Wednesday, February 28, 2007


A few weeks ago, my (much younger) cousin sent me an invite to join Facebook and become a "friend" of hers. Not wanting her to think I wasn't her friend (she's really quite a lovely person) I signed up.

Recently, another friend of mine sent me a similar invite and so she was added as a Facebook "friend".

Today, I got a message in my email inbox from a guy I haven't heard from in 14 years. You guessed it - Facebook.

So what's the deal with this thing? When I was first introduced to the website as part of a show and tell during a new media class at Ryerson, I laughed it off. It seemed like a rather silly way for people to compare the number of friends they had, like some kind of social contest. I couldn't figure out what it was that this site offered that email (or, heaven forbid - actual contact) didn't cover. (or MySpace for that matter)

But I poked around a little and managed to come across a couple of old friends. So here's where it gets interesting: do you make contact? I mean, if you needed Facebook to find them, odds are you aren't that close anymore and, well, maybe there's good reason for that. They may not want to hear from you. You're not that cool, you know.

But even if you wanted to find a long lost pal, I discovered the browse/search option is inconsistent at best (some methods are intuitive, others are clearly not). Sure if you and your friend happen to sign up for the same group, then you're off to the races (kind of - even that can be a pain for big groups). But as it turns out I had a hard time finding friends I know have profiles - we just didn't go to the same school or anything (or maybe they aren't aware of the group). So how do you find these "free agents"?

There is one way: give Facebook your personal email address and password and they'll search your contact list.


Are you f**king kidding me?!

Who in their right mind would do this? Sure, not only am I going to give god-knows-who access to my password protected email, but I'll expose everyone in my contact list to a potential virus/phishing scheme. I often question the motives behind these social websites, and, gee, trying to access as many email addresses as possible seems like a good motive. That's why I use a secondary, crappy address for this sort of thing. But giving you access to my primary hotmail account? Fuggetaboutit!

There are lots of privacy/security issues involved in these sorts of sites. Too many to go into here.

Look, people, be smart about this sort of thing. There's so much junk mail, spamming, phishing, malware, virus spreading out there already. Do NOT expose the people in your contact list to these things by providing their addresses to god-knows-who. And do NOT forward those f**king chain emails to 10 of your closest friends - I don't care if it's supposed to grant me my wish or help some supposed cause.

Facebook and the like may have their charms, but let's keep our heads, ok?

p.s. Gmail sucks - I hardly use it and get way more junk mail there than at my other accounts (yes, I squatted several of them). I suspect this is because I provided my Gmail address to the administration at Ryerson - which also sucks. By contrast, I get no junk mail at my account. Sure, the splash page is somewhat racy, but it might be worth investing in a secondary account there - for contests, Facebook and the like.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids

Popped by Dan's blog and noticed he posted about his recently-held and very successful Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids night at the Victory Cafe. (Which oddly enough could also be called Kids Read Things They Wrote, as Grownups)

Apparently, it's been getting some press, including an article in the Globe & Mail. I was flattered to see my Sam Mahoney, P.I. reading mentioned (though I'll refrain from pointing out to Leah McLaren that it was the tv that was rent-to-own, not the Lamborghini - that was a gift from a client, silly!). The article's here.

Rachel McAdams was there?!


Dan has decided to host the sequel to GRTTWAK on Monday April 30, 2007 at the Victory Cafe upstairs. Check it out. I'll be there with another Sam Mahoney installment, no doubt.

Oscars 2007: Surprisingly Predictable

So, the morning after...

In the end, I didn't bother posting predictions, but I almost wish I had - that way you'd believe me when I say I probably would have gotten them all right.

This had to be one of the most predictable Oscar shows in a long time, especially coming on the heels of last year's Crash fiasco.

And yet it could have been so much more interesting. On the surface, this appeared to be the most wide open awards show in recent memory - but then the Academy followed the lead of the bulk of the lead-up awards shows and it soon became apparent this was going to be colour-by- numbers: Departed, Scorsese, Whitaker, Mirren, Hudson. (Was it my imagination or was Helen Mirren the hottest gal in the theatre? I might have to take her off my all-time list and put her back on the active roster!)

The only surprise for me was the fact that one of the no-name backstage interviewers kept mentioning the amount of "surprises"; what show was he watching? And yet this morning even the Star is singing that refrain: surprises, surprises, surprises.

Right down to the wire and past the midnight hour Toronto time, no one could guess where the top prize of the 79th annual Academy Awards was headed. It was the most contested Oscar event in recent memory, with surprise winners all night long and with no film winning more than three awards until near the end.


The only mild surprise came when Alan Arkin won for Best Supporting Actor. But even then I figured when in doubt - give it to the old guy. But, seriously, his only competition was Djimon Hounsou. Did you really think Eddie Murphy was gonna win?

Even the Oscar win for the Hollywood neophyte was predictable. Jennifer Hudson was favoured to win Best Supporting Actress, though I'd argue her merits even though I haven't seen the film. I don't think you can judge an actor's performance until you see them in several movies - otherwise, you may just be seeing "them"; and that's not a performance - that's just them.

Pan's Labyrinth won in 3 categories (Make-up, Cinematography, Art Direction) which was well deserved. It didn't win for Foreign Language Film, but the critical acclaim The Lives of Others has been getting made that predictable as well.

There may have been a sense that Melissa Etheridge was an underdog, facing three songs from Dreamgirls, but I think that actually played in her favour. The three Dreamgirls songs were practically indistinguishable, so how could you single out a winner? Etheridge's song stood out - especially in light of the usual fare served up by perennial nominee Randy Newman.

Even Marie Antoinette winning for Costume Design (its only nomnation) wasn't a shocker simply because it's so utterly unorginal for a Renaissance "period piece" to claim that category.

I'm almost sorry to report that Babel was not shut out. Although I wouldn't have minded seeing one of its Supporting Actresses win, it picked up its only Oscar for - get this - Original Score. That's a kick in the balls, man.

As for Best Picture, I figured it was gonna be The Departed's night when it won for Film Editing. When a Best Picture nominee wins in a category it has no business being in, then you know the voters chose it "when in doubt"-style (Titanic...I'm looking in your direction...). Although I didn't want it to win and I thought there was still a little room for one of the other flicks to pull off a shocker, I didn't particularly think any of the other nominees were worthy either. So I guess I'm ok with it winning...

...I guess.

(Editing? EDITING?! Are you shi**ing me? There's nothing remarkable about the editing in that film!! And I still don't think Scorsese deserved to be nominated - there's nothing interesting/remarkable/unusual about the direction in that film; exactly what is the criteria here?! Who's gone the longest without winning?)

Oh, right and then there was Ellen. She did an ok job, I guess, but I hope she never hosts again. She is one of the reasons the show ran long (as well as - and I can't believe I'm gonna say this - too many montages). Did we really need to watch her hand Scorsese a script or get her picture taken with Eastwood, or - wtf? - vacuuming the front row? Get on with it! I think she lacked a little class, a little distinction, you know? I mean, there's self-depricating and then there's common. Billy Crystal is still easily the best host of my lifetime and I hope he decides to come back again. Or, failing that, ditch the host concept altogether. Have the announcer introduce the podium speakers and let them do a little intro - the end. Those little host moments really aren't necessary.

Ok, that's it for another year.

...By the way: 300 opens on the 9th! Booyah!

Craig Ferguson Monologue

This one is worth reposting - courtesy of Denis' page.

I like Craig Ferguson, but I almost never get around to his show. He's obviously a funny guy with a great deal of charisma.

It's amazing to watch this video and listen to the reaction of the audience.

Probably the most unusual talk show monologue you'll ever see.

Catch it here.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Top Ten Villainous Moments in Comics

Yup. Bored again. So I'm gona post a few things I came across today. Hope you won't mind.

Here's one for Karmic-Angel, quickly becoming one of the coolest gals I (don't) know. (Any other fans out there? Speak up!)

This is a pretty ambitious list. I mean, top ten of all time? Wow. Where do you start? I like this particular list, for the most part, but I sense that that's because Hilary Goldstein and I share many of the same influences. Heck, I own half these issues.

Here's the list, for quick reference:
10. Thunderbolts really Masters of Evil
Can't really speak on this one since I don't know it. But the idea that a team of villains would masquerade as heroes (and actually kinda like it) as part of a greater scheme is awesome.

9. Angel's wings clipped
I own the Classic X-Men version of this one. It was a cool visual, but...all time?

8. Joker cripples Barbara Gordon
Should definitely be on this list and maybe higher. This was so bad because it was so cold. She answers the door, Joker blows her away. Just - like - that. And unlike some other storylines, things did not later revert to normal.

7. Magneto rips out Wolverine's adamantium
Magneto finally crossed the line with the troublesome Canuck and put him down, but good. It was in the next issue that we realized Wolverine's claws weren't a product of the adamantium grafting process - the bones had been there the whole time. The last panel of that ish was awesome. Of course, he got the adamantium back and Magneto's labotomy courtesy of Professor X went away, too.

6. Doomsday kills Superman
This was of course the storyline for that year. It was in the papers, on tv, everywhere. Like most fans, I couldn't resist collecting each of the lead-up issues and a couple of copies (one to be left unopened in the plastic cover) of the climax issue. This led to the silly multiple Supermen arc, but was also the genesis of Parallax - a troubling but cool arc. Superman? Uh...yeah...he came back, too. I've got that issue as well.

5. Ozymandias Drops "Alien Menace" on New York
Part of The Watchmen. Shame on me for not having read it yet.

4. Bane breaks Batman's back
Batman finally beaten - badly. Remember when Bane was cool - not a punchline? (same thing happened to KGBeast) A neat story arc, but it led to all that Knightquest crap with Azrael. Meh. This was definitely an event, though.

3. Bullseye kills Elektra
Every major Daredevil story arc seems to have something to do with this.

2. Death of Gwen Stacy
One of my all time favs for sure (partly because I own it and it's one of my most valuable comics). I can't remember seeing a major character killed in a comic book before reading "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" (the title was not revealed until the last panel). It formed much of the inspiration for the climax in the Spider-Man movie (the bridge, the "death" of Green Goblin - which came in the next ish) with Mary Jane substituted in place of Gwen. It has so many great moments, including Peter's vow: "YOU'RE THE CREEP WHO'S GOING TO PAY! I'm going to get you, Goblin! I'm going to destroy you slowly - and when you start begging for me to end it, I'm going to remind you of one thing - YOU KILLED THE WOMAN I LOVE, AND FOR THAT, YOU'RE GOING TO DIE!" I only wish they had honoured this moment by leaving Norman Osborne dead.

1. Joker Blows up Jason Todd
This probably deserves the number one spot because it wasn't just the Joker who killed the second Robin - it was the fans. At a buck per vote, thousands of ballots were cast and fewer than one hundred votes sealed Jason's fate. It's actually a pretty lame issue (it takes place in the desert, not exactly conducive to a dramatic Batman mood), but the consequences were enormous for the Dark Knight.
Good list. You know, I can't really think of a moment I would add... Sounds like a good excuse to rifle through my collection...
Maybe Kraven The Hunter burying Spidey alive? ("Kraven's Last Hunt") That was a neat arc and a pretty good mindf**king of the ol' webslinger.

Top Ten Movies of 2006

Ok, folks, here you go - this is the big one: my choices for the top ten films of 2006. With the Oscars on this weekend, it seems now's the time to get this out - even if there are a few more 2006 movies I plan to see.

Let me emphasize that these are my top ten. These are a combination of the movies I enjoyed the most coupled with those I thought were just well made.

Wasn't thrilled with the ending, but the first half of this movie has enough charm and characterization that I give it a place on my list. I wanted more Alan Arkin and more Steve Carell, but what's there is enough to make this movie worth watching.

This was a superhero movie with a political slant - two things I tend to dig. It had its faults, but I found it entertaining, timely and surprisingly challenging. Also featured the coolest poster of the year.

Perhaps the most surprising pick of the list. It was weird, it was convoluted, it was...different. For that reason alone it gets credit in my books. This movie was just plain out there. Great performances by Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in bizarre roles. Might be best for those who appreciate stage plays and are willing to accept that one set can represent multiple locales.

Again, a tough subject that was handled well. In fact, the movie is almost too clean - it comes off a bit like a tv movie (its almost universal acceptance is a sharp contrast to The Fountain's half-and-half and may be indicative of how safe The Queen is - and how bizarre The Fountain was). But who wants to see Elizabeth II swearing and having sex for the sake of bumping the rating? (Besides, there's plenty of Helen Mirren to be seen in some of her more youthful work - or Calendar Girls if you're into that sort of thing...)

Beautifully shot, charming premise. Could have been the top movie of the year with a bit more time devoted to the fantasy aspect, but the political angle earns points. Still not sure how I feel about the religious allegory aspect.

5. Venus
Massive points for the performance of Peter O'Toole as the lecherous playboy actor who befriends a teenager with her own relationship issues. Sweet and yet disturbing at the same time, this movie is another one of those that tackled an unusual subject admirably. Of the male lead performances I saw this year, O'Toole's was the best.

I don't care if it ain't your cup of tea and it has hit-and-miss moments - any movie that can make me laugh this hard deserves to be on this list. With movies to slit your wrists by like Babel out there, I want more laughs in my life - even if it is at someone else's expense. Sooo gross. Sooo funny.

Here was a movie with high expectations and big shoes to fill that passed with flying colours. I could have done without the bulk of the last half hour, but this movie was sharp, fun and action-packed. Not your daddy's Bond film, but a new approach that delivers in spades (better learn your hold'em rules before viewing!).

This movie deserves a ton of credit for the mere fact that it could have easily sucked ass. There were so many ways this movie could have gone horribly wrong, but Bryan Singer (who also breathed life into the X-Men) managed to navigate the minefield virtually unscathed. I had some issues with a couple of scenes, but overall this was a thrillride of a movie and deserving of the "blockbuster" tag. Sure Kate Bosworth was dull and the Luthor storyline made little sense, but Brandon Routh was spot on as a Christopher Reeve mimic - and who envied the actor who was supposed to walk in those shoes? This was a big movie with ridiculous expectations and I enjoyed its tone, charm and excitement; how many movies this year made me smile? It wasn't art, but it was enjoyable. This is the 2006 movie you stop to watch in the tv section of Sears.

Without question my favourite film of the year. Smart, funny and topical, I wish more movies were this "complete". It even had - get this - great editing! How you can know anything about editing and not rank this above The Departed and Children of Men at the very least is beyond me (this is one of the dumbest Oscar categories, in my mind - though, to be fair, this is actually listed as a 2005 film). I'm hard pressed to find a single flaw in this flick. It was right up my alley. I don't think I've been this satisfied by a movie since Fight Club (well, there was that Tera Patrick flick...) - another movie based on a tough-to-adapt book. Maybe there's something to this "book" thing...

What a weird list...

For your arguing reference, here is a compete list of the films I saw from 2006:
(the number next to the film indicates where it ranked on rottentomatoes' list - (x) = wide release, = limited release)

An Inconvenient Truth <5>
Bon Cop, Bad Cop
Borat (3)
The Break-up
Casino Royale (1)
Children of Men <3>
Clerks II
The Descent (7)
The Departed (2)
The Devil Wears Prada (14)
District B-13
The Fountain
The Illusionist
Inside Man (5)
Jackass II
Little Miss Sunshine <2>
Miami Vice
Mission Impossible III
Pan's Labyrinth <6>
Pirates of The Caribbean II
The Prestige (23)
The Proposition
The Queen <1>
The Science of Sleep
The Sentinel
Snakes On A Plane
Superman Returns (13)
Thank You For Smoking <15>
V For Vendetta (24)
Venus <38>
Volver <8>

What's that...36? Not bad, I guess. But there's lots I didn't get to.

Notable 2006 films I did not see:
Blood Diamond
The Da Vinci Code
Dreamgirls (12)
Flags of Our Fathers
Last King of Scotland <11>
Letters From Iwo Jima <17>
The Lives of Others
Manufactured Landscapes
Notes On A Scandal <27>
Tsotsi <34>
Rocky VI
Half Nelson

Rottentomatoes' Top 10 Wide Release:
1. Casino Royale
2. The Departed
3. Borat
4. United 93
5. Inside Man
6. Dave Chappelle's Block Party
7. The Descent (!?)
8. Slither
9. Akeelah and the Bee
10. A Prairie Home Companion

Rottentomatoes' Top 10 Limited Release:
1. The Queen
2. Little Miss Sunshine
3. Children of Men
4. Wordplay
5. An Inconvenient Truth
6. Pan's Labyrinth
7. Half Nelson
8. Volver
9. Deliver Us From Evil
10. Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Trailer Mash-up: Glen & Gary & Glen & Ross

Thanks to DMc for making my day.

He points to this terrific spoof trailer for Glen & Gary & Glen & Ross. If you haven't seen Glengarry Glen Ross, go - now. David Mamet at his best and a killer cast.

So funny. So NSFW!!!!

Marvel Comics Presents: Civil War **spoilers**

I don't know how many visitors here read comics (besides K.A., bless her heart), but I'm killing time again, so here goes.

The oft-delayed Marvel Comics cross-title story arc Civil War came to a close with the 7th and final issue released yesterday...sort of.

Let me recap for you non-believers: A young team of reality-show superheroes take on villains who are out of their league in an effort to boost ratings. The proverbial sh*t hits the fan when one of the villains causes an explosion that just about takes out an entire town. Public opinion turns against the superpowered community (hero and villain alike) who are seen as uncontrolled WMDs. With the help of some heroes, the U.S. government introduces the Registration Act, which requires all superhumans to register their names/identities/powers with the authorities. Those who refuse to register are to be hunted down and imprisoned indefinitely. This splits superhumans into two camps: the pro-registration side is led by Iron Man (Tony Stark) and includes Mister Fantastic, Hank Pym, and Spider-Man (who had previously sworn allegiance to Stark); the anti-registration side is led by Captain America (who believes the heavy-handed Act infringes upon the freedoms of citizens) and includes Daredevil, Wolverine and The Human Torch. As the battles rage and the casualties mount, allegiances shift. Spider-Man (who is one of the focal points of the story) switches sides after he senses Iron Man's plan goes too far (including imprisoning heroes in the Negative Zone, cloning Thor - leading to the death of Goliath - and enlisting an army of villains). In the final confrontation, the rebels appear to be winning when Captain America realizes the collateral damage being caused to the surrounding neighbourhood. He surrenders to the authorities and orders his side to stand down.

So what does it all mean?

I gotta say I was pretty disappointed with the outcome of this story, but I sense this was just the beginning of a year-long story arc for Marvel. It seems pretty clear that, despite the lame ending, the rebels were "right". I mean, how can a side that has Captain America, Daredevil, Spider-Man and The Thing on it be wrong? Meanwhile, the pro-registration side has a couple of over-thinking scientists (no passion) and Venom. (did anyone else sense this story had something to do with G.W. Bush's privacy/terrorism policies?)

The pamphlet that came with the issue reveals that things may not be as they appear with Iron Man (the last frame of the issue hinted at a bit of malevolence) and that the pro-registration She-Hulk, among others, will be coming for him (because of the Illuminati's role in the Hulk's banishment). There was also an allusion to the events having an impact on the Marvel Universe "for the next year" - indicating that it may not last.

But the biggest impact has been on the Spider-Man title. Tony Stark convinced Spider-Man to reveal his true identity on national television. Can that ever be "taken back"? We've already seen the effect it's had on the Spider-Man storylines (villains coming out of the woodwork to attack Peter Parker and his relatives) and I'm not sure I'm a fan. Spider-Man's identity was one of the most guarded secrets in the Marvel U (forget what you see on the big screen where you'd think Peter was a character on Cheers). The whole reason he'd kept his secret for this long was so that villains wouldn't come after his family. He'd had this fear confirmed with the Gwen Stacy affair. The reasons for unmasking now just didn't seem convincing - and now he's screwed. And unless they make the whole thing a dream a la Dallas, this kinda sucks. Of course, the comic world is famous for having these massive events that eventually mean nothing (see Death of Superman etc etc). My original suspicion was that Sentry would somehow wipe the slate clean (he mentioned that he had the power to do so) and that may still happen. Otherwise, this does not bode well for the Spider-Man titles (he's still underground, by the way, along with Doctor Strange, Wolverine and others).

Look for the rebel Avengers to turn the tables and set things right, which should coincide with the return of the Hulk.

Like Death of Superman, Onslaught, Zero Hour, etc, this storyline is meant to increase sales and coordinate any significant changes within a given comic universe. And while I invested in this series, thinking it would deliver interesting stories and prove to be a pivotal moment for the Marvel U, I gotta say that I'm back to not buying comics for the next while. I won't be investing in any of the "Initiative" titles.

Guess I'll see what things are like a year from now.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Venting My Frustrations - a la Friends

So I'm killing time again, visiting various websites and blogs, including a couple that are covering the CTF/Shaw situation. I'm refraining from commenting 'cause, well, I'd like to keep my job and there's nothing like speaking out of turn to get fired. But it's killing me to see the amount of misinformation out there, being spread by folks who ought to know better.

Just to set the record straight for those who might be confused: The CTF does not choose which shows get money/get produced. The CTF splits $x amongst the various Canadian broadcasters via "envelopes" and they decide which shows see the money. The CTF does not judge the quality of the shows per se. As long as they meet Cancon requirements, they get the money the broadcaster wants them to get. Also, the broadcaster (read: CBC) does not get the money directly - the money is given to independent producers who have license agreements with those broadcasters. But ratings do count - the greater the audience, the more money a broadcaster's envelope is likely to get the following year, so it's in the broadcaster's best interests to devote CTF money to "successful" shows. But the CTF does not judge the quality of potential projects. If you want to argue whether or not the Canadian TV industry ought to be supported by a fund like the CTF, knock yourself out (I have some pretty strong opinions myself) but can we at least use facts instead of made up bullshit? Thanks.

So, in order to purge myself of this frustration, I need to focus on something completely superfluous for a while. Here goes:

I popped by Karmic Angel's blog the other day and she had a post singing the praises of Stephen King's new comic book series "The Dark Tower" - based on the novels of the same name. She was so impressed, that she has added Stephen King to her "list" - that being a list a la Friends. For those who don't recall or didn't watch the show (yes, it was actually a really good show once) Ross and Rachel came up with a rule: each of them could have a "freebie list" of 5 celebrities they could sleep with without their significant other getting upset.

Sure, it's completely ridiculous (my girlfriend sleeps with Brad Pitt and I'm gonna get upset - I don't care how much I liked Fight Club) but I need a distraction. Beautiful women are good for that.

This is an interesting dilemma - who goes on the list? As Ross found out, selection (and timing) is crucial. While some may have been sure-fire selections in the past, you have to keep the list current (I mean Raquel Welch is on the all-time list,; so some women come and go from the list. Some women remove themselves from the list (Britney, I'm looking in your direction...). What about probability? If this were a real list, would you choose the stars that you know live in your city (you dog!) or go only for your die-hard choices no matter how slim the odds of an encounter? Hmm...

So, here's my list...I think:

1. Dana Delaney
I've taken some flak over the years for this one, but she's still on my list. Back before all the tv movies, back before *sigh* Exit To Eden, back before China Beach even, Dana Delaney appeared on a two-part episode of Magnum, P.I. one of my favourite shows of all time (I wanted to be Magnum - I still threaten to name my unborn son Thomas Magnum Sullivan). Smart, beautiful,'s been puppy love ever since. Hell, I dated a girl who looked like her. I mean, she was great on her own, but the resemblance didn't hurt!

2. Monica Bellucci
Have you seen Malena yet? Come on, I told you to. You'll understand.

3. Brooke Burke
Before Rockstar, she was the Victoria Secrets model.

4. Ali Landry
Remember the Doritos Girl?

5. Laura HarringShe of Mulholland Drive and a bunch of crappy stuff. Hmm...I dated a girl who kinda looked like her, too...I'm sensing a pattern...

Alternates: (a.k.a. my "Isabellas")
Shania Twain
Kelly Monaco
Anne Hathaway
Beyonce Knowles
Mariah Carey
Catherine-Zeta Jones
Bridget Moynahan
Salma Hayek
Kimberly Page

...Yup, I feel better. Hell, I can't even remember where I work anymore...

Chandler: Well, we have a deal where we each get to pick five different celebrities that we can sleep with, and the other one can't get mad.
Ross: Ah, the heart of every healthy relationship: Honesty, respect, and sex with celebrities.

Rachel: Alright, let me see. Uma Thurman, Winona Ryder, Elizabeth Hurely, Michelle Pfieffer, and... Dorothy Hammill?
Ross: Hey, it's my list.
Rachel: Okay, honey, you do realize she only spins like that on ice.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

This and That

Ok, so I'm bored again at work, so I figured I'd kill some time and write a bit about this and that.

- My friend Dan hosted an open-mic type thing where people read things they wrote as kids. I was pleasantly surprised by the turn-out; there must have been a good 50 people there, easily filling the Victory Cafe upstairs space. It was the right kind of crowd, too; everyone was supportive of the readers and there were lots of laughs. Lots of people (mostly women) read from journals they kept when they were discovering the opposite sex, for better or worse. I read a short story I'd written when I was in grade 6 - one of a series of Sam Mahoney, P.I. adventures. I was afraid it would go over badly, seeing as it was so utterly lame, but I was encouraged by the laughs it got. I'll keep you posted as to when the next reading night might be for those of you who may be in the Toronto area.

- Been watching a lot of movies recently, obviously. I've been trying to get a bunch of 2006 movies under my belt before the Oscars so that I can watch them with even greater frustration this year knowing how bad their choices are. Stay tuned for my Oscar picks and a 2006 retrospective later this week.

- Is it my imagination or are we hearing less about George Bush these days? I think he might be waiting for the whole anti-Iraq "War" thing to blow up in the Dems' faces. See, if the Democrats reduce troop levels and Iraq sinks into civil war, then the Republicans can blame the Democrats during the next election campaign. (Of course, the best way to start a civil war is to create a power vacuum - see: removing Hussein without a plan)
- Of course, that doesn't mean Bush's effed up policies aren't being felt. Just ask those folks down in Gitmo what they think of the American justice system. Just be careful that the shoe doesn't end up on the other foot. Seems the Chinese are fond of holding suspected criminals without charge, too. But at least they're allowing the consulate to check on the prisoner's health.

- And just when you thought the Democrats were sure to win this time and that we might even see a *gasp* female or *double gasp* black President (or is that the other way around?) - oops! - we might not be done with the Republicans yet. Meet President Rudy Giuliani.

- I'm not sure what to make of the whole Britney Spears head-shaving fiasco. I mean, is this her way of making amends for her recent behaviour and "starting over" or are we witnessing Anna Nicole Smith part deux? (I mean, why do you tattoo lips onto your wrists unless you wanna see them talk?)

- Why are ATM fees suddenly in the news? First it was Jack Layton parading around Toronto, now Finance Minister Jim Flaherty seems to be taking up the cause. WTF? Let me get this straight: I have a Royal Bank account. I take out money from a CIBC bank machine and get charged a fee of a dollar or two... What's the problem? I don't get it. Banks should charge a fee. I mean, if there's no fee for using a competitor's machines, what incentive is there for CIBC to install these machines in the first place? The whole point is that the guy with the most machines gets the most business 'cause he's the most convenient. If I can't draw business this way, why not let the other guy eat the expense of installing machines and have the benefit of his free service? I don't get it. Now, if the banks all started charging the same amount for their own customers to be using their own machines, then I'd have a problem, 'cause that shows collusion and that's b.s. But as long as there's competition, what's the problem?

Ok, enough frustration for one day; I'm gonna stare at this picture of my nephew Caleb for a while and get all zenned out on his cuteness.

Film Review: The Science of Sleep

The other movie I watched on the weekend was The Science of Sleep, a quirky little movie by Michel Gondry who is no stranger to quirky (see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).

Like Hollywoodland, this film starts off well, mostly due to some interesting performances, good direction and a compelling story. But, much like Hollywoodland, it goes a little off the rails about halfway through and the ending is, well, less than satisfying. While Hollywoodland almost needed to end ambiguously because of the incomplete nature of the investigation into George Reeves' death, there's no real excuse for the somewhat ham-fisted ending to this one. The final shots literally could have been plopped at any point in the movie; I wish that Gondry had spent as much time working out the "real life" story as he did the dream elements. By the end, I had no idea what Stephanie's motivations were. Unbelievably, Stephane made more sense than she did.

Neverthless, this is a really charming story with great visuals and a neat concept. Definitely worth watching, if only for the quirkiness.

Thumbs up.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Film Review: Hollywoodland

Rented a couple of flicks over the weekend. The first was Hollywoodland, that Ben Affleck movie about George Reeves - the first tv Superman.

It starts off pretty well. I was actually quite impressed with Affleck, who was WAY better than he normally is. He was much more subtle and sympathetic. The bulk of the movie, though, revolves around Adrien Brody's private investigator character (for better or for worse). Brody tends to be hit and miss with me, too, but in this one he gets a passing grade. He was just the right kind of slimey. Diane Lane is also pretty watchable (how could she not be?).

I suppose much of the credit has to go to writer Paul Berbaum (who comes out of nowhere - the last time this guy did anything of note it was some A-Team and Riptide episodes, for Pete's sake) and director Allen Coulter (of more notable tv fame). The movie looks good and hits the right notes most of the way, even if Affleck's accent is a little all over the place.

But despite the promising start, the film gets a little bogged down in its own depression and by the time the movie's over, you might be contemplating taking yourself out. ...Ok, maybe it's not that bad, but I was a little surprised that it was only 2 hours. And the ending? Not so great.

Overall a thumbs up, but I'm glad I waited for the DVD version.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Film Review: Snakes On A Plane

Seems my little quest to catch Oscar films has taken a little detour.

Picked this one up earlier this week. It's pretty much what you'd expect: action, one-liners, cheesy characters and an implausible ending.

I recommend watching it with someone who is terrified of snakes - I imagine that would make for more excitement.

Have fun with this rental, but leave your brain at the door.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Help! I'm Lost!

(yes, that's right: I have nothing to do at work)

For my friends who are fans of Lost:

I got this from Denis McGrath's blog, who is a writer in Canadian tv (his insights into Little Mosque On The Prairie are pretty much spot on, too). I'm glad Denis can see the humour in these jabs at the writing room. They're basically saying what we're all thinking.

Film Review: Miami Vice

When I first heard that they were making a movie based on the famous 80s cop drama, I was a little skeptical, but, admittedly, a little excited.

Michael Mann has always been a little cutting-edge, a little off-centre in his directing techniques which can have some wonderful results, such as the epic Heat. Even in more mainstream fare such as The Last of The Mohicans, you can tell the man behind the camera is a little "deep".

But sometimes Mann's artistic vision can get the best of him and you end up with a convoluted mess of an artsy film that takes itself way too seriously - Miami Vice.

I'm not quite sure where to start with this one. Well, you know what they say: start at the beginning. Right off the bat, this movie loses half its audience, I'm sure. There are two intense scenes right off the top that have nothing to do with each other. The problem is that lots of names and characters are being thrown at the audience and before you can get the faces straight *boom* we're right into the main plot. Oh, and those guys you saw in one of those opening scenes? Forget them, they're not important anyways. Oh, and the second set of guys? Well, they're actually a little more important, but don't worry about it 'cause all you need to know is that they're bad. But - oops - the 32nd and 33rd characters? You might want to remember them.

15 minutes into the movie and I'm not sure who is who and why what is what. Not good. It doesn't help that there's a ridiculous amount of pretentious cool-speak in the exposition, with acronyms thrown around like the characters have nothing better to do than to recite the alphabet. I was barely keeping the story straight in my head, but I could sense my friend was already half-asleep.

But, hey, Heat was a little confusing too at times. But Heat had something going for it: one of the best ensemble casts of all time, including the first on-screen meeting between characters played by Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino (the rest of the cast included the likes of Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Natalie Portman, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd and William Fichtner).

Miami Vice had no such luck. Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx are the only two "stars" in this film. That's not a bad thing if Mann had wanted to feature some great talent that had been heretofore overlooked by Hollywood. The rest of the cast can't act to save their lives. Worse yet, you can hardly understand a word that comes out of their mouths. Li Gong? Fuggetaboutit. Even Eddie Marsan who is English is incomprehensible - don't ask me what his accent is supposed to be (Alabama?). To make matters worse, everyone in this movie acts as if displaying an emotion will get them fired. "Too cool for school" works for some characters, but when it's all the characters all the time, it's just downright boring and unbelievable. Colin Farrell at least has enough screen time to develop some semblance of a persona, but Jamie Foxx might as well have not even been in that movie.

Ciaran Hinds? Wasted. Justin Theroux? Wasted.

But the greatest waste without a doubt was Barry Shabaka Henley as Lt. Castillo. WTF? This was the coolest character on the original series (famously played by Edward James Olmos). Here, he's an afterthought and comes across as a buffoon thanks to his inept strategy skills.

Like any Mann project, this film looks great. It seems, however, that it came at the expense of character and plot.

Thumbs down.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Dion: Men Need Not Apply

Ok, this guy is already starting to piss me off.

As much as I might think Stephen Harper is a scheming, lying redneck homophobe, I'm not sure I'll be throwing my vote to the (only other legitimate option) Liberals either if Stephane Dion doesn't get his head screwed on right.

First there was the fact that Dion could be linked to the old-school scandalous Liberals. Then he opened his mouth and we all learned that his English pretty much sucks. Now he's taking political correctness to a whole new level and is looking at barring men from seeking nomination in certain ridings to ensure that his promise of 1/3 female representation is fulfilled.

Everybody knows how much I hate reverse discrimination. But when it starts creeping into politics and the way my country is run, then I just get downright pissed.

The best quote came from right hand man Gerard Kennedy:

"We're trying to find the techniques that are consistent with our democratic processes to the greatest extent possible."

Democracy is democracy is democracy. You can't add "techniques". One person, one vote. May the best person win regardless of age, colour, creed or sex.

By choosing who can and cannot run, Dion is guaranteeing that democracy will not be served.

By the way, the fact that the Liberals are willing to run the risk of eliminating the best possible candidate in favour of demographics just goes to show that in Canadian politics you do not vote for the local rep, you vote for the party you want to win. Any argument to the contrary is ridiculous.

Excuse me; I have to go find an NDP flyer to figure out what they're all about. (ATM fees? WTF?)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith 1967-2007


I clicked over to the Toronto Star website and there on the "front page" was news that Anna Nicole Smith had died. I was shocked, but I don't know why.

Smith, 39, collapsed and was unresponsive while staying at the Seminole Hard Rock Cafe Hotel and Casino, said the attorney, Ron Rale. She was rushed to a hospital.

This lady's story is unbelievable. Sadly, she may represent the ultimate Hollywood/American story. Let's recap:

- Born poor
- Works as a topless dancer
- Gets married, has kid, gets divorced
- Gets hired as the "Guess Girl" and becomes an overnight sensation
- Goes from rags to riches
- Playboy Playmate of the Year 1993
- Appears in Naked Gun movie alongside O.J. Simpson (natch)
- Gains a ton of weight
- Drops off the celebrity radar
- Marries a rich oil tycoon (for the love, of course)
- Tycoon dies, she inherits a fortune, family fights it, court case goes on forever
- She loses a ton of weight and becomes a weightloss spokesmodel for TrimSpa
- Has a reality show
- Her son dies of an overdose (including antidepressant) while she is in the hospital giving birth
- Gets married within 18 days of son's death
- Paternity case launched
- Gets sued alongside TrimSpa
- Dies prematurely at age 39

...whoa. I guarantee the movie is in the works as we speak.
Within an hour Wikipedia had been updated.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Apple Trailers

So sometimes when I'm bored (at work - shhhh!) I drop by the Apple Trailers site.

Now anyone who knows me at all knows that I hate watching trailers for movies I know I'm going to see. It seems that movie trailers have a very bad habit of blowing the entire movie in these minute-long teasers.

Apple Trailers is a good place to go to see what's coming out that you may not have been exposed to otherwise - a quirky cult hit for example. (This for example, might tickle your fancy, or maybe this or, for the truly morbid, this)

But every once in a while I face a dilemma: I know a little bit about the movie but I'm kind of on the fence about whether or not to see it in the theatres. Rocky VI for example. I know the backstory, I know the characters, I know basically what to expect...I think. Do I pay to see it? Well...I dunno. What if it's clearly gonna suck? A trailer might help.

I avoided Rocky VI trailers as much as possible, thinking I might see it - still haven't. Oh well, I guess I'll rent it.

Today, the dilemma surrounded Live Free or Die Hard. Citing the Rocky example, I decided to watch the trailer. The verdict: well, it doesn't look like it's gonna completely suck...

Still not sure if I'll see it.

But this new one from Danny Boyle has me intrigued... (if 28 Days Later is any indication, this is not going to be your typical sci-fi disaster flick)

And who knew there was a Silver Surfer (Fantastic Four 2) trailer out yet? (and a great one at that - looks totally cool, high octane, gives away very little about the movie)

Flame on!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Garth Turner Goes To Liberals


You know, I've been a fan of Garth Turner's for some time because he's a relatively straight-forward, candid guy, but this latest move troubles me.

I've sung the praises of Turner's blog, but I've also been very clear on this issue: I am wholeheartedly opposed to floor crossing in the House of Commons.

Garth may have taken the long route, going from Conservative to Independent to Liberal, but the ideology and principle are the same: if you were elected as part of one party, you shouldn't go to another between elections.

Turner was kicked out of the Conservative caucus because of his outspoken nature. He didn't choose to leave, he was booted out. Good for him, then, for sitting as an Independent. But he should have stayed there until the next election (which he admits is meant to be sooner rather than later, according to Conservative strategists).

So why join the Liberals now? It doesn't reek of the opportunism of other floor crossings, but still...

You lost some of my respect, Garth. Why couldn't you have just waited a few more months? What's the rush?

Peel Board Taken Over

Education is typically one of the top issues in any election (and if ads are any indication, there's one brewing). Recently, though, it has taken a back seat to the environment (which is fine by me - the environment ought to be a priority).

But it seems that education has almost disappeared off the radar. Not so much good.

News comes today, however, that government-appointed overseer Norbert Hartmann has stripped the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board of its authority and he (along with Queen's Park) is taking over. There had been some tough talk under the old provincial regime that Boards were going to be required to balance their books, but this is the first example I can think of where a Board has actually been taken over - and these are the Liberals we're talking about, not the facist Harris/Eves-led Conservatives. Something's definitely wrong.

Who's to blame? I don't know, but I do know that this can NOT be good for teachers, some of whom are friends of mine.

What happened to our education system? Has it always been this messed up? I kinda think something happened sometime after I graduated from highschool (early nineties is all I'm gonna say). Within a couple of years there were security cameras everywhere and my old highschool had suddenly become known as a "tough" school. From what I hear (and can tell from my two university stints) writing skills dropped off the map and students were generally more difficult.

Is this just one of those examples where the older generation thinks the younger generation is more screwed up or is it actually the case? And if education really is slipping, what's to blame and how can we fix it?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Film Review: An Inconvenient Truth

Another day, another movie...

An Inconvenient Truth has been getting great reviews and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature and Best Song (Melissa Ethridge's I Need To Wake Up).

First of all, it's a film worth watching. The message is obviously an important one, and it's an issue that has been brushed aside for too long. (I've always said that if I were ever Prime Minister, one of the first things I'd do is to make Canada the leader in alternative energy source research & development - there's a boatload of money to be made in that industry as we march down the road to environmental armageddon) It looks like the issue is finally hitting the front pages; the question now is: what are ya gonna do about it?

But I gotta say, it made me wonder: is it a documentary? What defines a documentary?

This is basically a seminar/speech put on film. There's only a small amount of footage from outside the hall. I mean, it's not like the filmmakers are documenting anything other than the "slide show". So while I applaud the film, I don't think I'd choose it as the Best Documentary - it simply wasn't hard enough for the filmmakers to produce. When you compare the work and effort other documentarians put into their projects (though I haven't seen the other nominated films), this just doesn't seem up to snuff.

And despite the fact that the message is very important, I'm glad I didn't pay $12 to see this slide show. This is definitely a rental. I do believe, however, that this film should be played as often as possible on cable - get the message out.

One thing that bothered me, though: the film sets out what's wrong with the world and why humans are responsible, but it doesn't say whether or not the trend is reversible. Is it already too late? Even if we curb population growth and emissions, will the greenhouse effect go away?

I mean, can we save the world or...?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Film Review: Thank You For Smoking

I rented this one last night using my Videoself membership - that's turning out to be the best $20 I ever spent (well, next to that "massage" in Thailand...but that's another story).

Let me say this loud and proud: Thank You For Smoking is one of, if not the best film of 2006.

Every once in a while, a film comes along that I really - really - enjoy. It's smart, witty, funny, well written, relevant, features fine performances and interesting themes, and I don't find myself saying afterwards: "yeah, it was good, but it could have been better".

Nope. This movie is a home run.

I'd heard it was good from lots of different folks, but I didn't see it in the theatres because, well, I had had the opportunity to see a preview for free and thought I'd feel pretty stupid spending $12 to catch it now that the reviews were in. In my defense, I knew nothing about it at the time. I certainly didn't know it had a fantastic cast featuring the likes of Maria Bello (hot) and Sam Elliott (cool).

Hell, even Katie Holmes was tolerable!

Surely such a great film deserves recognition from the Academy, right? Of course not. Despite the fact that Thank You For Smoking is nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at next weekend's Writer's Guild of America awards (and you think they'd know), it does not appear on the Oscar shortlist (Borat, Children of Men, The Departed, Little Children and Notes On A Scandal are the nominees there - Thank You For Smoking and The Devil Wears Prada replace Little Children and Notes On A Scandal on the WGA list).

Look, this movie made me want to read the book - and I don't read! From what I understand, this movie took over a decade to get made into a film, partially because the book was so hard to adapt into a screenplay. Rookie director/writer Jason Reitman (yes, son of Ivan) deserves mucho credit for his work. This is a great script (Babel got nominated for Best Original Screenplay - and that script is shite!). The dialogue is smart and goes well beyond the surface.

This movie should be required viewing in today's day and age of spin doctors, political correctness and George motherf***ing Bush (check out the bonus features for a great skewering of politicians - including the aforementioned Prince Of Darkness). It doesn't pick sides - it just encourages you to think about the messages we are spoon fed every day.

In many ways, this script reminded me of Fight Club (one of my all time favs) meets Jerry Maguire - told from Bob Sugar's perspective.

Two massive thumbs up.


(Do yourself a favour, though - it helps to see this movie with some notion of "Big Tobacco". So go out and rent Michael Mann's fantastic The Insider starring Al Pacino and an unsexy Russell Crowe before running back to the store to rent Thank You For Smoking.)

"You know the guy who can pick up any girl? I'm him. On crack."
- Aaron Eckhart as Nick Naylor