Saturday, December 29, 2012

Now Playing: Django Unchained

Trying to squeeze in as many movies as possible before going back to work.  Today, as a family bonding exercise, we watched Django Unchained - that's, Mom, Dad, LilBro, Jadek, and myself.  Good thing we got there 45 minutes early too - the theatre was sold out. 

Anyway, Django  (the D is silent).  I'm a fan of the QT's work, and am a great fan of Christoph Waltz (even when I don't care for the movie). I love Waltz so much, I've chosen his poster over the conventional one.  Not saying everyone else sucked - far from.  Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Mr. Samuel L. Jackson pretty much rocked it  Rawked. It.  And what about Don Johnson?  I did not see that awesomeness coming from him.  While a potential lynching should never be funny, watching a bunch of bagheads complain about the size of their eye-holes is nothing short of hilarious ("it's not that we don't appreciate Jenny's hard work, but these could have been done better"). 

Of course, the plausible historicity of Django is sometimes a bit stretched; and that's okay.  It's honestly nothing like you'd think it was.  And you can learn interesting facts too.  Sure, an abolitionist German risking his life reunite a runaway slave with his wife pretty much never existed - but no one really cares.  There's plenty of blood, laughs, suspense, and horror to make up for that.  Totally, totally worth watching.  4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Now Playing: Jack Reacher

Poppets, I am not a fan of Tom Cruise. I think he’s more than just crazy, I think he’s a dangerous influence on people. Many of his previous movies for which he gets much praise (Jerry Maguire, I’m looking at you), I easily dismiss as boring or trite. It hasn’t been until recently that we’re seeing a real change in his movie roles/choices. And even the last Mission Impossible movie was, well, good. Honestly, he must have the hardest working agent in Hollywood because even though everyone know he’s crazy, he doesn’t make bad movies (Battlefield Earth, I’m trying really hard to forget you ever existed*).

Enter: Jack Reacher.

This could have easily become a Bourne or Die Hard rip-off, it could’ve degenerated into a Cruise-pandering vehicle that became vacuous and shallow. And it wasn’t. What the heck? Jack Reacher, as a character, is the best example of a badass hero. He’s mean, crude, and poor but all his actions are driven by a core or justice that most of us can understand (but do nothing about). Best of all, he’s funny: “if he died, it’s from shame, cuz I was bein’ gentle”. This is the beginning of franchise, no doubt. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

(I wanted to see Killing Them Softly, but it’s already out of the theatre. If you, too, are looking for a break from the holiday crazy, but can’t wait until Christmas Day, this could be a good distraction.)

*Edit: it has been pointed out to me that perhaps I didn't realise that Tom Cruise wasn't in Battlefield Earth.  I know this; as I said, he doesn't really make bad movies, like his friend and fellow Scientologist, John Travolta.  Who was in Battlefield Earth.  Which was a very bad movie.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Now Playing: The Hobbit (an unexpected journey)

Caught The Hobbit: an unexpected journey at a noon showing on opening day (pre-ordered tickets and everything; needn’t have bothered as the theatre was far from full). I’m going to be up front: I didn’t like it. I mean, the acting was good and the story is classic, but everything else was just… overkill.

First of all, I was a little wary of the fact that a single book would get more screen time than all of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. That sounded counter-intuitive to me. Once I understood that there were going to be scenes from other Middle Earth books as well, I was ready for much more content and a much slower pace (I mean, there’s a reason no one reads the Silmarillion. I guess I just wasn’t ready enough. Jadek said it best: it felt like a Director’s Cut. Indeed – like a pampered director who has made too much money for his own good.

The next thing I heard was that this was going to be filmed and presented in 48 fps (or HFR) format. What does that mean, you ask? Basically, it’s super-high-tech. I already knew what this looked like – I had seen this treatment first for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in a big-box store. I hated it. It looked unfinished and cheap. In fact, I distinctly remember saying “if this is what Blu-Rays are going to look like, I’ll stick to DVDs.” Thankfully, Blu-Rays continue to have a cinematic feel to them. Jadek warned me that I might not like it; even suggested we see a traditional 2D version. But I didn’t want to be a luddite, so I said no. I should have avoided it completely. The 3D added almost nothing to the story (heck, the Star Trek trailer used 3D more effectively!) and it meant having to sit perfectly upright for three hours in order to avoid blurring. I mean, sure, the action scenes were really crisp but since when is that realistic? Having a worg streak by you at close-range should be a blurry disorienting experience… that’s realistic.

Finally, there’s singing. And I mean an unnecessary, Disney-movie-esque, ditty about dishes. Seriously? This may be the first movie in history that offers an abridged version for the home release, once that will actually tell only the story of the Hobbit.

I don’t know if I didn’t like it because it was badly edited or because I’m uncomfortable with the technical treatment or because it was just boring. Either way, it’s my blog and someone has to pay for my keen disappointment. So: 2.5 out of stars.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Now Playing: Lincoln

The attempt to use too many tickets in too little time is slow-going, poppets.  Slow.  Going.

This past weekend, caught Lincoln (finally!) with Daniel Day-Lewis and a few other people you may recognise.  So, let's get my biases out of the way: I've had a crush on DDL since The Last of the Mohicans.  And remember the last time we saw him?  Yeah.  Yeah.  So, obviously I had high expectations for Lincoln.  Was not disappointed.

First: holy heck, is DDL a chameleon on something?  I mean, he's pretty unrecognisable every time I see him on the screen.  And every time - good, bad, crazy - he's amazing.  When I saw the teaser a few months ago, I didn't even realise I was looking at DDL.  It's like they cloned the original.  (That makeup team had better win an Oscar...)

Second: for a story to which I knew the ending, this was downright gripping!  I can partially blame my spotty American History recall (no idea as to the details involving Emancipation, the Civil War, or Union/Confederate politics) and my general memory deficits, because I truly didn't know how and when things were going to happen.  That was some excellent screenwriting.

Third: I love DDL.  That man could sell me sand in the desert.  So, clearly he has my vote for Best Actor.  But let us not forget the tour de force performances of Tommy Lee Jones and David Costabile.  A very deep cast indeed.

So, yes, go watch it.  Like, right now.  Do it.  4.5 out of 5 stars.  (docking .5 for the sometime-slow pace.  that's a Spielberg thing though.)

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Now Playing: The Man with the Iron Fists

0
The Man with the Iron Fists was so bad, it's taken me ten days to find nothing nice to say.  Seriously.  Not even Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu could save it.  I may have turned to Jadek at some point and actually said "this is pretty bad, yo."  That's right.  Yo.  How did the amazing Quentin Tarantino ever get within twenty feet of this awfulness?  It's trite, corny, and (worst of all) boring.  Bleh.

No stars for you!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

movember

LilBro says:

"Now that Movember is officially over, I have a few sharp words I wish to share.  I'm going to try and be as placid as possible in writing this, I will attempt not to swear as it may diminish my purpose and point.

Let me take it back a few years ago. There was this "internet fad", if you will, of females posting vague statuses that went something like "I like it on the X" where "X" is any location they choose. Many people, at first, assumed it meant something to do with sex, and where they prefer to have it. However, this was a ruse, and in fact it was supposed to be where they put their purse. The point was to not share this information with my gender, and have us all in bewilderment as to why anyone would blatantly state their favourite spot for coitus on Facebook. But the purpose of this was actually rooted in, if you remember, breast cancer awareness.

I have already made my statement on the matter, and if you know it, skip this paragraph. For those of you who are unaware of my stance, it was that of unfortunate disappointment. Reason being, there was no symbolic reference to breast cancer awareness. As well, the point was to not let in half the population in on the ruse, thereby effectively cutting awareness by 50%. It was counterintuitive. It was also doing something that I've never been a fan of, and that is the sexualization of Illness. Since the breast is considered a sexual organ in the 21st century, I suppose some of us in society deem it appropriate to link the two. I do not believe in this practise. There is nothing sexy about a debilitating disease that kills over 5000 women in Canada a year. I find it much more suitable to wear a pink ribbon if you want to raise awareness, and if one wants to show support on Facebook, one can make a profile picture simply wearing pink. But that was an old point.

Fast forward to today, where the Movember movement is very much a part of our pop culture. The point is simple, grow a moustache for the month of November. The Purpose? Raise awareness for prostate cancer. Its simple enough, the meme is there, everyone understands the goal. Many men even raise money by growing facial hair at this time.

However, there is an ugly reaction that has surfaced this year.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Now Playing: Life of Pi

Watched Life of Pi as part of a double-feature this weekend. [It’s hard trying to use up what was supposed to be two years’ worth of tickets in four months. You get very unlikely pairings when this happens] I had read the novel years ago, when I was still ensconced in the tiny room of my parents’ abode. I loved the novel, staying up late into the night to finish chapters despite having 6am shifts at work. Needless to say, I had high hopes for the movie.

Pi? It’s really really good. The acting is pretty amazing: Suraj Sharma spent so much of his screen time alone, it must have been really daunting to react only to a green screen (or did they use real animals? If they…double wow). It is unabashedly Canadian (set in Montreal, about an Indian family bound for Winnipeg) – so, perhaps that turned some American audiences off. And the effects … oh the effects! They are so good, I was slightly uncomfortable is some parts (read: any part where they were underwater – agoraphobia really acted up). If nothing else, Pi is a really beautiful movie adaptation of an equally gorgeous book.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

taking credit

You know, I give LilBro a hard time. I can’t help it – I’m older, wiser, and (sometimes) smarter. I take pride in my sense of responsibility; equally, I loathe that same sense because I feel it is sometimes to my disadvantage. I’m getting more and more cynical as I age, though still lagging far behind my compatriots. Anyway, this is all to say that I’m often dismissive of the talents, skills, and genuine good-naturedness of my sibling. And I shouldn’t be.

Where I may be smarter, he’s certainly more clever and witty. He’s open to new ideas and discussions of big and little things alike. He has opinions – strong ones – but that doesn’t mean he’s closed-minded. He can be convinced with logic and rationale. This is a quality that is rare. It takes a lot to make a stand and then to admit that you may have been wrong. Where I may be wiser, he still carries some of that audacity of youth that I have long since lost. I have wisdom at the expense of courage. I know how to make, spend, and save money. He knows how to make, spend, and save creativity. Which of us is wiser?

I may be older…well, I am older. Nothing is changing that. I have become less pliant, more brittle, easily hurt. I don’t twist an ankle, I tear three tendons; I don’t have a sore muscles, I have chest pains and nausea; I don’t have heartbreak, I have a permanently broken heart. What I do with it is useless: I bury it, stomp on it, forget where I put it and let it go. He fuels it into music and song, takes something painful and makes something beautiful.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Now Playing: Wreck-It Ralph

In a fun bit of nostalgia, we took in Wreck-It Ralph this weekend. I was totally sold by the trailer and couldn’t think of better people to watch it with than fellow old-school gamers (LilBro and Jadek). It was a lovely bit of fluff, complete with wisecracks and morals. Voice acting talents were good; especially loved Sarah Silverman’s Vanellope von Schweets. I watched it in 3D – you don’t need to, it rarely used any of the mind trickery to make it worth and extra three bucks. Animation was up to the usual Disney snuff – no complaints there. Scripting was equally clever, with tonnes of references, self-deprecating humour, and great kid/adult humour.

I don’t know if they were setting up for a sequel (or franchise, even), but there were SO many arcade references that were missed (e.g., Area 51, street fighter, frogger…) and the ones they did have were almost half-done (Bowser, but no Mario?). The other thing was the disguising of actual games – the titular game is clearly a riff off Donkey Kong and Sugar Rush stood in for Mario Kart (complete with rainbow road!)…why? And they’ll need to make a PC/console version, because I really missed Wolfenstein, Duck Hunt, and Contra.

If you have fond memories of “Nintendo thumb”, this is definitely worth a rental. 3 out of 5 stars.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Now Playing: Skyfall

The third Bond movie helmed by Daniel Craig, Skyfall, sees our favourite British spy getting back to basics. The gadgets are pretty low-tech (radio!) and car is vintage, so if you’re expecting a showcase of techno wizardry, you’ll be disappointed. The cast is good, with standout performances from Javier Bardem and the indomitable Dame Judi Dench. Also, if you’re expecting super-suave and almost-perfection in Bond, look elsewhere. In what seems to be the trend for superheroes (thank you, Mr. Nolan), Bond is much more realistic. He gets injured, he looks dissipated, … I mean, if that’s your bag, you’re going to love this movie.

In terms of plot and pacing, it was well done. Great story, good character development, surprise twists – all there. Sometimes I wish they would divorce Bond from the franchise, and just let a new double-O (with a new back story and personality) take over every 4-5 movies. Anyway, a good time: 3 out of 5 stars.

Addendum:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Now Playing: Cloud Atlas

Caught Cloud Atlas on Sunday, the Wachowskis latest offering.  It took in a dismal $9.4-million (and cost over $100M to make), and I'm not quite sure why.  Perhaps Hurricane Sandy kept people in, perhaps the publicity campaign fell short, perhaps people are easily confused by the trailer.  As always, I'll share my bias up front: I love the Wachowskis.  Their multi-part storytelling style, the way they work gender roles, their entire movie aesthetics, and, well, their fight scenes... I think they're amazing.  I pretty much went in with high expectations but without any real idea as to the plot.  Perhaps this was the best way to go about it.

Cloud Atlas was amazing.  No, really.

The cast - which was huge and very talented - really gave it their all.  The actors are asked to play multiple parts - in different times and in different genders - and to do so in an authentic way.  Boy, did they deliver.  Sometimes recognisable, sometimes completely obscured, they put on a tour de force.  It goes without saying that the make-up and special effects stepped up too.  Some critics are saying that the plot is too complicated for the average moviegoer; I didn't think so, and in fact thought that considering there were 6 different plot-lines being interwoven, it was quite easy to follow along.  (Have people gotten that dumb?  I really hope not.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Now Playing: End of Watch

Despite me catching a cold (from staying indoors, mind you), Jadek took me to the movies on Saturday.  It was a treat to be picked up, fed buttery popcorn, and dropped home. 

Decided on watching End of Watch, a copper flick I had never heard of but which starred Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña.   I generally like these guys,  Turns out, the cast was much deeper than that.  Later found out it was written by the same guy who wrote Training Day, which makes sense. 

The movie is good: suspenseful, realistic, well-paced.  The interspersing of work and life was a nice touch, allowing us (as viewers) to get cozy with Brian and Mike quickly.  I enjoyed that these characters were believable: they weren't white knights or wolves-in-sheep's-clothing; they were cops trying to be be good at their job without completely burning out.  If i had to complain about anything, I'd say it was the fact that these guys didn't pick up a single "normal" call - all their cases were big deals.  I guess that's easier to believe in South-Central Los Angeles, but still.  Surely sometimes there's just an old lady who's dead?

Other than that minor thing, it was very good.  With slim pickings at the theatre before we rev up to full speed starting next week, this was a nice distraction.  4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

triple scotch

Assignment #7:  “Hey, wanna hear a story?”

(I'll admit, this one wasn't hard to write, but really tough to reread.  And, even now, I post with trepidation.  But, I made a long-ago promise to wear my heart on my cybersleeve, so here it is.)

***

Friday, October 19, 2012

"awesome things from my childhood"

(lifted from LilBro's FB update...with a few edits... what?  I am the older sister after all!)

themushroomkingdom.net.
"While growing up, my sister and I would only get about one hour each to play Nintendo, on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. To most of you that seems ridiculous, but it is what it is. One of our favourite games was the obvious staple, Mario Bros. 3. But since our time was so constrained, we had to devise plans to beat the game, and collect as much power-ups as we could for the final fight against Bowser. Trust me when I say, we had shit down to a science.  Warp whistles, P-wings, you name it, we had it covered.

One great example of this meticulous calculation was the sheet we created of all permutations of the N-card Match game that used to pop up randomly. It took us literally months to figure out that there were eight different match games in the game, and over the course many months, yes months, we had a full cheat sheet ready to go at a moment's notice. It was an accomplishment admired by our friends, and to this day I don't think I have put that much dedication into a video game.

Looking back, I remember clearly memorizing about 4 of those puzzles in my head because of the time spent deciphering them. We never used to have game genie or had Nintendo power growing up, so all these little secrets and gems, we found on our own.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill


I really, really, really tried to like Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black. Really. I did. I had hoped for a lovely little Gothic Horror (with some good old fashioned spooks); I am bitterly disappointed. Hill’s melodramatic writing makes me throw up a little in my mouth out of pure disgust; her attempts to emulate the fantastic writing of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw fail spectacularly.

Anyway, I gave it the old college try - I even read the damned thing! – but alas. I hated it. No, despised it. It felt contrived, silly, and, at some points, boring. A horror/suspense should never be boring. I’m sure the movie will be better, though plotline was pretty weak to begin with. It had none of suspense of The Thirteenth Tale.

The most offensive part, however, has to be the lack of varied diction. Here’s the sentence that many love and at which I cringe: “[i]t was a yellow fog, a filthy, evil-smelling fog, a fog that choked and blinded, smeared and stained.” I feel, as a writer, it’s your job - nay, your obligation! - to dazzle me with verbiage, serenade me with soliloquy, seduce me with your perspicacity. When you, as a writer, fail to do this, I am not just disappointed, I am outraged. In other words: fog can’t smell evil. It can smell bad, putrid, rotten, desiccated, stale, foul, disgusting, revolting, bilious… but it can’t smell evil. Evil doesn’t have a smell. If you can't effect a sinister atmosphere without using the word "sinister", you need to hand in your writer’s credentials.  Immediately.

For those of you who will actually read this tripe, stop here. Spoilers abound below. I would urge you to read something else though. Seriously.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Now Playing: Argo

I’ll admit, I was mostly influenced into watching Argo after catching a very well-spoken Ben Affleck on Real Time with Bill Maher. So, a Saturday afternoon matinee at the movies, complete with popcorn ensued. You know what? A great movie. Seriously. I wasn’t expecting it. And even though you probably know the ending (for us youngsters, one oughtn’t assume), it’s still gripping and intense. There this one scene with the plane (when you watch, you’ll know it) – I literally held my breath and crept forward on my seat and actually said “thank God” when it was over. I highly recommend you go and catch it – and take your parents with you! They’ll enjoy it too.

The acting was good: full of awesome with Victor Garber, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and the hundreds of Persian-Americans who portrayed human beings (not caricatures). And the casting? Holy heck! Stick around for the credits to see just how amazing the casting was. Editing was perfectly paced – fast and slow and the right times, appropriate changes of scene, etc.

All in all, great. Hopefully an Oscar contender. 4 out of 5 stars.


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Now Playing: Looper

On Sunday, LilBro, Jadek, and I took in Looper.The 'rentals had abandoned us to spend some time state-side with international family, so we had a, ahem, traditional Thanksgiving dinner (at Denny's) and then watched a movie before dessert.  Here's what I knew of Looper before going in: a sci-fi gangster flick starring JGL and Bruce Willis, the former playing a younger version of the latter.  Time travel is involved.  Got it.  Okay!

Let's set aside the obvious: JGL looks nothing like Willis, no matter how much they tried to make that happen.  What they lacked in aesthetics, JGL made up for (in spades) with his voice intonation.  Pitch perfect.  If you closed your eyes, you could almost imagine they were one in the same.  And then there's the supporting cast - krikey.  Paul Dano, Piper Perabo, Garret Dillahunt, as well as the amazing Emily Blunt and inimitable  Jeff Daniels.  Oh!  And watch for young master Pierce Gagnon who plays equal parts cute and creepy so very well.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Now Playing: Dredd 3D

We are quickly approaching Oscar season, but until then: Dredd 3D.  I will admit all my shortcomings up front: I haven't read the comic books nor watched the first movie attempt.  I was suckered by the casting (Karl Urban! Lena Headey!) and the plethora of movie coupons burning a hole in my wallet. 

So, I kinda liked it.  I mean, I got a little bored somewhere in the middle during (what felt like) a 10-minute machine gun scene, but other than that, it was okay.  I guess I was expecting a lot more action and a lot less menace.

Nevertheless, there are a lot of good parts.  Headey is her evil best as the psycho Ma-Ma, Urban never takes his helmet off (which, I'm told, is a big deal) and Olivia Thirlby kills it as Psi-Judge Anderson.  The action is appropriately gritty, intense, and brutal.  A great secondary character played by the always-typecast Wood Harris (will he ever play the lead in a RomCom?).  Nice little twists and turns.

What I liked best, though, was the treatment of females in the movie. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Now Playing: Expendables 2

In our continuing quest to spend a ginormous amount of AMC coupons before December 31, Jadek and I took in a weeknight show of Expendables 2.  Like the last one, the movie was really just a bunch of action scenes stitched together with bad dialogue. 

And I do mean bad.  Hoo-ey!  There were some stinkers in there - but really?  That didn't bother me as much as the missed opportunities.  There's this great exchange between Stallone and Van Damme (who is actually billed as Vilain - no, seriously):
VD: You gonna hurt me?
SS: "I'm not gonna hurt you… I'm gonna take your life."
...really?  Is this a Rambo reference?  If it is, it's obscure; if it isn't, they should have gone with:  "I'm not gonna hurt you… I'm gonna kill you."
There was all sorts of clunkers in there:
Schwarzeneggar: I'll be back.
Willis: You've been back enough.  I'll be back.
Schwarzeneggar: Yippee ki-yay.
...really?  I wish they had given the script to some hardcore action nerds.  With all the interaction between these mega-stars, there should have been gold in every exchange.

Okay, I hear you. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Now Playing: Resident Evil: Retribution

So I'm back from Japan and what's the first movie I see?  Resident Evil: Retribution.  If you haven't watched the previous four movies starring the perfectly preserved Milla Jovovich, you should really start from the beginning.  Long-time followers are well rewarded in the fifth instalment, with cameos and references and reimaginings (oh my!).

The action sequences are really really great.  The first few minutes has ALICE in a white tunnel, devoid of much (except the infected and guns) - it was clean and beautiful to watch her execute at least forty baddies using more than just bullets.  I think that's what really sold the movie for me: the sequences are so well planned, it explains how a few "professionals" can take out hundreds of shamblers.  ALICE herself just gets more and more badass as time wears on - clearly her adaptive programming is working to its fullest potential.  Honestly, this may have been my favourite of the franchise.  4 out of 5 stars.

Oh, and one more thing: I was clearly biased from the get-go.  .  You know how commercials always precede the previews?  Well, they positioned the Retribution trailer between the two - you can see how effective that was (despite the obvious and glaring schilling for Sony).

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga

September’s Book Club pick was Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger; having already read it, I decided to tackle Adiga’s followup, Between the Assassinations.  Having just gone from an admittedly light and fluffy read to Assassinations was, well, jarring to say the least. Still: loved it.

Set up as a series of short stories all taking place in tiny port town Kittur, the entire book is almost a character sketch of place instead of people.  Which makes sense, as each chapter begins with a tongue-in-cheek travel-brochure introduction to a part of the town.  It spans the time period between the assassination of Indira Gandhi and her son Rajeev, serving up weighted book ends for quick glimpses into Indian life.  The characters weave in and out of the stories, sometimes having a direct impact and sometimes a mere spot of colour for the background.  And what characters they are!  Covering from young to the old, rich to destitute, malicious to officious to naïve, it’s a true ensemble.  There are no neat and tidy endings, each story serving as a literal snapshot instead, capturing what is happening in that moment alone. 

I think some people judge a book by how much they like the characters they’re reading about; if that’s you, don’t read this. There are no “likeable” characters to be found; only compelling ones. Even the one I cheer for at the start makes me rethink my assessment of his character by the end. If you like White Tiger at all, you’ll like Between the Assassinations, despite the different format and delivery.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

koibumi to Japan

Mount Fuji, from Otsuki Station
It was a glorious twelve days in Japan, full of sights and sounds and smells and tastes and wonderment. I have been sitting on this post for weeks now, trying my hardest to encapsulate what was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Mostly, I've been coming up short. So, in typical copout fashion, I came up with a list; my only consolation is that I think my Japanese friends will appreciate the format.

Organisation: so, it’s no secret that the Japanese are uber-organised. Everything has its place, every cubby labelled and every action accompanied by a little note (or a paper crane, whatever). I guess it’s the motivation behind this organisation that surprises me: comfort. Despite not knowing the language (like, at all) or the customs, I found that the signs and symbols and sometimes downright meticulous instructions were a big help to me. There were arrows on stairs to tell us which way to walk up in crowded places, tiles on the floor to tell us where our train car would be and how to line up, detailed breakdowns on Ryokan etiquette (how to tie your yukata, take a bath, wear your shoes)… I know. I know, it sounds crazy. But let me tell you, it made it so easy to navigate.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hawai'i

Turtle Beach, North Shore, Hawai'i
People say Hawai’i is paradise and we all sort of roll our eyes. It’s a tourist trap in the middle of the Pacific, more like. Until you get there. And then you realise that it really is paradise. Here’s the thing about Hawai’i: it’s perfect. The weather rarely strays from the 19°C-25°C range, with a light breeze that blows almost non-stop; the people, who embrace their reliance on tourism and yet who are first-world citizens as Americans, are friendly and customer-service specialists; and the scenery … well, it’s spectacular. From lazy turtle-strewn beaches to seething volcanoes, from peaceful sunrise to striking sunset, from crazy Waikiki to the sedate North Shore… O'ahu feels like a peaceful dream, from which you never wish to wake. Few places merit a second visit. This is is one of them.

AnCe and I spent a week on the Hawaiian Islands. Our first full day was spent on the North Shore, swimming with sand sharks (and one very intimidating barracuda). It was a lovely day, spent driving about the island with the top down in our red Mustang convertible, wearing bathing suits and sunglasses. Typical. That sunset was so surreal, it felt like a movie. We spent the next three days on various tours, exploring O'ahu and spending a day on the Big Island, walking about Volcano National Park. That was amazing (note to self: buy book on Hawaiian legends). If I do go back, I think I’ll spend some time hiking the volcanic floor. On Thursday, we rented another car and drove the circumference of the Oahu, even venturing Farrington highway until it ended, enjoying the crash of the surf that was oh, so close. Friday we boarded our flight and said aloha.

***

A note about Customer Service.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

September’s Book Club pick! (So, if you’re a SociaLit, stop reading.)

I was a disappointed in Alexander McCall Smith’s The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Though I found the characters charming I find them to be slightly flat. With the exception of Precious, who surprised me twice, the people in the stories seem to be easily manipulated and lacking in any real bite (even the sinister ones). Precious and her relationship with Note really threw me. I did not expect that at all.

The real drawback for me were the plots. Perhaps I think too much while reading or perhaps this is not meant to be a hardcore whodunit – either way, I “solved” most of the mysteries within a paragraph or two. And the ones that were more about proving than solving, I found stretched my suspension of disbelief far too much. In real life, I think Precious would have been killed or silenced.

Friday, August 17, 2012

aloha / sayonara

In less than twelve hours, I shall be winging away once again.  For seven days and six nights, AnCe and I will be sharking, surfing and shopping in Hawa'i.  Possibly, it will be the most relaxed trip I've ever taken, with pre-booked tours and road trips of less than 120 kilometres.  Then, we jet off to Narita International, where we spend a couple of days in Nikko, before meeting Nish in Tokyo.  Yes, Tokyo.  Three days there, a day for Fuji-san, then four day in Kyoto (with trips to Nara, Kobe, Himeji castle and, maybe Osaka).  We all part ways in Tokyo, with Nish going back to the 'Scar-via-Bangkok, AnCe heading to SFO and I going home via Washington.  I'm sure I'll have many stories upon my return.  Ciao, for now, poppets!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

WoW: things i learned from my raid leader


When asked about leadership styles during job interviews, I’m always a little stumped. How can I explain that some of my best lessons were learned while gutting imaginary beasts and demons in some alternate dimension? It’s true.
Before Warcraft, here’s how I dealt with group dynamics:
  1. assess strengths and weaknesses of team members
  2. divide the work among the capable
  3. dismiss those I didn’t see contributing
  4. take all presentation responsibilities in order to ensure effective communication of end result
…If there was any dissension amongst the group, I’d just bulldoze over it, because I had no time to try out stupid ideas destined for failure. And Goddess help you if you had to ask the same question twice. See #3.
Raiding in Warcraft is a serious team effort. One person cannot slack or it results in, well, death. Everyone has to come prepared (repaired, stocked up and forged for maximum efficiency) and everyone has to trust in their party to put forth their best effort. It takes a special kind of person to be able to lead a group of people, of differing skill levels and with unique skills to contribute, in the pursuit of one goal.

Having had the privilege of reporting to an amazing Raid Leader, Magnus, here are the things he taught me:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

WoW: enough about me

Once I pique my colleague’s curiosity, she’s full of questions about Warcraft and my character. I’ve been playing World of Warcraft since it came out over seven years ago. I’m not very good at it, it’s true, but I do like it. I like that I can be a six foot tall purple elf, with foot-long ears and face tattoos and I’m still considered the “sexy” race. I like that I can pretend to have agility +140, while sneaking up on an enemy and do my best work from behind.

She asks me what my name in the game is. Marpesia. A dagger-winged butterfly named for an Amazon warrior who specialised in poison-tipped arrows. Because, nobody ever suspects the butterfly. Also helps that my weapons of choice are two daggers and throwing knives. Remembering there are different classes, she asks whether I tank or heal, and I say no. I do damage; lots and lots of up-close damage. My skills are things like: garrotte, eviscerate, slice and dice, killing spree and fan of knives. She’s a little shocked by the bloodthirsty nature of it all. I shrug. That’s my class. If I don’t do a lot of damage, my tanks will die over time and my healers will be next. It’s my job to take that boss down as soon as I can, as cleanly as I can. I feel that responsibility keenly.

Is it stressful? It can be. There are times when so many things are happening at once (fire, arrows, steep edges) that one mis-step causes the entire raid to die. It’s important to be alert, committed and patient. So very patient. She laughs and says I must be in-charge; I say no. Emphatically.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

WoW: in the beginning...

It’s hard to talk about World of Warcraft to non-WoW people. It’s a little better with other gamers, but non-gamers? Almost a non-starter.

About a year ago, when asked about covering shifts, I said I’d like to avoid Tuesday and Wednesday nights; when pressed, I said it was my Raid Night and I didn’t want to let my guild down. Commence crickets and owl blinks. Later, one of my colleagues, an almost-older adult asked what a “raid” is exactly. I joked whether she had an hour; she very seriously replied that she had 45 minutes, would that do? So, over coffee, I explained it as such:
Warcraft is an MMORPG, massive multiplayer online role playing game. It’s played in real time, it continues playing even when your character is not logged on and it takes place in a fantasy universe. For the most part, you play solo, doing quests for rewards (like weapons, armour or gold). In some instances, you have a hard boss to defeat and you need more than one person. Sometimes you have REALLY hard bosses and you need ten people. These instances are called “raids” and your party must work together. So far, so good.
My party consists of people from my guild. A guild is a group of people who like playing together and help each other out (with bosses or rewards). So, my party has decided that we will raid together on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. People in my guild are from all over the world: Toronto, Texas, Edinburgh, etc. Our party consists of three type of players: tanks, healers and damage-dealers (DPS, further broken into melee and ranged groups). Tanks wear heavy armour so they take a lot of damage and keep the focus of the boss, but they do very little damage themselves. Healers do almost no damage, wear flimsy armour, can take no hits, but heal everyone else. DPS classes wear light armour, do mega damage from far away (ranged) or right up close (melee), but can’t take more than a hit or two. Together, as a team, they work together to taken down bosses that can take and deal a LOT of damage. The rewards are especially good weapons, armour, gems, etc.
I won’t say she understood all of it, but she did understand that it was a little more than just a game, that if I’m late or don’t show, I let a bunch of people down all around the world. I feel like I did my bit for bridging the generational gap.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Now Playing: Magic Mike

I had every intention of watching DKR again on Sunday night, but was foiled by IMAX reserved seating.  Already at the theatre, so far away from home, decided to catch whatever was playing next.  Enter: Magic Mike.

Honestly, it is what it is.  Badly acted, poorly scripted and chock full of cliches... who really cares?  This movie is about hard-bodied male strippers.  You could watch it on mute.  In fact, I recommend just that.  Frankly, there wasn't enough stripping.  They talked far too much. 

Should you watch it?  Only if you, too, have thirty movie coupons expiring in December and can't get in to see DKR.  Even then, see Brave or Spider-Man first.

1 out of 5 stars.  and the 1 is for all that muscle.  Mm-mm.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Now Playing: Dark Knight Rises

As is tradition, I was at the midnight show for The Dark Knight Rises.  Expectations were running high, as we had just ingested Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The theatre was, as expected, sold out. What made this so much more civilised was that we had reserved seating, so no eight-hour line-ups were required. Though, in defence of the line-up, it made for a showing of truly hardcore fans. I and four of my boys settled in, with popcorn, M&Ms and moderately-sized drinks; last bathroom break was at 23h45 when, with delicious irony, I breezed in and out and boys had to wait. In line. Oh yes.


In the spoiler-free portion of this review, I will just say that the movie lived up to all my expectations. It was nice to see these characters/actors, in whom we’ve invested for seven years, stretch a little more and get the screen-time they deserve. In a great plot setup, Gotham City has aged eight years and the Batman has passed into legend, disappearing after the events of The Dark Knight have unfolded. The City is ripe for the picking as Bane and Selina Kyle arrive on the scene. Bale is wonderful as the ever-tortured Bruce Wayne and Oldman (the unsung hero of the entire trilogy) is just a fantastically facetted Jim Gordon. The movie highlights how easily society degenerates when rules are overturned and people are pitted against each other.

…a thoroughly satisfying end to the Nolan Batman legacy. Good luck to anyone picking up this mantle. 5 out of 5 stars.

SPOILERS BELOW.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

memory

There was this tiny moment in time, once, when I felt truly carefree.  Let's get this straight: if you were going to pick ten words to describe me, "carefree" would not be one of them.  But there I was.

It was late, still bright from the summer sunset.  We could hear the swans quietly trumpeting to each other.  I was a little tipsy, without a drop to drink.  Watching Iago had been an intoxicating experience.  We had to cross the bridge, to what was then an unfamiliar place.  Even in sotto voce, giggles bounced off the church walls.  I tripped.  You caught my elbow so I didn't fall and I think you laughed.  You never laugh.  I lamented that you didn't see the play, that you would have fallen in love too.  I remember the river and the swans.  I remember the dip in the sidewalk and the warm arm I held so tight.  I remember thinking it was the perfect evening for magic and tragedy.  I felt free and young and happy.  So tenuous, it dissipated in the porch light. 

I think my memory is playing tricks on me.  Why did we cross the river when our beds were right next to the theatre?  Did we really walk by the cemetery?  Perhaps I'm remembering it all wrong, putting together a mosaic instead of recalling a picture.  We may have never held each other.  I was drunk after all and the details escape me.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

On Stage @ Stratford, 2012

Can't believe I didn't tell you about this poppets!  Sometime in May, between Quebec City and Boston, there was a quick trip to Stratford with AnCe.  After gorging on theatre last year, this year's offerings were fairly light, so we popped into the Bard's House for the day.

Up first: MacHomer.  Really, this was the only reason we even went out there this year.  A one-man performance where are all the characters are from the Simpsons?  Yes, I'm there.  Aye Carumba, it was amazing.  Rick Miller is pretty much genius in this and he was so lovely and generous with his time after the show.  He even thanked us for playing hookie from work.  

Second show was the Pirates of Penzance, which was okay.  If anything, it made me google the "I am the very model of a modern mahjor general" song - though that song is a lot longer than it needs to be. 

A quiet day.  Looking forward to 2013.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Birthday Weekend(tm)

I don't how many times I was asked the same question this past weekend: “what’s so special about this birthday?” And I answered the same way as well: “All my birthdays are equally special.” It’s true. For as long as I can remember, my birthday has been a great excuse for a party. The first party of the summer. Or a joint celebration with my Mom (two days before mine). Or World Cup Finals. Or blockbuster movie releases. So even when my birthday falls on a mundane Wednesday, there’s been a convenient excuse to elongate it to the weekend, at least.

This year is no different. Jadek had already planned to take me to see Beauty and the Beast. Dad wanted to take my Mom and I for a dinner cruise for both our birthdays on Friday. DjDwight is playing his Hybrid set (first Saturday of the month) and all of sudden, we have an itinerary. Nish’s visit home cinched the whole thing together and my birthday became a Birthday Weekend(tm).

Actually, it began on Thursday night, when we went to see a movie. That was a nice treat, watching a late movie on a weeknight. Slept in the next day and moseyed our way downtown to check in. Dinner on a boat that meandered its way through the Toronto Islands, chatting with the family. Had Saturday breakfast at Fran’s before window shopping and heading off to the theatre. Dinner at The Three Brewers (thanks AnCe!) before hotel shenanigans ensued. Yes, I waited until my 32nd birthday to have hotel security come in and try to break up the party. No worries, ten minutes later, we were cabbing it to Neu+ral.

Let’s get it straight, poppets. I was fully inebriated before we even stepped into the club. If there’s one thing us Frenches do right, it is party. And with LilBro around, I had no choice but to keep up. Thankfully, I have a boyfriend who was like a sentinel all night, making sure I was happy, hydrated and generally safe. The next morning, I was in no condition to actually attend our 1pm brunch appointment. So, instead, I nibbled on corn chips while watching the Wimbledon final (so sad, Mr. Murray!).

Best story of the night? There are three:
  1. Nish: “do you remember the shots? We lined them up and told you to take yours. You picked one up and downed it. When I said ‘hey, you didn’t wait for the cheers’ you said ‘oh my God, I’m so sorry!’ before picking up another one, saying ‘Cheers!’ and drinking that one too.”
  2. AnCe: “I asked you if you wanted some water and you’re like ‘God yes’; I handed it to you, you tipped your head back and attempted to drink. When nothing happened, you got confused and asked me to ‘make it go’ – at which point I simply pointed out that you should try unscrewing the cap.
  3. Jadek: “Last call, and I asked what you wanted and you very responsibly, said, ‘water please!’ So I hand you the bottle, you unscrew the cap, lean back on the bar, chug the entire thing in one shot and proceed to toss the empty bottle over your shoulder, behind the bar. Like a Viking with an empty mug.”
Oh dear. I don’t remember any of that happening. I do remember my hair elastic breaking and some stranger giving me hers in the bathroom. And I remember an excellent bartender (Jamie?). The rest… well, that’s what friends are for.

Monday, I shopped and contemplated a piercing before having house food with the family. All in all? Excellent.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On Stage: Disney's Beauty and the Beast

Sometimes, the stars align just so.

Nish is only in town for ten days, straddling my Birthday Weekend(tm). Our favourite Disney movie is Beauty and the Beast (…hello? he gives her a library!). The Beauty and the Beast Musical is playing in Toronto for just three weeks, at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. And we (unknowingly) booked our hotel right next door. Sublime.

AnCe, Nish, Jadek and I caught the Saturday matinee, along with about two hundred little girls in princess dresses. That had to be the best washroom lineup ever. They sang all my favourite songs and there was a happy ending. I thought Gaston was particularly good. It was all excellent.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Now Playing: The Amazing Spider-Man

Reboot!  Yes, a scant decade since the Tobey Maguire franchise began, we have a brand new Amazing Spider-Man, with Andrew Garfield donning the spandex.

I need to tell you, poppets, I was never a fan of Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. I found the former insipid and the latter looked NOTHING like Mary Jane. What saved those movies, for me, were the villains. I hope they don’t recast either Green Goblins or Doc Oc anytime soon. That first trilogy so killed my childhood love for the webslinger, that I didn’t even watch it on opening weekend. Sad, but true.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

AnCe's luggage checklist

Seriously.  This is the handiest thing I've posted in years.

I travel.  It's a thing I do.  My luggage has been on borrowed time.  After coming back from Vegas the last time, some ramp rat tore the top handle (and my cute M&M luggage tag) clean off, ruining my favourite suitcase.  With Japan looming, there is no question that I need a new suitcase.  And since I do travel, it was time to make an investment.  I come from a long line of travellers: I have FIVE aunts who are retired air stewardesses.  Five.  I learned a few things from, but it mostly pertains to actual packing (I can fit a week anywhere into one small carry-on).  When it comes to luggage, I turned to AnCe.

Poppets, I shall now share with you her wisdom.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Now Playing: Brave

On a lark, mostly to hide from the "extreme heat", Jadek and I went to see Brave on Sunday.   Honestly, I'm surprised by how much I liked it.  It was funny, touching, magical, and (ironically) realistic.  It was also very pretty to look at and the voice acting was just spot-on.  Can't really talk about the best parts without there being spoilers, so...

3.5 out of 5 stars.

...Spoiler Alert!

Facts I really really like:

Monday, July 02, 2012

Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl

Our annual non-fiction pick for Book Club was inspired by a book review at my staff meeting.  And with a very preggers Cyn around, who wouldn't want to read about "choosing boys over girls and the consequences of a world full of men"?

Enter Mara Hvistendahl's Unnatural Selection.  What began as a cultural study of why certain cultures continue to covet males over females turns into a statistical nightmare that reveals humanity's  dirtiest secret: our technology has surpassed our ability to control the repercussions of using that very same technology.

The crux of Hvistendah's is this: parents, even in modern-day societies, still have a "son preference' which leads to many families having babies until they have a bouncing baby boy.  (Do a quick, informal survey of your own: who many families do you know that have the older-girl-younger-boy makeup?  Look at single-child homes: how many are single boys versus single girls?  How many families do you know where the son is the youngest of the brood?  It's fascinating.)  In fact, this trending towards having as many kids as possible until you have a son is what led to the one-child-rule in China and the scores of abandoned female babies in other countries.

Monday, June 25, 2012

m.conferencecall

(This is my first mobile post. I expect many hilarious auto changes.)

In beautiful and (finally) sunny California for the ALA conference. Unlike the superconference, I don't really know anyone here at all and the gives me a lot of free time in between sessions. Like now.

I am struck by the ordinariness of the attendees as well. Every Feb, we play drinking games called Hip/Cats, where we take imaginary shots whenever we see a hipster librarian or a genuine cat lady. A conspicuous absence of both in California, where everyone is just.. average.

Also, for such a BIG conference, there's a real lack of tech. Last night, at the SciFi session, the moderator actually had a Word document up on the projector with a link to the survey. Hello ... QR code?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

surprises

Across the street from the happiest place on earth, taking stock of what I've learned today.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Now Playing: Prometheus

To prepare for Prometheus, AnCe suggested an Alien marathon, since the movie is from the same universe.  Despite Mr. Scott's insistence that this was not a prequel, we erred on the side on caution.  After seven hours of Aliens, we felt prepared for a knock-down, drag-out epic.

Alas.

I won't talk spoilers, because that's not fair.  There's little this movie offers and taking away its meager plot thrills would leave you with nothing but scraps, my poppets.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Now Playing: Snow White and the Huntsman

I'm really slow on this, but really I was so underwhelmed, it took a lot of effort to actually sit and write a review of Snow White and the Huntsman.  So much so, it will be short.  But first: disclosed biases.

I love fairy tales.  No, I really do.  The magic and intrigue, exotic places, dangerous beasts, beautiful princesses, (sometimes strong too), witches and wizards, and enchantments...and villains.  I love the villains.  For me, a good story can only be held up by an excellent baddie.  In terms of villains, the Stepmother is an indelible part of my psyche (Snow White, Cinderella, Cymbeline).  Oh yes, I love me a good villain and Ms. Theron did not disappoint.  I felt sorry for her, reviled by her, equal parts fear and respect.  Perfect.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bahstin, Mass.

AnCe and I flew into Boston over the long weekend for a quick three-day jaunt. We left on a 0700 flight on Saturday and were checked in by 0830. Wicked.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

away

Assignment #6: away

Sometimes I wonder if taking a holiday is really a good idea. Sure, I come back refreshed, full of stories and food, carrying memories – but really, all I do is think about the next trip, the next flight, the next bag to pack. If I could find a way to travel perpetually, to spend my life out of a suitcase, I think I’d do it. At least, for a while.

Of course, this is where cognitive dissonance sets in. You see, by nature, I’m a nester. I like my hearth and home. I like the idea of having a bed to call my own and bookshelves brimming with staycation adventures. I like baking and decorating and curling up in front of the TV to watch reality shows about islands or dancing. And yet… and yet.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Now Playing: The Avengers


A short review, poppets. Avengers was excellent – a real reward for watching its five predecessors. I was particularly stoked to see Tom Hiddleston return as Loki. I love this character and this actor. And I shouldn’t have worried at all about how so many big characters could share one screen – Joss Whedon did a great job with the ensemble cast. And the script – wow. Really. Wow. Hulk got two great one-liners (considering that the previous two movies had a grand total of none), Captain America was appropriately lost in most conversations, Thor was still so believable in his quest to bring his brother home and Stark? Well, RDJ and Whedon are a match made in heaven. You MUST stick around until after the credits to truly understand their chemistry.

Go watch it: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, May 04, 2012

je suis arrivée

Today, I returned to Vieux Québec; the last time I was here, I reaffirmed my love of not just all things French, but of this beautiful country with its rich (and so often forgotten)  history.  Jadek and I packed up and left the 'Saug at 0500, making the 8-hour trek to Quebec City; it was a great drive, with excellent passenger relations.  We chatted about Warcraft and read "Discover" magazine articles for a lot of the trip and passionately discussed topics like Einstein's Theory of Relativity, unsolvable math problems and dreams posed by the impatient futurist. Only two yawns on the entire trip.  Also: one tank of gas!  Go Bella!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Last month’s Book Club pick: We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Honestly, I had a lot of preconceptions about what this book was about and, since I always read the last sentence of a novel but never the back, I really thought I had a handle on it.

Honestly, nothing could have prepared me.

A (new) friend described the novel as “earth-shattering”; I would have to agree. It was so well written, with genuine intrigue and mystery, that I felt compelled to find out exactly what Kevin did that needed any more talking about. The characters seem …real. Eva, as cold-fish mom, was in equal turns adorable and abhorrent. Her self-flagellating style (as the entire book is written in letters to her husband, Franklin) is so brutally honest that I can’t help but wonder: is she exaggerating? does she really think this? is she making herself to be worse than she really is? All the other characters are seen through Eva’s eyes, and yet she paints them with the same unyielding honesty so they too seem true.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

mantra

Sometimes, I feel completely overwhelmed.  

Doesn't happen often.  

I like swimming in a big pond with sharp-toothed fishies,
 darting about, through the murky waters and the shimmering seaweed.  
I like it because it reminds of those dreams I had as a kid where I breathe underwater.  

But sometimes, 
just sometimes, 
I swallow a mouthful and end up 
gasping and choking and floundering.
I'm lost in the deep dark 
and I feel like I have nowhere to go 
and if I don't figure it out right away, 
I'm going to drown.

It is then, 
especially then, 
that I repeat my mantra:

Start where you are.  Use what you have.  Do what you can.

Over and over until I'm a calm little crab once again, 
crawling about the depths, 
shaping the wild ocean 
one snipped barnacle at a time.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Now Playing: Wrath of the Titans

The only time I found any amusement in this movie was when it made fun of itself: "Perseus? Oh yeah - the whole "Release the Kraken" thing" - haha.  They had a cool Queen Andromeda, but who was nothing like her mythological counterpart.  And then there was the whole plot line, which made absolute nonsense of what can often be garbled myths to begin with.  Ugh.

I wouldn't even rent it: 2 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Now Playing: The Hunger Games

I avoided watching The Hunger Games on its opening weekend.  While I truly loved the books, I was not prepared to battle the crowds.  Still, even on a Wednesday night, it was packed with people.  You know, the annoying kind of newbish theatre-goer who has to explain every scene to the person next to them. 

Anyway, on to the movie.

It was...good.  As with the Harry Potter series or Percy Jackson or even LOTR, it's hard for me to put aside obvious comparisons of the movie to the book.  I know it's unfair, but I can't help it.  (Perhaps this is why Game of Thrones is just so good - because you have 10 hours to tell a book, not a mere 180 minutes).  Keeping aside the fact I can count three noticeable changes from the book, the movie was done very well.  And even the changes were ones with which I could agree for the most part.  Could there have been a little more Gale?  Did I miss the Mayor's daughter? Did Haymitch get too soft?  Did I miss the muttations?  Maybe, maybe.  In the end, it doesn't matter.  As a standalone product, THG was an excellent movie.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Now Playing: John Carter


Last night, I ventured out of quarantine to the movie theatre for John Carter.  Based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars, I was a little leery of a Disneyfication of yet another classic.  I mean, they'd already renamed the work and toyed with the characters a little, but okay.  I'm up for some mindless movie mayhem after all the deep films we've been ingesting. 

It was okay.  I thought the story was paced a bit slow, but nothing terrible.  LilBro fell asleep complete with loud snores (much to giggleworthy delight of the girls sitting behind us).  I thought the special effects were done quite well, especially the interaction between the live action players and the CGI models.  Really well done.  (Who wouldn't love that cute Woola; I can see the stuffed versions versions of these on sale at the Disney store now...).  And Taylor Kitsch by the uber-cool (and relatively unknown) Lynn Collins.  had all his scenes stolen by the As an origin story, it's not bad.  We probably could have rented it.  3 out of stars.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

typhoid mary

After months (bordering on years) of being illness-free, I am struck down.  I blame it on the unholy coupling of "Spring Forward" and unseasonably (unreasonably!) warm weather.  Within three days, I went from a slight tickle to coughing fits that induce sharp pains in my left arm.  A very supportive DK assumed point at work and took care of all my duty manager commitments; half my department is either currently ill or recuperating.  I suggested a full decontamination of the department.  I wish we had windows at work: it can't be healthy to have all these semi-sick people (who have taken flu shots so they don't feel ill enough to stay home, thereby infecting the rest of us) breathing in recycled air.  Long story short: am sick at home.

I ordered a BUNCH of spicy food from the local Thai place; it's the only thing I can taste.  And then, it happened.  I ran out of cough syrup.  NOOOOOoooOoOoOooO!

How To Score Boyfriend Points:

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden

I was supposed to have read Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden for January's Book Club.  I confess to have taken almost three months to finish it.  Now that I'm done, I have mixed feelings.  TBS is the 2008 Giller Prize winner, a prize that has given me such gems as A Fine Balance, Late Nights on Air and The In-Between World of Vikram Lall.  Excellent - and intimidating - company indeed.

As per usual, spoilers abound and I can't help it.  A more cogent reviewer will be able to talk about this book, its high and lows, without ruining plot, but I make no such promises.

Should you read it?  Yes.  Should it be the very next book you pick up?  Probably not - especially if you haven't read those listed above.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Now Playing: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

As a break from the esoteric, we decided to catch Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.  In a word? Bad.  And before you go blaming my hate-on for Mr. Cage, I'm going to admit to all two of my readers that I actually quite enjoyed the first Ghost Rider, even given its vacuous nature.  So it wasn't that.  It's just, well... it was a waste of time, good actors, decent special effects.  Honestly, I was bored enough to think about napping a little.  And there wasn't a a single cool new thing it did that could redeem it.  Not one moment where i said, "ooh, neat!" It was Ugh.  Don't go see it, don't rent it...hell, don't even watch it in the background on TV at a party.  1 out of 5 stars.

Monday, February 27, 2012

84th annual Oscars

Having just squeaked in the ninth film on the Best Picture list, I will say poppets, I dropped the ball.  I normally would have shared my predictions with you prior to the red carpet, but alas; Sunday snuck up on and and I just had so much to do.  I had printed out a ballot for all of us to fill in, and we even put our five bucks into the kitty.  I did not fare well, overall, only getting twelve categories right.  I did not anticipate the love-fest for Hugo in the technical department, who walked away with five statues, tying with The Artist, which I thought was a much more... creative film.  I did bat 1.000 on the Big Six, correctly predicting Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress.  I was also very happy to see that Tree of Life was shunned.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Now Playing: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

The final entry on the 2012 Oscars list: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.  Starring a multitude of famous people, this a story centered around a boy named Oscar trying to cope with the loss of his father during 9/11. While the acting etc. was passable, I actually found the story the most compelling part of this movie.  Because I don't want to spoil it for you poppets, this will (by necessity) be a short review.  I just want to say that the unfolding of the six messages is probably some of the best tension you'll find in the top nine this year and the "reveal" at the end involving two of the main characters demonstrates quality plot development.  This is definitely the movie that surprised me most, in the best possible way: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

For Rent: 2012 Oscars

Normally, I don't do DVD movie reviews (I'd have to do this full-time if I did that) but since I watched so many Oscar nominees on video this year, I thought, what the heck.  So, here are my short thoughts.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Now Playing: War Horse / The Artist

Catching up quickly on the top nine, yesterday we went to see two more Oscar noms.

War Horse: okay, I'll admit that I didn't take this nomination very seriously.  I mean, a horse movie?  Best pic?  Come on.  But I put prejudice aside and settled in for the longest film on the list.  This is a movie about a boy who falls in love with a horse that isn't his, which fate conspires to become his and which a war takes from him.  The horse, Finders Key, is actually an amazingly trained animal, with many scenes relying on just him to carry it through; I would have never thought I'd be so moved by an animal, and yet...

The plot itself is quite epic, spanning many fronts of WWI, with the horse changing hands from English to German to French back to German and back again to English.  And while the horse-and-boy story is compelling, it's the side stories of Emilie and Gunther and Peter that really stick out. 

Well-acted, -directed and -paced, I can't find too many faults with this family-friendly drama.  It was a bit long and, paradoxically, I found it didn't spend enough time on certain vignettes (Gunther, especially).  And, relative to its running mates, War Horse is a good solid entry in the Best Picture category. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Now Playing: The Descendants / Chronicle

I am not doing very well in my pursuit to watch all nine nominations…

We were supposed to see War Horse and The Artist; then I chickened out due to impending snow and we went closer to home instead catching The Descendants and Chronicle.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Now Playing: Underworld: Awakening

I cheated. I’m supposed to be catching up on my Oscar contenders after weeks of neglect and what do I find myself watching on Tuesday? Underworld: Awakening. Good thing no one pays me to do this here “weblog”. (You know what’s funny? Spell-check underlined “weblog” but ignores “blog”.  Hmm.)