Tuesday, December 24, 2013

first class

Here's something I've never done: fly first class. Krikey. This could get to be a dangerous habit. We haven't taken off yet and I've already been handed slippers, gotten refresher on my OJ and given a menu. That's right - I get to choose my dinner. What. I have so much leg room, I can't even reach the end if my cubicle with my feet. My pillows are velvet, my blanket is cashmere. This is going to be the shortest flight ever. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Now Playing: The Hobbit (the desolation of Smaug)

I finally went to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  Last weekend, I was foiled by epic snow; Tuesday, I was foiled by greed.  So yesterday, I snuggled into my IMAX seat with my popcorn and 3D glasses, ready to be entertained.  I was very open-minded, especially considering my keen disappointment with AnUnexpected Journey

You know what?  I was entertained.  The pacing was much better this time; I believe this is because there were no silly songs.  Everyone acted their hearts out with some exceptional performances:
-          Evangeline Lilly was born to play an elf.  I mean, just look at her nose! Seriously. 
-          Orlando Bloom could have done with more dialogue and less brow-knotting stares.
-          Benedict Cumberpatch.  That is all.

The one thing the movie really suffers from is its lack of conclusion.  I mean, nothing is wrapped up at all.  Nothing.  And while I understand they wanted to milk the Hobbit for all it was worth, I think they could have concluded at least one storyline. 


So, of course, you should see it.  It’s part of a pretty epic trilogy and the production values are stellar.  I just don’t think it lived up to its potential.  3.5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Now Playing: Frozen

I’m using my 100-word rule!

Frozen is cute Disney movie.  It’s what you expect a Disney movie to be.  I like that there are two “princesses” and that the prince isn’t at all charming.  Having watched ALL the Disney Princess movies recently, this one is a good addition.  3 out of 5 stars.


I went to see Frozen in theatre, eschewing the much better 12Years a Slave, because I’m a big suck.  You see, when I was but a wee pixie, I watched two movies in one afternoon: The Snow Queen and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.  In my 3-year-old brain, they melded into one awesome cinematic feat.  These movies were also my first introduction to snow.  Which basically meant I thought it would be a perfectly round cotton-ball-like substance that would feel something like a cool fuzzy blanket.  Pfft.  When I saw they were remaking the tale, I knew I had to see it.  Jadek fell asleep but I enjoyed it.  And it actually had a plot twist that I didn’t see coming! How novel.  A nice way to start the holiday season.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Now Playing: Catching Fire


Last weekend, I caught the sequel to The Hunger Games movie (two of four, I believe): Catching Fire.  

Disclaimer: yes, I read the books beforehand and yes, I loved them. They were… well, you can read my thoughts on them elsewhere on this blog.  I try very hard not to compare them.  Try being the operative word here.

Six days after the fact, I find that two things that really stuck with me are completely superfluous: Katniss’ outfits and her awesome hairstyle.  Yes, yes, the acting (and indeed casting) were all very good.  I covered most of that when I saw the first movie.  I somehow found the movie a bit, well, slow.  Which is surprising, since what I remembered most about the book was just how quickly I devoured it.  So, I’m really looking forward to the next two movies, not so much because this one whet my appetite, but more so to get to the good stuff.

I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

So!  The outfits and hair! Okay, casting Lenny Kravitz as Cinna was a true stroke of genius because I totally believe that designed those badass yet beautiful outfits.  Everyone will ooh/ahh over the “wedding dress” but for me? The Girl on Fire chariot dress just blew me away.  Way to go, Costuming Department!  I also love how it’s her hair/clothes that recruits the first Katniss fans.  That scene with President Snow and his granddaughter?  Priceless.  I really want to make my hair braid like that when I next go travelling – it’s pretty and pragmatic.

(it seems I broke my 100-word rule already… sigh).

Friday, November 29, 2013

Now Playing: Ender’s Game

This will be a short review, because I've fallen behind - again – and I don’t write other posts because I feel guilty about not doing my movie reviews.  Perhaps we’ll get to shorter Movie reviews in general.  100 words or less.  You know, something to keep me on schedule.

Anyhow.

I know Ender’s Game was a book before it was a movie (it’s a good time to be YA novelist right now), so I expected a pretty tight story – which I got.  Surprisingly well-acted too, though it shouldn't have been surprising: Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld and Asa Butterfield.  A good movie to watch if you have too-cool-for-you teens in your life that you want to hang out with.  3 out of 5 stars.

A pet peeve (and spoiler): the tag line is “This is not a game.” – umm, doesn't this give away the whole movie?  Or maybe it’s not supposed to be a surprise…

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Now Playing: Thor : The Dark World

You. know, I love a certain Mr. Hiddleston in his turn as Loki.  And when I say love, I mean a deep fangirl devotion.  Thor: The Dark World only served to cement this (bordering-on) obsession.  I mean, everything about this character is made for me to fall in love: cunning, funny, charming, evil-but-really-good-maybe... checkcheckcheck! Sigh.  and he wears a cape like he owns it.

Oh yeah, so the movie.  It was solid.  Very entertaining and an excellent addition to the Avengers saga.  4 out of 5 stars.

A couple of other standout moments:
1) The badass ladies, Frigga and Lady Sif.  Seriously, if it were possible to cast them as warrior women from Themyscira, DC should jump on the chance.  And the writers didn't hold them back either.

2) Kat Dennings.  I love this girl. She steals almost every scene she's in and makes her older sister seem, well, bland. 

Honestly, poppets, I watched this last week and it's quickly fading in terms of details.  Except Loki.  Every scene he's in is still crystal clear: the jubilant little skip down the dungeon corridor; the heartbreaking sorrow; the bravado exchange between father and son... the list goes on!  They should give him his own movie.  Seriously. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Now Playing: Gravity

(Third of three very short catch-up reviews.  Which isn’t really fair, because this is a movie I could talk about.  A lot.)

I'm going to admit this: I wasn't sold on Gravity via its trailers.  Every trailer seemed to be advertising a different movie.  But I was intrigued by the effects and the theme of Lost in Space, so I was in.


Is it Drama, SciFi, Action, Thriller, Mainstream/Indie, or just an experiment in cool special effects tricks...  turns out?  All of the above.  Sandra Bullock – honestly, is there anything this woman can’t act?  Even in really bad movies, she comes out on top.  And this is not a really bad movie.  In fact, it’s a really really good movie.  With a cast of only FIVE people, the script relies on you, the audience, being able to get up close and personal with Bullock (and to some extent, former-nemesis and newfound love, George Clooney) without being completely turned off by them.  So close, that any cracks in their acting would show up in spotlights… but none did.

And the effects? Holy heck – they were so real, I actually forgot they weren’t shooting in space.  Which is, you know, impossible.  That last scene?  Stellar.  Go watch it.  Take your parents.  You’ll all enjoy it.  4.5 out of 5 stars.

Edit: this is awesome -
http://www.cbc.ca/strombo/news/check-out-aningaaq-the-beautiful-7-minute-gravity-spin-off-by-jonas-cuaron 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

ontari-ari-ario!

Last month, I got to scratch TWO items off my travel bucket list: touching the southern-most inhabited point in Canada and driving the world’s longest road (albeit, this fact is contested).  All this because we cancelled our Egypt trip. …wait, I didn’t tell you we cancelled?  Or that we were even going?  Boy, I have been away.  Let’s get caught up.

(Egypt: we booked this last December, when it was cheap and everything relatively quiet.  Egypt has been a military dictatorship for a long time and the Arab Spring just seemed to be another bump in its turbulent history.  Fast forward to August (14th, specifically) and we balked.  A thousand people dead?  Trains cancelled?  Closing of the Pyramids?  Why even GO to Egypt at that point.  So, we cashed in our travel insurance and stayed in (nice, safe) North America.)

West Dock
Pelee Island: Our first stop for two nights.  It was everything I thought it would be and then some.  Small enough to circumnavigate (by car) in about two hours and friendly as all heck, we had a great time there.  Fabulous sunsets, delicious local wine, and even the crippling walk to Fish Point were real highlights.  It has really become a competitive spot for my retirement plans (displacing the established frontrunner, Stratford).  Of course, we’ll have to return a few times to make sure the enchantment doesn’t fade, but there you have it.  We left reluctantly.

A quick dart through the US to get us back to Ontario.  Lowlights include: Scary Gary, Indiana.  I have never been so uncomfortable in a first-world country in my life.  Terrible.  And so very sad.  Chicago traffic… ugh.  But the sunset drive into Minneapolis almost made up for it all.

Rainy River
Yonge Street: used to be known as the longest road in the world.  The stupid Ontario Highways Act stripped that title on a technicality.  It’s still the longest contiguous road (not highway).
- Rainy River: km-marker 1896.  The water wasn’t drinkable, but the motel was cute and the service was good.
- Day-long drive to Thunder Bay: two nights in TBay, a surprisingly large city (108,000 people!) where amethyst is so plentiful they give it away (literally, our B&B hosts just hauled out a buckets and told us to take a piece). Sleeping Giant National Park, Terry Fox Memorial, and delicious well water – what a great stop.
- Kapuskasing/Moonbeam: a halfway stop to our next destination.  We went there for the strange lights.  It was so dead dark, we played the “where’s my hand game” and marvelled at the amazing stars.  Thankfully GiPpS was lit up, or we may have lost our black beast of a car (Bruce… or BRWS).
North Bay, Sunset Inn Dock
- North Bay: a surprisingly beautiful spot that was so typical cottage country, every picture looked like a CanLit book cover.  It truly tugged at my heartstrings and was poignant enough to displace Turtle Bay from my iPhone.
- Queen’s Quay: km-marker 0.  The last 23 kms took as long as the previous 323 to cover.  But we made it.  Plaques were climbed; pictures were taken; plaid shirts were worn proudly.  We got home in one piece, exhausted but happy.



Ontario is one beautiful province.  I think I forget, living in the Golden Horseshoe, just how gorgeous this land of many lakes can be and how welcoming its people are.  Alberta has the Rockies, BC has the Pacific, Maritimes have the Atlantic, Yukon has Kluane, NWT has Northern Lights, Nunavut has polar bears and Quebec… well, Quebec has a je-ne-sais-quoi.  Ontario?  Ontario is what Canada is all about: loons, beavers, moose, lakes, rivers, pristine beauty and friendly people.   Come visit.
just around the bend

Friday, October 18, 2013

Now Playing: Prisoners

(Second of three very short catch-up reviews. )

I have to say, I'm pretty intrigued by anything Hugh Jackman does; and, I love a good mystery-thriller.  enter: Prisoners.

You know who always surprises me?  Paul Dano.  That guy can act.  I can’t think of anyone else who could, in equal parts, stir up sympathy and disgust so intensely.  Gyllenhaal, Jackman, and Leo are all their usual superb selves.  The movie is tight, gripping, intense and, at some points, too real.  Creepiest line?  “They didn’t cry until I left them.”  And no, that's not even a spoiler.  Jebus.  3.5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Now Playing: Riddick

(In the first of three very short catch-up reviews).

Boyfriend veto was played: we went to see Riddick.

Oh, Vin Diesel.  You got into two franchises that should have died and yet, here you are.

It was an okay movie.  I wasn’t too thrilled about watching it and frankly I barely sat through its two predecessors.  I didn’t even play its video games… did these movies have books?  If they did, I clearly didn’t read them.  I had low expectations and the movie met them.  Not even fair to rate it, really. 2 out of 5 stars.

Friday, October 11, 2013

recalcitrant

I'm sorry.  I have been completely terrible about upkeeping my corner of cyberspace.  I have at least three movie reviews, four Great Lakes posts, and a work update.  Jeepers.  I promise to try and catch up before the month is out.  Poppets, forgive me.

Enjoy this in my stead.  it has brought me hours and hours of joy.  Thanks Oatmeal:

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

road trip: great lakes

Here's what the rough itinerary looks like. 
This is really two mini-trips in one: Driving the old Yonge St/Hwy 11 from start to finish and touching the southernmost point in Canada - Pelee Island - all in one.  Turns out that in order to do that, we'll circumnavigate the Great Lakes.  It's like a real-life version of Ticket to Ride.  Except we drive.  4000 kms, 8 days, 1 car.  We really can't do anything in half-measures.  Stay tuned, poppets.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Now Playing: Elysium

Jodie Foster kind of announced her retirement from acting this year – making Elysium her last role.  (Don’t worry, she recanted)  I’ve always like Ms. Foster and her reunion with the awesome William Fichtner had me very excited.  Didn’t hurt that Matt Damon and Sharlto Copley were also in there, both of whom I enjoyed in their previous South African cinematic excursions.

Turns out that Elysium was much more of an action movie than I had thought previously.  I sort of remember it being billed as a thinly veiled morality play about illegal aliens, inherent human rights, and the oppression of so many by so few.
("There's a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you're all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.")

It did that quite well, especially in the second half.

What it suffered from, though, was too many things blowing up.  It gets a little tedious watching things go kablooey for like 14 minutes.  Unless the editing is really really tight, it can get, well, boring.  I kept thinking “enough already, get back to the plot!”

When it did get back to the plot, it was very interesting.  Despite having the technology and the ability, some people choose to hoard their quality of life.  The scene where Max is fried by radiation in a sweatshop is keenly reminiscent of the Bangladeshi factory disaster – that hit home.  As does the medical tech that lives in the bedrooms of the ultra-rich while entire hospitals go without elsewhere.  So, too, the use of mercenaries to keep law and order in places where one doesn’t have any authority.  The analogy was a bit heavy-handed at times, but it is an original screenplay action movie, so I was willing to forgive the sometime-unsubtle approach.

The tech and effects were outright spectacular.  Very well-done, seamlessly presented and easily believed.  Everything, from the exoskeleton to the magnetic data relays, from the med units to the cylon-esque robots… all good.  The effects are what make this movie watchable and fascinating.

It was good movie, overall. The actors were quite capable and the directing was pretty sharp.  Editing is where the movie lost a lot of momentum.  Oh, and I could have done without the fake (British?) accent …what was that about?  I get they were going for an international Esperanto feel, but really…

3 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

On Stage: Stratford, 2013

This year at Stratford was our most ambitious yet - eight plays in five days!  Instead of reviewing all of them for you, I decided to write my thoughts in Haiku.  Here they are, ranked in chronological viewing order.

Tommy
Rock!  Who! Lights! Action!
Wanted this to be much more.
Geriatric glow?

Fiddler on the Roof
So many songs I knew!
The cast was infectious good!
Singing in my sleep.

Romeo and Juliet
Not a favourite play.
Hype so low, shouldn’t disappoint.
Verily, it did.

Merchant of Venice
Mediocre set.
Portia stole the show; Shylock?
Creative treatment.

Othello
You know the story:
Jealous Moor, vile Iago.
Fab stage; coughing bitch.

Waiting for Godot
I don’t get modern.
It’s true.  Needed more tramps, wit.
Charmed by the actors.

Three Muskeeters

Swashbuckling good times!
Source text? Pulpy fiction goodness.
Very good looking gents.

Mary Stuart
Daydreaming hist’ry:
Fantastical clash of Queens.
Yes, she is my King!

I thought the theme of prejudice made for some interesting inter-play - especially when Tevye and Shylock are played by the same actor.  You can't help but feel like there's a conversation happening there.  And how Desdemona must sneer at Portia and her mean-spirited attitude. 

Next year, there's talk of madness.  I can' wait.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

hot in cleveland

This weekend, I'm spending four days in Cleveland at Digipalooza 2013.  It's basically a corporate-sponsored event by our eBook provider.   Honestly, an eBook Support conference.  So far?  Awesome.  A painless drive by our lead-foot chauffeur had us cruising in almost ninety minutes early.

A leisurely check-in followed by the discovery of the following things:
1) my room is apparently huge - king-size bed, conference desk, cutest little club chair and ottoman; the bathroom has enough room for all my nonsense to spread out.
2) there's free wi-fi, but only in my room, so yay!
3) I only need four minutes to completely unpack, including getting the soap out of its packaging.

We wandered about downtown Cleveland for a bit, getting our orientation down.  (Their great lake is north of the city).  Had a well-earned lunch at Zocalo, complete with a frozen guava margarita.  Took a two-hour break before registration.  (I wanted to nap, but worked on my Staff Conference session instead).

Tonight, there was a mixer.  I'm not too good at big crowds of strangers.  Thankfully Cooper and TheFields were there to be excellent company.  We found a table strategically placed near the (open) bar and snack table; this worked, because we attracted two fellow white-belts (first-time attendees) and descended quickly into geekery galore.  A fun evening full of fantastic confabulation:
1) The Three Stages of King: "Which Stephen King book is the best?" ... "Real question: is he even worth reading?"
2) Even amazing books are sometimes flawed: "Harry Potter plotholes. They exist."
3) At the movies: "It has Robots.  And monsters. What is there to NOT like?"
4) Mixology: "Gin tastes like pine cones.  No, Christmas trees!"
5) In TV Land: "Is J.J. Abrams done already?  Was he done halfway through Season One of Lost?"

An early evening back in the room.  (American TV has a LOT of randomosity.)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Now Playing: Wolverine

This weekend, we were able to catch Wolverine, one of my favourite Marvel characters.  Before we went to see it, I had read a number of Facebook reviews, all of which started with an iteration of “well, it was better than the first movie…”; this gives the impression that it wasn’t very good, but at least better... well, hell.  I liked the first movie.  There were some parts that could have used some attention to detail, but it was still pretty entertaining.  This movie, though?  It wasn’t just better than the first movie, it was pretty awesome!

Casting and location were brilliant: the cinematography really benefitted from actually shooting in Japan, with the shadows and the mountains lending an authenticity to the movie.  Jackman has completely made this his role – and after being in SEVEN movies as the same character?  Good luck to anyone rebooting this series.  Yukiowas great, Viper was stunning, and having Famke Janssen come back as Jean Grey was simply brilliant.  A very strong female cast indeed.

The special effects were all very believable, the CGI remaining unobtrusive.  I will lodge a formal complaint here: in order to retain their PG-13 rating, the bloodletting was thoroughly sanitised.  There’s this scene where a sword is pulled out of the abdomen, and it comes away perfectly clean.  I don’t know what’s worse, exposing children to blood or giving them the impression that it’s possible for a sword through the gut not to kill you.  I wish they would release an R version of these superhero movies, for us adult fans.

So, yeah: I recommend it, especially if you’re in to action movies, comic books, or sci-fi.  3.5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Now Playing: Despicable Me 2

A slow weekend had us take in Despicable Me 2 while killing time on a Sunday night.  I had really enjoyed the first one and thought the second held some promise.  Alas, like most sequels, it didn’t have the same spark.  The girls seemed watered down, Gru wasn’t evil enough, and while I enjoyed the introduction of Lucy, she wasn’t enough to carry the whole movie.  Minions?  Still awesome. Not too much else to report.

So, yeah, catch it on Netflix.  Better yet, rewatch the first one, which is still LOL funny.  2.5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

hoodie

When I travel, I carry three pieces of what I consider essential clothing:
-    A change of underwear for everyday, including socks.
-    A lightweight quilted shell (doubles as cold-weather guard and a comfy pillow)
-    A black hoodie: it’s a blanket, a coat, an umbrella, a pillow and it covers mild stains (at least until your next laundry stop).
Sure there are things you should carry – Tshirts, travel-size toiletries, scarf – but if any of the above were forgotten, I’d actually buy a replacement.  I crossed this great and beautiful country with my customs hoodie (saved my life); I covered The Rock in my Library Wench hoodie; I took in the majesty of the Grand Canyon in my Jasper hoodie.  The hoodie is indispensable.  And a Canadian winter?  A hoodie is the undergarment, often paired with a down-filled waterproof puffy vest. 

So, I find it fascinating that a piece of clothing as versatile and as useful as a hoodie has become so vilified.  How it could be used as a reason for suspicion, a reason for a bullet in the chest?

The Not Guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial makes me ill.  The blatant racial and sexist profiling (would he have fired if it was a black girl, a white man) is incredible enough; the fact that he was acquitted as having acted reasonably is just downright nauseating.  Since when does suspicion allow you to murder? And is my car or my computer or my home theatre system worth a young man’s life?  There are just so many things wrong with this picture: stand your ground laws, rampant gun violence, institutionalised racism ... and all in a country that prides itself on freedom. 

Where was Trayvon Martin’s freedom to wear a hoodie? Eat skittles? Walk home without being harassed? 

As Elle so eloquently put it:
“The American justice system is still stacked against black people, don't delude yourselves, this isn't a post-racial world unless you're white and privileged. That's not a dig against white people, that's an honest interpretation of our social structure. Institutionalized racism is so much worse because it looks like fairness but it's really just prejudice wrapped in a pretty package. I'd rather be called a Nigger to my face than being lulled into a false sense of security. God, if people only understood that race is a social concept, not a scientific one. The traits most commonly used to distinguish one race from another, like skin and eye color, or the width of the nose, are traits controlled by a relatively few number of genes. We are more similar than different, there's only one real SCIENTIFIC race and that's the HUMAN RACE! But understanding that takes a little more education and comprehension than the average racist has. There are times when being Canadian feels so damn good. There's racism everywhere, but dear God the systemic racism in the US scares me. Black men in the US pull up your pants, put the blunt down, pick up a book, and educate yourself. This is what the system thinks of you…nothing.”

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Now Playing: Pacific Rim

Have to admit: I was pretty excited about Pacific Rim.  Not only did it have Guillermo del Toro at the helm (whose work in Pan's Labyrinth and El Orfanato was pretty stellar), but it also involved giants robots and Idris Elba!  It's like the perfect setup for a decent popcorn-muncher.

So, let's cover the good stuff: the special effects were great.  Very believable, excellent physics integration, not cheesy at all.  For both Robot and Kaiju.  Also, love the bringing back of the term "kaiju", which I haven't heard in some time and I think is the perfect shorthand for this sort of monster.  Cloverfield should have referenced it, but didn't (then, that movie wasn't very good).  Also, also: kinda loved the interaction between the two scientists ...and, that's about it.

Frankly, the movie had too many issues.

First, the cast members really looked alike.  I mean, don't they  have brunet(te)s that can kick ass?  They even bottle-blonded the two huge (and obviously dark-haired) Russians.  It was ridiculous.

And then there's the running time: 132 minutes.  That's really long for an action flick.  Fast-paced movies need to keep up a good clip so you don't mired in details (why didn't they detonate nukes on these creatures? why did they think a WALL would stop them? wait, what's that about dinosaurs?)  Somewhere along the line, I got a little, well, bored.

Finally, if they wanted us to care about the characters, they needed to give us more time to identify with them.  The only one that I would have been sad to lose was Miss Mori, but most of that was due to the totally adorable Mana Ashida, with her blue coat and little red shoe.  the rest?  Expendable. 

So, what to rate this?  Well, I wouldn't recommend watching it in theatres (waste of money) and I think watching it at home would actually detract from the movie's best parts: the special effects.  That alone is a 50% fail.  But coupled with its inability to live up to its own hype and for giving away all the best lines in the trailer: 2 out of 5 stars.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Birthday Weekend(tm): The Jesus Year

Amul Butter Girl, who bears a distinct resemblance to me...
This is it.  The big three-three.  You know, even Jesus didn’t live long past this; every year from here on in should be considered a miracle.  As per usual, I set up a weekend full of events.

Friday night was to be spent dancing at Velvet Underground to DJ Bingo Bob.  But Velvet was playing what I can only classify as Italian hip-hip.  Many would disagree, but I’m not a genre specialist.  Then we went to Bovine, but there was a band there that didn’t sound like they were worth the $10 cover charge.  Next up, under advisement from LilBro, was Hideout.  $7 to get in there… okay.  Also band, covering oldies (Beatles, etc.).  Finally, Tattoo Rock Parlour, where knowing the bouncer meant skipping the line and the cover.  Honestly?  Friday night on Queen West has changed and left me out.  I guess I really getting old.  Still, clambered home around 0330, not bad.

Saturday was spent on a deliciously pulled-out couch, watching two weeks worth of TV and eating junk food.  Breakfast in bed, Greek lunch delivery… all good.  Saturnight we had reservations at the 360, the revolving restaurant atop the CN Tower.  Tried to convince Jadek that we should have done the Edge Walk too, but he was having none of it.  Dinner was divine and we spent a very warm evening strolling the deck three hundred metres above ground.  A soft-serve ice cream from a truck capped off that delicious day.

Sunday was brunch at Victoria’s in the King Edward Hotel.  It was everything I remembered and then some.  If you haven’t been, I suggest you go, at least once.  It’s worth every penny: the food is varied and fantastic, the service is impeccable, the atmosphere is rich…just excellent.  What made it more special was the company I kept while there.  After that, Jadek and I took in The Lone Ranger; it was POURING when we exited, so we killed some time in Chapters.

That night, I went to my parents’ for dinner, takeout from my favourite Chinese restaurant: Eddie’s Wok ‘n’ Roll.  They bought me not one, not two, but THREE dresses from NYC, all of which fit perfectly.  And since I had taken Monday and Tuesday off, I was able to extend that birthday feeling all week by wearing a new dress every day.  Fabulous!

On Monday, of course, we were hit by that incredible deluge.  While I know that the world doesn’t revolve around me, it does seem very suspicious that on the back of my miraculous birthday, we get a Noah-like flood.  On Tuesday they called for hail (which, thankfully, did not come to pass).  If I see frogs, poppets, I’m calling in the Apocalypse!

It was a wonderful and eventful start to my mid-thirties.  I am always amazed by indulgences of friends who allow for my birthday to be extended for days and days (and days!)...I look forward to what comes next.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Now Playing: The Lone Ranger

This year’s birthday movie: The Lone Ranger, starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer (who’s he, you ask?  Yeah, you and me both). Also: William Fichtner and Tom Wilkinson – both of whom I adore.

I never watched this show as a kid (way too young for that, poppets), so I have no strong feelings either way.  Really, the only things I recognised were the theme song and “Hi, ho, Silver!”  I was a bit surprised they let Mr. Depp play Tonto – weren’t people going to be offended?  Then again, he was always under layers and layers (and LAYERS) of makeup.  The rest of the Native Americans were plays by actual Native Americans, so there’s that too.

The movie was a bit slow to get started – I guess it’s an origin story?  But I don’t see a lot of franchise potential here.  Surprisingly, much of it centred around Tonto, with him providing the frame and narrating the main arc; the Ranger(s)?  almost an afterthought.  There were funny moments, witty repartee, slapstick, and sight gags…but honestly? the story was incredibly sad, I thought.  The betrayals, the unnecessary warfare, the goddamned Gatling gun (that thing has made me weepy thrice now in theatres).  And I’m not altogether sure I’d take anyone under the age of twelve.  It’s being billed a family Disney flick, but it’s way too serious for that.

A watchable 3 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

expectations

I have, what some polite people may call, an eclectic family.  Actually, I have, what I call, a crazy family.  And just when I think I’ve come to grips with my history, something happens to blow my mind.  Way more on that later.

I took a four-day jaunt to visit my family in NYC.  Yes, four days.  I actually don’t like visiting that particular branch, but not for the reasons you may think**.  They’re gregarious, funny, honest, and totally down-to-earth.  I have spent many a hour on the phone with my Aunt, in stitches from her daily commentary on life.  She can’t get through a sentence without swearing – and the kind of swearing that would put a sailor to shame.  I learned so many interesting ways to cuss while in her home.  Her youngest son is only a month younger than me: when we were growing up, we were inseparable.  We played Thundercats with such vigour that we broke beds, bones, and boundaries with equal panache.  He’s now about to be a father, something I can’t even begin to fathom.  My Aunt’s only daughter – whom they always just called Daughter (even in Christmas cards) – is pretty much a loser.  She abandoned her two eldest children almost ten years ago.  My niece and nephew, whose father is an equal deadbeat, were brought up by their uncles and grandmother.  They had a hard childhood and I always worried for them – this was the branch where no one had even finished high school, forget college.  (The boys all landed on their feet, they work crushing hours to make a decent living.)  The elder, my nephew, dropped out of high school.  No surprise.  I am very happy to report that he wrote, and passed, his GED.  He’s a talented boy, a tattoo artist and skateboard designer – but works in a Manhattan kitchen.  The younger, my niece, graduated this June.  With Honours.  Scholarships to schools.  Of course, I had to be there to see her get that diploma.  Not just me, but my whole immediate family.  So, no option for a hotel.  Stayed we did.

It was a lovely ceremony (all the way out in Long Island!), staged in a huge gymnasium for only about 150 kids (but at least 2000 family members).  Graduation is a big deal there.  For this school especially, which had gotten used to a 65% graduation rate before becoming chartered.  This year, they boasted an impressive 95% graduation rate, with almost 80% of those kids getting some sort of scholarship.  Wow.  Her future was bright indeed.

Was.

You see, on the surface, this is a feel-good story.  Fighting the odds to be the first high school graduate in her family – with honours in health sciences, no less – surely she would be fine.  But the truth is, this is a story about family values.  A story about the importance of caring parents, strong role models (both mom and dad) and the absolute need for boundaries.  Sure, I’ve gotten into my fair share of mischief.  Who hasn’t.  But I had a strong dad, one with a steely grip on my freedoms – just enough slack to explore but yanked back real quick when something untoward was happening.  Like, when I had a boy in my room and I had closed the door.  Never mind that he was my gay best friend, that we were sitting at the desk using the computer – that was the end of that.  Or how about when I got a henna tattoo on my arm at Canada Day; even after I showed him it was washable, he wasn’t happy until it had all come off.  My mom said it best: you had a strict dad and you didn’t really need one.  My niece does.  But it’s hard to be strict when you work 60 hours a week and are only about ten years older.  Even harder when you don’t live under the same roof.  And my Aunt?  Well, she was never much for discipline anyway.

So now, my niece, whose boyfriend has been sharing her bed for a month, has decided to defer her education (and lose her scholarships).  She’s decided to work as a cashier in the same Manhattan eatery as her brother.  When Dad tried to turf her boyfriend on behalf on my Aunt, my niece left the house and wasn’t heard from until she knew my parents (namely, my strict Dad) was gone.  I’ll give them this – no one ever talks back to my Dad.  He has a lot of authority.  He’s that guy, you know?  Boy, did she need that guy growing up.

I had wanted to help plan her first year away from home, make lists of things she’d need, talk about my own dorm experience and what she could expect.  I wanted to take her shopping in Manhattan – just the girls – and make a day of it.  I guess I had her frozen in my mind as that sweet nine-year-old who was so starved for affection, that she literally clung to me the minute I walked in; who asked quietly if she could sleep with me on the tiny twin bed; who delighted in berry-flavoured sparkly chapstick.  That was my mistake.  Turns out, she’s stubborn, rude, and dismissive – typical teenaged stuff that’s easily addressed by good parenting.  This is what happens when you don’t have parents looking out for you.

Who would have thought a family trip to NYC would become a morality play?

**Why don’t I like visiting?  In short – they’re slobs.  I’ve never been in a house that filthy.  And I genuinely think they try but actually have no concept of clean.  I’m a finicky person and thus entirely uncomfortable staying there overnight.  I’ve been to NYC many times, and am happy to take the E train to Jamaica-VanWyck for a visit.  That’s about all I can handle. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje

I went to NYC for a brief 4-day stint for what should have been a joyous occasion.  More on that later.  What does this have to do with Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje?  Well, because of the combined seven hours in delays, I finished the bulk of the novel in an airport.  This was June’s Book Club pick, and since I’ve always loved Mr. Ondaatje’s work, I thought I would cruise through it.  What used to be prime reading time (before sleep, in bed) has now become an abbreviated five-to-ten minutes.  Makes any book a really long read.  I have totally trained myself to sleep – immediately – the minute I’m prone on my mattress.

Anyway.

Anil’s Ghost starts and ends abruptly.  I literally turned the last page and exclaimed, out loud, “that’s it?”  The passengers next to me thought I was reacting to the amount on our meal voucher.  In between, there is the usual poetry, gripping eloquence, dry charm, and almost-hostile affection: who else but an Ondaatje protagonist would stab a long-time lover in the arm and still hope that same lover will pursue?  And how I fell in love with the abandoned Buddhist Grove of Ascetics, with its deep thoughts and slow-moving colours.  If you’re looking for a mystery that solves satisfactorily, don’t look here.  This is a story told in fragments, in brief flashes, that demands the reader to put together the puzzle without a box.  And if you do put it together, neither the story nor the author tell you whether you go it right.

Truthfully, for me, the question upon which this novel turns is this: who, or what, is Anil’s Ghost?
Depending on when you ask me, I’ll answer differently.

When I’m feeling sentimental, I’ll say it is the ghost of her lost cultural identity, epitomised by the struggle of her Sri Lankan heritage to be in harmony with her Western education.  The ghost of her parents and the life and dreams they would have had for their daughter, so blatantly pushed aside for something so completely alien.

When I’m feeling hard-nosed, I’ll say it’s the pressing need for an elusive justice, the desire to find those who murder and obfuscate truth in the pursuit of power, cloaked by bureaucracy.  The ghost of Sailor and his compatriots (Tinker, Soldier and Spy) crying out for vengeance.

When I’m feeling contemplative, I’ll say it’s ghost of history and philosophy struggling through time to remain relevant.  While greed and desecration has been around for millennia, it is the apathy that erodes reverence, not modernity.  It’s just that the tools have gotten so much more efficient, so much more brutal.

And when I’m feeling like a Librarian, preparing for a book talk, I’ll say this: it’s an absorbing read, but not a light one.  If you like complex characters with equally facetted motives, you may like this.  If you appreciate the evocative nature of poetry and the moody ambience of a dark and stormy night, you may like this.  It’s the kind of book made for rainy days and long train rides.  And maybe even airport waiting lounges.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Now Playing: World War Z

This review is so late, poppets.  But many things conspired to get in its way: NYC, birthday weekend(tm), and let's not forget the FLOOD.  Anyway: World War Z, where Brad Pitt takes on zombies.  Go.

Because I’m feeling sickly and because I watched this almost three weeks ago, I can only give you vague impressions.  It was good.  It had its scary moments (but they were less Romero and more 28 days later).  Pitt is his usual goodness; nice to see Mireille Enos on the big screen too.  (Can’t get over how beautiful she looks – why does he always take on such grubby roles?)  All well-paced, acted, etc.  3.5 out of 5 stars.

Most importantly, though, it added to Zombie Survival canon.
  1. Duct-taping magazines to one forearms as rudimentary armour against bites? Awesome, low-tech, and easily done.
  2. Get up a staircase and then destroy it behind you.
  3. …there was more, but I can’t remember it right now…
If you’re interested in learning more, check out Max Brooks' Zombie World.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

flash flood

news.nationalpost.com -

On July 8, the western part of the GTA experienced an average of 120 mm of rain.  In one hour.  Needless to say, it was a disaster.  I was lucky to be spared the worst of it, only having to resort to garbage bag-clad leggings and clever driving to rescue my car from my flooded garage.  The white Porsche I share a lane with was not so lucky – he was buried mirror-deep in muddy water.

This, of course, on the back of the Calgary-area flooding.  Some time ago, I ranted about the idiocy of humans and the inability of some to acknowledge the obvious.  I mean, if there is retributive karma in the universe, surely it was that macabre sense of humour that flooded Stephen Harper’s riding in Calgary.  In fact, I’m sure he will use this flooding to somehow justify his pulling out of the desertification treaty in March.  So, while I was inconvenienced by a five-hour blackout and a muddy garage, at least I wasn’t in Calgary.

And as I write this, they’re calling for even more rain and a possibility of hail.  Hail.  So, where to put my car now?  Flooded garage not an option.  And outside could mean serious chassis damage.  Yet, even as I type this, I think about my Calgarian compatriots without power and out of their homes for days and feel humble.

But remember, kiddies, THERE IS NO GLOBAL WARMING!  CLIMATE CHANGE IS A MYTH!

Idiots.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Now Playing: Man of Steel

Full disclosure: I do not like Superman. Sometimes, it borders on hate. It starts with his name: superman? More like GenericKryptonian. And that silly boy scout attitude. And don’t even get me started on his “disguise” – Lois Lane has to be the dumbest reporter alive if she can’t see Clark for who he is. When I watched Smallville, I had the same issue with Lex’s willful blindness. Then there’s the Superman Returns – terrible. Just terrible. Poor Kevin Spacey was lost in a quagmire of horrid scripts, flat acting, and ridiculous plot.

Enter Man of Steel.
Couldn’t help but have low expectations.

WhenI heard that Henry Cavill would be donning the cape, suddenly things didn't seem so bleak. People may be saddened over yet another Brit taking on an American icon, but let’s face it - you have to have some serious gravitas to pull off a cape and tights. And Brandon Routh didn’t have it. In fact, the casting is solid all-around: standouts include Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and, surprise surprise, Russell Crowe. The acting level is what I expect from a cast of that calibre. You know who really stole the show? Dylan Sprayberry. He’s the 13-year-old Clark, and his spark with Costner and Lane is just pitch perfect.

So, the stage is set, the costumes are sewn (looking great), the writers are lined up (David S. Goyer? Christopher Nolan? Checkheck!) – now, it was all about delivery.

It delivers.

Some of you may consider what's written below as "spoilers" - I wouldn't, but consider yourself warned. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Now Playing: After Earth

Nothing says Summer Blockbuster quite like a Will Smith movie - this man can really bring it.  Independence DayI Am LegendI, Robot.  Solid.  And now, it's become a family business.  We met Jaden Smith for the Karate Kid remake and I liked him then too. 

So, After Earth.  A father-son action flick about family, forgiveness, trust, and respect.  Tugged at all the right heartstrings and was suspenseful to boot.  It was interesting to see the senior Smith take such a backseat on the action, allowing junior to take up as much of the screen he needed to get the job done.  And while sometimes it felt a bit heavy-handed ("what did you want me to do?!"), it tried to make up for it with beautiful cinematography (yummy old growth forests) and excellent special effects.  Oh, and let's not forget the surprisingly moving and poignant performances of Zoe Kravitz and Sophie Okonedo

There is only so much the actors can do, though.  Not as provocative or as challenging Cloud Atlas, and just missing the mark on entertainment.  2 out of 5 stars. And let's start a petition begging Will to suit up and headline again. 

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Now Playing: Now You See Me

Whoops.  Completely forgot to review this last week.  I'm really getting terrible at this.

I've been quite looking forward to Now You See Me, what with its fab cast and relative originality.  Also: am a sucker for magic.  I mean, I had such vivid and detailed fantasies of being David Copperfield's assistant growing up, that I think I'm perpetually dismayed by the lack of abracadabra in my life. Also: DC is really old and I somehow thought that if you were magical, you wouldn't age.  Let down again.

NYSM didn't disappoint, however.  Fast-paced, clever, and defying the fourth wall every chance it got, it was really, well, fun.  The tricks were cute (and mostly explained); the outfits were sleek and cool.  But really, it was the cast that stole the show: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine.  Sweet baby Jebus.  Who did they leave out?

The only complaint I have is the way it ended...really?  I can't say anything without spoiling it, so I'll leave it to you to judge if you decide to watch it  It's definitely worth a rental: 3 out of 5 stars.

Monday, June 03, 2013

inspired by Ondaatje

Currently reading Anil's Ghost and it reminded me of when I first fell in love with Michael Ondaatje.
I hope he won't mind me sharing with you.

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

To A Sad Daughter

All night long the hockey pictures
gaze down at you
sleeping in your tracksuit.
Belligerent goalies are your ideal.
Threats of being traded
cuts and wounds
--all this pleases you.
O my god! you say at breakfast
reading the sports page over the Alpen
as another player breaks his ankle
or assaults the coach.

When I thought of daughters
I wasn't expecting this
but I like this more.
I like all your faults
even your purple moods
when you retreat from everyone
to sit in bed under a quilt.
And when I say 'like'
I mean of course 'love'
but that embarrasses you.
You who feel superior to black and white movies
(coaxed for hours to see Casablanca)
though you were moved
by Creature from the Black Lagoon.

One day I'll come swimming
beside your ship or someone will
and if you hear the siren
listen to it. For if you close your ears
only nothing happens. You will never change.

I don't care if you risk
your life to angry goalies
creatures with webbed feet.
You can enter their caves and castles
their glass laboratories. Just
don't be fooled by anyone but yourself.

This is the first lecture I've given you.
You're 'sweet sixteen' you said.
I'd rather be your closest friend
than your father. I'm not good at advice
you know that, but ride
the ceremonies
until they grow dark.

Sometimes you are so busy
discovering your friends
I ache with loss
--but that is greed.
And sometimes I've gone
into my purple world
and lost you.

One afternoon I stepped
into your room. You were sitting
at the desk where I now write this.
Forsythia outside the window
and sun spilled over you
like a thick yellow miracle
as if another planet
was coaxing you out of the house
--all those possible worlds!--
and you, meanwhile, busy with mathematics.

I cannot look at forsythia now
without loss, or joy for you.
You step delicately
into the wild world
and your real prize will be
the frantic search.
Want everything. If you break
break going out not in.
How you live your life I don't care
but I'll sell my arms for you,
hold your secrets forever.

If I speak of death
which you fear now, greatly,
it is without answers.
except that each
one we know is
in our blood.
Don't recall graves.
Memory is permanent.
Remember the afternoon's
yellow suburban annunciation.
Your goalie
in his frightening mask
dreams perhaps
of gentleness.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

one hand in my pocket

Part of my spring cleaning ritual is to go through all my clothes, no matter how often (or not) I wear them.  As I began piling coats/jackets for dry-cleaning, I emptied the pockets of each.  The contents are usually a very good indicator of the last time they were actually worn.  Also, this year, I’ve decided to replace my cheap pleather jackets (which make me unbearably sticky) with real leather.  This was an easy decision to make in a vacuum.  Actually holding my little black number, with its ruffled detail and pewter buttons, I vacillated.  I remember where I was when I bought it (Sainte-Catherine St W, with AnCe and Nish) and where I first wore it (Au Pied de Cochon).  As I emptied the pockets, I also remembered the sad occasion when I wore it last.

Here’s what I found:

Two American pennies:
1994: starting high school, this year was a formative one.  I had access to the best music and the easiest wardrobe choices; I made lifelong friends and nemeses; I discovered my sense of self under a great big Canadian flag in front of a bunch of strangers.
2006: debt-free, clear-eyed, newly-housed – this was the true beginning of the rest of my life.

Hair-Tie, in apple green.  Can never have enough of these, especially in apple green.

A poem, by Dylan Thomas:
Your breath was shed
Invisible to make
About the soiled undead
Night for my sake,

A raining trail
Intangible to them
With biter's tooth and tail
And cobweb drum,

A dark as deep
My love as a round wave
To hide the wolves of sleep
And mask the grave.

A receipt for $42.97 from The Flower Shop

Sometimes, it’s not worth hanging on to something for sentimentality only.  I don’t wear this jacket, ever.  In theory, it’s beautiful: totally my style and edgy-cool.  In reality: it makes me uncomfortable.  Into the donations bag it went, hopefully a memory-maker for someone who can stand the heat.  Me?  I’m moving on.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Now Playing: Furious Six

The sixth instalment in the Fast & Furious franchise.  That's right, SIX.  You know, back in 2001 when The Fast and the Furious came out, it was nothing more than a badly written car movie.  At best, it was wisecracking stunt driver's fantasy; at worst, a B movie.  When 2 Fast 2 Furious came out, sans Vin Diesel, one could only surmise that this franchise would be short-lived.  Tokyo Drift?  That didn't headline a single original actor.  The series had clearly, ahem, stalled.

Then, in 2009, Fast & Furious came out.  I was unimpressed, clearly.  Did they really think we could alter time-lines, bring back dead characters, inject some awesome stunts, and revive the franchise?  In short: would a chassis replacement change the engine performance?  Well, no.  But, in a spectacular feat of retconning, it did set up quite the story arc.  One that I couldn't appreciate until I ingested Fast Five.

So, here we are: Furious Six.  I will not deny that I was very much looking forward to watching this.  Having rewatched 4 and 5 (like, last night), I really enjoyed the almost seamless tying-in of the previous five movies.  Yes, all five.  Even lonely little Tokyo Drift.  Let's lay it out there: this is not a franchise that's built on a novel, graphic or otherwise.  Its canon is entirely on-screen.  The only other modern-day equivalent would be Pirates of the Caribbean.  This means that it has to make up for its choices (bad and otherwise) as it goes, knowing that the next movie may not get made.  So, the fact that it speaks to its predecessors, sets up the future, illuminates the past and does it while thoroughly entertaining the masses with fast cars, unbelievable stunts, and beautiful people?  Well.  This little franchise has gone way beyond where it started out.

F6 (ha! I just realised that ...) is another effects-laden, adrenaline-pumping, action flick.  Scores points for real stunts with minimal green-screening.  It reunites the "family", has some great twists (one of which I totally called), and, the best part, ties in all.  six.  movies.  what.  On its own, it would be an entertaining 3 stars; but for the sheer work it does to pull the franchise together and set up the (final?) instalment, I have to give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Starting now would be a waste of your time; watch all five first.

Also: I'm using Furious 6, instead of the "official" title of Fast & Furious 6 in deference to Justin Lin, the director and possibly the only reason this entire thing isn't just a dim memory.  Over to you, James Wan; do us proud, grasshopper.

Edit: in my haste to get this post up, I forgot to mention that this movie has one of the best fight scenes I've witnessed on film, between Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Riley (Gina Carano) - holy hot damn, those ladies sure did bring it.  I have no idea where the actresses ended and the stunt doubles began, but it really didn't matter.  It was right up there with Bourne or the latest Batman: brutal, realistic, and supremely well-executed.  Need moar.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Now Playing: Star Trek: Into Darkness

Star Trek is one of the few reboots of a franchise that is both well-timed and well-done. After watching Star Trek (in 2009!), I was pretty stoked to see the material treated with both reverence and imagination. It’s too bad we waited so long for the second instalment. In the meantime, I watched all the original series movies (yes, they are as campy as you remember them).

When Star Trek: Into Darkness was announced, there was much speculation about the bad guy. It’s no stretch that Wrath of Khan is probably the best of the original movies and it has been such a pervasive part of our pop culture, I really had no idea how they would modernise it without losing …something. Benedict Cumberpatch was announced as the villain John Harrison, an ex-Federation officer gone rogue and so we all accepted that, yes, this is a new cast with a new time-line and new stories. Let us let Khan rest.

Difficult to talk about STID without talking spoilers. Truly. So I’ll try my best to avoid plot points.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

spring cleaning

Since I was chained to my desk today, waiting on phone calls and such, I was able to clean up around my (temporary) office. Here’s something I didn’t share with you, poppets, and I hope you’ll understand why.

For the past few months (since January), I’ve been an acting Area Manager. What’s an Area Manager? Good question. For us, it’s the position between our front-line managers and the Director. It’s the equivalent of a vice-president or deputy director. It’s been an eye-opening experience, and I’ve really enjoyed learning to view everything through a very wide system lens. It’s also been a humbling experience that has taught me just how little power those in this position wield. Honestly, I consider myself an ambitious person; so, I’m a bit surprised at myself wanting to get back to being with front-line staff. I think I miss having an immediate team, attaining goals and ticking off projects, chatting with the coffee klatch. Or, maybe it’s the fact that this is an acting gig, where I’m constantly trying to figure out if I should take on a project or not (Will I be able to finish in time? What are my parameters? Should I make a decision that someone else will have to live with?).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Now Playing: The Great Gatsby

I haven’t read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel since, well, high school. That was, like, a millennia ago. I do remember devouring it and wanting more (I ended up buying and reading his collected works). This is also one of maybe five books that LilBro has read to the end and enjoyed – so there’s some cross-demographic appeal there. Upon hearing that Baz Luhrmann would be putting his unique spin on The Great Gatsby, I was a little more than intrigued.

It is everything you would expect from a Luhrmann flick: pomp, glitter, drama, and messed-up relationships. These are the same things you get from the novel. What is missing, however, is the tense and eloquent prose which allows us to see the characters without the characters being able to see themselves. There’s a little bit of it via words floating across the screen, but it’s just not the same. What it lacks in scripting it makes up for in scenery and setting. The slight whine of the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock, the JG crest imprinted on every surface of Gatsby’s grotesque mansion, the shiny yellow motorcar, the costumery (oh, the costumery!)… all very evocative.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Now Playing: Iron Man 3

This review is very late in being posted – I watched Iron Man 3 over a week ago and just haven’t had a chance to put thoughts to keyboard. (It’s been a very busy few months for me, poppets, and I am sorry to see that our time together suffers because of it).

Anyway – a return to the world of RDJ's Tony Stark. My first reaction was “meh” – seriously. Perhaps it was because I had just watched Avengers again, a movie that was pretty amazing for its cast, plot, script, and effects. Maybe it’s because the first and second installments were so good, that this one felt a bit.. I don’t know, flat.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Now Playing: Oblivion

Yet another Tom Cruise flick that’s well done, if a tad predictable, Oblivion’s main strength has actually nothing to do with its stellar cast. It is, simply put, a striking film. At first, I didn’t get it. It was just more green-screen wizardry with high-tech future toys and impossibly impeccable landscapes… right?

Well.

I have since learned that director Joseph Kosinski actually built real things. And shot real clouds. And aged real books. The result? A very palpable environment in which the characters can immerse themselves and the (sometimes thin) plot can evolve. It also didn’t surprise me when I learned that this guy worked on Tron: Legacy – it had that same future-realism that really sells impossible plotlines.

Anyway back to Oblivion. Indeed, it is gorgeous. I think if you have a decent home theatre, you would probably get to experience much of it. I would say to watch it in normal theatres but the plot really is quite predictable and may distract you from the eye candy. All 3 out of 5 stars is attributed to its landscape, scenery, set design, and sheer beauty.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

the briars

 In a complete turnabout from where I was the weekend prior, last weekend was spent at The Briars Resort & Spa. It’s a great getaway on the shores of Lake Simcoe, where you can golf, bike, swim, and hike to your heart’s content. I went with three friends (with whom I also happen to work) – I had travelled to Cuba with two of them, so I knew it was going to be a good time.

We got there Friday afternoon, after a leisurely drive up Woodbine Ave. Our ground floor room faced the lake and was conveniently situated across from the indoor hot tub/pool, next door to the bar and about thirty seconds from the restaurant. I recommend the Leacock Wing. Had a good walk about the ground before dinner, which was (and every meal, really) amazing. We wrapped up the evening learning euchre and playing hearts.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

India

Last week, I spent eight days exploring the Golden Triangle of India (mostly from the comfort of an air-conditioned bus). It was a whirlwind affair, with quick stops in Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. Much like a buffet, we sampled delicacies in bite-size offerings and still came away full. Travelling companions Jadek, Nish and MrsC were good company, as were new travel-mate friends.

I was pretty sick before leaving, so the flight over is a blur of antibiotics and pain meds. I really thought I had irreparable damage to my hearing (especially since it took a full two days before my ears popped). I do remember the food being good and Jadek being an excellent pillow.

Within about twenty minutes of being out of the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Jadek had already relinquished his luggage to a non-Indus Crew member. We learned quickly: everyone is out to make a buck in India. And I mean everyone. From tuktuk drivers to street peddlers, from legit state emporium stores to our very own tour guide – it was, as my parents would say, a moneymaking racket. However – for the price we paid to go over ($2350!), I couldn’t have reproduced that trip. Heck, I could barely get a flight and a hotel for that. So, there we were, ready to embark on our very first “canned” tour.

Everyone asks for the highlights.  It's difficult to pick, really.  But, here goes.

Monday, April 22, 2013

taj mahal



















Should guilty seek asylum here,
Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.
Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,
All his past sins are to be washed away.
The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
In this world this edifice has been made;
To display thereby the creator's glory.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

passage to india

In less than 48 hours, I will be winging my way back, back, back to the near-motherland: India.  The golden triangle in specific, which includes Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra.  I know this seems crazy, but I've only spent two nights in the country that neighboured by birth land (n Calcutta, no less).  It will be whirlwind, a mere eight days (for 36 hours flight time, that seems insane, but there you have it).  As is tradition, I have brought myself down with cough and relentless fever.  So, I haven't packed or done anything except secure my visa and my inoculations.  I intend to spent the next 45-hours-and-counting drinking soup and sleeping.

Am I excited?  Yes.  It's been bucket-list item of mine to see the Taj Mahal.  Everything else is cherries.
The Golden Triangle

Also, nervous. 

Monday, April 08, 2013

Now Playing: Oz, the Great and Powerful


I’m not entirely certain why it took us three weeks to get to Oz the Great and Powerful but there you have it. After frolicking bunnies and resurrected hippies, Easter Monday saw us back in the theatre. We had taken so long, that we were relegated to the smallest screen at the multiplex.

A word of advice: if you haven’t watched The Wizard of Oz, you should. As Jadek can attest, half the movie’s suspense and drive comes from the watching the 1939 classic. So, once you ‘ve watched that, you’re good to go.

I liked the homages to the original (starting out in black-and-white, going from mono to full-on digital audio, the gingham and the bubbles) and I really liked the “twists” in the story. What I loved was the constant lookout for a certain green-skinned lady: she doesn’t show up for a while and when she does… boy, was I surprised. The one thing I didn't ever understand about Oz is this: why put this inept man in charge of Oz when there's a perfectly good Glinda around?

Well shot, well-paced, well-acted, and well worth your money. I’d go see it. 3.5 out of 5 stars.