Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Rob Thomas' birthday weekend

I have a long-standing abhorrence of Valentine's Day.  I won't retread old ground, but suffice it to say, I'm not one to make a big deal of Vday.  Here's how I spent my Friday night: I was killing time, waiting for Jadek, wandering about SqOne.  I haven't been to the mall for quite some time and it didn't take long for its effects to take its toll.  I felt ugly.  So I bought myself a delicious MAC lipstick (Dark Side) and too many creams at Clinique (I like them, but I had a resolution to stick with drug store creams this year... poof).  I found jeans on sale at Ricki's (a store I adore) and tried them on.  I have been envious of girls wearing their boots over top of their jeans - I have many boots but they're always hidden under my sensible boot-cuts.  Anyway, I tried on these "skinny" jeans and lo!  they fit!  5 inches smaller around the waist than the ones I had on!  ...what... Obviously I bought two pairs of those.  Feeling sufficiently assuaged, I decided stop tempting myself.

I had scoped a great table, so I guarded it with my backpack while getting caught up on life.  Read a great post by Elle, which makes me think I should rename Vday for me too.  Until I get a suitable replacement, hers will do. 

Finally, Jadek arrived and our "romantic" date had begun.  You know where you don't need a reservation on Valentine's Day?  The Food Court.  So, we had Taco Bell for dinner and it was fab.  Then we window shopped at the Microsoft store - there was indeed love that night, poppets.  I fell in love with the Windows Surface Pro 2.  The wise Jadek steered me out the front door and we watched the dance stylings of little kids playing with the MS Kinect.  On our way out of the mall, we passed an ice cream store and I remembered I had a coupon, so we got milkshakes to go.  Got home, changed into PJs and watched our weekly TV allotment.  Perfect.

But, you know, just because I think that February 14 is a viciously calculated plan to monetise affection, doesn't mean I have heart of stone.  So when Jadek showed up and gave me a single yellow rose, that he carefully carried all the way from his place (through tunnels! in snow!), I did melt, just a little.  I also told him this sets a high standard - because now I know that flowers are possible all the time and I have empty vases.

This weekend, we decided to avoid the ridiculous coupled crowds and do decidedly unromantic things - like lunch at Denny's and watching action flicks.  I even had plans to see friends (and new baby!) and then hang out with the family on Sunday.  And since he works Monday, despite it being a provincial holiday, this was just an ordinary weekend for us.  I think that's what it made it most special.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Now Playing: Robocop

A few caveats: I've never seen the orignal Robocop and I actually have no idea what it's about (other than the obvious cop who is robot aspect).  So, I settled into my traditional anti-VDay movie (more on this later) on Saturday Night, pretty much a blank slate.

Robocop, starring one of my favourite Swedes (Joel Kinnaman) and whole host of other famous faces, was pretty good.  Special effects are what you would expect in this movie.  Although, in trying to retain its PG-13 rating, a lot of the violence is completely sanitised.  I always question this move - I mean, just because there's no blood, doesn't make the acting of killing (en masse!) less violent.  If anything, I'd think that would be reason for a ratings hike, not the size of your Kensngton Gore budget. 
The plotline of having a LockheedMartin-esque company who wants to grow its market share by putting drones on American streets seems very believable.  The opening scene of "cooperation" is pretty much my favourite.  I also liked the grotesquery that is Alex Burphy's body.  A lot of philosophical questions occurred to me while watching: what makes us human?  how much of ourselves do we need to make us human? (I'm also watching Almost Human and it routinely deals with human/cyborg relations).  Can Alex Murphy ever be Alex Murphy again (will he play catch with his son/ snuggle with his wife?)... and where does that leave his wife/son?  It's macabre thought: to lose your beloved only to have him walk the streets and be a hero.

For allowing such discussions in the first place, I have to give Robocop 3 out of 5 stars

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Now Playing: The Lego(tm) Movie

I have to admit - I was pretty excited to see The Lego Movie.  I mean, it has Lego Batman, so already a win.  It was even better to see it will LilBro and MJ, who are Lego fans and who laughed out loud just as hard as I did. 

It had a great story (with a lovely lesson in "tipping the box"), fabulous voice actors, and excellent pacing.  I think it's mostly a movie for adults who used to play Lego and have sort of forgotten how to play at all. 

I loved the attention to detail - there was no cheating, everything used Lego (trees, rivers, clouds, steam, ... heck, even the bubbles in the shower).  Even the slow-mo scenes which feature a lot of fire and ammunition?  It all used lego flames and plastic lasers.  Awesome.

Oh, and speaking of awesome - the songs!  Everything Is Awesome is so fantastically tongue-in-cheek with its ridiculous hook and techno beats, it is stupidly catchy .  And then there's the full Batman-does-Death-Metal song during the credits.  Stay.  Watch it.

If you want a feel for the movie, check out the Behind The Bricks featurette. 

I will complain a little about the lack of female characters (because, it turns out, that even the females are controlled by boys) - Lego could do so much better appealing to girls, especially now with STEM learning making a huge splash.  It's too bad the only two "real" girls in the film are a disembodied mom who has dinner ready and a toddler who can only play with duplo. 

So, 3 out of 5 stars.  Take the kids and kids-at-heart.  And then dig out your old Lego to play.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Now Playing: Captain Phillips

The second of our double-feature: Captain Phillips.  I wasn't looking forward to watching this movie as I'm pretty much an anti-fan of Tom Hanks.  It also seemed to be another "isn't America great" movie and I'm really tired of those. 

I'll admit, I was pleasantly surprised.  CP was paced like an action movie, complete with nail-biting suspence.  It's too bad that we knew the Cap was going to make it, because that would have made it a little more compelling... alas, the constraints of non-fiction.  There was some attempt to illustrate the desperation which would drive young men into piracy, which I appreciated.  The real revelation, though, is the acting debut of Barkhad Abdi, who was pretty fantastic.  He was clearly the bad guy, but I was kinda cheering for him.  I mean, he led three guys with a motorboat and a soldered-together ladder and they were able to neutralise a twenty-man crew on a huge cargo ship.  And then, they took on not one, not two, but three US Navy ships.  I couldn't help but root for them a little, and hope they would make it out.  So well done.

But, it's still a rah-rah-Go-America movie with Tom Hanks playing every other role you've ever seen him in.  So, I can only really give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.  Still a good movie.  Just not Oscar-calibre.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Now Playing: Philomena

Jadek and I set up a an unlikely double header: Philomena and Captain Phillips.  We are often guided by cinema availability more than appropriate viewings.  So, on a Saturday afternoon, after a delicious sushi lunch, we settled in.

First up: Philomena.  This is a movie I wouldn't have watched in the theatre - I would have preferred to watch this at home, with PJs and a cup of tea.  (if you can make tea happen with this, you should).  Judi Dench and Steve Coogan are a great pairing.  His quick wit and sharp tongue bleeds through the entire script; her gracious charm and character depth kept the entire story on an even keel.  It was actually quite riveting, as we were swept up in their journey along with them.  We didn't know - would she find him? what would he be like? Would they have a life together or would there have been too many years separating them?  It's a quietly impactful film, which deals with large issues of oppression and institutionalised corruption, but with a gentle hand.  I rather liked it and was surprised that I could laugh when dealing with things like stolen babies and indentured labour.

Watch it.  I think you'll like it.  4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Now Playing: 12 Years a Slave

I have to admit, I put off watching 12 Years a Slave as long as I could. I don't why I did - I knew it was going to be well done and I knew it was a front-runner for awards season.  I just... I don't know, I guess I worried that once I watched it, I would be spoiled for all others?

Poppets.  It was good.  I mean, everything was good - acting, directing, scripting, costumes... all of it.  I expected all of that.  What I didn't expect was to feel doubt.  I mean, I know it happened.  I don't doubt the veracity of history.  But it's just so crazy that you could be walking around free one day and in chains the next.  And I guess what happened was I started leaving the movie and thinking about how this still happens today, all over the world, especially to young women.  And maybe it was that train of thought that distracted me throughout the actual viewing.  None of that was the movie's fault though.  In fact, maybe that's one of its strengths, to tell a story so far removed from most of our experiences and still remain very relevant to us, today.

As I said, it was incredibly solid, with Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong'o doing amazing work.  The script also did a great job capturing the nuances of Yankee English and the southern drawl from the 1800's.  All very, very well done. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Now Playing: I, Frankenstein

It's not like we needed a dsitraction movie, but having watched five of nine Oscar Noms, Jadek and I decided on a palate cleanser.

I, Frankenstein (brought to you by the same people from the Underworld franchise, which I enjoy) had some potential.  Excellent source material, depth in casting, and CGI tech that's never been better.  I'm the kind of person that really likes when you take a classic and "reveal" other aspects.  But somehow, it didn't quite come together.  I think it maybe because of two big (bad) choices:

1) Casting Bill Nighy as the bad guy.  Again.  You know, I love Mr. Nighy, I really do, but he can't be the bad guy for every gritty fantasy world.  And he's already been a badass vampire.  (In a testament to his acting abilities, I think Mr. Nighy played the demon-prince role perfectly, with a balanced mix of detachment and cruelty.  It just seems like lazy casting, though.)

2) The demon make-up is completely uninspired, looking like a mild upgrade from the days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I really expected much much more.  And the choice of gargoyles?  Okay - but aside from making the choice of gargoylke-as-good-guy, they did nothing with them.. 

I didn't expect much and I got even less.  So not worth it.  1 out of 5 stars; solely for the acting, with  Aaron Eckhart, Miranda Otto, and Bill Nighy doing the best they can with what they're given. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Now Playing: Her

(I've been busy watching seven Oscar noms and two distraction movies so now I'm super behind in reviews.  As a result - we get hundred-word reviews.  Let's face it - all Oscar noms are worth watching - you don't need me to tell you that, poppets.)

Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson’s voice, is an ode to the lonely void modern day humans who tend to fill with technology.  Well-acted and surprisingly engaging for a film that spends a lot of time of one-person conversations.  I’m not sure about Best Picture, but I can see why it received a Best Actor nomination.

The premise is really intriguing too and very believable, despite it being about AI evolving into sentience. and the technology makes me want to live in that near-future of seemingly low crime and fairly satisfying employment.  Should you watch it?  Of course!  and I think it would translate very well to the small screen,  4 out of 5 stars.