Thursday, December 9, 2010

Santa's list

If you're like me, and need to buy presents for kids or young teens, it can leave you rather flummoxed. Nobody wants to be that pathetic Uncle or Aunt who always gave disappointing gifts that you just wanted to toss back at them.

I detest purchasing any video games, clothing that I'll never get the right size for, or any electronics (iphone, wii ....), that will only rot their brains and make them blind by twenty five.

It's hypocritical of me.

I've been lodged into an industry that creates games, sells crap, and squashes any inkling of a creative and imaginative mind. So why add to the monster I've helped build? My family has marvelled that I have managed to "hoodwink" their children into reading, and have pushed them to go outside and actually move their North American lazy asses.

Maybe I'm a jerk, but I think too many kids are coddled and spoiled in this day an age. I was horrified to see playgrounds levelled to a safe, yet dull world. Jungle gyms were both dangerous, crazy, vivid, and astonishingly well planned only a few decades a go. If a child was injured, they learned not to be an idiot and put their tongue to a frozen pole. They would break their arm and suffer the consequences of it.

Here's my list of gifts to kids that want a bit more pizzaz in life.

1. Chemistry set. This can be expensive, but if you look on the internet and find out how to make fun, strange items, you can probably use ordinary kitchen or bathroom supplies.

2. Binoculars/ telescopes. All right, you don't want a peeping tom, however gifts for stargazing can hopefully spin a child into something else.

3. A tool kit/model set. Yeah I know. What the hell? For boys or girls, if you give them something to learn to build such as a working miniature train, a parent will have an excuse to actually spend time with the child.

4. Tickets to a play/musical/local band/sporting event. This doesn't have to be expensive. It doesn't need to be Superbowl tickets. For an eight year old child, going out at night, to where all the adults are... IS PART OF THE EXCITEMENT!! For them, they are let into a special world, they can stay up late, eat different food, and just watch.

5. Get them a mentor/hobby/class. Yeah this is weird, but unfortunately in life, kids can't get ahead without an advantage. I've actually paid for a drama class.

6. Books. Look on the list below.

7. Sports equipment. Depending on the kid, it can be a Boxing gloves, soccer ball, skateboard, frisbee, skates, even a weird rhythmic gymnastics ribbon. I prefer taking a kid camping, but that's a lot of work.

8. A bug kit. Always wanted an ant farm? Okay, some kids may not be into this, but maybe they love Grissom from CSI. Magnify glass, a few bottles, and a small guide just to start.

9. Sewing kit/fabric + pattern. This is super weird but I haven't a clue why some of my hip/trendy friends are into knitting and making bags or purses.

10. A blank diary. I know everyone twitters, has facebook etc. etc. but sometimes nothing beats putting pen to paper.

TOP BOOK SERIES FOR YOUNG ADULTS

Starting out: Ages 8-12 reading Adventure/Series

Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Percy Jackson Series
(The Lightning Thief, Sea of Monsters, Titan's Curse, Battle of the Labyrinth, Last Olympian)
The Chronicles of Vlad Tod by Heather Brewer
The Keys to the Kingdom Series by Garth Nix
Mister Monday, Grim Tuesday, Drowned Wednesday, Sir Thursday, Lady Friday, Superior Saturday, Lord Sunday
Nancy Drew/Anne of Green Gables (girls)
The Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Northern Lights/Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass

For book worms, novels are a bit riskier

1001 Arabian Nights
Greek mythology

For young teens moving to Adult level novels. (12 - 15)

Abhorsen series
Lord of the Rings
The Book Thief
Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
(The Amulet of Samarkand, Golem's Eye, Ptolemy's Gate) Prequel: The Ring of Solomon
Battle Royale
The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness
(The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, Monsters of Men, The New World)
Poirot mysteries by Agatha Christie
The Hunger Games (A bit too angst-blah, but it scores well for action)

Angst ridden melodrama / popular writing (ages 13+)

Maze Runner by James Dashner (soon to be a movie by Catherine Hardwicke maybe???)
Fallen by Lauren Kate
Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer (The ultimate source of the whiny heroine and sullen Vampire on the map)
Women of the Underworld series by Canuck writer Kelley Armstrong (Bitten)
The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare (City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Burned


Remember Macgyver? I don't know if it's kosher teaching the public how to steal, rob, swindle, and con people, but done in a very entertaining way I guess it's all right.

Burn Notice has the campy fun feel that suits Bruce Campbell like a glove, and has enough serious moments that it keeps things interesting. If you love Mission Impossible, but tire of the drama, I gotta say... this show delivers the dish quite nicely. I'm curious to see how the spin off, starring Bruce Campbell will turn out. Will he do double time?

Dilute a great dynamic? I hope not. It'll suck royally.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

TV pee

What happened to The Mentalist? What is up with the Walking Dead firing all their writers after the first season. Can The Good Wife get even better?

I stick to 2-3 shows per week. I really don't watch anymore than that... after all, shows are usually best during their sophomore seasons after that... it's downhill from there. (Mentalist being the next on my chopping block... talk about losing their edge!)

I'm one of the disloyal watchers. I gave up LOST after they opened the hatch, got bored with X-Files after it became overly obsessed with Alien conspiracies, and dropped Mad Men when it got to the point where... well... not one of the characters are likable.

When the writing goes south and crap just recycles, it's hard to care anymore. Few drama shows can last beyond 5 seasons, and when spin offs are green lit prematurely, it just dilutes a talented show into "yuck".

Next year I'm happy to see yet another slew of fresh faces, and many "film" actors migrating to the small screen.

The BORGIAS : Known as the first crime family, the infamous Borgias mix religion, politics, and greed just the way Shakespeare would've loved it. (Jeremy Irons)

GAME OF THRONES: George R.R. Martin's version of Lord of the Rings + sex + death. No wonder it's HBO. (Sean Bean)

SHERLOCK season 2: I hope Martin Freeman will not be replaced as Watson, since he'll be busy on the HOBBIT. The chemistry between Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) and Martin Freeman (Watson) manages to upstage the recent film duo. Sizzling.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

beauty of chess


I recently went to the Harry Potter exhibit, filled with sets, costumes and prop designs. It wasn't bad, but having attended both Lord of the Rings exhibits at Casa Loma and then the ROM, it had a lot to live up to.

At the end of the exhibit (like every place I've gone) the poor parents were led into one of the most decked out gift shops I've ever seen! The prices were astronomical, and considering the price of admission, I can only imagine the hole slowly burning through their wallets. The only item I would have been tempted to purchase would have been the Harry Potter chess set, I have been searching for an elegant set for years. Unfortunately I found the design rather tacky, and for the hefty price tag attached, I expected a heck of a lot more.

Wouldn't it be great if you could play with a set as beautiful as the Lewis Chessmen? To this day, I haven't seen its equal.


Next up: Tim Burton's exhibit.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Escape vs. Reality

As I sit along the subway, I'm often surprised how many people have turned to teen fiction. Unlike the typical Oprah book club cry-fest, young adult fiction offers a less tiresome investment of time, and the opportunity to escape the mundane realities of life.
It's also a good segue into fantasy and science fiction for the open minded individuals.

If you're like me, you've probably read most of the most popular picks. Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, Narnia, Golden Compass, Artemis Fowl... pretty much everything that has, or will turn into a movie.

The difficulty is finding new fiction that doesn't replicate what you've read.

For the past few years I've scoured the "best lists" and to my frustration, the lists are all the same.


Rereading some classics... and new finds

Battle Royale - Takami Koushun
Shade's Children - Garth Nix
The Blade Itself - Joe Abercrombie
The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco
The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin


Still lust for YA Fiction?

Highly recommended by many (I have yet to read) The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Saturday, November 13, 2010

New Mysteries

Took a while to find it. The most recent Marple : The Pale Horse, starring Julia Mckenzie. Not originally a Marple mystery, it's not one of the strongest of her stories. Enjoy! It will be a long wait for any other new mysteries. Part one here

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The new face of a hero

Vampires? Old news. During comic con a few panelists and publishers thought that demons and werewolves were the new rockstars of teen angst fiction. Me? I'd say it's all about Angels.

Hush Hush, Sandman Slim, City of Bones ....

If you really think about it, it's all the same isn't it? I never heard of the "Nephilim" until a few years ago, but I can certainly understand the allure. Superhuman powers, immortality, beauty, purity, sexuality, and an endless supply of historical mythology tied in controversy. Mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in Genesis and Numbers, the Nephilim are the offspring of Angels and Humans; perfectly shrouded in a comfortable amount of mystery for artistic license.

Sound familiar? Hercules, Theseus, Perseus; the half god bastards commonly celebrated in Greek mythology for their miraculous feats may ring a bell.

I guess it's all about the spin. Recycle, renew, refresh.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Murky Waters

From Deadline.com, Ang Lee has finally picked out his star talent after auditioning a whopping 3000 teenagers. Suraj Sharma will get the chance of a lifetime to play the lead role of sixteen year old Pi Patel in Yann Martel's Mann Booker Prize winning novel.

One hopes that whatever Visual Effects company Fox hires, is up to the challenge, not to mention the director himself. How does one create an entertaining two hour drama with only a boy, a zebra, a hyena, a seasick orangutan, and Bengal tiger in a lifeboat??


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Games


A new short teaser has been released, showing barely a glimpse of Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) as the main hero in Game of Thrones...and nothing more. I personally believe the HBO series couldn't come at a better time.

Many fans and readers have been salivating for years (and I do mean years) to read the second half of A Feast for Crows, which will be entitled "A Dance with Dragons". To be frank, I've forgotten quite a bit of the contents of all four books and the idea of re-reading all the novels, each demanding a considerable investment of time (approx. 1000 pages /book) exhausts me.

A few of my friends have given up on the series, or have decided to wait until the final novel is released (that could take decades...) and who can blame them? That brings me back to the upcoming HBO series... what better way to win back the hearts of fans and skeptics alike? If it lives up to all the hype (not until December 2012), expect the pressure to heat up on the expected release of A Dance with Dragons. There will be blood...

(An angry letter from the author? Oy. Well I'd rather a satisfying end to this epic saga than a half-assed mediocre effort.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pride

After walking into bookstore after bookstore and seeing nothing but that bloody bird on a red cover, I finally picked up The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Filling me with memories of The Running Man, I was instantly hooked, burning through the pages in a matter of a day.

Always finish with a bang. (SPOILERS)

Now I love young adult fiction, but what to do when you feel you can only recommend two of the three books in a trilogy??? I can't tell you how disappointed I was when I read Mockingjay.

Katniss Everdeen, the tough, young, single-minded, heroine who defies the government and manages to navigate the dangerous world of Panem began with a very promising start in The Hunger Games. Similar to Princess Leia, Anne Shirley, Lisbeth Salander, or Lirael; Suzanne Collins created a female protagonist with the spunk, perseverance and the elusive universal appeal.

And then it all came crashing down.

Similar to World War veterans, Katniss witnesses one too many acts of violence and destruction that dissolves her world into a living hell. Yet unlike Lord of the Rings, a prime example of the bittersweet victory of war, Mockingjay leaves a rather sour aftertaste. Lacking the insight or humor of the final book in the Bartimaeus Trilogy (Jonathan Stroud) or weight of The Book Thief (Markus Zusak), the turn of events felt contrived and at times, out of place. As I turned page after page, I started to become frustrated. Not from the unfair losses and crimes of war, but from the constant stream of whining... and even worse... from our heroine Katniss herself!

I wanted to slap her, having invested time reading two novels I could see the story ebbing away into a mediocre melodrama rather than a satisfying dish. To my astonishment, Katniss had evolved into her mother, an inactive, weak-willed, shell of a girl, rather than emerge into a burning spirit rising from the ashes.

For the first time I actually believe Hollywood could do it better.

Wrath

Red with anger, Prime Minister Viktor Orban is taking actions, holding the director of the aluminum company responsible for suspicion of public endangerment.

Images have quite a large impact. With the oil spill in New Orleans, a toxic waste spill at a copper plant in China, and recent toxic sludge in Hungary... you wonder what will happen next.

Canucks are all celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend, engorging ourselves on fatty foods, loosening our belts. Perhaps we should all consume a bit less, and tighten our belts?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Gluttony

When are you rich enough? So far I can only credit Jack Nicholson for keeping to his word that he'll never advertise any product. The list included a few others such as Natalie Portman and Jodie Foster, but Japander.com has brought me back to reality. There isn't one young celeb who won't sell out their own grandmother for a buck or two.

Check out some really funny commercials here

At least Kiefer Sutherland looks like he had a lot of fun and doesn't take himself too seriously. One of the best advertisements has to be by Aardman studios: Wallace and Gromit, almost entices you to try that pudding.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Greed

This documentary will infuriate you, but in a good way.

U.S. release is October 8th, 2010
Canada October 29, 2010

"From Academy Award nominated filmmaker, Charles Ferguson, comes Inside Job, the first film to expose the shocking truth behind the economic crisis of 2008. The global financial meltdown, at a cost of over $20 trillion, resulted in millions of people losing their homes and jobs. Through extensive research and interviews with major financial insiders, politicians and journalists, “Inside Job” traces the rise of a rogue industry and unveils the corrosive relationships which have corrupted politics, regulation and academia. Narrated by Academy Award® winner Matt Damon, Inside Job was made on location in the United States, Iceland, England, France, Singapore, and China" (www.daemonsmovies.com)


Trailer here

Black Tuesday

Oliver Stone's latest hit Wallstreet 2 at one point had Gekko describing the astounding historical economic bubble in the mid 1600s. Tulipomania, a period in the Dutch Golden Age when prices for Tulip bulbs reached extraordinary levels (some single bulbs sold for ten times the annual income of a craftsman), and then came crashing down to reality.

The modern day "Outliers" or "Freakanomics" aren't the first of their kind... in 1841 a book written by Scottish journalist Charles Mackay chronicled the "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds". Debunking subjects such as alchemy, crusades, witch-hunts, fortune telling and of course, economic bubbles.

For the odd and informed
Macolm Gladwell's site

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The freebie

It's all fuckin' surreal. You know that Hollywood is baked when even your local Asian bootleg dealer is starting to feel the pinch. Every kid glued to their iphones, ipads... or whatever brainbender device knows how to get it free. Why spend $2 when sites are offering it up at no cost 24/7???

We all complain that movies are turning into glorified commercials, but with so much risk involved people like a bit of insurance...


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Holmes


Oy! I don't know how I missed this, but BBC released a version of Sherlock in July and August this year! What is this?? Three ninety minute dramas with fresh new faces??? Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) and Martin Freeman (Watson). Will be on PBS Masterpiece soon...

Episode 1: A Study in Pink
Episode 2: The Blind Banker
Episode 3: The Great Game

Interesting... must find online links....

Sometimes I really think Norman Jewison hit the nail on the head. Film is really going to the dogs and the television format is the future. With Game of Thrones, Boardwalk, The Borgias and Terra Nova... not to mention all the great shows already airing.. it makes you wonder why we all spend $15 for an overpriced bag of popcorn and bubble gum remakes.

If you have a particularly gifted producer / creative head, a few productions manage to select exceptionally appropriate and phenomenal music. Azure Ray's music was a great find...

Strange thing when you watch television shows you don't understand?? I've managed to find quite a few bands from Asia, Sweden.. and even North America which I wouldn't necessarily have found. I may not understand one word of it, but the enjoyment of music is universal.

TV finds..
Tearliner, The Avalanches, Adele Erichsen, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, L'Arc en Ciel, Bluedawn, X Japan, Tokio Hotel, Mika

Monday, September 13, 2010

I'm starting to get nauseated from all the gossip mongering from friends and co-workers about celebs and parties that are rockin' all over town.

It's like a broken record.

The hype is in full force, from The Town, Buried, Conviction, Little White Lies, Waiting for Superman, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and of course The King's Speech... Oscar buzz is hard to avoid as people hover around the Yorkville area hoping for a glimpse of the pampered elite and infamous.

Ever feel let down from critics raving over EVERY bloody film out there? That's all I'm hearing... "It was fantastic, what an unbelievable film blah blah blah." In a way, that's Toronto's problem. They love EVERYTHING! It's like the anti-Cannes who hates everything but shit that makes you want to kill yourself.

I'm trying to avoid a repeat of watching too many dee-pressing Oscar fare in a short period of time. The intense drama can make you want to climb over the railing, plunging into the abyss if you aren't careful. Gotta mix. Scary crap, kleenex fare, docs that get you pissed off, and stories that make you pee a little. Now that's a great festival.

I saw Easy A and The Town, both a bit overrated for my taste. Julia's Eyes and I Saw the Devil next... From slashfilm.com a DC comic tribute to Calvin and Hobbes. You can read it on imgur.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Black and White

TEKKON KINKREET

I love great art & photography books. It's depressing to watch the trend of photo collaging destroy everything that was once inspired.

Time is money. Or so I've been told...

Fortunately there are still a few traditionalists who put the pencil to the paper.

A chill

HBO has released a new teaser trailer to the upcoming series based on George R.R. Martin's first book, Game of Thrones starring Sean Bean.

It looks great.. but truly a short teaser. Raven

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Smug Canucks

Canadians to my utter amazement are as chipper as can be. I keep on hearing from Vancouver natives, oh but it's Vancouver, real estate will never crash. Or, "oh it's all the foreign money, the Chinese keep on buying, buying, buying." My question is: "Are the Chinese on Crack?" Why the heck are they buying a house that would at most fetch.. say $250,000 in America for well over one million dollars??

There's an infuriating amount of smugness in the Canadian media. Of how we are better than our southern counterparts, that our financial systems is sooooooo much better. I'm no financial expert but I know this much...
I smell a rat. Don't get me wrong, I believe that Canadians are so deluded that this may well continue for a few years, but make no mistake... the guillotine will fall.

Here's a hilarious questionnaire... I got 10 out of 16



Friday, September 10, 2010

film and stars

Toronto is a glow with the up and coming Film Festival and for once I actually won a contest to attend!

Pity I'm up to my bloody neck in work and probably won't be able to go to most of them. While every nerd "casually hangs out" at popular celebrity restaurants to star watch I'll be avoiding those spots like the plague.

If you've ever lived in T.O. like I have, most of those restaurants are a bore, and even worse, attract people who are annoying as hell. Actors for the most part are just regular people who fight and bitch about getting better lines to say, and worry about screen time.

There are of course those popular, hyped films like Black Swan, Biutiful, 127 Hours... but why wait in a long line up paying DOUBLE the price of the ticket when the film is going to come out in the next month? Idiotic. The festival has exploded, with climbing ticket costs and larger crowds. B-O-R-I-N-G!

If you're going to see something, see a flick that will likely get a limited release or none at all. After all... isn't that why you go to the film festival, to see a wider, more eclectic variety of cinema? Unfortunately Studio Ghibli's film THE BORROWERS will not be showcased in Toronto...

On a more interesting front, Jonathan Stroud is out with his newest novel, Heroes of the Valley.

Title? Mediocre. I heard it's a slower read but not half bad... next on my list!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Post date

How many weddings have you gone to? Most are boring as hell. Even worse? When you know you forked out a lot of cash and then POOF! A year later the couple is separated and headed toward DIVORCE. What do you do when you're about to attend someone's FOURTH wedding??

Ever contemplate post dating a cheque?? If you stay married one year it's fifty, if you pass three years, one hundred, five years two hundred and so on... The party, the flowers, the mediocre food, the bad music, the stilted conversations and cheesy photos. I could go on and on.

In this day and age, when money is the number one cause for divorce why do people piss away their best chance at a long lasting marriage?!? ELOPE DAMMIT!!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Texan burial


Austin, Texas is holding a contest where four lucky winners will be chosen to watch then entire film 'BURIED' in a coffin. The "Buried with Buried: Rolling Roadshow of One" event sounds sort of lame unless you get you very own tombstone inscribed afterwards.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

White, yellow, red, brown..

Canucks certainly know how to piss around. Lately I've revisited the "politically incorrect" hilarious site Stuff White People Like and other satirical blogs aimed at ethnic groups.

Stuff White People Like, created by Christian Lander and co-authored by Myles Valentin is a hilarious poke at the "typical white educated yuppie". With their list covering such topics as:

#58 Japan
"But it goes beyond just food, all white people either have/will/or wished they had taught English in Japan. It is a dream for them to go over seas and actually live in Japan. This helps them not only because it fills their need to travel, it will enable them to gain important leverage over other white people at Sushi restaurants where they can say “this place is pretty good, but living in Japan really spoiled me. I’ve had such a hard time finding a really authentic place."

#40 Apple Products
"When you ask white people about Mac’s they will say “oh, it’s so much better than Windows,” “it’s just easier to use,” “they are so cutting edge,” and so forth. What’s amazing is that white people NEED to meet people who use Windows to justify themselves spending an extra $500 for a pretty looking machine."

#15 Yoga
"Yoga is also an expensive activity. It gives white people the chance to showcase their $80 pants. The cost of four yoga classes is equal to the amount of money it would take to pay for uniforms and travel costs of an AAU Basketball team in the inner city. "

#2 Religions that their parents don't belong to
"opular choices include Buddhism, Hinduism, Kabbalah and, to a lesser extent, Scientology. A few even dip into Islam, but it’s much more rare since you have to give stuff up and actually go to Mosque.

Mostly they are into religion that fits really well into their homes or wardrobe and doesn’t require them to do very much."


Need a laugh? Check out the full list.

Does that sound like anyone you know?? I couldn't stop laughing because I fit into at least half of the selection, I'm certainly no organic/vegetarian, yoga lovin', non-tv watching, pot smokin junkie... but I do love my tea and Apple products! The most popular, and hilarious posts were #11 Asian Girls and of course #116 Black Music that Black People don't listen to anymore.


Before anyone gets really offended, there are other fun sites such as The Angry Black Woman, Ask a Korean!, Ask a Jew, Ask a Mexican (The Original conception), the Unapologetic Mexican, and the Angry Asian Man.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

For the birds

comics = movie
cheesy tv shows = movie
boardgames = movie
videogames = movie.

We've evolved. Next step. Reported on Variety/Gawker is the next wave of Hollywood fodder... the iphone game = movie.

Angry Birds (game maker Rovio), one of the best selling games on the iphone, soon to be a plush toy... is now in talks with studio moguls to spin the product into a full fledged movie. Now that really is crap-tastic. Get ready for a seizure inducing 3D animated ninety minute cracker.

Excellent.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Risk

'Boy Meets Coil' The anonymous video "The Pitch" posted by screenwriter John August.

A funny, jaded and horrifyingly honest view of where Hollywood is going... watch here

Risk

That's something executives are no longer willing to do.

Ouija, Monopoly, Risk, Operation.. boring boring boring... what am I saying? It'll probably make money. You know it's downhill when there's a Monopoly movie 3.. or Clue the Sequel.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

THE COVE


The Cove is a must see. I've been to Seaworld once as a child in San Diego. I honestly found it boring and preferred going to the beach. The idea of a circus, lion tamer, dolphin tamer... as a child I didn't get it. I always wondered why the animal didn't just kill the trainer.

There was a similar joke when I visited a zoo where there was a raccoons in a cage... ten feet from me were a family of baby raccoon scrounging in the garbage. Ridiculous.

It does make you contemplate how any parent would choose to bring a child to Seaworld after seeing this documentary.

Trailer here

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Spiders on the wall

I love poking around to see what's around the corner. Scripts optioned, Comics bought, deals signed, as new fresh talent break through the glass ceiling and into the public radar.

Who, what, where and when?
There is so much promise... with David Fincher signing on to both 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' and '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea', or Alfonso Cuaron's next feature 'Gravity', there's a strange buzz in the air. Hype hype hype. It worked for Inception but fell flat for Scott Pilgrim.

What happened to Ang Lee's try at 'Life of Pi'?? It sounds like an impossible feat, but if anyone can pull off a difficult self contained drama... it's him.

Kids sometimes need a kick in the pants during summer months. Glued to their monitors, playing endless videogames or hopefully outdoors getting some exercise. Lately it's been reported that students perform poorly in school if they are given longer than a month off during summer. Surprised? Why should anybody be? Who gets that much time off anyhow??

Best way to inject some grey matter into the summer sluggish months is to read a book. I usually read the book first, so I can recommend a series without any reservations. It leaves the conversation open, did they like it? What did they find frustrating, confusing, interesting, smart, funny...?

I couldn't get through The Thief Lord and wasn't too hot on Inkheart... and guess what? None of the kids liked it either! There's certainly a tier level when it comes to young adult fiction. There's the campy popular drivel that satisfies your basic cravings (Twilight, City of Bones, Magyk etc. etc..), and then there are the rare and heart wrenching, novels that catapult a teenager into the wide array of adult fiction (Bartimeaus Trilogy, The Book Thief, Lord of the Rings, The Chysalids, Sabriel, Watership Down, The Ousiders).

It's all about careful selection. Ask the kid what they like, what they watch, and ease them in slowly. Some take an instant liking to books of all sorts, some see reading as "uncool, or nerdy" and never crack open a book. Sometimes manga/comics are a better fit.

Manga (It's all strange and foreign to some... but sometimes that's the appeal)
Fullmetal Alchemist, Naruto, Bleach, Hana Kimi, Vampire Knight, 20th Century Boys

Comics (well manga means comics but I refer to 'manga' for Asian books)
Scott Pilgrim, Y the last man, Persepolis, Tin Tin, Watchmen (not for me), Spiderman etc.. etc..

It's a wonderful world that no one should ever miss.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vexed

Foyle's War was a hit, but so far the reviews have not exactly been warm for BBC's new comedy show 'Vexed'. (clip here) Surprising since they have a very talented Toby Stephens and Lucy Punch. There's also Showtime's excellent original series 'The Big C' starring Laura Linney.

Well that show sounds a lot better than what's up and coming on the big screen. Sick of superheroes? So am I. Sadly... that's not all you're going to be sick of.

During comic con there was a huge marketing campaign for two films that sounded relatively the same. I'm talking about Skyline and Battle: Los Angeles. Two huge special effects driven Alien invasion films that had ads plastered all over buildings, t-shirts and flyers. Unfortunately those two films mark the first wave of an already overly saturated market (Cowboys and Aliens, Splice, Terminator 4). Battle for La, The Darkest Hour, Dark Skies, Battleship, Among Us, and Pacific Rim are also coming our way.

I'm tired of it all already and hoping that Spielberg won't delay 'Lincoln' any longer.. would be a nice change of pace.

On the bright side, lately I've been hooked to an onslaught of quality foreign television, books, movies and food. Rather than watch another disappointing film for $15 I've opted to turn back and see what I've missed.

EUROPE
Cache
Let the Right One In
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Talk to Her

ASIA
Bodyguards and Assassins
Mother
I Saw the Devil
Red Cliff
Nobody Knows (2004)
5 centimetres per Second

USA
The Big C
The Wire
Burn Notice


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

teevee

Investing time to read can provide an endless source of entertainment that can be quite intoxicating. Especially during the summer months at a cottage (if you're lucky). It's a relaxing break from the constant barrage of super hero adaptations and vampire obsession that has taken a suffocating hold in the media and hollywood.

On the plate? Dante's Club. Not sure if it'll be good.. but after the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ... I'm lovin' crime stories.

If you do need to see visuals and reading is not your thing, why not try something new? I'm a big fan of television lately, many of the best writers have slowly migrated to the small screen as of late. I even watched a number of Australian, Korean and Japanese shows. Some of it is absolute crap, but like trying a new kind of food you've never had, it requires a certain amount of bravery and a developed palette.

The list is rather haphazard, since they mix it all in which doesn't make it easy for people who a picky about genres. After all, I know a number of people who just hate old television or film. Is it the pacing? Who knows.

Here's a list of random stuff depending on genre...

Family drama
Twin Peaks (one of the best!) Mad men, Queer as Folk, Six Feet Under...

Period/Romance
Pride and Prejudice, Brideshead Revisited, Upstairs Downstairs, Forsyte Saga, Horatio Hornblower

Lost in Austen
For all those Jane Austen fans who wish they were in Lizzie's shoes. Mr. Darcy wet? Check. Naughty Mr. Wickham? Check? Pain in the ass heroine? Check. Highly original? Double Check.

Mystery/Crime/War
Foyle's War, Bodies, Cracker, Prime Suspect, The Good Wife, Sopranos, Inspector Morse, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Mentalist, Band of Brothers

Life
What happened to this show? What a great premise, with Damien Lewis (Band of Brothers) starring as a brilliant LAPD detective Charlie Crews is exonerated after serving twelve years in jail for a crime he never committed.

Scfi/Fantasy
X-Files (first few seasons), Twilight Zone, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek Next Generation (after season 2), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood

Firefly
Joss Whedon's fantastic voyage filled with humour and action. It's a crime that it didn't last longer than one season. What was everyone thinking?? Why, why, WHY did they end this show? Although there was a movie (Serenity), it was only a sad reminder of what could've been if the show continued.

Next? Korean & Japanese cinema... bad English subtitles can kill you though.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Comics and hysteria

I recently went to comic con with a friend... what a puzzle it all is. Waiting in line for coffee between Thor and a Klingon while they adjust their outfits... The amount of free swag, dizzy array of promotions, banners and unending line ups can give anyone a severe headache.

Dressed up fans are treated like rockstars and the frenzy for a sneak peek of a highly anticipated movie is astonishing.

Most interesting upcoming flicks?
Probably Scott Pilgrim, Cowboys and Aliens and especially Don't be Afraid of the Dark (fantastic teaser).

It's been a pretty dry year for films, Inception was a nice change. I've seen frequent "best film ever rating" for Inception which should always be taken with a grain of salt since the person is probably 18 years old and hasn't seen a lot of films yet. It's exciting and certainly fun, similar to Paprika and a few Japanese films of the past.

Perhaps I'm a bit tired of the constant visual stimulation. After five days of watching film panel after film panel I'm left with the feeling that I've been fed nothing but vapid entertainment (Tron 2, Skyline, Battle Los Angeles, Salt, Green Lantern, Thor), rather than a true gut wrenching experience. It's sadly becoming common for Hollywood to hire commercial/music video directors who lack the foundation of storytelling and thirst for reading to truly stretch the mind. A pity.

There was a staggering amount of marketing for films and television that distributed t-shirts, books, stickers, temporary tattoos, freebie giveaways, and huge billboards plastered on hotels which will all lead to $$$.


Poirot's Murder on the Orient Express? Link here to watch! (links to other sections on youtube right)
Do you miss Hastings? I do. Here's an old Poirot: The Adventure of the Clapham Cook here


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Murder!

A very different take on Murder on the Orient Express last Sunday. Less polished, with a handheld technique that gave the experience an altogether more tense scenario. Diminishing the lustre of the famed Orient Express, it focused on Poirot's struggle with his views on justice and punishment. As a fan of the books I am curious how they will slowly arc Poirot's internal struggle of moral justice in his final bow "Curtain".

Overall? It's not a favourite unfortunately, and I do prefer the recent adaptation of Hallowe'en Party, (new online version link to part 1 of 9 here).. but I'm glad they made it.

Another new Mystery episode? One of Agatha Christie's best, The Pale Horse. The change? Adding Miss Marple into the story, perhaps a rather unnecessary addition.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Q & A

Conan O'Brien - Inside the Actors Studio 1/9 here

Before the s**t storm of controversy and downfall of his job as host of the Tonight Show.

A few other wonderful comedians...
Chris Rock here
Ricky Gervais here
George Carlin here
Eddie Murphy here
John Goodman here
Jason Bateman here

Simpsons here