Archives for the month of: August, 2012

My brother loves beer. He has something of a reputation among friends and family of always having few different, interesting kinds of beer around the house and, if he shows up at yours, he will bring at least four different kinds – no wine, just loads of beer.

A couple of years ago he decided that he needed to know more about beer and took a beer course, level 1. In the fall of last year, he took the level 2 and my sis-in-law gifted him a tour of some of the microbreweries in and around Ontario with 3 friends on a day of his choice.

He really loves beer.

As with anyone who loves something, he is always seeking to share his love of beer with others – there is nothing more fun for my bro than to find an obscure beer and introduce it to someone in his life and have them fall totally in love with the beer.

To his great disappointment, 2 of the most important women in his life, who are legal to drink, hate beer.

And, yes, I am one of them.

Every time I have a visit with my bro, I humour him, he brings a beer over to me, tells me about it – what the brewery is and why this beer is special, what he loves about it. It may be an imported German beer, it may be a beer with dark chocolate overtones or a beer that has coffee thrown in near the end. I’ve tried porters, India Pale Ales, stouts…and not liked a single one.

Finally, last Thanksgiving, he found two beers that I liked.

The first was this seasonal, only at Thanksgiving pumpkin beer. I don’t know exactly what it was about the pumpkin, but the stuff tasted great!

The second, however, the second tasted like spring water. Clean, refreshing, crisp and refreshing. It is another special, seasonal beer that you can only get in the fall. I had a couple of bottles as my bro snapped pics, told people about me drinking beer, and crowing about how he *finally* found a beer for me.

After that dinner, the beer was no longer available, replaced by the winter seasonal beer. Which I hate.

You can imagine my thirst when late last week my bro posted a FB message letting me know that this wonderful beer is now back.

Yes!

As soon as I saw the message I was out the door, on a mission – I was going to buy the beer, bring it home and share a bottle with my dad.

I got to the first place the beer would be, didn’t even glance twice at the sparkling wine section, and headed straight to the beer section.

Bottles, cans, singles, 12 packs, 6 packs…

And my beer was no where in sight.

So, I did what any little sister in this situation would do.

I called my bro.

No answer.

I stay calm and look around again.

Nope.

I call my bro’s other number.

Still no answer.

I’m having a beer emergency here and my bro is like out or something!

I stay calm and go to the second place.

My beer isn’t here either.

Apparently, even though the beer is available for sale, it isn’t available in the section of the city where I live yet.

What?!

That strikes me as totally crazy – I’m thirsty here!

Ok.

I stay calm.

Today I needed to be at work 45minutes early to coordinate a videoconference.

The upside, when I get in early, I can go home early!

So, I figure, while I am off early, I will try a third store. ‘Cuz I haven’t found my beer yet.

I go past the sparkling wine, past the whiskey, past the rum – straight to the beer section.

And –

You know it.

Bottle, cans, singles, 12 packs, 6 packs…

And not one bottle of my beer in sight.

Somehow my bro’s love of beer has resulted in me being on a beer quest.

And I’m not exactly sure how that works.

Go figure.

“Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage: is directed by Sam Dunn and Scott McFadyen, written by Scott McFadyen, Sam Dunn and Mike Munn.

“Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage” is a documentary that tells the story of the rock band Rush and in addition to the narrative structure it also includes live concert footage, interviews with band members and various musicians from all genres.

Disclaimer: Rush is my brother’s fav band, so I saw this movie partly out of loyalty, partly out of patriotism and partly ‘cuz I heard it was really good movie.

If you love rock, I highly suggest seeing this movie. Not only it is an interesting chronicle of 3 rather normal guys from Ontario, Canada, it has some unexpected tributes from unexpected sources, such as Billy Corgan, Trent Reznor, Jack Black and Matt Stone.

The film watches rather like a buddy film, they may be a band first to fans, but these guys are friends, they get along, they like each other and have respect for each other. Individual comments from the band are revealing, sensitive and…normal. The best thing about this movie is it really shows how normal these 3 are, how they seem not to struggle with success or lack of it. These guys understand what it is to be outside the norm, be rejected, trying to be cool and failing.

But, they also constantly strive to be better musicians, they test themselves, they challenge themselves, and they work hard.

One of my fav parts of the movie was when drummer Neil Peart, one of the best drummers in the world, if not, the best, decides he isn’t good enough and goes to study drumming, breaks his technique down and re-builds it. And he does this after he is already one of the best, quite late in his career in fact.

Now, I admit a certain prejudice, I find Peart fascinating, ever since I was a kid and my brother made me read the lyrics on the liner notes of one of their albums, the lyrics were by Peart and were stunningly beautiful, intelligent, challenging, interesting and deeply rooted in literature. And then there is the drumming…

This film could have very well been a straight up “this the story of the bad” if not for near the end when the band speaks about Peart’s double tragedy of loosing first his daughter followed shortly by the death of his wife and the events that followed. This part of the film creates an emotional core to the film, one that is not easily shaken, and puts everything else into sharp perspective.

It was also fabulous to hear from some of the unexpected people who influenced them, Rush is a terminally un-hip and un-cool band that in spite of the fan loyalty and a truckload of albums has never been inducted into the Rock n’Roll Hall of Fame. And coolest of all – they don’t care.

Great film and very enjoyable, solid storytelling as well, as the story is broken down into understandable chapters that helps keep the context of music history.

My companions and I thoroughly enjoyed.

“The Running Man” is directed by Paul Michael Glaser, written by Stephen King (novel) and Steven E. de Souza. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Conchita Alonso and Yaphet Kotto.

I don’t even know how I found a screening on this, but having never seen it on the big screen, I knew it was worth the effort! The theatre was almost packed to the rafters and it was a joy to watch.

Cheesy one-liners, ridiculous premise, over the top bad guys and crazy fight sequences – this film is a riot a minute!

It is one of my guilty all-time faves and if you haven’t seen, you are missing out. I don’t know if you will be able to find it on the big screen, but it is pretty good on the small screen as well…

“ParaNorman” is directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell, written by Chris Butler.

This film is stop motion animation. Which is my favourite kind of animation!

The premise of this story is that a 11-year-old boy, Norma, sees and speaks to ghosts and suddenly has the responsibility of saving his town from a witches curse that sees them attacked by zombies.

When I saw the trailer for this film, I knew it was a must-see for me. Stop motion animation and zombies! Fun and looked like it was going to be loads of fun!

But, there is more going on in this film than the trailer leads a person to believe.

The film has this very sensitive, very sensible, conversation about bullying. Norman is an outcast, he is picked-on by his school mates and adults don’t like the look of him and view him with suspicion. He doesn’t fit anywhere and when a classmate extends friendship to him, Norman is unsure and awkward and even rejects the friendship.

I’m still not sure if this conversation and thought line was appropriate or needed, but it was mature and sensitive and reminded all of us that even adults can exercise poor judgment and the line between being a bully and being bullied is sometimes a matter of perspective.

One review I read said that these moments served only to remind us that bullies have feelings too, but I think that this belittles the message. The moment where Norman articulates “You were adults, you should have known better…” is like a kick to the gut. It is loaded and heavy and the shame it invokes is very real. As an adult, I hope I know better and I hope that no matter the circumstance, I always exercise my better judgement.

I think this is a great film to take a school-aged child to, especially if, after, you have the conversation about bullying and what it is to be a bully and someone who is bullied.

I’m not sure, though, that it had a lot in the way of humour for adults, as these films often do…the animation was great and there were some truly breathtaking moments, but the bullying conversation served to temper the humour.

A well-crafted film and one that you can regard as the beginning of an important conversation to have with the children in your life.

“Searching for Sugar Man” is directed by Malik Bendjelloul.

This documentary is about what happens when two South Africans try to find out how their musical idol died, Rodriquez.

I don’t know if you know who Rodriquez is. I didn’t, before I saw this movie.

He does this song. Which you’ve probably never heard before. Unless you live in South Africa.

He is an American, who recorded 2 albums back in the 1970s and, although widely anticipated to be hits, they went absolutely nowhere. They sold nothing in North America and the story is that they made it over to South Africa and bootleg copies started being made and sold. Everyone owned these albums – they were something naughty, certain songs banned and they help inspire the questioning of government authority and provided the back ground music to the overthrow of apartheid.

No one in South Africa knew anything about Rodriquez, he never visited or toured in the country. Then they heard that he committed suicide. He played a concert, that went very badly, pulled a gun out and shot himself.

Or.

He played a concert and at the end of the concert, he poured gas on himself and lit himself on fire.

One thing was for certain, the one thing that everyone knew for certain, was that he was dead.

So, two of his fans decide to go out and try to find out exactly how he dies.

And that is where this unlikely story really starts.

I don’t want to give anything way, but I will tell you that the story was unbelievable – people can’t make this stuff this up, it is life.

When the movie started, there was some strange animation that made me sign very deeply and think “oh well, here we go, some artsy animation that will not enhance the story at all”. Not true. The animation was lightly used and not overly artsy and absolutely centered the story in a time and place.

The music was incredible – every song had a groove and a familiar feeling, even though you’ve never heard it before. As a side note, the theatre that was showing this film was selling the recordings, but they kept selling out!

When the movie was over, my companion and I turned to each other and immediately started talking about what a crazy story it was, then one of the theatre’s volunteers got into the conversation as well. And we all agreed, yes, this story is crazy. And it really happened!

If you can, see this movie. It will keep you on the edge of your seat and by the end, you will only be able to shake your head, and you will want to buy the music as well…

 

 

“Singin’ in the Rain” is directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, story by Adolph Green and Betty Comdon, screenplay by Adolph Green and Betty Comdon. Starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds. “Singin’ in the Rain” was released in 1952.

Another one of my faves. I’ve probably seen this about 150 times. Or so. But this was the first time for the big screen.

Whoa!

Colours pop! Sound resonates. Amazing music, beautiful costumes, funny jokes and awesome dance numbers.

If you haven’t seen “Singin’ in the Rain” you are missing out – they don’t make films like this anymore. Simple, clean story line that gives us true love and goofy heroes that want to make us laugh.

The theatre was packed for this special showing, part of the ongoing Classic Movie Fest that Cineplex – the jokes sizzled and everyone was tapping their toes.

Before “The Artist” (my review), this was the film that provided commentary about the introduction of sound to moving pictures. In a 1950s way, so it is family friendly and has a happy ending.

This is another one of those movies that our culture owes debts to – even if you haven’t seen the movie, chances are someone, at some point in your life has made a “Singin’ in the Rain” reference. You may have even made on and not even known it.

If I was one to make lists, like of the 100 Movies to See in your lifetime, this one would have a place in the Top 10. GO! See this movie, enjoy this movie. Learn the words to the songs, try to do the dance steps, see if you can recognize Rita Moreno and be amazed at Cyd Charisse’s legs. And dare I say? Sing in the rain…

 

“Paul Williams Still Alive” is written and directed by Stephen Kessler.

You know who Paul Williams is.

I don’t know if you know who is he, but you do.

Ever heard “An Old Fashioned Love Song“?

How about “Evergreen“?

Maybe you know “We’ve Only Just Begun“?

Or “Rainy Days and Mondays“?

Or one of my personal favourites – “The Rainbow Connection“?

These are just a few of the songs that Paul Williams composed, and you know if he had only written “The Rainbow Connection”, he still would have put an indelible mark on our culture. And my heart.

See, in the 70s Paul Williams was everywhere, not just on The Muppet Show, but on The Tonight Show, in movies, The Love Boat and writing and composing songs for all kinds of people.

He, at 5’2, was also considered a sex symbol and, apparently, countless of young men idolized him…included Stephen Kessler, who, on finding out that Paul Williams is still alive and did not die young from any drug-related mishap, decided to do a documentary about him.

The film picks up in Winnipeg, Manitoba where Kessler attends a special showing of “The Phantom of Paradise” – which Williams is in and scored – and he first meets Williams and speaks to him about doing a documentary.

What follows is heck of a ride. Williams isn’t always the most cooperative of subjects and there is a great deal of meta going on, including a scene where Williams discusses with Kessler how best to do the movie “Do I ignore the camera – which seems a bit contrived? I’m an actor – I want to play to the camera, but that seems…should you be behind the camera and never seen…but if you step in front of the camera and are with me, well, then it becomes the Stephen and Pauly Show.” and Kessler isn’t the most experienced of documentary film markers.

The film contends with a slippery subject with humour and honesty and there are few completely uncomfortable scenes, including one where Williams turns off an old talk show recording and clearly states what he thinks of his younger self.

Kessler provides a ton of voice over that creates a very clear context for his context and the film in general – he spends a lot of time being a complete fan-boy, but his love and admiration comes through clearly and sincerely.

This a great documentary. One absolutely to see. If only so you will learn a little something about the person who wrote “The Rainbow Connection”…

I totally enjoyed it and I know the companions who joined me for this viewing did as well.

 

 

“Bugsy Malone” is directed by Alan Parker, written by Alan Parker. “Bugsy Malone” was released in 1976 and starred Jodie Foster and Scott Baio.

This film is one of the worst ever made.

I’m not even sure who thought that this concept was worth doing – a musical about adult subject, only cleaned up for children, starring children who lip synch to adults who are singing the songs. In 1930s Chicago where the guns are replaces by “splurge guns” that shoot whipped cream and cream pies that also result in the young actors’ being “finished”. The climax of the movie is a massive cream pie fight where everyone ends up completely covered and a mess.

It is terrible – the writing, the acting and the story makes little sense.

But.

Never underestimate the power of nostalgia – my mum found this movie and passed it along to me when I was a kid and I watched and watched and watched it. Even then, I knew it was so very bad. And still, I loved it.

The production value is low, the children often get dance moves wrong. Pure hilarity, pure camp.

I convinced a friend of mine who really digs camp and bad movies to join me and I went on and on about how bad this movie was until she finally had to say that she hoped it lived down to her expectations – it did.

Of note, this is the movie that introduced the world to Scott Baio, his very first role, also Jodie Foster who by this film, was already a seasoned actor. The music is by Paul Williams, who you may know from writing, among other songs, “The Rainbow Connection”. Alan Parker, the director and writer, went on in his career to also make”Fame”, “Pink Floyd The Wall”, “Mississippi Burning”, “The Commitments”, “Evita”, “Angela’s Ashes”…

So.

Look, this film was made by some pretty talented people, but unless you have some time to waste and a love of camp and truly horrid movies – pass on this movie!

 

“Kumare” is directed by Vikram Ghandi.

This film describes itself as a “documentary” of a man (Vikram Ghandi)  who presents himself as an Indian Guru, creating false meditations and based on made-up deep yoga practices, building a following in Arizona and at the height of his popularity must reveal himself as a fraud to his followers.

Um, I don’t think this should be called a documentary. I mean, sure, it documents what happens when someone presents themselves in a false way to others, but the film-maker sets up the premise to see what would happen if…It isn’t like he is in any way impartial or just finds out about a situation and captures it on-film or edits it or what not…he is the main mover and the film is about him and his experience.

This film is more accurately non-fictional narrative. He is telling a story that he put in motion and explores themes of identity, truth, illusion, reflection, teaching, being a student and being genuine to people in our life.

It is also somewhat activism as well, challenging others who present themselves as gurus to prove what they offer their followers.

The film-maker neatly sets up his reasoning for why he thinks/feels this fraud is  important. He uses voice overs to keep the audience engaged and aware of his own struggles about the deception and the things that are going on in his mind. He never lets us forget that he is engaging in a fraud, but interestingly enough, he never actually lies to his followers – in his guru personae he is always very clear in that he doesn’t have any special insights and doesn’t know anything more than his followers, he says he is the biggest liar and fraud of them all…

That he never actually lies or exploits his followers for money or sex or asks anything of them, but presents himself as something so removed from what he really is makes for interesting and troubling viewing.

We know these people are following and learning from someone who is, in effect, pulling a prank on them for the sake of movie. And this alone makes for some pretty uncomfortable and interesting viewing.

There are plenty of interesting scenes, but the scene that is most interesting and troubling is the scene where he reveals himself as just a young guy who really doesn’t know anything more than anyone else. I was on the edge of my seat watching this play out and I know that you will be as well.

I’m not sure how wide the release is for this movie, but if you can see this film, I highly recommend it. It is well-worth the price of admission and even more so, if you bring along a friend who likes to talk about film all the better.

I’m not sure this is an ethical film, but it is a great film.

And I’m also not sure what Ghandi is going to do as a follow-up to making this film, it isn’t like he can run the fraud again and make another movie. Can he?

 

 

“Total Recall (2012)” is directed by Len Wiseman, screenplay by Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback, screen story by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, Jon Povil, Kurt Wimmer,  inspired by the short story “We Can Remember it For You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick…and the film “Total Recall” released in 1990.

The film premise is that a man who is disillusioned with his life (job, wife etc), having recurring nightmares goes for a visit to Rekall which will give him false memories of living the life of a secret double agent. Unfortunately, the false memories go wrong – ‘cuz he really is a secret double agent who can’t remember his previous life.

The look of the film draws heavily (rips off) on “Blade Runner“, including the rain, lighted billboards and pan-Asian-multicultural diaspora.  It draws tech like hover cars from “The Fifth Element” and “Minority Report” and references “Johnny Mnemonic“. (note: “Blade Runner” and”Minority Report” were also inspired by Philip K. Dick short stories) (for those playing the home version, “Johnny Mnemonic” is based on a William Gibson story).

The look was great and casting – Colin Ferrel, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel – does a great job of acting and in action and fight sequences.

It was enjoyable…

But.

I’m not convinced that the world was crying out for a re-boot of “Total Recall”. The 1990 version was good sci-fi with loads of campy moments that kept people laughing and amused. This version is devoid of laugh lines, tension breakers and clever lines – it is grime and wet and dirty.

In this version, the Mars subplot is replaced with class tension and superficial conversation of equality, haves and have-nots and what haves will do to keep what they have. Nothing subtle happening here.

The fight sequences were cool, the tech was fine, but there wasn’t a lot original happening in this film.

Yes, I totally recalled seeing the same things in other films before this, perhaps this is the reason it was made?

As much as I enjoyed being reminded of past films – give this film a pass. See the original film instead – way funnier and doesn’t rip off the look of other films, it was more…original.