Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Conan O'Brien's Legally Prohibited tour brings plenty of laughs

I love Conan O'Brien. While I didn't religiously watched Late Night but when I did watch I thoroughly enjoyed Conan's humour. When he became the Tonight Show host last summer, I welcomed his earlier time slot and watched his first week and had plenty of laughs.

Unfortunately, I also didn't religiously watched him on the Tonight Show as I just can't stay up past 11pm anymore.

But when this whole debacle with Jay Leno came up, I was just hoping that Jay Leno would go away and Conan would stay. I was and still am on Team Coco and felt that Mr. O'Brien got the major shaft and Mr. Leno a douche.

Well NBC's lost is Vancouver's and TBS' gain and the rest of the 30 cities that he is going to on his Legally Prohibited to be Funny on Television tour that featured some familiar faces and some brand new material

Now this review will reveal a lot of what happened in his first of two Vancouver show that was held at the very hot and stuffy Orpheum so if you don't want to be spoiled on the jokes then stop reading ....NOW.

First off, we were treated to his warm up act, a gent that goes by the name Reggie Watt. And treated is too kind a word for this "comic." I am afraid to say that he sucked and I didn't find anything funny about his act and drifted off to La La La land until Conan came on stage.

When the lights dimmed again we were treated to Andy Richter reading off some audience notice before the show starts such as turn off all cell phones, heart monitors, Japanese robots, anything that might disturb us from enjoying the sweet honey dripping out of Mr. O'Brien's mouth and also due to unforeseen circumstances the part of Mr. O'Brien would be played by his understudy Sir Ian McKellan.

We were then shown what was happening to Conan one month ago and pretty much showing what has happened to him since he "left" the Tonight Show. We are shown Conan overweight with a Jesus length beard. It was pretty funny stuff and during the course of the video he gets offered the tour and starts to get in shape for it.

The Legally Prohibited Band, featuring LaBamba (but no Max Weinberg), entertained the crowd for a bit before Conan finally appears on stage with a beard and starts doing a monologue that includes a thinly veiled jokes on his situation with NBC, the Tonight Show and Jay Leno (whom he kept denying he was making fun but was making fun of his neighbour Joe).

I am trying to remember everything that happened so let's see. He went through things that he is legally not able to do especially having people that look like him appear on television, radio, Internet and movies so too bad we won't be seeing the girl from Wendy's and Tilda Swinton.

One of the jokes that I thought was pretty fun was Conan walking through Pidgeon Park and seeing a strung out trio of Olympic Mascot in particular Sumi who is having a rough time since the Olympics and Paralympics finished up.

Conan also went through the 8 stages of grief that every talk show goes through.

One lucky guy in the front row kept on wanting to take Conan's picture and Conan happily obliged and this guy was a butt of joke for the rest of the night as he continues to try and take pictures of not only Conan but also Andy.

Conan sang a song up his "rough" childhood as an upper middle class child in Brookline Mass. but the song was hard to hear the lyrics because something was off about the sound.

There was also another video of Conan as a network executive warning Conan that they are watching him and his show to make sure he isn't crossing the line while stroking a stuffed animal cat.

Conan also flashed some pictures of people that are allowed to be on television while he is not such as Kim Kardashian and Snookie.

Some old favourites appeared on stage like the Masturbating Bear but since he might be intellectual property of NBC, Conan renamed him the self-pleasuring panda who looked strangely cute.

Conan would throw to commercials on a couple of occasions with Andy reading ads from local Vancouver establishments like Japadog where Andy said a cart was located on Burrard and Smith not Smithe and another ad was for the Penthouse - a nudie house that's been around since the 1940s and same with the girls.

One of the funnier songs was one about a girl that Conan met in Spain that looked like Conrad Bain (the dad from Different Strokes). He also sang a song about wanting to get back on TV and mentioned his TBS deal in that.

Triumph the Insult Dog also made an appearance and everytime he goes to mention the city that the tour is in, a dubbed over voice would say Vancouver, British Columbia Canada, The Orpheum and I also heard CTV, Richard Brodeur and I think the Blenz on West Broadway.

Andy let us know the things he learned during his time off since the Tonight Show debacle and we got to talk to Conan and convinced him to lick LaBamba who apparently tasted like Funions.

Andy also turned a camera to the audience to find groupies and have to say some of the audience members were quite funny especially some weird guy that was standing behind one woman.

The former Tonight Show writer Deon Cole came out and did some stand-up.

However, the funniest bit that really got me going and I laughed so hard that I cried and my back was killing me was the whole Chuck Norris/Walker Texas Ranger bit -I've never seen this before when he did it on Late Night. But Conan would pull a lever and clips from Walker Texas Ranger would appear.

The gems include Walker getting hit out of nowhere by what seems to be a wing of a glider that Walker really should have seen if he had any peripheral vision -as Andy observed.

The second clip had some man opening a door into an apartment hallway and gets his leg stuck in a bear trap and Walker coming by just to say "Shut up" and punches him in the face.

I really started laughing at the scene where Walker is trying to propose to his girlfriend and when he does and goes to embrace her, he gets shot in the back.

However, the best came last where we treated to a very young Haley Joel Osment talking and out of the blue says "Walker tells me I have AIDS" and end scene. I was howling so much.

He sang one final farewell song and then for his encore he rocked the house down and even rocked in the audience.

I am so glad that I got tickets to this show. It was so funny, I never laughed so much in a span of 90 minutes.

I really hope that Conan's new TBS show gets picked up by a Canadian network or us Canadians get to see it somehow as Conan did say in his show tonight that Canadians were the first ones to get his humour when he first started his talk show.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Avatar a spectacle for the eyes but that's all

Finally. three months after Avatar was released in theaters and became the top grossing film of all-time (not including inflation) I got down to see the film.

Even after all this time, the theater was still quite full but luckily got good seats.

What is Avatar about? Here is the plot summary from Wikipedia:
The film is set in the year 2154, when humans are mining a precious mineral called unobtanium on Pandora, a lush moon of a gas giant in the Alpha Centauri star system.[5][6][7] The expansion of the mining colony threatens the continued existence of a local tribe of Na'vi—a sentient humanoid species indigenous to Pandora. The film's title refers to the genetically engineered Na'vi and human hybrid bodies used by a team of researchers to interact with the natives of Pandora.

So first off, you can't help but marvel what director James Cameron has done with Avatar. The visual effects are amazing -very colorful and visually stunning -that were enhanced by 3D technology but like Up last year, felt I could have seen this movie even in 2D. There were some moments that were really awesome in 3D like when Jake is first exploring the flora and fauna of Pandora but moments like those were few and far between.

The story or plot line itself is very basic, predictable and simple but was it wrong for me not to really care about the Na'vi people when they are about the annihilated by the Sky People. The dialogue is just as cheesy and stilted as Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and sometimes even Cameron's Titanic (the former #1 movie of all time) had some bad dialogue.

And I felt that Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) had no chemistry even if they are CGI characters and that "love scene" was very uncomfortable to even look at. But I did like Worthington, he was very easy on the eyes and you do get to see his character develop from a Marine following orders to someone that has bonded with the Na'vi and wants to what is right.

With all sci-fi movies, I can't help but compare some scenes to Star Wars like those Rhino-type animals coming to (spoiler alert) to the rescue in the final battle scene reminiscent of the Ewoks. Same with the village that Neytiri and her clan live at reminded me of the Ewok village. And one more thing, during the final battle, one of the ships goes down like the Super Star Destroyer did in Return of the Jedi.

But one thing that Avatar has over Star Wars is the special effects and that is what made an okay movie, spectacular.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Live Blogging the 82nd Annual Academy Awards

Okay, I've said this many times before so I will say it again. The Oscars is my Super Bowl. I look forward to this every year. This year I'm at a good friend's place catching all the action. Of course, this year, we have my annual bet with my brother. At stake for me: All You Can Eat Sushi. For my brother: Pho.

I am looking forward to seeing what Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin does as co-hosts. I've read that the opening is supposed to be good. Let's hope it doesn't disappoint.

5pm The Red Carpet is on now. Sherri Shepherd is doing this?!?@ and Kathy Ireland WTF?@#%

5:02pm I can't believe I am just complementing these women's dresses but I love Penelope Cruz's red dress. Anna Kendrick has a nice dress. Vera Farmiga's dress looks like one of those twirly things you see on people's balconies.

No more blogging about the red carpet until the actual show starts.

4 minutes to the Oscars!!!!!

5:30pm It's Oscar time. It's starting. Introducing the Best Actor and Actress in a leading world.
Very intereting. Weird how the actors got arm candy to lead them off the stage.

5:32pm Neil Patrick Harris!!!! He's singing. Singing about duos in Hollywood. Vegas-Style Dancers on stage with NPH!!! Big old-style Hollywood musical production number. "Two hosts to split the fee."

5:34pm That was actually a pretty good opening number. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin floating in.

5:35pm. Introducing themselves and their monologue is funny so far.

5:37pm Was a bit stilted for a bit but recovered with a nice joke.

5:40pm An Avatar joke.

5:42pm I felt that Matt Damon joke fell flat.

5:43pm Recovered again with a good Taylor Lautner and Zac Efron. Alec and Steve were both funny and stilted at times but overall they were good.

5:44pm First presenter up: Penelope Cruz. Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Me: Christoph Waltz. Justin: Christoph Waltz.

5:45pm These are long clips for the actors.

5:47pm The Winner is: Christoph Waltz. No surprise there at all. Me: 1 Justin: 1

5:50pm Ryan Reynolds is introducing The Blind Side. Go Canadian content.

5:55pm Steve Carrell and Cameron Diaz presenting Animated Featured Film. Me: Up. Justin: Up. I love the bit of interviewing the animated characters about their nomination. The Winner is Up. Me: 2. Justin: 2

6pm Amanda Seyfried and Miley Cyrus presenting Original Song. Me: The Weary Kind Justin: The Weary Kind. It's early this year because no one is singing it live.

Me: 3 Justin: 3

6:05pm Chris Pine introducing District 9.

6:11pm Robert Downey Jr. and Tina Fey doing the screenwriting category. Both are so funny. Original Screenplay. Me: Inglorious Basterds. Justin: The Hurt Locker. Winner: The Hurt Locker.

Me: 3 Justin: 4

6:17pm Molly Ringwald and Matthew Broderick doing a John Hughes tribute.

6:23pm Samuel L. Jackson is introducing Up. A great film.

6:27pm Carey Mulligan (love her) and Zoe Saldana to a Gigi song. Short Films. Live or animated? Ok it's animated. Me: A Matter of Loaf and Death Justin: Matter of Loaf and Death. It's Wallace and Gromit and I love Wallace and Gromit. Winner: Logorama. I had a feeling it was going to be an upset.

We are still status quo.

Doc short. Me: Music by Prudence. Justin: Music by Prudence. Winner: Music by Prudence. I thought that so weird of that woman to interrupt the dude. EW said it was like Kanye West in drag crashing the Oscars.

Me: 4 Justin: 5

Live Action short. Me and Justin: Abracadabra. The Winner: The New Tenants.

We are status quo.

6:37pm. Ben Stiller doing make-up for sure. This bit is going on for too long. Me and Justin: Star Trek. The Winner: Star Trek

Me: 5 Justin: 6

6:43pm Jeff Bridges is introducing A Serious Man

6:47pm Rachel McAdams (Can Con) and Jake Gyllenhaal. Adapted Screenplay. Me and Justin: Up in the Air. The Winner: Precious. This is an upset.

Status quo.

6:52pm. Queen Latifah presenting the Governor Awards, which is the lifetime achievement award Lauren Bacall

6:55pm Robin Williams is doing supporting actress since Heath Ledger can't do it. Me and Justin: Mo'nique. The winner: Mo'nique.

7:01pm Colin Firth introducing An Education. A great movie with a great cast like Carey Mulligan and Emma Thompson.

7:06pm Sigourney Weaver is doing art direction. Me and Justin: Avatar. Winner: Avatar.

7:08pm Costume design. Tom Ford and Sarah Jessica Parker. Why does Tom Ford looks like he wants to sleep. Me and Justin: The Young Victoria. The Winner: The Young Victoria. What I love about the film was the love story between Victoria and Albert.

What she said in her speech is so true though.

Me: 6. Justin: 7

7:12pm Charlize Theron is doing Precious.

7:16pm Harold Wheeler? The Dancing with the Stars dude.

7:17pm A Horror tribute -great my least favourite genre. The Paranormal Activity spoof was funny.

7:18pm Twilight's Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner doing the horror genre tribute. With the score New Moon playing underneath them. I am not even watching this. I am looking away from the screen. I just ate people. Totally unnecessary.

7:22pm Zac Efron and Anna Kendrick doing Sound Editing and Mixing. First up: Editing. Me and Justin: Avatar. The winner: The Hurt Locker.

Status quo.

Mixing: Me and Justin: Avatar. I am sorry the crap that was Transformers was nominated. The Winner: The Hurt Locker. Hmm. I sense that maybe the Hurt Locker is going to win Best Picture.

Status quo

7:28pm Elizabeth Banks doing the Science awards. Boring. Your boobies Elizabeth Banks.

7:29pm John Travolta doing Inglorious Basterds.

7:34pm Sandra Bullock. Loved Steve Martin's intro for her. Me: The Hurt Locker. Justin: Avatar. I think I might win here. The Winner: Avatar.

Me: 6 Justin: 8

7:37pm Demi Moore is doing the dead person's montage. James Taylor singing along as we look at the pictures of those that died last year. I didn't like it when they did it last year.

7:45pm Jennifer Lopez (who didn't trip) and Sam Worthington. Me and Justin: Up. They are dancing to the Best Score. I loved when they did this back in 1993. Why is the guy doing the robot for Up. Now we are getting somwhere with the ballet stuff for Up. Interesting to see who wins. The Avatar score wasn't bad. The Winner: Up Michael is wearing the Ellie badge just like Peter Doctor did.

Me: 7 Justin: 9

7:54pm Gerard Butler and Bradley Cooper doing visual effects. Me and Justin: Avatar.

Me: 8 Justin: 10. 30 minutes before the show is supposed to end.

7:56pm Jason Bateman is doing Up in the Air.

8:01pm Matt Damon is presenting Documentary Feature. Me and Justin: The Cove. A film about dolphin killing has got to win. The Winner: The Cove. Fisher Stevens -the Short Circuit dude. Nice going Fisher, hog the dudes acceptance speech.

Me: 9 Justin: 11

8:05pm: Tyler Perry is doing film editing. Me: The Hurt Locker. Justin: Avatar. Loved Alec and Steve in the Snuggie. The winner: The Hurt Locker.

Me: 10 Justin: 11 At least I am in double digits.

8:08pm Keanu Reeves is doing the Hurt Locker.

8:14pm Pedro Almadovar and Quentin Taratino. Best Foreign Language Film. Me: The White Ribbon. Justin: El Secreto de Sus Ojos. The Winner: El Secreto de Sus Ojos

Me: 10 Justin: 12 I officially lost even if I get Best Actress right, I still lose. Enjoy your Pho Justin.

8:18pm Kathy Bates is introducing Avatar.

8:23pm It is Best Actor. Tim Robbins, Colin Farrell, Michelle Pfeiffer, Julianne Moore and Vera Farmiga are introducing the nominees. They are doing what they did last year for this category. Me and Justin: Jeff Bridges. It looks like Colin Firth is going to cry after all the complimentary things that Julianne Moore is saying about him. Each of these people co-starred with the nominees in either the film they are nominated in or a previous film.

8:31pm Kate Winslet is doing the winner. Love her, so glad that she won last year. The Winner: Jeff Bridges.

Me: 11 Justin: 13

8:39pm Best Actress. Me: Meryl Streep. Justin: Sandra Bullock. Michael Sheen, Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Stanley Tucci and Peter Saarsgard are honouring each of the nominees. Gabby Sidibe is crying. What was the hand gesture that Tucci just did to Meryl?

8:47pm Sean Penn announcing the winner. Here we go. Let's who wins. The winner: Sandra Bullock. Enjoy this moment Sandra as it's going to be your last.

Me: 11 Justin: 14

8:52pm Best Director Me and Justin: Kathryn Bigelow. Barbra Streisand is presenting almost banking that Kathryn is going to win. I think it's about time that a woman wins this. The winner: Kathryn Bigelow. About time. Well deserved.

Me: 12 Justin: 15

The last category. Best Picture. Me and Justin: Avatar. Tom Hanks is introducing the last category of the night. The winner: The Hurt Locker. Well blow me away.

Status quo

Final tally Me: 12 Justin: 15

I thought it was a good show. Unpredictable at times. Thought Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin were funny and non-obtrusive.

Well that's another Oscars. See you next year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The decade that was for me

It's hard to believe that we are entering a new decade. I really find it hard to believe that 10 years have already passed.

For me these past 10 years have been challenging to say the least. First of all, I changed careers at the beginning of decade deciding to become a journalist.

In 2001, my dad got into a serious car accident that he truly never recovered from fully. 9/11 happened.

I graduated from J-school and walked away with many lifetime friends. I returned home to help my younger brother take care of our father. In 2002 started working at the Bay and ended up there for almost 5 years in customer service and only for the past 5 did I finally land a job in journalism.

As a tech journalist, it allowed me to travel the world (well just Shanghai) and some of the United States that I normally wouldn't have. It was a great experience that I truly will never forgot.

Another great event that happened this decade was first my older brother getting married to a great woman and then the birth of their daughter in 2007. She is definitely the apple of my eye.

Of course, this decade I moved to Toronto and lived their for four years. Despite a rough seven months, I slowly embraced and loved my time in the center of the universe. I enjoyed my jaunts to TIFF and my road trips to Niagara-on-the-Lake and Stratford to see great plays.

I also moved back to Vancouver a couple of years ago. A decision I don't regret despite leaving all the great friends that I made in TO but seeing my niece do adorable things everytime I see her made my decision much easier to take.

Does are my life's highlights but this is a blog for pop culture so here I am to name my tops in music, books, stage, TV and film.

For me music in the 2000s starts and stops with The Swell Season and the three albums that introduced me to their music: Once, The Swell Seaon and Strict Joy.

My favourite books of the decade are:

  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  • The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  • The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  • The Twilight Saga (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn) by Stephenie Meyer.
    I have to say that this was my surprise of the decade as I didn't want to love this book series but I did fall for it hard last year.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling (although I discovered the Harry Potter series at the beginning of this decade). I love this book series above all as it got me to read again. I didn't fall in love with Harry Potter, I wouldn't have read all the books that I have read over the last 10 years.

My favourite stage plays of the decade:

  • Bard on the Beach's 2002 Twelfth Night
  • Mirvish's Sound of Music
  • Mamma Mia
  • Jane Eyre the musical
  • The Music Man revival with Craig Bierko
  • Hairspray
  • Avenue Q

My favourite TV shows of the Decade:

  • Jon and Kate plus 8: I love this show before it imploded on itself this year. What I love about this show (and I think what most people love this show) is the kids. They are adorable and when I first discovered this show, my niece was just born and these kids with their Asian looks (especially Alexis) gave me a glimpse into what my niece would be like when she reached the ages the Gosselin kids were during the show.

  • Felicity. Sure the show started in 1998 but it ended in 2002 and if EW can select the Daily Show and The Sopranos (both shows started in the 1990s), why shouldn't I be allowed to pick Felicity. I related to this show as I was embarking on a new college career so it hit all the right notes at the right time. Plus I still would want Felicity to chose Ben over Noel. One of the things I remember was Season 3 premiered the night of 9/11 and it was a great respite from seeing all the horrors of the day.

  • Gilmore Girls: Lauren Graham and Alexis Bleidel's mother/daughter relationship was why this show worked plus the mile-a-minute dialogue and numerous hilarious pop culture references and quirky characters especially Mrs. Kim.

  • Battlestar Galactica: As a fan of the original cheesy 70s version, the re-imagining of BSG took it to a whole new level, in particular making it relevant to today's war environment. Plus it was neat that I knew Felix Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani) as my brothers were in the BC Boys Choir with him and those Centurions kicked some serious ass. The best moment of the show was when Galactica swooped in to rescue people off New Caprica.

  • How I Met Your Mother: This show is hilarious. I love the Slap Bet episode where we are first introduced to Robin Sparkles, which I think is the funniest episode of the entire show.

  • Veronica Mars: There was something very smart about this high school/mystery show. Kristen Bell was so great as Veronica with her witty remarks as she was doing her detective work made me love this show as well as the father/daughter relationship. Plus I love Tina Majorino as Mac.

  • Survivor: It is the grand-daddy of all reality shows and at first I didn't want to watch it but I slowly got sucked-in to the challenges and even the strategy that I still watch the show even after 19 seasons. I can't wait for Season 20: Heroes Vs. Villains

  • The Amazing Race: My favourite reality show of all time. What I love about this show was not just the challenges but the globe-trotting nature of the show. I got see places in the world I probaly would never think of seeing but because of this I want to go to there like Dubai, Estonia, Tunisia, Egypt, and I could go on and on

  • Everwood: This show, what I can I say...I still miss this show and really wish it was still on and simply it was because of the introduction of one character as to why I love this show. It is Sarah Drew's Hannah Rogers. When she came on, we all were led to believe that she was meant to be an obstacle between Ephram and Amy but no she was actually crushing on the typical dumb jock, Bright. Instead of making it unrequited, Everwood did something that I love and that was to bring them together as a couple. Plus I love Tom Amandes as Dr. Abbott and Canadian Merrilyn Gann who play Mayor Abbott not because she's Canadian but she was also in the same film as my Dad (Chung Chuck).

  • Jane Eyre (2007): The BBC did something extraordinary this decade and it gave me my one true love, the one version of Jane Eyre that is the one. The one version that gave me everything I wanted in a version which is a great soundtrack, excellent location and powerful, passionate chemistry between Jane (Ruth Wilson) and Rochester (Toby Stephens).

My favourite movies of the decade:

  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith: As a fan of the Star Wars saga, I was thankful that George Lucas' ended the prequel trilogy on a high note with awesome battle scenes and lightsabre duels. Too bad about the corny dialogue.

  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: There was something magical about this adaptation of CS Lewis' fantasy series plus two words: Those Beavers.

  • Dear Frankie: This was a moving story of a single mother who hires a stranger to act as her deaf son's father to protect him from the truth. This movie also made me fall in love with Gerard Butler -it's too bad that he hasn't done anything as good since.

  • Enchanted: Amy Adams makes this movie work. If you didn't believe in her performance as this Disney Princess who finds her self in today's NYC then this movie fails but her chemistry with Patrick Dempsey and her singing the Oscar-nominated That's How You Know makes this movie a favorite.

  • Wallace and Gromit and the Case of the Were Rabbit: I love W&G, especially Gromit and this movie was just another wonderful wacky adventure of theirs.

  • The Incredibles: When this Pixar movie about a family of superheroes came out on DVD, I watched it like 4 times. It was a innovative take on the Super Hero genre and who can forget Edna Mode.

  • The Bourne Trilogy: Matt Damon, Matt Damon, Matt Damon kicking some serious ass with things like a magazine and a towel. What's not to like.

  • Ratatouille: There is something cute about a rat that loves to cook and the way Brad Bird paints Paris is just breathtaking.

  • The Harry Potter film series: I love them because they are based on a book series that I love. Here is the order that I love the film series so far: Half-Blood Prince, Goblet of Fire (it made the right cuts and got all the good bits in and plus Robert Pattinson is in it), Prisoner of Azkaban (except for that very last shot), Philosopher Stone, Chamber of Secrets and Order of the Phoenix (hated the cuts but the movie was awesome in IMAX).

  • Once: I love this movie and the music. There is something absolutely simple and raw and honest in John Carey's film about an Irish Busker and a Czech flower seller who makes beautiful music together very winning.

So those are my tops of the decade. What are your favourites of the 2000s?

My 2009

2009 was definitely an up and down year for me.

In February, I got laid off a job that I loved because of the economy. So that was a low point. I was definitely in a funk for a while but a highlight came when I got a new job in April, a job that I enjoy very much.

Not necessarily a negative but a change was my father moved from a private facility to a public one so it is more of an adjustment in new surroundings.

Highlights of course is continuing to see my niece grow up. She is awesome, speaking so much and I think she is a genius.

I also really had a great time at my friend, Tiffany's, wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony and Tiffany married a really great guy.

During my time in Toronto, I also saw The Sound of Music there and it was a fab theatrical production.

Another big highlight was my time volunteering for Bard on the Beach. Not only was everyone so much fun to work with but also the four productions were excellent, in particular Comedy of Errors and All's Well that Ends Well.

Now is the time for me to list my favourites of 2009.

Favourite Concert: The Swell Season, hands down.
Favourite Album: Strict Joy by the Swell Season, Glee Vol 1 and Vol 2 and All I ever Wanted by Kelly Clarkson

Top movies of 2009:

  1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  2. Up
  3. Up in the Air
  4. An Education
  5. The Young Victoria
  6. (500) Days of Summer
  7. Star Trek

My favourite new TV show of 2009: Glee

Things I am looking forward to in 2010:

  • The new Bard on the Beach season especially Much Ado About Nothing
  • Going to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida
  • Seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I in November
  • Seeing Eclipse in July
  • The Winter Olympics in Vancouver
  • The ParaOlympics in Vancouver
  • Continue to see my niece grow up

What are you highlights of 2009 and what are you looking forward to in 2010

Up in the Air is very relatable

Sure, Jason Reitman's brilliant Up in the Air comes at a time where we are still somewhat in an economic downturn and people are still being laid off but for me, when I watched this movie, I felt that this was also a movie about me.

Like George Clooney's Ryan Bingham, I used to travel a lot for my job but I didn't travel as much as Ryan does but I traveled enough to become an expert at airports just like Ryan (although since the Christmas Day plane incident, I don't think the way Ryan travels would work today). I have been in those executive lounges etc... The only thing I haven't done was sit in business class.

Ryan travels a lot for his job because his company's clients hire people like him to do the dirty of work of firing people.

One of the brilliant things that Reitman has done is in those scenes where Clooney is laying these people off, most are played by real people who recently lost their jobs. This is the second part of the movie where I think it is about me. I have been laid off twice and most recently as early as this year because of the economy. When I was first laid off, I definitely had a lot of anger but I didn't say it to the people that let me go's face and I think this was their opportunity to do so. I think Reitman just turned the camera on and just told these people to say what they wanted to say when they were first laid off. It felt real and you could see that it was probably cathartic for them to do.

During one of his travels, Ryan meets Alex (Vera Farmiga) in one of these executive lounges. They instantly connect via their shared frequent flyer lifestyle and start comparing their loyalty cards. Soon they embark on a casual relationship.

Back at work, Ryan is about to lose the road warrior life that he loves (but at the same time has made him a solitary figure and estranged from his family) because of an up and comer at his company called Natalie (Anna Kendrick) who wants to start firing people via video conference calls.

Before he does get grounded and to teach Natalie the ropes, he takes her along so she can see what he does in person.

One of the scenes that I particularly related to was when Natalie and Ryan meet up with Alex in Miami they crash the party for the tech conference held at the hotel. What I relate to as a tech journalist is I've been to many of these and I can attest that they can be that fun!

Clooney is perfect as Ryan. You can see that he loves this lifestyle but at the same time you feel that he does yearn for a more settled life especially when he goes to his sister's wedding (Melanie Lynskey). Farmiga is also winning as Ryan's love interest. She is playful and sexy when interacting with Clooney.

Kendrick is also great. Mostly known as Jessica Stanley from the Twilight series, Kendrick shows great range as an actress as you see the emotional toil it takes on someone who fires people for a living but at the same time she shows great comedic timing in her scenes with Clooney.

As I was watching this movie, I felt that I connected to the story on a personal level and the movie does capture the emotions of losing one's job right on the head. While a great movie, I do hope that most people don't know what it feels like to lose their job but the sad thing is, I don't think that will happen.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Downey Jr. and Law make Sherlock Holmes watchable

Sherlock Holmes is unlike any Guy Ritchie film (well I really shouldn't say that as I haven't seen any other of his films) but I say this because, first of it is a period piece yet it is still filled with frenetic action sequences that I believe is a Ritchie film signature.

Anyways, thanks to a friend, I got to see an advance screening of Sherlock Holmes and after some pre-film hiccups, the film started with Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Watson (Jude Law) saving a young woman from a Satanic ritual performed by the villanous Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong).

The team of Holmes and Watson successfully capture Blackwood who was also responsible for the murders of five other women and he is sentenced to hang, which he does but someone he rises from the dead to continue on his evil plans.

Throughout the film, we have Watson trying to leave Holmes so he can settle down with Mary Morstan (a sickly looking Kelly Reilly) but someone, like the Godfather, he thinks he's out but Holmes always lures him back in.

A distraction to Holmes as he tries to thwart Blackwood is Rachel McAdams' Irene Adler, an American who was hired by a mysterious man to manipulate Holmes to get something he is after that I won't spoil here.

I haven't read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but I think that the screenwriters have done a servicable job in presenting us with a good mystery but wish that it wasn't so stereotypical. Blackwood is such a stock villain, someone who wants to rule the world. Also, I think I never felt that any of the characters were in danger of the traps that Blackwood set-up for our intrepid duo.

Downey Jr did a servicable Holmes presenting us with his classic characteristics, his keen sense of observation, his use of logic, him playing the violin and his drug-use but I somehow felt that Downey Jr. was slightly miscast as this iconic character. Don't get me wrong, Downey Jr. did an okay British accent but someone I think an actual British actor should have played the part like maybe Kenneth Branagh or even Colin Firth.

As well, I felt that McAdams was very wooden as Adler. She didn't imbede the character with any spunk or was the femme fatale that the character is supposed to have.

Also, Ritchie paints his Victorian London with shades of grey and the entire movie looks bleak and depressing.

The one thing I did enjoy was Jude Law as Watson. He is the best looking Watson ever and he doesn't portray him as the bumbling baffoon that Nigel Bruce did in the 1930s Sherlock Holmes film were Holmes was played famously by Basil Rathbone nor was old as Edward Hardwicke's Watson in Jeremy Brett's (the most reverred Holmes) BBC Sherlock Holmes.

When Law and Downey Jr. are on screen together, their bromance showed real comraderie that I found enjoyable.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Laughs abound in It's Complicated

Nancy Meyers's latest film It's Complicated is filled with a plethora of wonderful comedic performances from its top stars like Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin to supporting players like John Krasinski that it left some people in the audience with tears.

It's Complicated doesn't open until Christmas Day but I was lucky enough to see advance screening tonight thanks to answering a tweet from Duthie's Books.

The movie is about Jane (Meryl Streep), a mother of three grown children and owner of this fabulous bakery in Santa Barbara, California. She also has this complex relationship with her ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin) who is now married to the woman (Lake Bell) that he cheated Jane with.

Their relationship gets even more complicated when Jane, her two daughters (Caitlin Fitzgerald and Zoe Kazan) and her eldest daughter's fiancee (John Krasinski) all head to NYC for son Luke's (Hunter Parrish) graduation with Jake coming too but not with his wife.

After a few glasses of wine over dinner alone, Jane and Jake find themselves having an affair.

More complications come in the form of Adam (Steve Martin), Jane's sensitive architect that is helping her build her dream kitchen. Adam is smitten with Jane but is also getting over a divorce that left him heartbroken but he still pursues Jane.

The affair of Jane and Jake and all the complications that result from it forms the basis of all the laughs and strangely enough, it was enough to sustain an almost two hour film.

Streep and Baldwin have some great chemistry together both romantic and comedic and that makes the film enjoyable.

And Martin plays sort of against type as isn't that wild and crazy guy except in one scene that involves some reefer. It is sort of weird seeing him pull back in being sensitive and romantic but it works in this movie but not so much in Shopgirl (yes I know that he wrote the book and screenplay but he just didn't work in that film).

Krasinski also holds his own against Streep and Baldwin. His comedic skills were razor sharp.

Another thing that I liked about this film was the strong presence of cooking and baking. It was funny that when Jane talked about her time as a pastry chef in Paris, I couldn't help of think of Streep's role earlier this year as Julia Child and how food was a supporting player in that film too.

I really loved the scenes of her cooking and her bakery looks so cool that it could only exist in movies. That scene where Streep makes Chocolat Croissants with Marting was deliciously romantic.

It's Complicated is a comedy for adults thanks to sharp writing from Meyers.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Collection of videos from The Swell Season's concert in Vancouver Nov 25, 2009

Here is Marketa singing "If You Want Me"

Here is a link to the Georgia Straight's photos and video of the conert:

The video they have is Glen and Mar singing Lies

Next is him sining Low Rising off their new album Strict Joy:

Check out my review of the concert: for a video of them singing When Your Mind's Made Up.

Here was their set list for the concert:
01. Fallen From The Sky
02. Lies
03. Low Rising
04. In These Arms
05. The Rain
06. The Moon
07. If You Want Me
08. Fantasy Man
09. Say It to Me Now
10. Leave
11. Backbroke
12. Astralweeks
13. Colm
14. I Have Loved You Wrong
15. Once
16. When Your Mind's Made Up

Encore 01
17. Falling Slowly
18. "New Song"
19. High Horses
20. Red Chord

Encore 02
20. "Irish Song"