Archive for the “Movies” Category

There are four movies that you have to watch in the next 10 days, and all of them should be airing on broadcast TV in that time.  Without these movies, I believe it is physically impossible to enjoy your Christmas season and you will slowly turn into a Grinch.

The first is A Christmas Story, the tale of a young boy in the 1950s who wants nothing more for Christmas than a Red Ryder BB gun.  It’s funny, wistful and harkens back to a more innocent time in American history when kids licked flagpoles, lamps were made of mannequin legs and Ovaltine was bountiful and disgusting.

Second is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, in which our intrepid hero Clark Griswold discovers the true meaning of Christmas amid firey felines, an invasion of relatives and the best toboggan scene in modern film.  One tip for further enjoyment is to take a drink of Egg Nog everytime you hear the name “Rusty”.

Third is the timeless classic It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed about a man who fails to see the good he’s brought to the world until he’s teamed up with his guardian angel.  If you can make it through the entire movie without shedding a tear, you are nothing but a robot and you don’t deserve to celebrate Christmas at all.

The final film is the greatest Christmas movie of them all; Die Hard.  Aside from being the pinnacle of this awesome action movie franchise, it tells a Christmas tale as timeless and traditional as Christmas itself.  Well, not really, but it’s got “Christmas in Hollis” in the soundtrack and lots of stuff exploding, not to mention some awesome one-liners like “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs” and “we’re gonna need some more FBI guys, I guess”.  Classic.

There you go.  Everything you needed to make this the best Christmas ever.  You’re welcome.

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Sorry for the late post, but an impromptu trip to MEC to find out about some minor repairs to a Gore-Tex jacket resulted in an even more impromptu trip to the ScotiaBank Theatre.  For the first time in my life, I saw a movie alone and given that it was a matinee in a near empty theatre meant that it was a pretty great experience.

It was the kind of movie that I would have ended up renting anyways as I’m not sure that Inglorious Basterds is really the kind of movie just anyone would enjoy.  To say it was violent and graphic would be a bit of an understatement, but it was also quite funny and very witty.  In classic Tarantino style, it also moved painfully slowly at points, but the heightened drama only made it a better film.  I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it’s not exactly a date movie.

Matinees are pretty sweet, but if I do this again, I might go to Rainbow Cinemas where you pay much less for a daytime ticket.

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Before I saw The Watchmen, I had been told that reading the graphic novel before seeing the movie would probably help tie some things together, but it was far from necessary.  Well, having seen the movie and not read the book, I don’t feel I missed anything.  It was a very tight story that, despite being a bit slow at times, explained itself quite well.

I should probably explain that I’m not a “comic book guy” and knew very little about The Watchmen aside from rumours about a movie version and knowing it was about superheroes.  Not being one of the fanboys took nothing away from my enjoyment of this film.  I can say that if you don’t enjoy weird elements in a character-driven story, this might not be the film for you.

Basically, it’s a whodunnit that explores some of the darker parts of our humanity while showing how redemptive we can be at the same time.  Yin and yang, etc.

I recommend seeing it, but at over three hours, be sure to lay off fluids for a few hours before.  Also, there’s some CGI full-frontal male nudity.  And by some, I mean quite a lot.

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Friday night we headed to a house party near Riverdale Park (and the awesomely named ‘Necropolis’) for a going-away party held in honour of a c0-worker of Danielle’s.  I finally got to meet a whole bunch of her colleagues, and it was fun putting faces to names that I know so well.  Granted, the faces I’d envisioned were, for the most part, WAAAY off of what these people actually look like.

Saturday was day for errands and cleaning and yet another trip to Canadian Tire, where I drooled over Dremel attachments for a while.  I didn’t buy any new tools.  I also upgraded my blogging software from WordPress 2.6 to 2.7.  The new backend is pretty slick, but you probably won’t notice any changes as readers.  In the evening, we headed back to Landon’s place for the second half of his Ukrainian Christmas party where we ate more perogies and borscht and laughed until our bellies were sore.

Sunday, I woke up with a painfully sore wrist, which was especially bad as I was playing guitar in church that morning.  I thought I may have slept on it wrong, but since I have a sore toe on the same side, I’m starting to wonder if I banged into our doorframe in the middle of the night while sleepwalking.

Last night, we finally got around to watching Atonement, and neither of us were all that impressed.  Still, I was glad to find that it wasn’t just a sappy romance story, but it was pretty slow-moving.  I’m hoping that 2009 will include at least a couple of movies that knock my socks off.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

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Nearly every checkbox on my many lists now contains a deliberate and dark checkmark.  That means that all my laundry is done, folded and packed away with my camera gear and various other travel must-haves.  In short, I’m ready and it only took most of the weekend.  That’s good news as our flight leaves at 11pm tonight, and by dawn here in Canada, we’ll be eating tapas and paella in the Spanish sunshine.  Giggity.

While we’re gone, you can rest assured that there will be new content in here daily on weekdays thanks to a long list of very gracious guest bloggers who will regale you with tales of… well, whatever they decide to write about.  I don’t really have any idea what that will be, but I trust these guys, so it’ll be good.

To take a break from our packing, we decided to watch a movie we thought would be good, but it wasn’t.  Take it from me, the movie “21” isn’t worth two hours of your life.  At best, it would make a good hour-long episode of TV, but as a movie, it was really slow.  The ending is pretty good, but getting there takes about twice as long as it should… maybe longer.  We paid just over $6 to rent it, and then “Amelie” was on for free as part of the preview package for IFC that was running this weekend. So, if you ever catch yourself wondering if you should watch 21, watch Amelie instead.

I guess that’s it.  I’ll be popping in a couple of times over the next couple of weeks, but for the mort part I’m out.  Wish us bon voyage, and be sure to keep reading!

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When I first wrote about the ShamWow last week, I did a quick Google search in order to include a link to the infomercial, and that first page of search results was chock full of awesome links about this nefarious product.  After posting, I read through some of them and realized that buying the product, even for the sole purpose of disproving the clearly-dubious claims, was going to be a huge waste of my hard-earned money, so instead of posting my own review, I’m going to write a bit about what I found out.

First of all, every consumer review I read likened the ShamWow’s absorption power to be no better than that of a cloth rag.  Essentially, an old raggedy t-shirt would do better at sucking up soda from a carpet spill and it holds far from its own weight in liquid, let alone the claim of ten times its own weight.  Nearly every comment also played on the fact that the ShamWow only lives up to the first part of its name.

Many of these reviews were personal comments by individuals on blogs or in web forums who purchased ShamWow over the phone from the TV ad, and about half were people like me, who wanted to try it for a laugh.  All were disappointed.  Other reviews were by consumer test groups and TV station news segments about consumer protection.  Also, disappointment was the theme.

Out of everything I read, nearly all of it was people ranting about how this product didn’t even come close to living up to the claims made by ‘Vince’, the tradeshow-style hawker.  They also commented on his insane style and his crazy headset, but one article was very different from the rest.

Seth Stevenson at Slate Magazine didn’t even try the ShamWow (as far as I can tell), but wrote a great piece back in May of this year called “Salesjerk: Meet the Next Great TV Pitchman” that focusses on what struck me most about the informercial, how Vince’s sales style is so different from informercial pitchmen in the past.  He’s no Ron Popeil (The Pocket Fisherman, The Ronco Rotisserie Grill, etc.) or Billy Mays (Orange Glow and OxiClean, or should I say “OXICLEAN!”), so rather than trying to woo the audience, he practically taunts you like you’re an idiot, and it’s spellbinding.

Aside from Stevenson’s awesome insight into what makes this infomercial stand out in the world of TV-based pressure sales, he also introduced me to one of the most intriguing characters of our time… Mr. Vince Offer.

Aside from being blown away that he used his real first name in the infomercial (although it does add to the realism of the Coney Island sales presentation), I learned that Offer did sales presentations at swap meets in order to fund his own movie, The Underground Comedy Movie, which sounds like one of the most unwatchable movies in the long history of moving pictures.  To say that I’m now tempted to watch it is an understatement, but I’m conflicted about seeing that much of the writer and director’s work in which he’s also an actor.  In lieu of actually watching the movie, just read this NY Times review and be sure to check out the credits at the bottom for even more laughs, especially thanks to Academy Award nominee Michael Clarke Duncan’s character title.

To make the jump from strange to outright weird, Offer’s life story also includes a lawsuit against the Farelly brothers alleging that they stole 14 of his movie’s scenes for use in “There’s Something About Mary”, and a massive falling out with the Church of Scientology over defamation and the resulting financial ruin that culminated in him suing the church.  I can’t make this stuff up, people.  This is one man’s life… in summary… on Wikipedia, just read it for yourself.

So, the next time you see Vince on TV telling you that you’re overspending on your paper towel budget, just remember that he’s a cultural icon in the making and you’ll soon see him headlining in a piece on Hard Copy (if it’s even still on the air), or hosting a talk show where paternity and lie detector tests are the norm.  Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Vince Offer.

Now, I’ve gotta go.  I’ve got a pesky soda stain on my carpet that I’ve got to take care of ASAP.

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If you’ve been reading here for a while, you might remember that I’m a pretty big into war movies and TV shows.  Not for the gore or the glorification of violence, but more from an historical perspective.  Back in 2005, HBO aired a show about the US invasion of Iraq called ‘Over There’ that I was really excited about, and then really disappointed by, so now I’ve learned my lesson about getting my hopes up.

So after hearing about a writer for Rolling Stone named Evan Wright who was embedded with an elite group of Recon Marines during the initial invasion of  Iraq, then finding his serial he wrote afterwards for the magazine and loving it, I was even more pleased to find out that he had turned those stories into a book.  It’s a great book called ‘Generation Kill‘ and it really delves into all the problems in the Iraq war, the mindset of the men fighting it and how much can wrong when everyone is trying to do what they think is the right thing.  I’m having trouble putting this book down and I’ve only had it for a few days.

Imagine my excitement when I heard HBO was making a miniseries based on the book!  Well, I didn’t let my hopes get too high, but the miniseries has now aired, the reviews are in and it’s awesome.  I’ve seen a few episodes and it’s well written, well shot and the characters and acting are great.  Bottom line, if you like war movies, you’ll love this show.  Ditto for the book.

That being said, both the book and the series have some of the most shocking language I’ve ever seen or heard, so this isn’t for the faint of heart.  Check out this trailer on YouTube, and visit the official site for the miniseries if you want more info.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find an actor in this series that you can name from previous work, although a handful are barely recognizable from bit-parts in other series’, but that adds to the feeling of realism.  There’s also a LOT of military technical jargon that is explained in greater detail in the book, but would be really boring to explain in a TV show.  Just ignore it and treat it as though you’re watching people from another world, which you are.  Check it out.

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Friday night, I scored awesome seats to the Blue Jays vs. Mariners game at the SkyDome, er Rogers Centre courtesy of my brother.  We were in the HSBC VIP section in the 200s just above home plate and in perfect alignment with the first base line.  For fans of baseball, you’ll probably recall that the Jays won the game in extra innings, so it was easily one of the best free baseball games I’ve ever seen from ridiculously comfortable seats that include seat service.

Saturday was ‘errand day’ at our house.  After sleeping in a bit, I picked up a new flush arm for our malfunctioning toilet and replaced it (marking my first real ‘plumbing job’, arguably the easiest one in a long list of plumbing jobs) to make our toilet fully functioning.  Then, the cleaning of the house began in earnest.  Most of our camping equipment was still out and about in various states of cleaning or airing, so everything was catalogued and put back in its proper place.

After humming and hawing about checking out Jazzfest, we opted instead to BBQ some tasty steaks and then take the streetcar out to Little Italy for ice cream.  Danielle has convinced me that my long and complicated relationship with ice cream needs to be documented in classic Dave Duncan form (sarcastically, that is) so I’ll probably write a short story about my love/hate relationship with the frozen treat (mostly ‘hate’) in the near future.

On Sunday, we headed to MEC after church to update our camping gear from ‘single Dave’ quality to ‘married couple’ quality.  That meant getting a second sleeping bag (the MEC Oasis, for warm and cool weather), a much larger tent than my ideal canoe tripping tent, the Tarn 2 (we got the spacious Wanderer 4 with the optional second vestibule) and various specialty camping gear cleaning products.  Danielle also picked herself up a new bookbag, marking her first MEC-branded purchase.  I’m slowly converting her to a lifetime of devoted MECism.

After a leisurely afternoon rollerblading in Ashbridge’s Bay, we headed downtown for an evening showing of The Dark Knight.  What can I say about this movie that hasn’t already been said?  Well, for one, I was disappointed not to hear one of my favourite Batman-related movie lines in this film; “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?  I ask that of all my prey.  I just like the way it sounds”.  Aside from missing that line, this movie had it all.  If you haven’t seen it yet, fork over your money and stand in line, you won’t regret it.

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