on big picture (though the soundscape would benefit from 5.1 setup, for sure.  3 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Now Playing: Sucker Punch

Whoops.  Forgot to review Sucker Punch when I watched it a couple of weeks ago.  That should give you some idea of how excited I am about it.  Given Zack Snyder’s track record, I was absolutely expecting something beautiful.  And perhaps that’s where we should start – with the beautiful parts.  Visually, this movie is stunning.  I really loved the 300-esque feel that the entire movie had – gritty, stylised and vaguely sexy.  (We’ll talk more about the vague parts of this). Everybody and everything has a grimy sheen to it that achieves the amazing dual purposes of looking both appealing and revolting.  Except the girls.  They seem to shine and remain generally untouched by the ugliness surrounding them.  Could this be on purpose?  A commentary of the inherent innocence of these girls being locked up and being mistreated? 

Well, I doubt it.  Apart from the neat progression in time (samurai to medieval to WWI to some undisclosed planet with two moons) which somehow denotes Baby Doll’s evolution as a fighter (I think), and the pretty awesome soundtrack, most of the movie really confused me.  I mean, okay, I understand the brothel (and the subsequent escape from it) as some sort of metaphor for Baby Doll’s escape attempts from the asylum; but what was with the dancing-as-fighting thing?

Which brings me to the stuff I didn’t like – which, sadly, was the rest of it.  It all feels so contrived.  We need a victim escapist fantasy?  Let’s get an evil stepfather to lock our heroine into an asylum.  Need sexy outfits?  Well straitjackets won’t do, so let’s make the escapist fantasy take place in a brothel.  But how, oh, how can we get hookers (sorry, excuse me, dancers) into awesome fight scenes?  Well, we have to make the fighting a metaphor for the dancing (which is a metaphor for the asylum).  And heck, throw in a musical number at the end.

I almost wish I could have just watched this movie in mute and made up my own story. 

Well, so what to rate it?  It was pretty and the fight scenes were great; despite the exploitive feel, even the outfits were awesome.  But, in the end, I’m left unimpressed. I would say rent it, but that may compromise the visual effects; paying full price may compromise your wallet.  Your call.  2.5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Cuba

This was my average day in Cuba.

0830: wake up
0900: breakfast (with mimosas)
1000-1130: ocean swim
1130-1300: dry off on a lounger; read a book
1300-1500: lunch (with sangrias)
1500-1600: read/nap (with mojitos)
1600-1700: ocean/pool swim
1700: random activities**
1800-1900: get ready for dinner (fancy dress!)
1900: pre-dinner cocktails in the lobby bar (more mojitos)
1930-2100: dinner
2100-2300: post-dinner cocktails in the lobby bar, listen to the band, plays a few hands of hearts.
2300-2359: read
0000: sleep
**= archery, skeet shooting, catamaran riding, pool-volleyball, salsa/rumba/mambo lessons, etc.

Some nights we went to a show instead of post-dinner cocktails; some nights we went to a disco.  Most nights, I was happy with Blue Hawaiians, Mudslides and Pina Coladas.  The resort was pretty amazing - we felt safe enough to leave our cameras/books/towels on the poolside loungers while we wandered off to the ocean or to lunch.  Clothes were hung to dry on the patio (to take advantage of that morning sun).

We did get into Havana for a day, which was amazing.  It was like stepping into a time warp - old cars, old houses and old architecture.  Except that none of this stuff was museum quality.  People were living in abandoned mansions, squatting in what used to be the Bacardi rum factory and tending goats on the Capitol lawns. 

And the people?  Here's a country that knows what it means to be a service industry.  They are warm, friendly and, somehow, genuine.  They go out of their way to accommodate you and most times will do so for no compensation to them.  Tips, as we were told, are appreciated but it would be impolite for anyone to ask for them.  Our Breakfast/Lunch waitress (whose name I could not pronounce for the life of me) was so sweet.  She found us on our last day (as we were heading back from the lobby bar) and said she wasn't going to be with us for breakfast the next day so she wanted to say goodbye: hugs and kisses all around.

Considering how I usually spend my vacation time, I was really worried that a do-nothing vacation would be boring. It really wasn't.  Between the salty ocean, the random activities, Havana and the food... I was amused.  And, for the first time, rested upon return.  Would I do it again?  Sure!  In deference to my need to see everything, though, I will probably go to Belize next.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I have been neglecting Book Club reads for the last two months, ashamedly.  Instead, I've been indulging in yet another re-read of the Harry Potter series (which never fails to hook, line and sink me into reading oblivion).  Since I went to Cuba, however, I took with me this month's pick: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

In a neat blend of Victorian and Gothic literary styles (a hated and beloved genre, respectively), The Tale is quite the surprise.  I had expected a Zafón-esque adventure; I had expected a Brooks-ian love letter to readers.  What I got was a little of both and much more: a romantic mystery, full of plot twists and shocks, that were satisfying and terrifying.  When I read "beneath my fingers, the handle to the third room began to turn of its own accord" (p.133), my breathing went distinctly shallow.  Not since James' "The Turn of the Screw" have I been equally enamoured and petrified by the words I was reading.

I have very little to critique.  The plot is engaging, the characters grotesquely real, the diction compelling.  And yet, if I must find something to criticise, I would say that it is Setterfield's determination to leave no thread unknotted, applying reality and fantasy in equal measure to answer burning question.  Would I have left something out?  Would I have liked some stone to remain unturned and therefore tantalisingly mysterious?  I don't know - we shall have to discuss at Book Club.  Clearly, it is a novel that stays with you, as even I can see echoes of it in my own prose.

Read it!  Especially if you are visiting the Moors!

Friday, March 18, 2011

DVD: Walking Dead

A zombie TV-series? In a world of vampire slayers and ghost whisperers, it was inevitable. AMC’s Walking Dead, based off the monthly Image comics, came out on BD last week and so, of course, a marathon ensued! AnCe, LilBro, Jadek and myself curled up on a lazy Sunday afternoon to down all 6 episode in one shot. Not a hard feat, it turns out. The show is excellent! Just enough blood guts and gore to keep it interesting and never veering away from its real strength: solid character development. Sure, some of the “twists” weren’t as surprising for the discerning viewer, but that was really besides the point.

I really like that there’s stuff to talk about afterwards, you know? I anticipate the Great Whispers Debate all summer. And I also like that there’s a solid deviation from the comic books, so fans will have some surprises to still look forward to. It was a lot fun and a lot of scary. I recommend it!