Tuesday, March 29, 2011

1542 - Prom Night

It's hard to imagine that at one point this was considered good horror.  The opening is pretty terrible - I mean it sets things up just fine - but it's so over-the-top.  And then over an hour goes by before this thing actually turns into any kind of a decent horror film.  And I'm being kind by saying decent.  Maybe I'm ruined by the pacing and whatnot of today, but there's nothing even remotely worth recommending about this film for (save maybe the head-roll down the aisle at the end). 
If you think you need to watch this film out of some kind of need to watch classic horror - do yourself a favor and watch some paint dry.  About the same experience. 
Prom Night (Widescreen)

Monday, March 28, 2011

1541 - Californication: season four

At some point during this season David Duchovney did an interview in which he talked about the arch of a television character - particularly on a show like this where the story is character driven and continues to grow.  He said that it's a difficult balance because if a character doesn't move forward than it dies - but if it changes too far from it's origins then the audience grows detached from it.  And when it comes to this particular show the character of Hank Moody is probably one of the most charismatic man-childs in television history - but the one thing that happened consistently in this season was that the people closest to him (save perhaps Charlie) told him time and again that he needs to get his shit together and change.  This season ended, I believe, with him realizing that that was indeed true.  And the beauty of how this season ended is that the story is now free to move in practically any direction that it wants to - and I look forward to that.  Will it have a major shake-up ala Weeds?  I doubt it - but it could be interesting - like Becca says in the final scenes - "Sometimes you just need to shake things up". 
This season was all about Hank having to deal with the fall-out, coming full circle with the events that happened all the way back in the first episode of the series.  This is a show that has a really unique tone - it gets down right goofy at times but almost always ends on a moment of poignancy - sometimes that hits home better than others.  This season more so than any of the others I think the series achieved the balance and had it's strongest ongoing arc - because the stakes were so high.  It's hard to imagine a situation where they could be higher.  I'm very curious to see where this series will go - the creators claim to have a long term plan, so that excites me.  What will the next chapter of Hank Moody's life bring us?...  Looking forward to it. 
If you've never seen this series you'll probably want to start back at the beginning - but beware there are some rough patches and unnecessary tangents (I'm looking at you, seasons two and three!) but I think its worth it in the end.  Enjoy!

25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom

I picked this book up sometime last year for research for something, which I wrote without reading it, and now (of course) I'm kicking myself in the ass, realizing how a lot of the info in here would have been extremely helpful.  Alas... that's what rewrites are for.
For those familiar with the works of Alan Moore - known most for his work in comics - his masterpiece being Watchmen - but this particular title fits closer to his Lost Girls trilogy (of which I really need to re-read).  The entire book is a brief history on sexual repression and what it does to people, and society at large.  Here's a sample:
Just to recap, then: Sexually progressive cultures gave us mathematics, literature, philosophy, civilization, and the rest, while sexually restrictive cultures gave us the Dark Ages and the Holocaust.  Not that I'm trying to load my argument, of course.
That's just a little teaser.  It's a very quick read and it's full of wonderful artwork as well.  The older I get the more I found sexuality intrigues me - moreso what it does to people and society and so a book like this is right up my alley.  Moore isn't aiming to solve any problems - he's just hoping to add weight to the conversation - or perhaps get more conversations going.  While spending the weekend with my in-laws, my father-in-law found this book lying around and read it from cover to cover - not able to abandon it for more than a few moments at a time.  It feels weird to say that this is a very important book, but it is.  It's part of a conversation that most people avoid and for no good reason.  Give it a shot.  If nothing else it'll give you something interesting to discuss at your next dinner party.  And for extra bonus points - read it in public transit and leave the art-pages wide open and see how many people steal glances.
25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom

Sunday, March 27, 2011

1540 - Chi Girl

Found this randomly on netflix - and I have to be honest in that it wasn't one of my better discoveries.  I remembered the name of the filmmaker Heidi Van Lier from her interview/blog series with Indie Film. 
I really really liked this film at the start - it intrigued my quite a bit and I liked the style, but it didn't take long for it to start to become a bit tiresome.  It's full of a lot of really great ideas but the problem is that there is little to no subtext to bring them into the film - people are often speaking about exactly what they think about in an annoying fashion that borders along the pretentious.  It probably would have been a bit easier to follow if they'd of lost the V.O. with Randy, the filmmaker which is pretty heavy handed. 
As an actress I quite like Heidi Van Lier's presence, the way that she carries herself amidst it all.  I think this film has an interesting premise - that of a girl who believes that all men want it sex, and she so heads out to prove it with a cameraman in tow.  As it progresses, the camera man becomes obsessed and the camera begins to stalk her (with a REALLY annoying voice over)
For those into the art cinema, you may find something in here that you like - but for those who prefer to dwell within the borders of the mainstream this probably isn't even close to something you'd enjoy.

Friday, March 25, 2011

1539 - Exit Through the Gift Shop

I've been wanting to see this film for ages, so imagine my surprise when I saw it added to netflix!  There's been some speculation as to whether or not this film is a hoax - I think people want it to be because how could it be so good otherwise?  In truth, I constantly wondered how this guy was supporting himself and a family through all of this - did he come from money?  It's never really explained, and I'd imagine most people don't care.  For me the film was interesting, watching these people do interesting things - seeing the process, etc... but I never really got a sense of why they were doing it - what it meant to the, etc...   He follows these guys around to have a collection of tapes with famous street artists - but yet he does nothing with it - he doesn't try to get into their heads - he just likes to hang around people more creative than he is.  The film really gathers steam in its second half when Banksy tells him to go off and make something of all the footage he's made and he comes back with an unwatchable mess - at which point Banksy takes over and then sends him off to go and be an artist himself - and what happens from that point on is pretty awesome - and that's the stuff where you can't help but wonder if this is just an elaborate prank to make a statement about the art world.  I mean, the film makes a statement (in a lovely subtle way) anyway - so there's that.
I quite enjoyed it and was excited that it ended up on netflix so quickly.  It's a nice little piece.  Check it out if you're apt to.
Exit Through the Gift Shop  Exit Through the Gift Shop [Blu-ray]

Thursday, March 24, 2011

1538 - Paul

This film had me excited from the trailer - and then taking a quick glance at the people involved sealed the deal.  I even chose this over The King's Speech - mostly because I just wanted to watch something fun tonight.  Pegg and Frost have had a lot of fun playing around with genre films, and now they go after the sci-fi genre, this time with Greg Mottola as their collaborator. 
It's essentially ET as a road film with Seth Rogen as the (voice of the) alien, and he's a perfect choice.  What's a lot of fun about this is the idea that the alien isn't a new visitor, but he's been here for a long damn time - he knows stuff - he knows a lot more than most humans.  The film takes a pretty damn healthy poke at religion and I wonder if it won't get criticized for it. 
What I like about the film most is just how much of an adventure it feels that we're on.  There's lots of people after the group as they go along their road trip, and it keeps the pace going - always on the move.  The cast has as much fun with the material as the audience does watching.  I am always a fan of Jason Bateman, and I find Kristen Wiig simply adorable - and it's nice to see that she's becoming better known - she deserves it.
So obviously I'm going to see The King's Speech at some point 'cause everyone keeps on raving about the damn thing - but for tonight I wanted something fun - and I got what I wanted.  If you're already a fan of this group of people then you need no recommendation from me.  This is a really fun film.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

1537 - Jamie Oliver's School Dinners

My wife found this on netflix, and so we quickly breezed through this short, but wonderful, series that follows Jamie Oliver as he attempts to transform the school dinner program in the UK, from unhealthy fast food garbage, to well balanced meals. 
Food is pretty important to us in our house.  We like to know where our food comes from.  We read labels.  We buy local as much as we can.  We support farmers who treat their animals well.  We pay extra for it, of course, but for us it's worth it - and we can see the difference it makes in our son's life.  I imagine that this is where Jamie got the idea for this program is through looking at his own children and then thinking of the children throughout the rest of Great Britain. 
The documentary series is refreshing in how candid Jamie is about the process, he's frustrated, he's overjoyed.  We get to see all the ups and downs and he doesn't shelter himself from the problems in his personal life (or the problems that the press is trying to invent).  His goal is to prove that he can create a system that's healthier, but doesn't cost more, so that if the gov't says no to a nationwide change - its simply because they don't care.
It's been a long time since I've been in high school so I can't really speak on state of our system - although our food was closer to the fast food offerings than it was to what Jamie was trying to push through.  So hopefully we're making a change for the better as well. 
At one point in the series Jamie talks about the idea that it took some time for the public to become aware of the dangers of smoking, and several other things we know to be bad for us.  Food seems to be the next big-ticket-item, and people like Jamie are fighting the good fight.  Food is such a tough battle though as it's very personal to people - it's cultural - it's social - it's personal - we put this stuff inside of us - a lot!  And some of us put a lot of it inside of us :)  I speak from experience, being a larger man myself.  I like food.  And although the vast majority of stuff I eat is pretty damn healthy, you don't have to push me hard to get something is flavour focused over health.  I'd like to think I'm getting better - but it's a love/hate relationship I have with food: More love than hate though, luckily :) 
This is on netflix.  It's four episodes.  Check it out - and if you have kids, then it's must-see-television and make them sit in with you.  They'll probably enjoy it as much as you will.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

One Day

I picked this book up mostly on a whim, and on the premise which is this:  Dex & Em hook up on the evening of their graduation and form a friendship that lasts a lifetime, and over the next twenty years, we'll get to glimpse into that relationship on the anniversary of that date.  Pretty unique way to structure a love story, right?
There's a magic to this book.  It could have been quite the simple, sentimental love story - but it's so much more.  The characters, in the end, are older than I am, but I get it.  I know what they're going through.  We get to see them in the foolishness of their youth and then decades later wondering how the hell they could be so stupid.  Each chapter ends with the delight of knowing that we'll get to see the aftermath of that day and it's ripple effect on their future - and it keeps you wanting to come back more and more.  Nicholls writing is simple, yet elegant at times - and always thoughtful.  The way he unfolds the tale is quite lovely, and at times, quite harsh.  He goes to some unexpected places in his story, but all for the greater good I think. 
This is a story for anyone whose every had a relationship that spanned several years, or even one for those who wonder what happened to that person from that time in the life when everything was much simpler.  Or it's for couples who have been together a long time and try to remember who you used to be before you changed together.  It's a story for a lot of people, which is no small surprise why it's become and international best seller.  I see that there is a feature film version hitting the cinemas this summer with my beloved Anne Hathaway who is an interesting choice for the lead - do yourself and search for the poster for the film - it's pretty awesome.
So this book is certainly a few steps up from your typical romance novel, and I think that it's a story that resonates with more people than would give it credit.  If you love to read, check it out - I recommend it.
One Day (Vintage Contemporaries Original)

Monday, March 21, 2011

1536 - Cathouse: season two

Not much more to comment on that I didn't about the first season of this series.  This season didn't really expand too much or go too much more indepth - in fact I was a bit disappointed in it and found that they recycled a lot of material from the first season.  The first season almost had this underlying storyline if you paid attention about the inner politics and that just wasn't here all that much in this season.
I think there's one more disk coming with something that's meant to be a musical - which should be a lovely train wreck.  A fun little show if you're curious about the sex industry - but don't expect anything overly expose about it - it's viewed through some pretty thick rose coloured glasses.
Cathouse: The Series

1535 - Big Love: season five

So.  That happened.  I'm pretty sure that the above photo is a press release from a previous season, but I don't care.  I love it, and I'm using it.  Okay, so this is going to be pretty darn SPOILER HEAVY so proceed at your own darn risk.

First I'll say that this is by no means my favorite series of all time.  I don't think it's something that I'll ever find myself rewatching, and it's not the kind of show I'm dying to get back to inbetween seasons, but it's a show that I always enjoy while I'm watching it.  It's a pretty interesting show in that it manages to balance a lot of different tones quite well, with ease.  No small feat.  I kind of felt like the show drifted somewhere in the middle - not quite sure where it wanted to head - but that it got there in the end.  More on that in a bit.
I think that what this show did somewhat poorly was the way it handled it's large cast.  In a lot of ways it bit off more than it could chew, and just spit it out when it didn't need it anymore.  Teenie, the (practically) red-headed step-child (actual daughter though) is a character that they probably wish they never even created.  She had but one interesting storyline the whole time involving her showing the other neighborhood kids pornography.  But outside of that, and perhaps some other things in the first season, she was completely wasted.  Somewhere in the fourth season they cast another actress to play her, but found ways to mostly keep her away - and then this season she just so happened to go off and live with Sarah so that they wouldn't have to deal with her.  And Joey.  I mean, come on - he was a pretty damn important character - but apparently he and Wanda will just forever wander around in Mexico.  There are more examples of this, but those are the main ones.  I realize that life is messy, and not everything has to be resolved, but I think that these particular pieces were just shoved under the rug.  They did it with storylines as well (I'm looking at you Native Casino)
Now, that brings us to this actual season.  There was much mocking of season four - I never really had a big problem with it - and it did what it needed to do to bring us to this ending.  I was not expecting it, but I bawled my ass off at this show's conclusion.  And it wasn't sad soppy crying - it was the tears of a happy happy man.  I thought that the ending they went with was so touching and perfect. 


Had Bill had lived it would have been messy.  He would have been in jail, it would have been a dark cloud over everything.  This was their way of letting him go out a hero.  Carl was an odd choice for his killer, but they seeded it just fine.  It couldn't have been Alby or some random fundamentalist - that would have been too much of a statement.  But instead, through his death, and seeing a glimpse of the family a year following, let us know just how powerful Bill was - it was able to keep his family together, even in death.  This show was never about Bill, it was always about the sister wives and never was that more obvious than in this episode. 

Like I said, I've always enjoyed this series, but I'm glad to see it coming to an end.  If I'm honest, I'm just sick of watching these poor people suffer, and often with such melodrama.  It was a lovely show while it latest.  The creators have a two year exclusive development deal with HBO so it'll be interesting to see what they come up with next...
Big Love: The Complete First Season   Big Love: The Complete Second Season  Big Love: The Complete Third Season  Big Love: The Complete Fourth Season

Sunday, March 20, 2011

1534 - Nurse Jackie: season one

Obviously late to this show, although people raved about it from the very beginning - and now having blasted through the first season I'm a little embarrassed to not have discovered it earlier (however delighted that I've got a stack of it to catch up on!)
This could very well be one of the best written comedy series on television.  Set mostly in a hospital, mostly around horrible things, the tone of this show is just absolutely brilliant.  It's dark, but it's not morose.  It's over-the-top, but so goddamn real.  You believe that all of this can (and probably does) happen.  The pilot itself is probably one of the best pilots in the history of television.  It's amazing how they slowly reveal her character and all the complexities that are tied up inside of it.  The entire cast just adds so damn much to the ensemble.  It's hilarious and heartbreaking, and Edie Falco is a goddamn treasure.  She is so ridiculously good on this show, it almost makes you feel like she was wasting her time on The Sopranos as 'the wife' character when she's capable of so much more. 
I could write and write about this show - all of my favorite characters and interactions, best scenes, but I would just be spoiling you from discovering them on your own. 
If you're behind like me - catch up - seriously - this is not a show to be missed by lovers of great television.
Nurse Jackie: Season OneNurse Jackie: Season One [Blu-ray]  Nurse Jackie: Season One [Blu-ray]

Saturday, March 19, 2011

TIFF - The Tim Burton Exhibit

So it's been a little while since I've posted anything (I know, less than a week is "a while" for me who likes to cram my brain with stories and then spit out my thoughts back to you, loyal reader).  But I promise that the time has been well spent doing some (hopefully) pretty decent writing. 
So today my lovely wife and I decided to take in the Tim Burton exhibit at the Bell Lightbox (for those Torontonians it's only on for another month or so...)  I'm not in love with all of Burton's work - there are a few pieces that I actually dislike (I'm looking at you, Big Fish).  But walking around the exhibit I realized that I am a Tim Burton fan.  I've seen all of his films (excluding Alice - which is on my pile), and the man is endlessly inventive.  It's amazing just how much stuff has been kept of his throughout his career, and the way that the exhibit is laid out is really lovely and creates a nice flow.  There's lots of great stuff - his personal artwork, sketches upon sketches of designs for his work - notes between himself and other collaborators.  Just some really great stuff.  It's the kind of attention to detail that makes you envious, but at the same time makes you realize why this man has made the career that he has.  He's a perfectionist and an artist.  He's worth celebrating, and this exhibit does it well. 
If you're even a casual Tim Burton, or into alternative art gallery exhibits, you'll probably enjoy this.  And do yourself a favour and check out the fourth floor as well - they've got a really nice Mary Pickford exhibit - she's a fascinating person.  And if you've got the time to take in a film their cinemas are a pretty damn great place to watch one.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

1533 - Departures

My wife wanted to watch this in honor of Japan.  With my brother-in-law living there with his beautiful wife we've got a personal connection to the place, and so it really means nothing to anyone, but we thought this was a good a time as any to pop it into the player.  Ridiculous as it is, I've got a stack of Japanese cinema I've been meaning to watch and I might just use this as the inspiration to finally dive into it. 
My wife bought this film for her parents on a whim.  It's about a man who gets into the business of... well it's hard to explain - he's not an undertaker - I believe the correct term is 'coffiner'.  He performs a ceremony for families for the deceased.  Anyway.  It's a pretty enjoyable film.  Its got a unique tone to it where just when you think it's going to dip into melodrama it has these wonderfully light and often humorous moments.  If I have to complain about it at all I'd say that it probably could have been a little tighter, and I'm not sure I needed the voice-over.  A tad "on the nose" for my liking.  That being said it really is a lovely film and worth checking out if you're into foreign cinema at all.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

1532 - Loser

I remember seeing this trailer in high school and wanting to see the film.  This was in the wake of American Pie and so these two actors, Mena Suvari and Jason Biggs were pretty hot shit at the time - now I had to google them to see what they'd been up to.
This film is more or less a rip-off of The Apartment, in that it's the story of a guy who lets himself get taken advantage of and watches the girl he's falling in love with be treated horribly by another man.  I'm sure if you beat out both stories you'd find it's almost an exact replica in terms of story mechanics.  And given that The Apartment is a hands-down fantastic film, you'd think that this film would be great as well.  Not so much.
For being a comedy I don't think I really laughed once.  Biggs and Suvari are fine here - but I have a hard time trying to figure out what the tone of the film is - it dips in and out of different kinds of comedy and never really makes any of them work.  It's not a horrible film, it's just a really really weak one - especially considering that it comes from Amy Heckerling.  And for some unknown reason it's full of cameos like Dan Akroyd and David Spade (and we get a glimpse of Alan Cummings playing Emcee in Cabaret!)
The only reason I could recommend it is if you live in Toronto and want to make a drinking game out of how many times the location they're in is so obviously Toronto and not New York.  Outside of that there are far better films you could be watching.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Dog of the Marriage

It took me a while to get all the way through this - not out of quality - mostly because I've been trying to use my free time to write and also give notes to my fellow writers on their works-in-progress - and the problem with reading a book of short stories is that it's easy to put down and not get back around to because you don't feel like you've abandoned it the way you would with a novel.
The more I read short stories the more I realize that I'm a man who likes a solid structure.  I can appreciate the works of Hempel because they are beautifully crafted and written - she uses words like weapons and leaves you humbled, but in my anal way I'd label them more "moments" than "stories".  But that's just me.
I'm proud of myself to finally get through Amy's works - knowing how long she takes to craft them I imagine I'm a few years away still from whatever she's got up her sleeve next. 
All of Amy's books are easy to recommend, especially to those who don't mind having to spend a bit of time reflecting on what exactly is going on in the story past the face value.  Amy is a writer who started off strong and continues to grow through her work - and it's no small feat that her work is made up entirely of short fiction.
Read her - you won't regret it.
The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel  The Dog of the Marriage: Stories

Thursday, March 10, 2011

1531 - Modern Family: season one

I was slightly late to this show, but then caught up quickly, but somehow managed to miss the final handful of episodes until just now.  There are a bunch of shows that I did that too that I need to get back to - not out of lack of quality in the shows - just life stuff.  And every now and then I try to work on my own projects instead of just basking in the glory of others :)
Every network and cable station is looking for another version of this show right now - and who can blame them?  I think that the heart of every television is about a family - biological or not - and this one is literally - but there's lots of fun to the way it's been modernized.  It's also worth noting that this series has no less than ten regulars - granted the kids aren't always in the spotlight, that still leaves a lot of characters to fill in the thirty minutes each story - and what this series does really well is finding ways to put the odd groupings together.  I laugh often and hard while watching this.
If I'm honest the only issue I have with the series is it's half-ass use of the documentary format.  It's almost like it can't decide if it's a straight up series or if it's fly-on-the-way.  Every now and then they do a "look" to camera that suggests we've got cameras around, but that's about it.  I appreciate their use of interviews but only because they are often some of the funniest parts of the show.  So yeah, that drives me a little nuts - but I let it slide because the rest of it is so damn good.  Assuming that this show will run for a very long time I look forward to it.
Modern Family: The Complete First Season

Sunday, March 06, 2011

1530 - Cathouse: season one

I've never seen the original documentaries that this series spawned from, so I can only comment upon the series itself.  This is a show that essentially gives us a window inside of a brothel called The Bunny Ranch - a window is probably not the best description - they let us in the room - literally.  By the end of this first season you have a pretty good understanding of how this place runs, the kind of people that frequent it (a wonderful variety) and jut the nature of a business based around sex and sales. 
I find sex fascinating - it's the thing that begins (almost) all of our lives - with very few exceptions.  I find it fascinating how some people just push it off as no big thing and how others covet it as something sacred.  The way people talk about and deal with sex says a lot about them as a person, I think.
What makes this truly interesting is how candid everyone involved is.  The three ladies pictured above are probably of the most interesting (which is saying something in a series like this).  From left to right you've got Sunset Thomas, whom when we meet her is dating and living with one of the owners, Hof.  Again, a very fascinating relationship.  In the middle is AirForce Amy, the veteran and former top earner, now having to deal with the fact that she's not always going to be the top dog - and what that does to her mentally and emotionally (based on the way she talks I wondered if she didn't have some kind of mental issue...  And then my favorite, Isabella Soprano.  She's by no means 'the innocent' however she's almost the person whose point-of-view we're often seeing these things from.  She's intelligent and articulate and always willing and eager to learn new things.  She's also probably the most normal of the group and I imagine a lot of people watching this would probably wonder how she got involved in all of this.  My guess is that she simply likes sex and found a way to make a shit-tonne of money from it.
If you air on the more prudish side of sex then this probably is not going to be for you.  There is lots of nudity and sex, lots of frank conversations, lots of insight to the people who involve themselves in this business - but if you're fascinated by sex then you'll probably enjoy this piece. 
Cathouse: The Series

Thursday, March 03, 2011

1529 - Sidewalks of New York

I've been meaning to watch this film for years now.  I was always interested by reviews of it that would say stuff like "It lives at a cross-roads between Woody Allen and Sex and the City" or "It fails to be interesting but is impossible to dislike".  And now having seen it - both those reviews are kind of true...
First off, this film has a phenomenal cast.  As an ensemble film it's really important to maintain a balance and making it so your audience enjoys each story that they are currently in and not always wishing that they were back in one in particular.  Burns has a knack for characters and dialogue that's honest and refreshing.  The situations and insights aren't particularly original or unique - but they still hit home nonetheless. 
It's hard to classify a film like this - I'm sure some would burn me at the stake for suggesting it might fit under the intelligent rom-com banner - it's more amusing than funny (but then again when were most rom-coms ever concerned with being funny?).
While not a date film, this is a film I can easily recommend.  Lots of strong characters that you enjoy spending time with.  Give it a whirl.  It definitely makes me want to dive further into Burns' work.
Sidewalks of New York