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.