Wednesday, February 29, 2012


There are a lot of people who love graphic novels that know that Thompson's previous work Blankets is one of the medium's best books.  I can't tell you how many people that I've loaned that book to where they've come back to me to ask, "What else is out there that's like it?" and the answer has always been, sadly, nothing... If you like the medium of graphic novels and coming of age stories, Blankets is an absolute must read.  Drop everything.  Get it now.
Habibi came out a little while ago and people were dying for it - having been a long wait since Blankets.  I kept hearing things like 'masterpiece' and so I had to go into it with a certain level of expectations. 
At it's surface the story is about two misfit orphans who rely on each other to survive in the harsh world.  It's beautiful and heartbreaking and uplifting.  All the things you want in a great story.  I think the thing that people use to upgrade it to masterpiece is that Thompson spends a fair amount of time dissecting the art of the written word - the actual word - as well as the duel tellings of stories, and how perspective can change things - even if the thing itself is the same and the result is as well.  I didn't dislike those sections but they didn't do a whole lot for me.  In lesser hands they would be pretty pretentious but Thompson has a way of weaving them in so organically that they flow with everything else.
At it's heart this is a love story.  A harsh one, but a great one.  If you liked Blankets I can't imagine that you wouldn't enjoy this as well!

1700 - Being Elmo

My wife got to see this at hotdocs last year but sadly I couldn't go with her.  Those who know me know that I'm a huge Muppet-nerd (my own Muppet Whatnot is on it's way to me as I write this!).  There's something very pure and innocent about the Muppets, and at the same time ridiculously funny and unhinged.  They aren't just toys, and in the hands of someone as skilled as Kevin Clash, they become alive.  Elmo is such a part of pop culture and while it's easy enough for someone else to do an imitation it's hard to imagine anyone else can "be" Elmo quite like Clash.  I think about how Kermit has never been the same since Henson died, how Rolf had not uttered a word until the newest film.  Sure someone else can do the voice, but there's something about making it come alive.  It's a skill set that few have. 
Being Elmo is absolutely one of those warm fuzzy films about a self-made-man who had a dream and kicked it's ass (as opposed to having your dream kick your ass - which is sadly the case for most people).  Clash came from nothing and is now one of the most important people to the entire Muppet Empire.  And he deserves it.
This film is starting to become more available now so check it out.  It's clocks in just over an hour long and it flies right by.  Not to be missed by any Muppet fans, that's for sure.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


I think that Stephen King doesn't get enough credit.  Sure he's an international best-seller but I still think that people often pass him off as a fluff writer, just cranking out books year after year.  Well if this book is any indication of a fluff writer than I say keep on fluffin!
With a title that might turn some off, this is the story of an english teacher who is given an opportunity to go into the past and change the course of history.  The event - the assassination of JFK.  But the beauty of the time travel concept is that the device only allows him to travel back to 1958 - and every time he leaves and comes back he's only gone for two minutes in reality, and every time returns to the past it's still 1958.  Which means that if he wants to stop the assassination of JFK he will have to live in the past for five years.  That in and of itself is a brilliant concept. 
At 800+ pages some of called this book longer than necessary.  I wouldn't cut a single page.  It's amazing how King finds a way to fill the time with such a massive ticking clock down the line.  In truth he's built in several ticking clocks that always keeps us guessing and moving forward.
It's a book that's very clever, integrating a wonderful theme of the past harmonizing with it's old and new self, and ultimately not really wanting to be changed.  It's heartbreaking and uplifting as well.  I don't want to give away a single plot point since this book is just a plethora of discoveries.  I'm not quite sure if this is the best Stephen King book I've ever read, but it's easily the best I've read in a long time.  I'll even go so far as to call it a masterwork.  King should be proud, and you should get your ass on reading it.  Apparently Jonathon Demme is in the process of adapting it.  If it's done properly, this could rank up there with another King adaptation, The Shawshank Redemption.  And honestly, this could even be better.

Friday, February 24, 2012

1699 - Love & Other Drugs

After a revisit this is still one of my favorite films from last year.  For those who don't know it's about a pharmaceutical drug rep who falls for a girl with Parkinson's.  But that's under-selling it.  What it really is is a film about who people that are empty and in denial about what they really want and need from life.  The Parkinson's absolutely adds another layer to the film and makes it far more relevant, but deep down it's still an great love story about two damaged people.  Anne Hathaway is fantastic here.  She's funny, and sweet, and spunky.  But she's also so heartbreaking.  This role could have been such a show-offy type role for an actor but she takes it and infuses it with grace and honesty.  She's gorgeous and shows off her body in this film in some sexy ways, but what's most impressive is how ugly she allows herself to be here as well both inside and out.  This might be my favorite role of hers to date and it'll be hard to beat it.
If you haven't seen this film it's on netflix now.  It's funny, it's sweet, and it's above all things, honest.  I recommend it quite highly.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

1698 - Away We Go

I've seen this a few times now and it's still enjoyable.  Maya Rudolph and Jim Krasinski are a perfect couple here.  They have their quirks, they have their faults, but it's hard not to fall in love with them pretty quickly and pretty hard. 
This film tells the story of a couple who finds themselves pregnant, and with family and friends scattered throughout the country they decide to embark on a trip to figure out where they should raise their child.  It's a funny, touching, and poignant film that's treated with both simplicity and care.  It's an interesting film visually (might revisit it again soon just to study that aspect).  I don't think the camera moves the entire film and it's all shot on simple tripod shots with simple pans and tilts - but even inside of that it's a really pretty film. 
It's on netflix if you haven't seen it yet, but if you happen to snag the DVD it's got a really nice making-of feature about how they tried to make the film as 'green' as possible.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

1697 - Forks Over Knives

Full Disclosure: for the last five years I've been a pescatarian (which is essentially a vegetarian that still eats fish).  So a film like this is largely preaching to the choir.  Although we still eat animal bi-products in our home.
I know that one of the most asked question I always get it "well where do you get your protein" which just goes so to show you how well or society has done at brainwashing people into thinking that the only true source of protein is animal protein.  Same as calcium and dairy products.  As one person in this film remarks - the continual focus on people eating animal based foods has more to do with protecting the status quo of industry than it has to do with protecting people and their health.
This film gives off a lot of information and shows several people that are in poor medical conditions overcome their issues through simply changing their diet.  You could argue that this is a case-by-case basis, but I'd love to see the documentary that shows that negative aspects of giving up the consumption of animal proteins. 
Food is something that's super important to my wife and I, especially now that we've got kids, and we spend a lot of time thinking about what's best for us.  I in particular come from a background that never put a lot of thought into the health of food and so being with someone who does has literally changed my life.  I've easily lost over a hundred pounds of weight since I've been with my now-wife, and it's no exaggeration to say that I'm sure she's saved my life in some ways (or at least extended it!)
The hardest thing for me to give up would be eggs.  I love eggs for breakfast.  I think I can easily give up on milk since I really only eat it on cereal and almond milk is a fine substitute.  I eat very minimal amounts of cheese.  Fish is maybe once a week, usually only once or twice a month.  I need to read more about fish protein, although I suspect it's still the best of them health wise. 
So this is turning into me telling you how I eat and you probably don't give a damn :) 
What people put into their bodies is a huge topic, and it's a personal one, and I think it upsets a lot of people when you try to tell them that they should change.  I never try and convert anyone, but I'm more than willing to talk when people have questions. 
For me the decision is a personal one that I think makes the planet a better place in a lot of ways.  But I don't condemn anyone else for their choices so long as they are informed.  And that's the difference.  Eat whatever you want to eat, but you owe it to yourself to know what food's relationship is to your body.

Friday, February 17, 2012

1696 - Young People Fucking

This is a film that I find myself continuing to come back to.  I've got several friends and colleagues that are in this, and that tends to make me enjoy it all the more.  I'm a big fan of ensemble films and I think I'm going to be watching a string of them in the next little bit just to get my headspace back around that sub-genre of film.
For those who haven't seen this film yet the title kind of says it all.  It juxtaposes several story lines that take place over the course of a sexual encounter and does so with a really lovely raw honesty and a sense of humour.  The film is filled to the brink with great performances from a phenomenal ensemble cast.  When people complain about how cliched Canadian films are they aren't talking about this one.
It's on netflix, so if you haven't seen it you should remedy that.  It's pretty godmn great.

1695 - Romantics Anonymous

We're sans-older-child tonight and since my wife doesn't watch as many films these days she was given full choice for our movie night and she discovered this on netflix.
It's a french film about two misfits, a chocolatier who is too shy to admit that she's one of the most talented in the world, and a man who owns a dying chocolate factory.  So it's the kind of film going in knowing that we're really just biding time until the happy ending where our misfits connect.  Films like this are all about the journey and this one is pretty damn enjoyable.  Their individual issues border on the quirky-for-the-sake-of-being quirky, but it works all the same and you find yourself rooting for and getting behind them.  It's not a perfect film and it's a tad bit sappy in parts, but it's lovely all the same.  Makes your sweet tooth tingle, it does! 
I would put this one into the really-lovely-rainy-afternoon film category. 

1694 - Terri

This film was a favorite at Sundance last year and it's not surprising.  It fits right into that quirky mold.  Terri tells the story of a depressed, obese, high school student who has to help take care of his mentally ill Uncle (played by The Office's Creed Bratton, surprisingly), and also who happens to wear pajamas all the time.  Why?  "Because they're comfortable."  The real reason - it's unique and looks cool on a film poster. 
What I liked about this film was that it's not your typical film about a highschool loser who learns to fit in and who people get to know and realize that he's a really great person.  And it doesn't take the Glee route where the outcasts are actually just as attractive as the cool kids.  It feels a lot more authentic than that.  People think Terri is weird and they avoid him.  John C Reilly plays a guidance councilor who has the best intentions for his student but at one point muses something to the effect of: "I wonder if I shouldn't just let you all be terrible to one another, prepare you for the real world."  And that rings pretty damn true. 
While I found that the film made a lot of choices for the sake of being non-traditional rather than honest and true to the characters, I think that there's a decent audience for a film like this.  At the same time it's the kind of film that will frustrate anyone looking for the usual character arc.  Terri isn't like that.  He's pretty much the same depressed obese kid at the end that he is at the beginning.  In fact not a lot changes for the character or the world inside of Terri - if anything it's just catching a glimpse of that world - which in and of itself makes the film watchable. 
I liked it but I didn't love it.  It's on netflix for those that are curious about it. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

1693 - The L.A. Complex: season one

So some reports are calling this a mid-season finale and others are calling it the season finale.  I wonder if they're not waiting to see the numbers that CW pulls in to decide whether or not it gets an extended first season and/or a second season.  I have to say though if this should doesn't get another season it will be a shame. 
It follows a group of Canadians living and trying to make it in L.A.  As someone who works in the entertainment industry I can tell you that I've witnessed a fair share of the terrible things that happen in this show, or I know people they've happened to.  It's a tough industry and this show makes no bones about it.  It's a very honest and harsh show in that capacity and good for it for having the balls to be so.  Take for example one particular story where a girl completely sells herself out, morals and everything, and in the end realizes that if she'd just waited she would have been fine.  Such is life. 
I believe that you can still stream episodes off of the much music website, so if you haven't watched yet give it a shot.  I love some of the characters, like others, and hate a few - but the few I hate are, I'm pretty sure, intentional. 
I'm really hoping this show gets extended.  I think it's got a lot more life in it and a lot more interesting stories to tell.  Please don't let it be another of those amazing Canadian shows that just doesn't get it's full chance.

The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor

This is an interesting book in that I can't imagine anyone who isn't a fan of the comic series picking it up.  The character doesn't exist in the television series (yet) so it's pretty isolated (albeit loyal) market. 
For those unfamiliar the Governor is probably the most sinister of antagonists in the Walking Dead series and the arc with him lasted several trades.  Some will say that the series hasn't been as good since that arc ended.  So with that in mind this book is similar to something like the Star Wars prequels (gag) in that we're exploring how someone was driven to such evil.  How did Philip Blake become the Governor is the main question and the thing that the book dissects.  And it's pretty interesting up to a certain point (which I'll get to below).  So for fans, you'll probably dig this - there is some wonderfully epic scenes that work well in the book and would probably just be too expensive to do on the series.  So for fans - its worth reading.  Not sure you need to own it.

And now... SPOILERS...

Like I mentioned above, this book is advertised on the premise of "How did Philip Blake become the Governor" and so the entire book you've been told to watch him.  And then the narrative takes a hard turn at the end where you realize that it's not Philip who becomes the Governor, but his brother doing it in Philips name.  I'm sorry, but fuck you Kirkman and Bonansinga.  That was an absolute cheat.  In fact, it's even worse is because the whole reason I'm reading it to pay close attention to Philip.  It's a cruel bait and switch and more-or-less unnecessary and I'm not sure that I entirely buy it.  Had it not been for the old switcheroo I would probably highly recommend this book, although given how it tries to be super clever in the end it really just ends up being a bit of a piss-off. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

1692 - Growing Op

This has been on my list of films to watch on Netflix for a while and so I finally got to it last night.  I forgot that my lovely friend Katie Boland co-stars in a very charming role. 
It's the story of a family of pot dealers in the suburbs just trying to be good parents and do right by their kids and keep them from adding to the conformity of the rest of society.  A film like this could really easily fall on cliche but it doesn't.  It's smart and charming and fun.  It's exactly the kind of film that our country needs to do more of.  It's on netflix so no excuse to not check it out (except if you don't have netflix, and if you don't, you really should). 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

1691 - The Muppet Movie

I have a feeling like I'll be revisiting this film fairly regularly over the next little bit and so I won't be posting each time (although I could easily keep writing about it)  My son has, to my absolute delight, fallen for the Muppets.  He has a love/hate relationship with Sweetums and Animal where he goes from thinking that they're awesome to scary (he mostly dislikes Animal for his mis-use of instruments - he believes in respecting your music makers).  And so this morning when he got up early and wanted to watch this - who was I to deny him?!
I have an original poster of this film and I have it encased in glass and hanging in his room - it features Fozzie and Kermit in the Studebaker and my little guy loves the hell out of it, and always lets me know that he wants to watch that scene.  Tonight when putting him to bed he asked me to tell him The Muppet Movie story (I tend to tell him film plots while he tries to sleep - works like a charm - I was ten minutes into my 8 1/2 pitch when he was asleep).
Highlights for him were when Animal gets super huge at the end and scares off the bad guys, and then again when Sweetums burst through the screen at the very end.  He also laughed when there were two Kermits in the desert, which he claimed was a magic trick, and loved the fact that Dr. Teeth drove the bus.
Ahhh to be young again.  The Muppets is playing at a theatre down the street from us all next weekend.  I'm super tempted to take him to a matinee… or let my wife take him since she hasn't seen it yet either…

Friday, February 10, 2012

1690 - Hannah Takes The Stairs

Regular visitors of this blog will note that I've had a lazy viewing/reading month.  I swear it's 'cause I'm working my ass on something (which will be revealed in a few weeks).  But I decided to take a break tonight to wade through another film by Joe Swanberg.  What's really interesting in this film is how tight he shoots everything.  I don't know if it's to capture subtleties of actors or if it's to hide the extremely bland locations that they're in - somehow it works.
This film was a tad frustration on a few levels - technically it was difficult to make out the audio at some points, and just from a story point of view - I'm not really sure what story they were trying to tell here... It's almost about a woman who can't stand to be along or focus on herself so she attaches herself to men to avoid that.  I don't know.  It's pretty unfocused.  That said, I enjoyed the characters quite a bit.  I know that Swanberg works pretty lose, so it's hard to know who to credit for what on a film like this.  The film works largely because Greta Gerwig is so goddamn watchable.  She's one of those actresses incapable of a false move, I never feel like she's trying something - she's always being it.  She deserves all the success she's been getting.
Like Swanberg's other efforts this is the kind of film you'll either love or hate.  I liked it.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

1689 - Uncle Kent

In the world of D.I.Y. filmmakers Chicago's own Joe Swanberg is one of the most prolific and well known.  If you're got netflix you can easily catch his stuff, or at least some of it.  I have a really hard trying to figure out how I feel about this approach to filmmaking.  While I applaud the "let's just go out and get it done attitude" when a man makes over a half dozen features within a single year you have to wonder how much care and thought he's putting into any single one.
This film is about a forty-year old man who always thought that he had missed the boat for a serious relationship and a family, and by the end of the film wonders if maybe he's been wrong about that.  And that's being generous with that.  These types of film aren't known for hitting you over the head with their storylines and lessons, subtly it putting it vaguely.  At the same time I enjoyed large parts of this film, and just felt like it meandered a bit in the other parts.  While I very much want to try my hand at a film like this, I just don't think that I could pull back as much, and just watch people doing the most mundane of things.  I'll need a little more plot and momentum.
If you like subtle indie flicks, you might dig this - but you're a pure mainstream movie goer chances are that you'll hate a film like this.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

1688 - 50/50

Okay, so this is still my favourite film of last year.  It's rare that a film grabs you so emotionally like this one does.  You're sitting there, loving the characters, laughing along, and then all of a sudden you're crying and you have absolutely no control over it.  Maybe I'm just a big suck, but on both viewings of this film it got me in two places.  So well done, film, well done.
Seth Rogen and Bryce Dallas Howard are both pretty darn great in their supporting roles, but this film belongs to Anna Kendrik and Joseph Goron-Levitt.  Their chemistry is absolutely adorable, but they also bring this amazing vulnerability to their roles.  You just want to wrap them both up and keep them safe.
I don't put a hell of a lot of stock into the award shows, I think of them more as extended advertising for the films, and in that paradigm this is a film that was absolutely robbed by not getting a single nomination.  Regardless of the fact that the script is so damn solid, and the direction is inspired, this is a film that's extremely timely.  I imagine it's rather difficult this day and age to find someone who hasn't been affected by a loved one with cancer.  This is a story that needed to be told.  It's uplifting when it needs to be, and grabs you oh so well.  I absolutely loved it.  If you haven't seen this yet, get thee to whatever-the-hell you want things on now.  Do it!