Wednesday, December 3, 2008

An appeal to baser instincts

The historic goings-on in our government are most certainly divisve - especially here in Alberta, where the tired 'western alienation' arguement is being bolstered with words like "coup," "take-over," and "coalition of seperatists." And that's exactly how Mr. Harper likes it.

Regardless of your stance on the proposed coalition - and for the record, although I think it's less than ideal, I am for it - it's hard to deny that the blame for this whole brouhaha lies at Harper's feet. A number of staunch Conservitave supporters with whom I have spoken have gone off on tirades about his gigantic misstep, the poisoning of what was supposed to be a 'new era of cooperation' in Parlement with the first bill put forward.

And yet, rather than try to regain the confidence of the House, Harper and his team immediately embarked on a campaign of sound bites, twisting the facts and ignoring recent history. Just over three years ago, Harper was in negotiations with the Bloc to form a coalition and take down the Liberal government, and the Conservatives 2006 budget passed only because of support from the BQ, yet the main talking point is to charicterize the current coalition as one threatening national unity because of the Bloc's involvement. Clearly, the Conservatives had no problem accepting Bloc support in the past, and anyone who follows politics knows this - but Harper's targeting those who aren't paying attention, looking to rouse the ire of those who take his words at face value. He knows his supporters won't be turned off by the misrepresentation, so it's all upside from a partisan perspective.

Harper is a master of the soundbite, and chooses his words carefully - there's a reason we don't have quotes from him explaining why he violated the spirit of his own fixed-election date law, why he criticized the Martin Liberals for postponing a confidence vote when defeat was imminent yet is doing the same thing himself, why a coalition that was a good idea when his party was in opposition becomes undemocratic when the tables have turned. It's because there's no upside to being on record addressing these things; better to keep plowing forward, consitency and accountability be damned. It frustrates his opponents and stirs up the base.

I'm sure some who are reading this are aginst the idea of a coalition, and hope Harper finds a way to hold onto power. Fine - the beauty of our country is that we can disagree, and there are doubtless many valid arguements against a coalition govenrment at this time with these players. But please, before you settle, immovably, on a position, read some of the generally well done journalism being practiced over the past few days. As opposed to the shamefully shallow coverage of the election campaign, that accepted every premise the Conservatives put forward ("Not a leader") with little scruitiny (uh, the Conservatives didn't even have a platform), there are reams of intellegent articles being written on both sides of the current debate. Take some time, have a look, and make up your own mind.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I need a Hero(es)

What's with 'Heroes'?
After a bang up first season filled with mystery, humour, and a phrase that bored into the public consciousness ("Save the cheerleader, save the world!"), it's now halfway through an altogether lackluster third season, itself preceded by an interminable second.  Things started out well enough, but by this point we're watching characters we don't particularily care about repeat virtually the same scene over and over, episode after episode, making baby steps toward the revelation of what's sure to be a vast and complex conspiracy thatzzzzzz.

In tonight's show, Peter and Claire have a scene where he tries to convince her to go home and protect her innocence, but then bad guys start closing in and she tells him to run - she'll fend them off.  Peter abruptly drops his manhood and takes off.  Insert a couple of scenes following other plotlines, then we return to Peter and Claire, still on the run from the baddies.  Once again, he tries to talk her into going home.  Once again,  villains close in, Claire tells Peter to run and he complies.  Seriously, was this a cut and paste job?  Did some sort of screenplay program malfunction?  And worst of all, the episode was written by series creator Tim Kring!

Sadly, I think it'll probably take two more seasons before it's run out of town like a gunslinger cheating at poker, but the show has officially worn out it's welcome for me.

Hancock Revisited

My review of the Blu-ray release of Hancock was posted today - the film is now available in a somewhat longer unrated version that solves some, but not all, of my issues with the picture.  Overall, it's a much improved experience, even if it's still kind of short.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Back in the Saddle

So I've returned to my post at DVD Verdict, offering detailed DVD and Blu-Ray reviews for your reading pleasure.  Posted yesterday was my take on American Gangster, while in the coming weeks you can look forward to reviews of The Perfect Holiday, This Christmas, and the documentary Family Name.  Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

There's always an escape - Movie Review: Redbelt

David Mamet - he of dialogue in iambic pentameter and double crosses so slick they could lubricate your kneecap - approaches the traditional fight film in a non-traditional way with Redbelt.  Protagonist Mike Terry is a martial arts master for whom honour and respect are paramount, but when he gets mixed up with an aging movie star and a bi-polar lawyer, he finds that the messy state of the world is the ultimate test of that honour.

The brilliance in this film is that it follows all of the traditional tropes of the fight film - specifically the reluctant fighter ultimately choosing to battle the antagonist for the prize  - yet in a completely original manner.  Without giving too much away, Terry has no intention of fighting for anything but self defense, yet he inadvertently gets drawn into training for and executing the battle anyway, winning a prize he didn't even know he was after.

Acting is great across the board, and Robert Elswit's cinematography, as per usual, is sumptuous (see  Michael Clayton and There Will Be Blood, two films he shot last year, for more proof).  This is a thinking man's fight picture, totally engrossing and unencumbered by Hollywood gloss.  

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"I was born under unusual circumstances"

Here is the link to the film I am most looking forward to this fall, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, featuring Brad Pitt as a man aging backward from elderly to newborn.

Director David Fincher is a visionary filmmaker, always pushing the boundaries of whatever genre in which he finds himself working, using bleeding-edge technology and perfectionist focus to make cinematic miracles happen.  After being fired by the studio on Alien 3, Fincher made the definitive serial killer film with Se7EN, a movie whose popularity seems to continue to secure him financing for projects that don't seem quite commercial enough to warrant the budgets he manages to get.  The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room, and last year's masterpiece Zodiac (my favorite film of 2007) were artistic triumphs but didn't quite connect during their theatrical run (although DVD has likely pushed all well into profitability).

Benjamin Button looks to be a turning point for Fincher, a film that's all heart (at least judging by the trailer), still using amazing visual effects but to move forward an unconventional epic love story rather than a comment on the human condition.  The wife finds Fincher's films technically enjoyable but lacking in warmth, so I hope this'll be the one that changes her mind.

If you can, watch the trailer in HD - it's well worth the wait for the download.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Writer/director Neil Marshall, who was noticed by genre fans in 2002 with Dog Soldiers, really cemented himself as a talent to watch with the taut, almost unbearably tense horror/suspense film The Descent, easily one of the most frightening and original horror flicks I've seen.

So I was looking forward to his follow-up, and even though the trailers were less than stellar, I expected to wholeheartedly enjoy Doomsday.

Unfortunately, the movie's a bit of a mess.

Doomsday wears its influences on its sleeve: its storyline is not only inspired by John Carpenter's classic Escape From New York, but marshall fashions the rudimentary computer graphics in the prologue and the font in the titles directly after that picture.  Other movies directly cribbed from include The Road Warrior, Aliens, and The Warriors.  Which is fine - one of my favorite flicks of recent years, the brilliant Hot Fuzz, make an art out of recycling elements from popular action movies.  But where Marshall stumbles with Doomsday is tone.  

At first, we think this is going to be a fun ride, with the heroine plucking out her fake eye to peer around corners, and mustache-twirling villains plotting the way they can destroy British and Scottish citizens.  Then a character gets cooked and eaten, and suddenly things aren't so much fun anymore.  

The movie struggles to erase the mean-spiritedness of this sequence with subsequent explosions, gunfire, and chase scenes, not to mention a bizarre trip to a feudal castle with everyone dressed in armor (absolutely the most original turn of events in the film), but despite some good action and copious amounts of in-your-face gore, overall Doomsday makes me wonder if The Descent's greatness was a fluke.  Time will tell, I suppose.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Go big or go home.

Further to my note about the sheer awesomeness of The Dark Knight in IMAX, check out this fascinating interview with editor Lee Smith for the Editors' Guild.  Some is a little/a lot technical for the uninitiated, but it provides lots of great info on how the movie incorporated both IMAX 70mm film, VistaVision footage (VistaVision is a format that runs the film horizontally, like IMAX, but uwith a smaller camera, giving a higher resolution image with less grain than standard anamorphic or Super 35 shooting techniques.  It was used for entire films for a time, including White Christmas and Vertigo, but now is only pulled out every once in a while for special effects shots, as the lack of grain makes up for the multiple generations used to composite effects), and standard 35.

Especially interesting, to me anyway, is Smith's remark that the switching aspect ratios in the IMAX version were jarring on the first test, until they projected it on a big screen, when it became apparent that it would often be noticed only subconsciously as viewers would be looking at the middle of the screen.  That was my experience, and I was actively paying attention to the aspect ratios to see when it changed - a few times I missed the change.

The Blu-Ray version will reportedly contain this aspect-shifting version. 

"The French don't have a word for entrepreneur."

The latest trailer for Oliver Stone's upcoming George W. Bush biopic W. is now available here, both streaming or downloadable for HD goodness.

I am all kinds of excited about this flick - as a big Oliver Stone fan, it's great to see him return to the political arena where he's done his best work (Nixon and JFK are both astonishing pieces of work), and the casting looks pitch perfect.  Instead of an indictment, this looks to be a story of a man over his head, receiving some very poor advice and acting on it, which by some accounts is exactly the situation in which Dubya found himself.  I'm a little disappointed that Stone didn't write the screenplay himself, as his relentless research and labyrinthine plotting are a perfect fit for this type of material (I've got his annotated screenplay for Nixon, and swear it's got to be close to 1000 pages, with copies of watergate documents, transcripts of interviews, and footnotes for every second line of dialogue).  Nonetheless, this is high on a crowded 'must see' list for this fall.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Have you seen The Ruins?  Never has foliage been so frightening.  Seriously.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sharks with frickin' laser beams on their heads!

You've got to love pre-Austin Powers James Bond films.

I just finished License to Kill, one of my favorite 007 outings (I think the Timothy Dalton entries are highly underrated).  In it, evil drug kingpin Robert Davi decides to maim one of Bond's colleagues, setting in motion the revenge-propelled machinations of the plot.  So how does he do it?  With a gun?  With a knife?  No, Mr. Bad Guy fashions an elaborate pulley system with a side of beef on one end and Bond's friend on the other.  A push of a button opens a trap door, under which is a water tank inhabited by a hungry great white shark (of course).  The meat falls in the water, but once the fearsome creature has eaten a good portion of it away, the unfortunate fellow takes its place.  So awesome.

The 'realistic' Bond adventures starting with the Daniel Craig Casino Royale, and continuing with the modestly named Quantum of Solace later this year, are the best way to relaunch the series - don't get me wrong - but sometimes I long for the utter ludicrousness of movies past.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The bright light of The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight is an artistic triumph, a relentlessly grim tale that stays true to the realistic Caped Crusader from graphic novels like The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke, but also sneaks in a surprisingly conservative - even Republican - political message: plot points touch on illegal wiretapping, torture for vital information, and doing what needs to be done to deliver justice even as the casualties add up.  Of course, you don't have to agree with the film's political leanings to thoroughly enjoy it (thank goodness), but Nolan and co-writers Jonathan Nolan and David Goyer ensure there's no mistaking where it falls on the left-right scale.

The Dark Knight is a meaty, ambitious, undiluted work of vision that asks tough questions between its astoundingly creative set-pieces.  But, with it already the second-highest grossing film of all time, you probably know all this because you've probably seen it.

But unless you've caught it in IMAX, you're missing the full scope of The Dark Knight's grandeur.

I did just that yesterday, after several earlier attempts that were thwarted by sold-out screenings, marking the second time I saw the movie.  And it was like a new film, like a theme park ride.  This is one of the only mainstream narrative films to use actual IMAX cameras during filming, quite a feat in itself given how large and cumbersome the equipment is, and how quickly it runs out of film (see Wikipedia for a good primer on the technology).  A handful of whole sequences were shot using the 70 mm IMAX film stock, along with many of the establishing helicopter shots, and when you see the movie in IMAX, it switches from its Cinemascope 2.35:1 aspect ratio to the taller 1.44:1 ratio that fills the entire screen - a moviegoing experience unlike any I've seen before.  Wally Pfister's naturalistic photography is starkly beautiful, and shooting raucous action scenes with bulky IMAX cameras has the unexpected result of most shots being solid, cautiously composed, and moving slowly and deliberately, injecting an antidote to the increasingly overused shaky-cam that masks lazy action staging (not that all shaky-cam is bad - the Bourne films were almost uncomprehensible at times but were always stylistically appropriate).

I know I'm a little late to the party with this post, but have been too busy to update the blog thanks to the convergence of finally moving into my new condo while simultaneously becoming hooked on Battlestar Galactica (I'm relieved we've finally made it through all available seasons on DVD, as I could use a fracking break).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Will Smith and the Third Act Problem

An unfortunate trend seems to be present in the recent movies of box office king Will Smith: in I, Robot, I Am Legend, and now Hancock, a deliberately paced, character driven, and altogether fascinating hour of storytelling is followed by a relentlessly action-packed twenty-odd minute third act, leaving the audience to wonder what happened to the movie they were watching.  

All three of these films use a large canvas, with massive worlds and complex characters to set up, and interestingly all three also feature Smith as a more dour and less charismatic version of himself than we otherwise see.  And all three start out just great.  But by the end, I'm left feeling that twenty or thirty minutes are missing, and that a more satisfying ending most have existed at some time in the process, replaced for wider audience appeal one can only assume.  All three feel somehow compromised.

Now these three films also faced rumours of being 'troubled' productions, with last minute reshoots in response to test screenings and possibly studio interference.  But reshoots are not at all uncommon, and are certainly not always a harbinger of doom (some directors, like Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh [Traffic, Ocean's Eleven-Twelve-Thirteen] schedule reshoots into their production schedule from the start).  Further, this is one of the most bankable actors on the planet, a man whose eight previous films have all grossed more than $100 M (with the film before these, Ali, a major artistic success that garnered him an Oscar nomination), and who often is a producer on the films in which he stars - I have trouble believing that anyone would discount his opinion if he didn't want these films released as they were.

So, one must assume that this is, at least partially, Smith's doing.  And it's a shame.  I very much enjoyed I, Robot, I Am Legend, and Hancock, but I also have my fingers crossed for longer 'director's cuts' that will restore a more consistent tone and vision to these stories.  None should've been less than two hours long, yet they all clock in at around 90 minutes.  I want to see that half hour.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Canada Day Quizzical

Sorry about the lack of posts lately, been busy doing other things (like digging into the excellent 7-disc Dirty Harry box set recently put out by Warner Bros. - gotta love that remote control car chase in The Dead Pool!).

Anyway, here's a little spot of patriotism: a Canada Day Quiz!

FYI, I ended up with a sad 40%.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Surprisingly Good Sequel

I would say the new Indiana Jones movie is better than it has any right to be, but that's wouldn't be altogether fair.  Re-teaming  Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Harrison Ford for a globetrotting adventure has the right to be pretty darn good: I just didn't think it would be.

Picking up in 1957, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull successfully incorporates  a storyline appropriate both for the time period and the type of movies that were coming out at the time. The series has always been a throwback to the 1930s and 40s adventure serials, but this time out there's a healthy helping of sci-fi too.  Spielberg is a master at telling his stories with slick yet meaningful camera work, and there are many great feats of lensing on display here, while Harrison Ford slips back into the role with ease.  Shia LaBeouf, so charming in the Oscar-winning masterpiece Transformers, is just as good here, too - while somewhat constrained by the period mannerisms, his comic timing remains impeccable.

I was expecting the movie to be decent but unnecessary, recycling gags from previous installments with little of the spirit intact.  But I was pleasantly surprised to find that, with the exception of some annoying CGI gophers and a head-scratcher of a sequence where LaBoeuf swings through a jungle canopy with about a hundred monkeys (both of these problematic bits bringing to mind the more cringe-inducing scenes of the Star Wars prequels), this is a wholly enjoyable and satisfying film.  I went in wondering why they would risk sullying the memory of such a great franchise, and left the theatre hoping another sequel would be on the way.  

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Star Wars

Star Wars fans may be interested in this, a 500+ page free (!) book called the Secret History of Star Wars, published by Michael Kaminski.  Thoroughly researched, this unauthorized tome tracks the development and production of all six Star Wars films through an entertaining yet academic lens.  Worth checking out for sure.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Grand Theft Free Time

Wow, it's been more than a month since my last blog post.  The reason can be distilled into four small words: Grand Theft Auto 4.  Not that times haven't been really busy otherwise, but this ridiculously fun little bit of pop culture is my current obsession.

Anyone else hooked?

Monday, April 14, 2008

In yo' face!

It's pretty technical, but here's an in-depth interview with filmmaking visionary James Cameron (writer/director of The Abyss, the Terminator films, Titanic, etc.) on using 3-D for his upcoming movie Avatar.  This is exciting stuff - not 'fake' 3-D, but real stereoscopic cameras (meaning two cameras beside each other mimicking what human eyes would see).  I'm not 100% sold on the idea that 3-D will be in most households 10-15 years from now (I think a similar claim was made during the 3-D craze in the 80s), but if James Cameron's onboard, this technology is doubtless ready for prime-time.  This is the guy who envisioned, and started filming for, the morphing 'water snake' in The Abyss when literally the technology did not exist to make it happen.   The way he dealt with that leap of faith (he hired a computer graphics company to work exclusively on this sequence, while other firms did other effects) has affected virtually every film since that has used CGI, and nearly every movie he has ever made has broken ground in one way or another.  Check it out.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Junos Come to Calgary

Deyelle and I were at the Juno Awards last night, and had a great time.

There's quite a drastic difference between the Grammys - the broadcast of which I avoid like avian flu - and the Junos,  especially in the type of music showcased.  Over the course of the evening, we saw performances from country, pop, hard rock, opera, jazz, alt-rock, adult contemporary, and whatever you'd classify Michael Buble, and each was received with nearly equal verve by the screaming audience.  It was really much more of a celebration  of all forms of Canadian music than I was expecting.
I was most excited to see Feist, and her performance of the excellent 'Sealion' (which appears in two vastly different incarnations on The Reminder)didn't disappoint.   A funny thing came up during it: at one point, the crowd was encouraged to clap, and a woman who was doing a form of shadow puppets onstage joined in: we noticed that her clapping was half-a-beat ahead of us, which makes sense given the delay by the time the sound reaches us.  But Deyelle pointed out that, if we're all clapping to the music we're hearing, we're totally off beat with what's going on onstage, which must be pretty distracting.
Anyway, other highlights were Avril Lavigne's high energy 'Girlfriend', the Triumph tribute (although I wish they had played), and surprisingly, to me anyway, Buble - that guy can work a crowd like no one's business, and was even hyping the fans up during the commercial break from the dark stage, something no other performer attempted.
Russell Peters was decent, nothing exceptional but he didn't bomb either, and the show was wrapped up in a snappy two hours, significantly shorter than your usual awards marathon.  Apparently it was the second most watched Junos in Canadian history, so I'm glad it was a gooder.

And now, we can focus on the Flames' playoff run...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

It's a veritable cornucopia of great movies showing up at the video store these days, and over the past week or so Deyelle and I have been playing catch up.  Here's a survey of the best:

Death at a Funeral
This British farce is one of the funniest movies either of us have seen in a long time.  Lots of broad, almost slapstick gags, yet almost all of the humour comes directly from the unique circumstances of each character.  Everything is effortlessly set up and paid off in a typically foul-mouthed British way - it's hard to believe director Frank Oz continues to provide voices for Sesame Street characters.

I Am Legend
Will Smith continues to show why he's one of Hollywood's most bankable actors with a dark, intense performance in this post-apocalyptic drama.  Like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, Smith carries the majority of the film by himself, going about his business as the last man alive in New York, trying to avoid being killed by the vampire-like creatures that stalk the shadows.  The tension is palpable throughout the deliberately paced first two thirds; unfortunately, the last act breaks into a sprint that somewhat undermines the intelligent storytelling that came before.  But despite a resolution that's a little too neat, the film is well worth seeing.

30 Days of Night
Still on the vampire theme, 30 Days of Night uses the why-didn't-I-think-of-that plot device of vampires in a northern Alaska town during 30 sunlight-free days in the winter.  Eerily atmospheric with surprisingly brutal violence, and featuring perhaps the best performance Josh Hartnett's ever given, this one is a genuinely satisfying horror flick, despite some glaring logic holes and an unconvincing blizzard. 

The Namesake
This tale of an immigrant family from India is a real hidden gem.  Stretching from the 1970s to present day - with seamless transitions between time periods that ensure you're paying attention - we get a genuine feel for the unexpected challenges faced by newcomers to America.  Beats that could've been disastrously precious - like when a character covers her bowl of dry Rice Krispies in curry powder - come across as genuine and insightful.  This is an easy recommendation.

The Darjeeling Limited
If you know Wes Anderson's other films (like Rushmore or The Life Aquatic), you know the thin line between comedy and drama that this picture walks, but the master storyteller has created a movie with a more intimate focus - three brothers - set against his most ambitious setting, the vast plains of India.  Filled with metaphor and insight both subtle and not so much (the brothers are literally traveling around carrying their dead father's baggage), this is a lovely little picture that'll float around in your mind for a while.

A Best Picture nominee, and winner of several British Academy Awards, Atonement is a film that assures the viewer that, no matter how seemingly unimportant the events we are watching are, all will be revealed by the end of two hours.  It requires a fair amount of patience, and features frank depictions of violence and sex, but this highly literate tale of actions and their consequences is poetic, meaty, and satisfying.  Also noteworthy is Dario Marianelli's score, based upon the clattering of a typewriter, that's both endlessly interesting and ultimately a key part of telling the story.

The Mist
Frank Darabont writes and directs his third Stephen King adaptation, and ends up with his most successful picture in my estimation.  A harrowing tale of a diverse group of small town locals trapped in a grocery store when a creature-filled mist descends, The Mist is more interested in showing the horrific and illogical actions people will take when afraid than it is in having us terrified by the creatures themselves.  Which is a good thing, as the computer generated imagery suffers the most from the picture's low budget.  Playing like a 1940s creature feature, but with a dark view of humanity thrown in, this is a surprisingly edgy picture that caused a rare argument between Deyelle and I over the ending.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Happy Belated St. Patrick's Day!

I didn't have time to post this yesterday before heading out for a couple of Guinnesses (Guinnessi?), but here's a little Irish humor someone passed long:

A small two-seater Cessna 152 plane crashed into a cemetery yesterday afternoon in Dublin.

Irish search and rescue workers have recovered 285 bodies so far, but expect that number to climb as digging continues into the evening.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The latest post-Oscar wrap-up on the Internet!

So, I never got around to commenting on the Oscars back when they happened, then it felt like too much time had gone by to mention them.  But it has been suggested to me that I should do it anyway, and since I doubt this is widely-read, why not.

Overall, a good show.  The focus on the history of the Oscars was a little disappointing, as at times the proceedings felt a little (a lot?) too self-congratulatory, but Jon Stewart was a funny, compassionate host (when he brought the co-winner of the Best Original Song Oscar back on stage to finish her speech, he instantly created the most talked about moment of the evening).  Surely the writers' strike was to blame for much of the less-than-inspired content, as things were pulled together at the last minute, so all things considered, bravo.

Some of the awards seemed like foregone conclusions (I can't recall an Oscars when I was so sure of the Best Picture winner), while others were a surprise, but with such a remarkably solid list of nominees it was nice to see the little golden men distributed widely.  I revisited No Country for Old Men two nights ago and liked it even more than the first time; it is a worthy Best Picture winner that has no easy answers, and leaves much more open for interpretation than you would expect.  It also contains the most suspenseful sequence in any movie this year.

I was 10 for 25 on my guesses, not bad, not as good as some friends.  I'm not usually very good at predicting these things anyway - in the summer, I thought Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe would be competing for Best Actor oscars thanks to American Gangster, and was wrong on both counts (I also thought - and still do, mind you - American Gangster deserved a nod for its phenomenally understated, yet completely revelatory, costume design.  Crowe barely had to speak, we could just look at what he was wearing and know what his character was all about.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Open-ended Evil

Checked out Resident Evil: Extinction last night, and was pretty impressed with it for the most part. With a catchy opening and a great image of a military compound surrounded by hungry undead just outside the fence, paired with a predictably-solid tough girl performance by Milla Jovovich, this one should keep horror fans entertained. The wife, an admitted zombie movie afficionato, concurs enthusiastically.

Unfortunately - and this may be mildly spoilery - by the end of the film, absolutely nothing is resolved. Like, no closure whatsoever. The Matrix Reloaded had a more satisfying ending. It's like an episode of Lost, except with fewer scenes of charicters being given the chance to ask the obvious questions viewers have been screaming at the screen for three seasons and choosing instead to pose an obscure query no one cares about.

Note to writer Paul W.S. Anderson: even when you know you're making (another) sequel, a good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. I guess two out of three ain't bad.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Way to go, Alberta!

So we had our provincial election last night, and in what was touted as potentially quite a tight race those who bothered to vote handed the PCs 72 out of 83 seats.  With what may be the lowest voter turn-out in Canadian history.

So the Tories got about 53% of the popular vote, with about 40% of the province voting - meaning the party chosen by of a little over 20% of the province now has an iron-clad mandate to do pretty much whatever it wants.  I wonder how long it'll be until we blow up another hospital in Calgary?

One can only hope for proportional representation to be brought in before the next election to even things out a bit.  And maybe for a few more people to take ten minutes out of their day to exercise their democratic right.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A country in crisis

My second-to-last DVD review before I go on hiatus has been posted today, for an excellent documentary on the genocide currently underway in Darfur. If you're at all interested in how this tragedy has unfolded, check out this rather informative piece of filmmaking (give me a call and I'll loan it to you). Some of the images are disturbing (which is, of course, the point), but if you can stomach it this is a worthwhile doc.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Coming soon to Sportsnet-HD

The latest sport competing for Olympic recognition - speed-cabling!

You've won this battle, Canada Post...

I've decided to take a hiatus from writing reviews for DVD Verdict, since the mail delays are just out of control.  The studios who provide our product require reviews to be posted within a certain window for marketing purposes, and if we miss this window we risk getting blacklisted - so I'm reluctant to request anything even remotely high profile, since I can't guarantee I'll have the critique in on time.  So, sadly, I'm calling it quits for a while.  When the mailing times settle back to normal, I'll probably go back.

In the meantime, my review of the political drama Rendition will be on the site tomorrow.  Check it out if you like.

Not in Kansas anymore...

So I just ran to the nearby Mac's for some stamps, and as I'm paying the bill 'Dust in the Wind' starts up on the radio.  One of the clerks, organizing plastic coffee mugs, abruptly breaks into song, warbling off key with an impressive amount of confidence.  A couple of bars later and  her older co-worker joins in the melody with an equally questionable grasp on the concept of pitch.  And as I walked out, the third clerk, behind the counter, completed the harmony.  The only thing that could've made this bizarre interlude better would've been a guest appearance by jazz hands.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Setting the tone

Rob put me onto this great article from CBC about the dearth of opening credit sequences in today's 'serious' movies.

Interesting that they missed what I think is probably the best credits sequence of 2007, that is The Kingdom, wherein we get a condensed history of the US' involvement with Saudi Arabia from the 1920s to now.  It's superior, so check it out.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

You've (Eventually) Got Mail

The website for which I write movie reviews,, is US-based, meaning that my review product has to be sent from LA to here.  Mailings typically go out on Thursday, and some writers in the States, including those on the other side of the country, get their packages the next day; almost all of them have discs in hand by Saturday (mail is delivered 6 days a week there).

For us Canadians, however, it seems totally random when deliveries will arrive.  Sometimes it's the following Tuesday, sometimes later that week, and sometimes several weeks go by with no explanation.  My latest review disc - the review of which is supposed to be finished today - was sent on January 31 by US priority Mail.  It hasn't shown up yet.  Monday being a holiday here, the earliest I expect it is Tuesday, meaning 19 full days in transit.  Canada Post claims t's Customs fault, the USPS says it's CP's fault, Customs won't talk about it.

Could it be time for privatized mail delivery in this country?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Flowers & Chocolate

Anyone interested in a little Valentine's history may enjoy Wikipedia's article.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Throw me the idol, I'll throw you the whip

Just announced today, you can visit on or after Thursday to see the new teaser trailer for Indiana Jones and the Long, Unwieldily Title!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rambo: First Post, Part II

What better way to start things off than with some Oscar predictions, now that the writers' strike is more or less behind us.  Here we go:

It's got to be either No Country for Old Men or Juno, and my money's on No Country.  A fantastic, complicated movie that deserves all the credit it's getting, even if a lot of people don't get the ending.

Ellen Page, for Juno.  Her lovable wiseass is an instant classic.

I'll join the rest of the world and call this one for Daniel Day Lewis.

Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett, I'm Not Here.  Kudos for Todd Haynes thinking way outside the box with this one.

Supporting Actor
Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford.  Affleck's a revelation in this movie, totally fearless.

Animated Feature
Ratatouille, a movie that, if this category didn't exist, would probably be up for Best Picture.

Art Direction
Sweeny Todd - Tim Burton movies are all about the art direction.

Roger Deakins, The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford.  Deakins is one of my favorite DPs, so it's great to see him get two well-deserved nominations this year.  

Costume Design
A bit of a toss up, but I'm going to say Atonement.

Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men, although it could really go to any of them this year.

Documentary Feature
Although the smart money might say Sicko, I'm picking No End in Sight.

Film Editing
The Bourne Ultimatum - it's basically a two hour chase scene, yet never gets tiring.

Pirates.  If Norbit wins an Oscar, the plague of locusts can't be far off.

Atonement, although I'd like to see Ratatouille get some love here.

"Falling Slowly" from Once - this song comes at an absolutely integral moment in the film, and if it wasn't as good as it is, the film wouldn't have worked.

Sound Editing
Transformers, it's gotta be.

Sound Mixing
Transformers again: millions of home theatre show-offs can't be wrong.

Visual Effects
More love for Transformers.

Adapted Screenplay
No Country for Old Men

Original Screenplay

I left a few out that would've been total guesses, but it's my blog and I'll do what I want to.
Feel free to agree or disagree.

First Post

So, I've finally joined the 2000s and have started a blog.   Let's see if I keep it up to date...