Hits & Misses

REVIEW: Coraline (Dir. Henry Selick)

Posted on February 17, 2009 by

It was opening night of Coraline and I was at the 9:45 show. Aside from a set of young parents and their two young children sitting in front of me, the audience for a movie marketed to kids was uncharacteristically full of asshole teenage emo-jock hybrids sitting in a collective guy to girl ratio of 2:1.

While I sat and waited for the movie to start the guys puffed themselves up and let everyone in the theatre know how everything around them was somehow gay. It was obvious why — they had to show the girls that they were men; only half of them would be able to take a girl home and make her cry in a forceful attempt to see a boob. And in the morning the girl gets a Nightmare Before Christmas keychain for her trouble, then it’s off to hockey practice.

The lights dimmed, and the trailers began. Even though I had my suspicions, I wasn’t absolutely convinced that Zach Efron’s new movie, 17 Again, was gay. But then the kids reassured all of us that it was — so thanks guys. As the movie began, we were treated to a credit sequence in which a disturbing set of metal fingers ritualistically gutted and skinned a rag doll. While this was going on I wondered what kind of trouble I would get into if I bought one of those high-pressured rubber pellet guns and started shooting those kids. Nothing hard. Nothing too violent. Just like a little nudge of, “Hey, shut up. Or I’ll fuck you until you like it. Then who’s gay? Huh?” Probably me at that point. But still, lessons learned are hard taught.

And as all of this was running around in my head I realized that there was no more chest-beating coming from the audience. Everyone was quiet and watching the disturbing ballet of imagery on screen. It was at that point everyone realized this might not be as playful of a kids movie as they had thought. And that played out until the end credits rolled. It is, without a doubt, a kids movie; but it does dance the line of morbidity. I can’t think of many other movies geared toward kids where ghost children plead with the main character to, “find our eyes!” so they can go to heaven.

Coraline, directed by Henry Selick and based on Neil Gaiman’s children’s book, is about a young girl who moves into the middle floor of an old house with her mother and father — two gardeners/authors who never have time to be parents. One night, after spending the day dealing with her eccentric top and bottom floor neighbours, she finds that a secret door in her living room leads to an alternate reality where her parents have buttons for eyes (referred to as the ‘Other Mother’ and ‘Other Father’) and smother her in love. Although she finds this a little unsettling at first, she does appreciate the attention. Everything seems to be going great for her until the Other Mother tells Coraline if she wants to stay in this alternate world she’ll have to sew buttons into her eyes. And everything gets crazier from there.

Technically, Coraline was the best stop-motion animated film I have ever seen. Maybe not the best stop-motion ever used in a film (Dragon Slayer is still top of the list), but as far as wall-to-wall animation goes, Coraline supersedes its predecessors (some of which Selick might also be paying tribute to in his depictions of Coraline’s old friends — who look like they’ve come straight from Will Vinton’s workshop). As far as animators go, Selick is more theatrical in his movements. Everyone exaggerates their actions and nobody is ever still (unlike animators such as Nick Park or Adam Elliot, who concentrate on the subtlety of facial features and nervous movements), but all of this works perfectly for Coraline. Maybe too perfect. In a world where CGI is looking more and more like traditional and stop-motion animation, I think the perfection of the movement in Coraline might have a lot of people not realizing they’re looking at tangible objects.

The voice talent (from Dakota Fanning, John Hodgman, and Teri Hatcher among others) is surprisingly good. Although a lot of people will tend to compare Coraline with Nightmare Before Christmas, it’s not. Not at all. Coraline doesn’t try to be cute. It doesn’t treat its material as fun. Selick’s characters don’t break out in song (aside from one by John Hodgman’s Other Father — but it’s written and sung by They Might Be Giants, so I’m not holding it against him); they don’t playfully relish the darkness like everyone in TNBC; and they don’t treat the uncanny around them as a cute departure from the everyday.

Near the middle of the movie, as things got darker, the two children in front of me were noticeably scared. They even started whimpering and crying a little. Maybe it was because their parents wouldn’t let them leave. But the kids stuck through it, and by the end they were all smiles. And I felt the same way — I wouldn’t necessarily think of Coraline as a kids movie, but it’s a journey that kids would appreciate more than the rest of us. The emo-jocks thought it was pretty gay.

Film, Hits & Misses, Old Stuff | | 33 Comments »

REVIEW: I Am the Heat – The Future Doesn’t Need Us

Posted on January 16, 2009 by

I suppose if you’ve never listened to indie pop before you might find I Am the Heat’s album The Future Doesn’t Need Us a bit interesting. Unfortunately, I have heard indie pop before, so I’m left with nothing.

It’s not a necessarily bad album by any means, I’ve just heard the same let’s-write-a-song-for-the-sake-of-writing-a-song stuff before. Many times before. Anyone out there ever head of ‘Space Bike’? I used to think they were awesome; until I realized my favorite indie-pop bands were only my favorites because I heard them first. It’s like buying a box of Corn Pops, eating one, loving it, and not liking all of the other corn pops because they taste too much like the first one. There’s nothing new going on here.

Once again, it’s not bad; but it’s not great. Should you buy it? No. You probably already own it, but it’s a different album, written by a different band, and you like that one more.

Hits & Misses, Music, Old Stuff | | 1 Comment »

REVIEW: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Dir. David Fincher)

Posted on January 14, 2009 by

It’s been a tradition for the past few years to see a movie on Christmas day instead of spending time with my family.

A lot of people were at the theatre when I got there; A quick scan of the crowd told me most of these people were home for the holidays before returning to school.

The majority of them were boyfriends (who didn’t leave town) accompanied by their girlfriends (who were in their first year of post-secondary school) — it was written all over them. The same girls that were only months ago wearing stripped leggings under an oversized hoodie covered in crazy shit were now draped in pea-coats and scarves, while their trashbag boyfriends still wore their trucker hats (which are still cool in Sault Ste Marie where I live) and Fox Racing jackets. Both seemed clueless to the fact that this would probably be their last date together.

Even for Christmas day the theatre was fairly packed; and for a two-hour movie it was a rather breezy time. But that’s all David Fincher; the guy knows how to make a long movie seem at least half an hour shorter than its actual length: keep it moving and keep giving the audience new information (a tactic used in both Zodiac and Fight Club)

Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt do little with their roles, and fall back on composited CGI versions of themselves to do most of the acting, which is a shame and a waste. Pitt’s role as the title character is especially underrepresented — relying almost entirely on narration rather than interaction to emotionally engage the audience.

The script, by screenwriter Eric Roth, felt too much like his work on Forest Gump. It’s basically Forest Gump, if he was physically handicapped instead of mentally handicapped. And then instead of being physically handicapped, he was magically handicapped.

But the biggest downfall of the movie is the ending. As Benjamin grows younger, it gets to a point where they can’t keep using Brad Pitt CGI mutants, and have to use a younger actor. So, as soon as you see the teenage version of Benjamin, you’re pulled out of the movie. It’s no longer the same character. He doesn’t even really look like how you figure Brad Pitt would look as a teenager. At that point the audience doesn’t care. They’re no longer following the story of Benjamin Button – that was Brad Pitt’s story, not some teenagers.

As the credits rolled, we began walking out; passing the same young couples we came in with. The pea-coated girlfriends, who felt newly enlightened because they were in university, defended the movie to their trucker-cap boyfriends, who thought it was dumb and long. After a short back-and-forth, the girlfriends just stopped arguing. Their boyfriends weren’t going to get it. They’d never understand because they haven’t experienced life yet, not like they had anyway. And later on in the night the larger revelation would hit — not only did their boyfriends not ‘get’ the movie, but they didn’t get them anymore either. They would have to break up. She’s in university, she wants to travel, she wants to grow and live life and settle down when she’s ready. Her and her boyfriend were just different people. We all know those girls (btw those girls, fuck you. Die sad and alone — with guys still not ‘getting’ you.)

And then it hits that Benjamin Button is the perfect guy for these girls. While they’re young and stupid, he’s the older, mature, worldly man they feel they can learn from; And when they get old and their vaginas start to dry out (science), he’ll be the bucking young stud ready to fuck them until they orgasm all of the dead, unused eggs out of their wombs (also science).

That said, I still enjoyed The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Although it’s not a movie that I would feel the need to see immediately again, it does have a fairy tale air that appeals to both adults and children. Not one of the best movies of the year, but still a great movie.

Film, Hits & Misses, Old Stuff | | 7 Comments »

Review: Ghost Town (Dir. David Koepp)

Posted on January 6, 2009 by

Have you ever imagined what The Sixth Sense would have been like if the little kid hadn’t been such a bitch and had tried to actually listen to all the dead people? Maybe they just needed help or something, like Mischa Barton did (hot even when far too young and vomiting).

Well Ghost Town does just that, pitting a live and well Ricky Gervais (who plays a bitter about life Dentist) versus the ghostly remains of a tuxedo laden Greg Kinnear. Kinnear wants Gervais to get his widow (Tea Leoni on the comeback path) to still love him or something, and surprisingly enough Gervais and Leoni end up having the hots for each other. Makes perfect sense, considering Leoni is engaged to none other than the Rocketeer himself Bill Campbell (boner).

Whatever. This movie was pretty good and entertaining. And the best part by far is Alan Ruck with a very minute and cheesy role as some dead dad.

4 out of 5 Bangbuses

Note: This film is not to be confused with There’s Something About Mary, The Sixth Man, Ghost World, Just Like Heaven, Spanglish, What Lies Beneath, or GhostBusters II.

DVD, Hits & Misses | | 2 Comments »

REVIEW: Watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch on YouTube

Posted on December 30, 2008 by


It’s just about blizzarding outside. It’s just about blizzarding outside and I live in a charming but kinda dinky basement apartment. So it’s hella-snowing outside, I live underground, and as such there is little else in this world that I want to do more than curl up with my laptop and watch Sabrina the Teenage Witch on YouTube.

Second only to Josie and the Pussycats in terms of live-action adaptations of peripheral Archie comic characters, Sabrina succeeds at more than simply following the obligatory format of a family-friendly high school-centred sit-com, though it definitely does. What makes the show so magic – heh, you get it… do you get it? – is its complete irrationality, and the ability to explain away any potential plot holes with the fact that Sabrina and her aunts Hilda and Zelda are witches. Narrative gold!

Sabrina’s best friend from the show’s first season (Jenny, a pretty girl with curly hair and countercultural leanings) disappears without an explanation to be replaced by a far inferior pal (the neurotic and co-dependent Valerie) in the second season. But who cares? Look, a cameo by Davey Jones from the Monkees! Paul Feig (Sabrina’s cynical science teacher in season one)’s absence is never noted either, when yet another neurotic lady is brought in to fill the shoes of a well-liked character from season one. But, hey, here’s Penn and Teller! One of the most important lessons I have gleaned from this well-structure show is that there is virtually no problem that a surprise visit from Eric Estrada can’t solve. Though I already had a hunch about that one.

There are countless other nerd reasons why I genuinely love this show, even though it clearly jumped the shark when they made the grievous error of sending Sabrina to college (hey, Degrassi: The Next Generation, are you listening?). I mean, come on! Melissa Joan Hart’s Sabrina and her subsequent role as a teen starlet in such exceptional films as Drive Me Crazy and Can’t Hardly Wait totally cement that TGIF ideal of my early adolescence, when watching 20/20, which aired at 10 o’clock on ABC after Sabrina and its cohorts, made you so totally in the know with how the world really was. Not to mention the fact that Sabrina’s father in the show is the same actor who provided the voice for Prince Alexander in the stunning 1992 point-and-click adventure game King’s Quest VI, which also had a solid hand in the formation of the socially graceful, upright citizen I am today.

So, in conclusion… oh man, I don’t know. In conclusion, I will never find love because I spend my time watching sit-coms from when I was twelve on YouTube and can identify the voice actors of computer game characters that spent half of the game telling you, “I don’t want to pick that up.” Good grief.

Hits & Misses, Live, Old Stuff | | 19 Comments »

REVIEW: Tina Turner @ the ACC, 12/14/08

Posted on December 14, 2008 by

Simply the best.

Hits & Misses, Live | | 3 Comments »

REVIEW: Frosh U: The Best of Frosh (Various Artists)

Posted on December 9, 2008 by

The ultimate cliché album has me fighting with myself to not write cliché jokes about it. Roofies, frat boys/sorority girls, keg stands, gym passes, fantasy football leagues, drunk driving, Greek alphabets: all off limits. I’m gonna walk 500 miles in someone else’s shoes for once.

This album plays out like a party should play out. Classics, bangers, mash-ups, slo jams and a couple of bi-curious sing-alongs. Buy a twelve pack of beer, drink 6 and put the album on. “Fuck you bro, my stereo = my tunes.” Drink the other 6 (or maybe give a couple away to babes or friends, cause who really drinks 12?) throughout the course of the album and see where I stand at that point. Knowing my (hypothetical) self, I’d be having a real good time. “I’ll fuck anything that moves!” Rad.

By the time “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” comes on, I’m ready for bed (baby, baby, lemme sleep on it). Best frosh week ever! Best Best of Frosh cd ever!

The grass is pretty green on that side, plus they’ve got a killer soundtrack.

Hits & Misses, Music | | 1 Comment »

REVIEW: Louis C.K. @ Diesel Playhouse, Toronto 12/06/08 (11:59 show)

Posted on December 7, 2008 by

Hits & Misses, Live | | 1 Comment »

REVIEW: Left 4 Dead

Posted on December 2, 2008 by

If you like zombie horror movies, buy this game.

If you like fast-paced first-person shooters that stress teamwork, buy this game.

If you don’t like any of the above, I don’t want to know you.

As for the badass mfers left in the room, Left 4 Dead, Valve’s much-hyped co-op shooter, is a wet dream for the zombie killer in all of us (think Dawn of the Dead with the “zombies” from 28 Days Later).

Each of the game’s four campaigns places you in the same situation –- you and three compadres are survivors of the zombieocalypse, trying to find a way out of town. How do you escape the wraith of an army of living dead? WITH GUNS OF COURSE.

But it’s not that simple. Left 4 Dead was specifically designed for team play. Not only is it challenging to slaughter (literally) thousands of screaming zombies on your own, but if you get pinned by any of the “boss” zombies (more on them in a minute) your teammates need to get them off you, or you die. It’s nearly impossible to survive without your mates at your side. If you’re knocked down, someone has to pick you up. If you’re hurt, someone can heal you. And vice versa. While occasionally agonizing, the co-op design is the game’s greatest strength. If you find a competent group of people to play with online, you develop a real sense of camaraderie.

The campaigns last about an hour and a half each (it’s supposed to give you the feeling of being in a zombie movie). So, how does game stay fresh? One of Left 4 Dead’s main features is an AI Director. Basically, if you’re on a team of n00bs, the game will go easy on you. If you’re with a bunch of sweet pros, the Director will continuously unleash furious volleys of flesh eating buggers on you -– which is just fine if you’re dead-set on zombie genocide. The Director ensures an experience as unique as the team you’re on.

Wait, there’s more! What’s better than plowing your way through hordes of brain-hungry walking dead? PLAYING AS THE ZOMBIES!

Fuckin’ a, dude. Left 4 Dead’s versus mode lets your team take on the role of the “boss” zombies. Your mission? Tear the living shit out of your human foes. Each “boss” zombie has their own wicked ability, like strangling people with your 50-foot long tongue and puking on them.

Awesome as the game is, it’s not without flaws. The AI of the zombies is noticeably imperfect (they often run into walls and climb over objects instead of running around them), and the graphics are neither spectacular nor terrible. But who cares about all that when your screen is constantly filled with hundreds of dead people clawing at your face?

If you’re looking for bloody, coordinated, mass-zombie-murder, Left 4 Dead is for you. If you’re looking for an engaging, emotional storyline, you’ll be sorely disappointed (pussy).

Games, Hits & Misses | | 6 Comments »

REVIEW: 30 Rock Season 2

Posted on December 1, 2008 by

30 Rock: Season 2 doesn’t even need a review, because it is a fact that every single person (sources pending) in the world loves it now. And rightfully so.

The writers strike put the kibosh on a third of the planned episodes for Season 2. This allows the short season an easy three rotations in your DVD player before remembering the life you once had, if, you know, you’re super crazy and stay at home and basically just watch 30 Rock and eat pasta all the time. Hypothetically. (Damn.)

Reasons why 30 Rock Season 2 owns lives for three months straight:

1. SUPERSTAR CAMEOS! Jerry Seinfeld, Will Arnett, and Matthew Broderick are just a few of the huge stars that love 30 Rock and appear in season two. If we know anything about celebrities, it’s that they dictate what we like. So, we like.


3. SUPERSTAR GENIUS-BRAIN WRITING! See: everything, always, again. Lightening fast, topical, self-deprecating, borderline offensive. It’s like the perfect storm, sitcom-writing styles. Also, your friends will really really like when you inadvertently (and shamelessly) start using these brilliant phrases and dialogue in your everyday conversation as if they were your own creations. Try it.

4. SUPERSTAR TINA FEY! Aka Liz Lemon, aka Tina through her own eyes. Season 2 takes Liz through relationships with new boyfriend Floyd, old boyfriend Dennis “Rat King” Duffy, and through continuing conflict between finding maturity amidst the continuous daily circus that is her life working on the Tracy Jordan Show. She is sort of okay sometimes I guess, if you like insanely smart hilarious adorable talented people.

Liz drunk dials the condo board that won’t return her calls; sings “You Oughta Know.”

5. SUPERSTAR FAN! That’s you! GO WATCH, LEARN, LOVE, so much love.

If there is one downside to 30 Rock Season 2, it is that, much like 30 Rock Season 1, after watching it, nothing else will seem nearly as funny… except more 30 Rock. You know what that means.

DVD, Hits & Misses | | 9 Comments »

REVIEW: Kanye West – 808s and Heartbreak (Roc-A-Fella)

Posted on November 28, 2008 by

Man. Kanye West is really bummed out.

His mom died then he dumped his fiancée and then T-Pain gave him the keys to the Auto-Tune and friends, there you have 808s and Heartbreak.

TAKE HEED. This is not a hip hop record. This is a pop record. It is an eerie, angry documentation of a very specific time in West’s life, and it might actually be his most consistent release since 2004’s excellent College Dropout (which, if you’re not familiar with it, has one of the most flawless track successions EVER starting with 3 all the way to 13. Just sayin’).

Kanye had some sad melodies in his broken heart and so he wanted to sing, not rap. Relying on the aforementioned Auto-Tune not only allowed him to do this on every song, but also effectively gives the album its permeating cold, dark texture. Combined with the classic (and album namesake) Roland TR-808 drum machine chants, 808s and Heartbreak’s production is minimal but detailed, repetitive but melodic — disparate, yes, and not at all desperate. Musing entirely on love lost, Kanye isn’t sorry or pleading – he’s pissed. In the classic pop music post break-up fuck you, we only get West’s side of the story. He calls his ex out for being heartless, evil (Heartless), and a spoiled drama queen (RoboCop). Sort of a dick move, but hey, no one ever said Kanye wasn’t a dick.

It’s a little weird, this one. Weird and pretty great. 808s and Heartbreak gets 4.5 stupid sunglasses out of 5.

Hits & Misses, Music | | 3 Comments »

REVIEW: Twilight (Dir. Catherine Hardwicke)

Posted on November 26, 2008 by

This past weekend I saw Twilight, a new teen romance movie where ‘has-trouble-fitting-in’ Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) falls in love with ‘107-years-old-but-somehow-still-angsty-vampire’ Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).

My official judgment on the film: It’s not awful.

The general expectation that I polled from my friends was that they expected this movie to be contrived and for little girls. They are correct on both accounts, but even still, it’s not awful.

[Ed.’s note: You must be 12 years (and under) and a girl to read the remainder of this review. Or be Alejandro Alcoba.] More… »

Film, Hits & Misses | | 51 Comments »

REVIEW: Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Posted on November 19, 2008 by

Toronto After Dark is pretty much the best damn way to spend a week in October. It’s a horror/action/sci-fi/cult film fest run out of the Bloor Cinema by this great dude named Adam Lopez who is truly passionate about the dissemination of blood and guts and gore.

We saw all these movies and you are jealous.

(reviews by Sam Sutherland + Ashley Carter)

Mutant Chronicles (Dir. Simon Hunter)
The first After Dark movie to feature Ron Perlman in a monk outfit, this movie is so insanely bad it’s great. Also, John Malkovich is in it, which is certainly puzzling. Basically, this machine under the earth starts turning people into mutants so Ron Perlman and the guy from The Mist team up with a rag-tag group of soldiers to destroy it. Along the way they say and do things that make absolutely no sense in front of really awful CGI and green screen. Seriously, I don’t think anyone involved in making this movie (save for Malkovich, who looks like a sad, beaten man) had any idea they were making the worst movie ever. Which is why it totally rules. Go see this with all your friends and I promise you it will be the best time ever. Seriously, go now. It’s awesomely terrible.

Tokyo Gore Police (Dir. Yoshihiro Nishimura)
If this doesn’t win an Oscar, that shit is rigged. Words were not made strong or awesome enough to express the utterly fantastic nature of this film. Mere mortals are not worthy of its treasures. There’s a plot somewhere in Tokyo Gore Police but it’s way too insane to try to explain. Basically all this crazy shit happens and your mind is blown. I don’t even know where to start, except to say that at one point, a guy who’s has had his legs cut off uses the blood pulsing from the wounds to elevate himself off the ground and fly around. If you like feeling insane you should see this movie. The name really says all you need to know. It’s bat shit insanity at its most bat shit insane. It’s so, so good I wish it was playing inside my glasses all the time so whenever I did anything boring I would be watching the best movie ever.

Who is KK Downey? (Dir. Darren Curtis, Pat Kiely)
Great! Look what I made at my real job!

4BIA (Dir. Youngyooth Thongkonthun, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom & Paween Purikitpanya)
Four horror shorts from the Thai dudes that brought you Shutter and Alone, plus two others, also Thai dudes. The two other dudes’ entries aren’t so great, with Thongkonthun’s Happiness suffering from just being kind of boring and Purikitpanya’s being promising but kind of cheesy. Then the big guns (you know, the guys who made Shutter and Alone) come in and shit gets real. Pisanthanakun’s tale of a youthful camping trip gone wrong is like a self-referential Thai version of Scream, with lots of discussion of famous horror films (including the director’s own Shutter) alongside some scary ghost bullshit. It’s awesome. Wongpoon’s short is a mummified tribute to that really scary Twilight Zone with the gremlin on the plane, and it’s also great. Mostly just jump scares, but awesome, stylish jump scares. Overall, the good stuff outweighs the bad. Totally worth checking out.

I Sell the Dead (Dir. Glenn McQuaid)
The second After Dark movie to feature Ron Perlman in a monk outfit (seriously, it was weird), I Sell the Dead was a fine closer for the totally best year of After Dark ever. The movie has its flaws; the framing device, which involves a young graverobber detailing his sins to a monk (Perlman) is kind of cheesy and dangerously close to a dealbreaker, but the overall arc of the story is just so darn appealing we’re able to forgive the way in which it gets told. Dominic Monaghan (a hobbit) plays a twerp who steals from the dead alongside some super-funny dude named Larry Fessenden, and there’s aliens, vampires, and zombies. So basically the movie has to be at least okay, but it also has a really hot girl and the Tall Man from Phantasm, which rules, so it ends up being way better than okay. Good times if you like that hobbit kid, hot girls, or dead aliens.

Trailer Park of Terror (Dir. Steven Goldmann)
Based on the Imperium comic book series of the same name, this movie is about a bunch of ne’erdowell high school kids who end up on a character building retreat with their wiener pastor. Of course they crash their schoolbus during a thunderstorm and of course they find shelter for the night in a trailer park zombie village called Trucker’s Triangle. Then all kinds of evil wacky sexy shit happens. This movie has tons of weirdness like a cameo by country music dreamboat Trace Adkins as the man in black/devil (due to the director also somehow being a popular country music video director). Good production value, full of stereotypes, and great if you have ever wanted to see what a dude looks like being deep-fried alive.

Film, Hits & Misses | | 4 Comments »

REVIEW: Quantum of Solace (Dir. Marc Forster)

Posted on November 18, 2008 by

Bond came out this weekend. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s really your own fault.

Before I get into the review portion of the… review, I want to flip (this is new slang for give, forward or push in your direction) you some numbers. This is the 22nd Bond film, and the second starring Daniel Craig. This is the first Bond sequel (I think? Having trouble confirming this. Anyone?) and it takes place one hour after Casino Royale ends. The film is 106 minutes long, making it the shortest Bond film ever. The film cost $230 million to make. The film was released two weeks earlier in Europe and made a dump-truck of money. That, combined with the North American opening weekend gross of $70.4 million, puts the movie at $322 million worldwide. So far.

Now: Reviewtown.

Quantum of Solace was good. Not as good as Casino Royale, but definitely a fun time. The film is packed with action, and through its monkey-filled-barrel of mindless (yet totally awesome) ass-kickery, I fell in love. Of course, that’s not to say that this is the kind of love you’ll write home to tell your mom about, but love nonetheless.

However, one cannot avoid the fact that this movie wasn’t as good as its predecessor (mom? older sister? not sure where to take this metaphor…) and what Quantum lacked is easy to identify.


Sure, there was a plot in there somewhere, but remember that really long string of scenes in the first movie where Bond is playing poker and pretty much ALL THE IMPORTANT STUFF THAT MATTERS unfolds? Obviously we couldn’t have another poker scene, but at least something to perform the same function (ie plot) would have been nice.

All in all, worth seeing if you like ass-kickery.

Film, Hits & Misses | | 9 Comments »

REVIEW: Synecdoche, NY (Dir. Charlie Kaufman)

Posted on November 17, 2008 by

The movie came to a close and I turn to my girlfriend. She turns to me and says, rather bluntly, “well, that was a disappointment” [Ed.’s note: HIGH FIVE, LAUREN].

Having heard in advance that Sam and Ashley did not like the film [Ed.’s note: but do very much like Charlie Kaufman], I’m momentarily stunned; ten-thousand thoughts per second all converge on one point: Holy shit; I might be the only person I know who is going to love this movie. I wait 15 minutes before telling her this.

Synecdoche, NY is, in my humble opinion [Ed.’s note: and Ebert’s], a masterpiece [Ed.’s note: but Alejandro really really loves Science of Sleep]. So three out of the four people mentioned so far in this review didn’t like it, but that doesn’t make it any less of a thorough, complex story that will leave you thinking… if you let it. Charlie Kaufman, the newspaper-salesman-turned-film-scribe behind all your favourite movies, including Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, makes his directorial debut [Ed.’s note: when he should have stuck to just writing them] with a film about trying to leave your mark on the world.

A theatre director (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is afraid of death. In fact, he is so afraid of death that it affects every aspect of his life, most importantly it drives his fear of being forgotten. As the story progresses, he is given the opportunity to create something important, and as a result spends his life creating a living play. I’m re-reading that sentence now, and this description is both poor and largely inaccurate. But the truth is that you can’t really sum up this plot the old fashioned way. Rather, let’s think of this in terms of theme.

Kaufman explores themes that he has delved into through each of the films he has written. “Having a better life” begins to explain what he’s doing, but then you have to ask, “A better life than what? Than whom? For what purpose?” The idea of being so afraid to live your own life — because you might fuck it up, because someone might do it better, because you don’t know the path to the greatest happiness — is what motivates Hoffman’s character to create entire worlds.

What makes this film great is that unlike Kaufman’s other films [Ed.’s note: where outside directors can hone in his scope by cutting the fat], he doesn’t use any of the exits he creates for himself along the way [Ed.’s note: because now he can be overindulgent sans overlord]. Kaufman explores this theme through to the end [Ed.’s note: which makes it trip and draaaag]. There are several opportunities for Hoffman’s character to quit in his quest for his own magnum opus, but at the core we realize that he will never be truly satisfied [Ed.’s note: much like Charlie Kaufman, which is the real brilliance of this movie].

And there’s a moral in that.

In a cinematic landscape where most movies you hear about are about explosions and teenagers falling in love with vampires [Ed.’s note: Synecdoche, NY needed more explosions and teenagers falling in love with vampires], what other reason do you need to name a movie as worthwhile?

[Ed.’s note: this movie would have been great if someone else had directed it]

Film, Hits & Misses | | 18 Comments »

REVIEW: Girl Talk @ the Kool Haus, Toronto, 11/12/08

Posted on November 13, 2008 by

What do you get when you mash together every song ever and then mash together 2500 people?

I’ve honestly never been to that big a dance party in my whole life. Even in places where dancing happens! I’ve been circling ideas around in my head since last night, trying to suss out the best way to describe the festivities, and it’s really hard. I mean, sure, I could talk about the music, but Girl Talk is pretty much ultimate mash-ups on ADD. Some people can’t handle the fickle nature of the songs, and others… well, others just LOVE IT. But I digress.

Packed is probably the one word that I think best describes the show. The venue was packed with people to the point that I can now say that I’ve bathed in the sweat of friendly hipsters and douchebros alike. The mixes were packed (see what I’m doing?) with more songs and longer mixes. The stage was packed with so many people that more than once I thought to myself: ‘man, I want to be at THAT party!’ Also, there were inflatable basketballs (like beachballs!) and inflated backs (actually) that were probably… packed, and then unpacked and thrown around the crowd at the show.

Anyway, the show was effing wicked. If you can handle dancing crowds – and to be fair, not everyone can – you should definitely take the next opportunity to see this guy.

Hits & Misses, Live | | 2 Comments »

REVIEW: The Hold Steady @ the Phoenix, Toronto 11/11/08

Posted on November 12, 2008 by

I forgive you for the harpsichord song.

Hits & Misses, Live | | 6 Comments »

REVIEW: The Fest

Posted on November 10, 2008 by


Last weekend I went to the Fest. Now I’m going home. Slowly. The time spent in a van with six other dudes has given me plenty of time to think about my life and the sad, directionless way I live it. Jokes. Everything rules. I wrote about this simple truth twice this week. And in the interest of spreading more of my never ending joy with people who read stuff on the internet, I present my complete minimal-sentence reviews of every single band I saw at the Fest this weekend. All 47 of them. Because I don’t have more important things to do and get stoked about.

But since I know not everyone is way into my opinion of Teenage Cool Kids (you should be, because my opinion is that they’re great), you can check ‘em out after the jump. You should. I spent all afternoon in a van writing this (and making this video). If not, cool. There’s other great stuff on this site to read. Haters. More… »

Hits & Misses, Live | | 1 Comment »

REVIEW: Joan Crawford Collection vol. 2

Posted on November 6, 2008 by

[Ed.’s note: this was received with a note from Chris Nash that read: “Here’s your fucking Joan Crawford. Six typed pages of it. People need to know this stuff.” And now we give it to you, gentle reader.]

I wasn’t a fan of Joan Crawford when I watched this collection. Other than Mildred Peirce, I hadn’t seen any of her movies, and she didn’t strike me as anything special.

So I figured, why not get to know the lady? She seems like a nice old lady; like she’d give me candy just for walking by her house on my way to school. And this is supposed to be a collection of her best movies, right? Well, being vol. 2, I guess it’s her best movies numbers six through ten… but there’s got to be some gems in there. I mean, the sixth best Dolph Lundren movie is Army of One -– and Army of One is pretty great.

This collection contains the films A Woman’s Face, Sadie McKee, Flamingo Road, Strange Cargo, and Torch Song. The set itself is top notch; every movie is on its own disc (no double-sided nonsense, where one side is a movie and the other side is a bunch of scratches with ‘side 2’ printed on it) and each movie comes with a cartoon (which are amazingly restored and colourful as fuck) and either a short documentary about the film, a related newsreel short, and other related odds and ends.

Torch Song
We learn from ‘Tough Baby’–– the bonus feature documentary about Torch Song — that it’s a musical constructed from songs written for (but not good enough to be used in) other musicals of the era. This film is literally garbage. It tells the story of an older actress who is bitter at her aging face and takes it out on everyone. After going through numerous musical directors on her newest film, she finally meets her match in a blind pianist who isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade. In the case of Torch Song, the spade in question occurs when JC and the cast perform the song ‘Two-faced Woman’ while dressed up in black-face. More… »

DVD, Hits & Misses | | 2 Comments »

REVIEW: Mother Mother – O My Heart (Last Gang)

Posted on November 2, 2008 by

This record is a perfect reminder of what a jerk I can be sometimes. Because it’s really good, and everyone “buzzed” about them last time around, but I couldn’t be bothered. I just ignored them and every good thing every one of my friends said about them.

If you skip past the few slower tracks, O My Heart sounds like the Pixies wrote some songs with the New Pornographers and then they all had a giddy indie rock party in the studio. Can anyone confirm if this is also what their first record might sound like? If so, I’ve been missing out huge, and the jerk level increases.

Mother Mother play a CD release show in their home town of Vancouver on Nov. 28, so if you live all the way over there, go. FOR ME.

Hits & Misses, Music | | 2 Comments »

REVIEW: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Posted on October 31, 2008 by

Twenty-Three. That’s how many times I’ve seen the best Charlie Brown episode of all time. Once each year since I was born.

Yeah, it’s better than the Christmas episode (“oooh”-ing in unison is no longer cool, you fucks), and way better than the rest. You got Charlie with the faulty ghost costume, the Halloween party with bobbing for apples, Snoopy doing his WWI flying ace routine, Pigpen still having dirt float around him even in costume, and the most classic of all scenes; Linus out in the pumpkin patch awaiting the Great Pumpkin.

You might think that the apple bobbing and weak costume originality outdate this show. But you forget that there is not a single parent in this show (Linus hangs out alone in the pumpkin patch until 4am), hinting towards a futuristic world where adults no longer exist and we remain children for our entire lives; a world where you are allowed to wear the exact same outfit everyday and where young people worship Beethoven.

So move aside Jules Verne, Charles M. Schultz is the best futurist of all time.

DVD, Hits & Misses | | 4 Comments »

REVIEW: Pride and Glory

Posted on October 30, 2008 by

It sucks being a cop. That’s what my friend Brendan said to me as we walked out of Pride and Glory with the credits rolling behind us. If I take anything from Pride and Glory with me, that’s going to be it.

Co-written by Joe Carnahan (NARC, Smokin’ Aces), and directed by Gavin O’Connor (Tumbleweeds), Pride and Glory is an intense cop drama that clocks in at just under two and a half hours –- which I didn’t really notice. I’ve got a thing about cop movies. I watch every cop movie that comes out. Street Kings, Max Payne, Lakeview Terrace –- any movie about a cop I watch.

The movie follows a family of cops divided on both sides of a ring of corruption. Edward Norton and Noah Emmerich play sons of Jon Voight, and Colin Farrell plays the son/brother-in-law of the group. At one point in time they’ve all been cops. When a group of police officers and drug dealers are found killed in an cracked-out apartment house, Norton’s character returns from a long leave of absence from the force in order to help solve the murder of his former partner and friends. As he starts to uncover the circumstances surrounding their deaths, it becomes apparent his brothers are involved in the cover-up. Overall I liked Pride and Glory, but it wasn’t flawless.

Noah Emmerich (brother of New Line Cinema head, and producer of Pride and Glory, Toby Emmerich) never feels right in the role to me. I don’t think he’s a bad actor by any means (he’s great in Little Children, and for some reason his role in The Truman Show always sticks out for me), but I feel like his in this movie on his name more than his ability. Jon Voight is FANTASTIC as the drunken father. In fact, I think it’s the best portrayal of a drunk I’ve ever seen committed to film. Hands down. No Joke, he deserves at least an Oscar nomination for this role. HOWEVER, his recent acting history has been so sinister, I always think he’s setting someone up and he’s got the worst intentions in mind. He doesn’t; but I can’t shake the feeling that every time he finishes talking with Edward Norton he’s going to try to kill Tom Cruise.

Aside from that, the shaking hand-held camera got ridiculous at times. I feel like I could have been watching Quarantine or Cloverfield. Some of the most distracting hand-held work I’ve seen.

But Pride and Glory is an intense movie. At one point Norton is trying to get information from a drug dealer’s hysterical crack-mother girlfriend. After he calmly wins her trust and she confesses to him that her boyfriend has been getting information from a cop, he quietly whispers to her, “if you’re lying to me, I’ll take your fuckin’ kid away.” His lack of emotion did nothing but confirm to us all that, yes, he was going to take her fuckin’ kid away and he doesn’t give a shit if it fucking dies on her. Colin Farrell also has a tense moment. I don’t want to spoil it, but it involves a steaming iron, a drug dealer who refuses to talk, and a drug dealers baby.

Although I’m sure the intention was to make a movie about a family of cops, it has nothing to do with family. It’s about being a cop. It’s about temptation, and trying to be straight while getting nothing but disrespect as you risk your life for $60,000 a year in a fruitless pursuit of what’s right.

Brendan was right. It must suck to be a cop. Later that night I was watching Clockers on TV and that’s all I could think about. Their job fucking sucks. I never thought being a cop would be a fun job, but I always thought of being a cop as an honest job. And after watching Pride and Glory I realize one of the hardest parts of the job is keeping it that way.

I hate people who shit on cops. There’s nothing more ignorant to me than calling a cop a pig. If a cop is asking you questions, he’s just doing his job. If he’s being a dick, chances are you’re being a cunt. And those same cunts always hate cops until their house gets robbed; then it’s, “do whatever you need to do to get my stuff back.” I don’t care when I’m questioned by a cop. I know they’re just trying to get someone’s stuff back.

Cops have a shit job. They have to protect the people who hate them. And hundreds die every year doing it. Check out www.odmp.org.

Film, Hits & Misses | | 14 Comments »

REVIEW: Hospital Bombers – Footnotes

Posted on October 28, 2008 by

Hospital Bombers is a band from Amsterdam, Netherlands. They’re so Dutch, their website isn’t even in English. However, they sing lovely songs in what I believe is English.

Their first album, Footnotes, has a sound that fondly reminds me of English speaking/singing bands like Cake or The Mountain Goats. There’s even a dash of The Weakerthans in there. They do that honest, pleasant sounding rock (as opposed to the angry, angry sounding rock) very well. So if you’re into any of the above mentioned bands, check it out.

Hits & Misses, Music | | 1 Comment »

REVIEW: Kathy Griffin: For Your Consideration

Posted on October 23, 2008 by

If there’s one kind of “people” I like, it’s people who tell it like it is. You know? People who aren’t afraid to not think before they speak, and just blurt out whatever, but mostly, I love people who can make a career out of that, like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Kathy Griffin. So if you’re like me, you should probably give Kathy Griffin’s For Your Consideration a good listen, and let her refreshing, no-holds-barred comedy wash over you.

As I get older, I really love humour about aging parents, so if you’re into that, you’ll love the track “Happy Monday (More Maggie!)” But don’t worry, Kathy gets back to her celeb-bashing roots with “Freaky Doll People (Demi? Oh yeah!)” so get ready to laugh.

In all honesty, I didn’t hate it. I laughed once, and listened kind of intently for the rest of the fifty-seven minutes. If you were hoping for something more hilariously scathing, maybe you should ask me when I’m on my period! Am I right, ladies?

Hits & Misses, Music | | 7 Comments »

REVIEW: NKOTB – Live in Toronto, Sept. 18, 2008

Posted on September 23, 2008 by

Dear haters,

Step off.

The rest of you can carry on.

I guess you could say that part of me has been waiting 20 years for what happened Thursday night.

Without a trace of irony, myself and 8,999 of my closest friends packed the Air Canada Centre for the first stop on the New Kids on the Block North American reunion tour. As a wee lass growing up in rural Nova Scotia I never got a chance to see my first favourite group in concert during their early 90s peak. The closest I came was when they were rumoured to be playing Halifax, and while my dad called the venue to check, my sister and I did the Dance of Joy like Larry and Balki from Perfect Strangers. Turned out of course to be a dream-crushing lie, and we didn’t get to see them. So, I went last week. And I had the most fun I’ve had at a show in a while. My cousin, who I brought along, said it was the best night she’s had since her wedding earlier this summer, and probably better than any night before that for a long time. Magic.

As mentioned, I left the irony at home, but there was no way I wasn’t showing up drunk on nostalgia. It was actually exciting to be there. I know, shut up. But it was. I’ve never heard an audience as loud (NKOTB was my first and only foray into any sort of pop-phenom territory, so I don’t know, I’m sure the Jonas Brothers get it all the time), and seriously, if I was going to be there, why bother being a jerk? That means I cheered obnoxiously with everyone else, and it means I checked in with my other co-attendee via eye contact whenever we thought something especially funny (code for swoonworthy), and I generally had an insane amount of fun. I even did the “Hangin’ Tough” arm sway thing. You know the one. Do you guys still want to be my friends?

What can I say about the group? Yes, they’ve aged. Some of the notes were a bit… strained. And I can’t help but think that the extended costume changes were actually just a time-buyer for breath-catching and maybe some snacks. I bet when they disbanded 15 years ago they never pictured themselves on a sold-out arena tour again, but they handled it graciously, and were even a little surprised at the reaction. Donnie Wahlberg did most of the talking, at one point very creepily pointing out that we the audience were indeed old enough to party now. Jordan and Joey were their fan-favorite solo-singing selves, and Jon and Danny pretty much awkwardly hid in the back. Just like the old days! They danced, they sang, they’re the New Kids on the Block, what else are they supposed to do? It really wasn’t even about them. It was all us. Audience observation highlights include Joey “Victim” McIntyre being hit in the face with a bra, and the extremely vulgar comments the ladies behind us were screaming all night, also directed to Joey. Seriously, they were filthy. I was blushing.

I couldn’t help but think of how I would have been reacting at that very moment if it was eight year old Nicole in attendance (assuming those women would have been my age and not saying those terrible things):

Current Day Nicole: This is hilarious! I wonder what they’ll open with.

Current Day Nicole: Cool, these new songs actually sound like pretty decent Top 40 stuff (turns out they worked with Timbaland, DUH).

Current Day Nicole: Wow this is so loud! My ears sure are going to hurt tomorrow!

Whether or not those could both have applied on Thursday night is not up for discussion.

MORAL: Trips down memory lane are fun! Just like the shoddy, graphic-heavy slideshow projected above the stage said: They’re BACK. I never thought I would see Jordan Knight’s wispy button-down shirt blowing all around him as he danced on an air vent (a visual made famous by this video), but I did. I saw it. And now I am complete.

Hits & Misses, Live, Music | | 3 Comments »

REVIEW: Ratatat – LP3

Posted on September 19, 2008 by

Anyone who doesn’t like Ratatat, or their new album LP3, has forgotten what it was like the first time they fell in love, the first time they discovered the internet, the first time they were hung the fuck over, the first time they read a really good book, the first time the reread a really good book and enjoyed it more, the first time they stayed up til 3 in the morning chatting about nothing with their crush, the first time they sang along with the radio, and the first time they ate so much pizza that they rolled home.

Ratatat has done it again, and fuck you if you disagree.

Hits & Misses, Music | | 5 Comments »

No Idea Records doubleshot review!

Posted on September 18, 2008 by

Planes Mistaken For Stars
We Ride To Fight! The First Four Years

The first thing I heard from Planes Mistaken For Stars was their wicked awesome song ‘Belly Full of Hell’ off Up In Them Guts, which still stands as the best album title of all time. Anyway, I remember thinking, wow, this song is really complex and amazing, how I wish I had an auditory document of this band’s early days! OK, I didn’t really think that, but now that there is one, I’m glad I have it. Nothing on here is as balls-out killer as ‘Belly Full of Hell’, but that’s the point, right? The real reason this record is great is cause of the four Black Flag covers. Yeah, every remotely punk band in existence has some cuts from Damaged floating about somewhere, but I say with zero hyperbole that PMFS’s are the tightest. ‘Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie’ should’ve always sounded this exciting. Three hungry hungry hippos out of four.

Glass and Ashes

I’m gonna commit a punk-rock sin here and just come out with it. This is always awkward, but… I don’t like Hot Water Music, except for ‘Paper Thin,’ which is a totally rad song. They always came across as total bros who would totally have beat me up in high school, and then go play their burly everyman punk rock to the adulation of everyone, and gotten mad play in the process. Regardless of whether or not this is true (feel free to correct me with a well-placed comment below), that’s just how they came across to 17 year-old me. So how does this fit in with this Glass and Ashes record? Cause this record is like Hot Water Music sans the ultra-anthemic hooks, the burliness, and, to my lil ol’ ears, a whole lot more cred. That being said, this is a No Idea Record, all right. You got your crunchy power chords, you got your world-weary yelling guy, and you got your half-time breakdowns with the single-string riffage until you start picking it up and then rage some more. Glass and Ashes got their formula, and it works. Three Flava Flav clocks outta five.


Nervous Circuits

So this isn’t really a review, it’s more of a check-this-shit-out-it’s-so-hype-you-can’t-miss-it deal. Hydra Head reissued this little gem of a record, and I thought to myself, JUICEBOXdotcom readers love amazing 90’s art-punk records, I must let them know! So, here we go. Lemme drop some knowledge in your headbox first. See, once upon a time (1991), there was this San Diego record label called Gravity Records, who were totally rad cause they had bands like Heroin, Antioch Arrow, Angel Hair, and this little two-piece band called the VSS. Gravity Records’ bands were all incredibly punk rock, but also super arty and weird, and none of them could really play (except for exceptions like Unwound). Anyway, The VSS were no different, except every song on Nervous Circuits is crazy good. You got screeching guitar ‘riffs’, weird-as-fuck electronics, rudimentary drumming, and this maniac yelping all over it. It was like all I listened to in Grade 11, and now you can pick it up with relative ease! Listen to ‘Lunar Weight’, officially the best song of 1997, if you don’t believe me. Sonny Kay, the band’s singer, went on to form the Gold Standard Laboratories label, which officially has one of the most solid hit-to-miss release ratios of any label ever, and the band Year Future, who also got my stamp of approval. Just thought you guys should know.

Hits & Misses, Music | | 6 Comments »

REVIEW: Infest Wisely (DVD)

Posted on September 11, 2008 by

Infest Wisely, a collaborative lo-fi sci-fi film, written by Jim Munroe and directed in seven chapters by Munroe and six other directors is… well, why don’t you digest that sentence first. Okay, seven chapters, seven directors, crazy nanotechnology that appears to make the Toronto of the future a better place, but oh wait! This crazy nanotechnology is actually going to take over everyone’s brains! Brutal.

Anyway, it’s my humble opinion that there is nothing wrong with a movie that features a talking cat, bike chase, and the destruction of a shoebox model city. Throw in a ‘high tech photo viewer’ (for the pictures people can take by blinking their eyes!) which is actually the same dollar store cutting board my mom uses — with photos superimposed over it — and you have a charming low budget dystopian flick that wears its politics like a silk-screened bike gang patch on its sleeve.

DVD, Hits & Misses | | 3 Comments »


Posted on September 11, 2008 by

If you ever wondered what would happen in Last House on the Left if the parents exacted revenge on the wrong people and replaced the soundtrack with The Spanish Flea, allow me to answer: it becomes a horrible movie called Otis.

Otis is a mess of a movie. It claims to be dark comedy/horror, yet succeeds at neither. The only thing that shines through in this installment of Raw Feed’s indie horror canon is the filmmaker’s utter insincerity toward it’s target audience. Contrary to what they’d like you to believe, they’re not doing anything new. They’re not breaking new ground.

In brief, Otis is about a lonely, overweight pizza delivery man trying to fulfill the fantasy of living his older, popular brother’s highschool life. He does this by kidnapping girls in the neighbourhood and torturing them into participating in a mock prom he’s set up in his basement. The movie follows Otis capturing a girl named Riley, and how her parents and the FBI attempt to find her.

The problem with Otis is it’s just bad. The story is flimsy and incidental rather than being carefully plotted, and the characters are shallow mockeries (unintentional mockeries) of a bad 80’s movie. Daniel Stern plays the angry dad, who’s always frustrated and adds nothing new to any conversation, only yelling, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN (fill in the blank with whatever the last person said)!?” He essentially plays a bad copy of his character in Little Monsters. Illeana Douglas plays the worrisome mother; there’s the inept cops, the bratty younger brother, and Kevin Pollak’s portrayal of Otis’ bullying older brother who does nothing but yell. I’m not exaggerating. He never speaks a line, it’s always yelling. Which could be funny — if it wasn’t in this movie. But don’t blame the actors. We’ve all seen them before. This isn’t poor acting – -it’s bad directing and bad writing. But mainly bad directing.

Another thing I couldn’t get over was the soundtrack (both the actual score, and the soundtrack itself). I’m amazed Warner Brothers shelled out the money to fill this movie with classic 80’s music. Not just the garbage stuff – the stuff that actually costs a bit of money. Unfortunately I guess the filmmakers realized that the soundtrack was a highlight of the film, so Otis is full of montages where Blue Oyster Cult, DEVO, and Flock of Seagulls songs play from beginning to end overtop of nothing special.

As for the musical score? I don’t know why I’m seeing so many movies with BAD guitar rock scores. Ironman anyone? Has guitar hero made so much of an impact it’s actually ruining movies? Hey Hollywood, we don’t like guitar rock as much as we like hitting buttons on a stick while our friends laugh and Highway Star plays in the background. And in the case of Otis, it’s not even good guitar rock. It sounds like it was written by your older cousin’s bar band. But not your cool older cousin, the older cousin you think would probably rape your girlfriend.

When I said there is only one thing that shines through in OTIS, I wasn’t giving credit where credit is due. The second act is actually good. When we see the interaction between Otis and Riley, I don’t feel like turning the movie off. So I guess that part’s a winner (unfortunately it’s bookended with a cinematic jar of piss and a bucket of dead mice).

As well, a few performances rise high above the rest of the cast. Bostin Christopher’s portrayal of the title character is great. One of the only times I actually laughed (or even smiled) during the movie was because of him; and it came from him. HIS performance – not a pratfall or a ‘clever’ situation. Tony Krantz should thank him for providing the only time this film even comes close to hitting the mark. I hope another role comes along for Bostin to showcase his abilities, because it would be a shame if we could only find them here. Two other highlights were from Tracy Scoggins as the television anchorwoman (who is still hot) and Jere Burns as Agent Hotchkiss. They gave more to their roles than the movie deserved.

Other than that, I still hate OTIS.

And the worst part about me hating OTIS is, if – by some far-off – chance the filmmakers ever read this review, they’re going to think they succeeded. They’re going to think the accomplished exactly what they set out to do, patting themselves on the back thinking they’ve struck a nerve and the current climate isn’t ready for something as groundbreaking as OTIS. I know this because they say it in the TWISTED WORLD OF OTIS special feature. They ACTUALLY eat their own bullshit. They think they’re amazing. Some great self-congratulatory quotes are:

Screenwriter Erik Jendresen:
“It’s a comedy about a paedophile, (with a self-congratulatory smirk of how clever he is) which is just universally wrong.”

Daniel Stern on why he likes OTIS:
“I like human beings… what happens to regular folks.”

Director Tony Krantz:
“OTIS is a political film. It’s also metaphoric of our times.”

And lastly:
“We wanted to be the first satire of the torture-porn genre.”

That’s the one that really gets me. Being the first isn’t the same as being the best. Just make a good movie. I’m reminded of something George Romero said that I always fall back on: “Night of the Living Dead has been made 100 times, yet it’s never been made.” Simply put, if you have a unique vision, you’re never telling the same story.

So, makers of OTIS, upon hearing that I hate your movie, please don’t think you’ve won. I don’t hate you because you’re ‘edgy’; I hate you because you’re that loser goth kid nobody liked and I took pity on, only to discover a week later you’re actually just socially retarded, you swore at my sister, and you’ve been stealing my CDs.

You want edgy, funny, revolting, and suspenseful? Watch Chan-wook Park’s segment ‘CUT’ on the release of ‘Three… Extremes.’ He accomplishes what these guys never will, except he does it in half an hour.

DVD, Hits & Misses | | 13 Comments »

REVIEW: Rest Stop (DVD)

Posted on September 2, 2008 by

On the surface, Raw Feed has a lot going for it. It’s an arm of Warner Brothers distribution centered on making straight-to-DVD low-budget horror and it’s headed by half the directing team of The Blair Witch Project and a few writers from The X-Files. Which is why I find myself disappointed with what they have to offer – they should just be better movies. Great, refreshing, stand-alone movies that live up to the reputations of the filmmakers behind them.

Rest Stop was Raw Feed’s first film, written and directed by John Shiban and staring Jamie Alexander. The basic story is Nicole and her boyfriend Jesse are running away from home. While driving in the middle of nowhere in the desert (and after a some quick road sex with a horribly obvious body-double), the two end up at a rest stop so Nicole can go to the washroom while Jesse waits in the car. When Nicole comes back, Jesse and the car are gone. Nicole finds herself alone at the rest stop, with nothing but a locked-up ranger station, a dirty washroom, and a spooky RV in the parking lot. That is, until the mysterious creepy yellow truck appears and forces her into a night of terror. All the while Nicole has to find out where Jesse has been taken, who the truck driver is, and who the weird family are living in the RV.

I never go into a movie wanting to hate it. I always give what I’m watching the benefit of the doubt. But when conventions are shoe-horned into a movie for no reason other than to fill up the horror movie checklist, I’m a little insulted. I’m generally forgiving if the filmmakers are being cheeky with it, but when you’re doing it stone-faced just to do it, don’t treat me like an idiot about it. And the use of a body double only makes it more pathetic.

When they show us a nice medium wide shot of Nicole taking off her bra, and then cut to a screen full of tit just before the bra crosses the nipple, I’m not thinking that’s sexy. There’s no natural momentum. It’s just shot after shot of Nicole and Jesse embracing cut against a giant zoomed-in booby (yes, booby). This isn’t pubescent masturbation material. And when you’re just throwing in tits, you should at least have the pride to ask yourself, “can a 13 year old jerk off to this?” And if the answer is ‘no,’ then keep it out. Directors should all take a lesson from my VHS copy of Total Recall that shows nothing but static where a three-breasted alien once stood.

As for the actors, Jamie Alexander does the best with what she was given (she also plays the hot chick in the underage drinking episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). Joey Lawrence appears about halfway through and does an AMAZING Bruce Willis impression, which is worth checking out on it’s own. Everyone else just seems to be doing their jobs and little else.

Overall, Rest Stop is an overly ambitious movie that loses direction within the first act (and this is confirmed with the DVD’s three alternate endings). I know John Shiban is a good writer. With some great television under his belt (remember that awesome ‘Field Trip’ episode of X-Files?), he knows how to carry a story; but the problem with Rest Stop is it needs an answer-man. Rest Stop doesn’t have Agent Mulder from The X-Files or the Winchester boys from Supernatural to let the audience know what’s really happening; so, the audience has no clue what is really going on until the credits start rolling. And I mean that literally — the movie’s big revelation occurs in a small video that runs alongside the credits. And even then I’m still a little sketchy as to who did what to who and why.

I ended Rest Stop remembering the reason Nicole wanted to go to the rest stop in the first place; when Jesse asked her why she doesn’t just pee on the side of the road, she answers, “I’m not going to pee in the dirt.”

And that’s kind of how I feel about Rest Stop. When I watch studio-made straight-to-DVD horror, I know I’m slumming it. So when I’m slumming it, I want to at least do it with a little class.

I’m not going to pee in the dirt.

DVD, Hits & Misses | | 7 Comments »

REVIEW: Fan Expo 2008, Metro Toronto Convention Center

Posted on August 29, 2008 by

So this past weekend was Fan Expo, the biggest annual convention Toronto sees for all things relating to comic books, science fiction, anime, horror, and gaming. Basically a lot of geek in one place.

What follows is a report of the few (there were just so many!) events I was able to attend over the course of the weekend when I wasn’t haggling for discount comics.

Every year, Fan Expo tries to outdo the previous year’s slam dunk of guests. This year, many thought the organizers “dropped the ball,” as it were. Those people are idiots for one reason and one reason alone:

Dr. Buzz Fucking Aldrin!

Ever hear of the moon? Yeah, the moon. Buzz Aldrin’s been there. He and Neil Armstrong were the first two astronauts to walk on our planetary satellite’s surface! And 40 years later he is still awesome. Why?

Because he was on the moon!

There are actors who pretend to go to the moon. There are dorks who write about spandex-wearing, mommy-issue-laden douchebags (note: I love comics) who go to the moon. Then, there’s this guy. Went to the moon. Still not impressed? What is wrong with you?

Another of the panels I went to was the Brent Spiner Q&A. For you geeks who don’t know, Brent Spiner played Data, the infamous android of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame. Unfortunately, the talk wasn’t overly impressive. Spiner, while very comical and great at talking, spent most of the hour not answering the questions or avoiding them by saying things like, “You know that I’m not really an android, right?” No, Mr. Spiner. I did not know that.

However, so as not to be a big downer on one of my favourite science fiction characters, the panel started on a great note. As fans were filing into the packed room, Spiner spent about 5-6 full minutes plugging Burrito Boyz, a Toronto institution that makes the best Burritos. Everyone who has ever had one agrees. Including Brent Spiner. Hearing an android talk about Burritos for 6 minutes made the experience totally worth it.

More… »

Hits & Misses, Live | | 5 Comments »

REVIEW: the Colin Farrell sex tape

Posted on August 19, 2008 by

When Colin Farrell’s star began growing in Hollywood I didn’t care. Not even Hart’s War could make me care.

Then I read a story about “A Home at the End of the World,” from writer Michael Cunningham (Academy Award winner, The Hours) and director Michael Mayer (Kid’s Choice winner, Flicka). The story was about Colin’s cock. There was a scene cut from the original version of the film where Colin’s character is standing full-frontal for everyone to see. The reason it was cut? Women in the test audience were so distracted by his size that they couldn’t pay attention to the rest of the film.

Colin Farrell’s cock is so big it makes women stupid.

So, there was some reputation to live up to when I first saw his sex tape.

Colin’s sex tape was released during the golden age of sex tapes. When it was still scandalous; when stars actually tried to suppress them by any means possible. There were no “mysterious leaks” before the premiere of Star X’s big movie, or publicly announced distribution deals – these were embarrassing videos that could potentially ruin your career. Which is why I think Colin’s tape is so interesting; very little, if any, action was taken to stop it from being released.

It was like he didn’t care at all. You get the impression he heard a tape of him and Nicole Narain having sex was leaked on the internet and he laughed it off. Which, in the long run, worked. The average movie going public doesn’t even know he has a sex tape; and that’s a shame – because it could be the best sex tape ever made.

As far as sex tapes go (in terms of being used as masturbatory aides), the top of the pile has two clear winners: Pam and Tommy, and One Night in Paris. They transcend sex-tape territory and dive straight into pornography while answering, “I wonder what it would be like to fuck (blank).”

However, where Pam and Tommy stake their claim in a great one-off, Paris killed the magic with bad sequel followed by worse sequel. The first installment in the trilogy not only has great sex, it also makes Paris come off as a little shy and approachable; she goes from being a sex symbol to the girl next door with the weird nose. Although nowadays when it gets to the night vision section, it kind of feels like I’m watching one of those creatures from The Descent sucking off Rick Solomon.

Then, the second Paris tape came out. I don’t know, or care, who the guy is – all I know is, while watching a sex tape I expect more than a boob and a half.

As for Paris number three? It’s nothing. Paris has a bath, while the most pathetic man in the world holds a camera on her and for fifteen minutes we hear him beg her for sex. Really. Who is this guy? Have a little self-respect. It’s Paris Hilton – give her half a Smirnoff Ice and go to town.

So where does the Colin Farrell tape stand in all of this? As a stand-alone piece it could be the best celebrity sex tape ever leaked. The video is actually fun to watch. It evokes a sense of nostalgia for teenage sexual awakening. It could be the Stand By Me of sex tapes.

The key to the tape isn’t the sex itself, it’s Colin’s approach to it. He fills you with the wonder and excitement of a 13-year-old reading through his dad’s Penthouse Forum from March 1978. He loves having sex with Nicole and he tells her at every opportunity. Bottom line being – Colin is the star of the show. Not his dick. Not Nicole (who – although attractive – is somewhat underwhelming). The star is Colin and every word that comes out of his mouth. Maybe it’s his accent, but the crudeness of his words have are full of endearment, flattery and masculine playfulness. My favorites are:

“Fuck, you are the sexiest motherfucker I have ever met. Holy shit, I didn’t know they made bastards as sexy as you, man!”

“Whatever princess wants, princess fuckin’ gets – let me tell ya.”

(While Nicole goes down on him)
“It’s like you’re goin’ fishing for fuckin pubes man, you’re just catchin’ every fuckin’ pube I have. By the end of this morning we wont have to fuckin’ shave me.”

(As he goes down on Nicole)
“you know what this is? this is my breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

Watching the video draws envy from both men and women. Women want to get fucked by Colin Farrell and men want to fuck like Colin Farrell. Because the Colin Farrell sex tape is the letter I would have written to Penthouse when I was 13. It’s how every teenage boy imagines losing his virginity. And that’s why it’s the Stand by Me of sex tapes: it’s a false nostalgia. He has sex like it’s the first time – but the way the first time is supposed to be, not the way it actually happens. There’s no striking out over and over again until, at 17 years old, one hot summer’s day your girlfriend randomly asks you if you want to do it. There’s no slow cautiousness because you have to be as quiet as possible in case your girlfriend’s dad comes in the house. There’s no girlfriend bursting out in tears five seconds before you come – not out of pain, but because, “something doesn’t feel right.” There’s no sitting in a sweaty lump in the corner of your girlfriend’s dark bedroom because she “just doesn’t want to be touched” while she finishes crying. There’s no throwing out your used condom in a public garbage can because you’re afraid her parents might find it otherwise. And most of all, there’s no guilt from thinking your first time having sex might actually be some kind of date rape.

Colin Farrell isn’t just having sex for Colin Farrell.

Film, Hits & Misses, Old Stuff | | 9 Comments »

REVIEW: BBC Natural History Collection (The Life Series)

Posted on July 28, 2008 by

The Life of Mammals. The Life of Birds. The Trials of Life. Get it? Good. The BBC is seriously into life. Not just any ordinary old life, I’m talking the best of the best: whales, gorillas, phytoplankton and parrots. You would think that the solid gold animals that make up these documentary series would make them enjoyable or entertaining to watch. You’d be wrong.

See, I love animals. I love fish, and kangaroos and all the problems associated with being them. However, after watching roughly 17 hours, no shitting, of animals being themselves and eating each other you start to realize something. What the hell is the point? I mean, it’s freakin sweet to see salmon swim upstream — they go through this whole big endurance race to the north to have fish sex, creepy though -– but honestly, why do they do it? It’s way easier to just chill down south like your grandpappy.

I came up with a few possible solutions as to why animals exist and do what they do.

1. Humans over analyze animals and forget that they are animals. We assume that we are better than animals but really, we just want to do animal stuff and have sex too.

2. We would be totally fucked without them.

3. They are reflections of a greater being who is beyond the grasp any human theist or current religion could contain.

4. A metaphor.

4. David Attenborough.

Sitting on couches, beds and basically doing dick all at work I have had the time to come to the conclusion that animals exist purely to be narrated by David Attenborough. I mean, David has practically narrated every animal there is. He narrated two whales into eating each other. Seriously, I saw it. He even narrated a polar bear into catching a beluga. It doesn’t take a genius to put this together.

While being initially interesting, David has worn me thin. He really likes to narrate animals doing the same thing. Watch any random clip from the above documentaries and I can guarantee that it will go as follows: David narrates the prey into the scene. He brings in the predator. He then proceeds to show off his dramatic skills by either a) allowing the weaker animal to get away, or b) allowing the kinetic carnage to ensue. Yes, the animals may look different, but being guided by Attenborough (pure id) they all end up doing the same thing.

Bottom line, watch one, watch ‘em all.

BBC LIFE SERIES: 7 Social Climbing Monkeys out of 11.

DVD, Old Stuff | | 10 Comments »

REVIEW: Mount Eerie – Black Wooden Ceiling Opening

Posted on July 24, 2008 by

It’s kind of cool to see what happens when someone who’s known for doing one thing really well just up and decides to turn that one thing on its head. Enter: Black Wooden Ceiling Opening by Mount Eerie. Phil Elverum is great at making meandering, haunting, beautiful music which occasionally dips into that whole a-little-too-cryptic-and-obtuse-to-be-truly-enjoyable-by-anyone-other-than-Phil-Elverum territory.

With all that said his newest record, Black Wooden is an awesome lofi-folk-metal (kinda) concoction in which Elverum reinvents his songs into the made-up genre of Black Wooden, which is in turn a reinvention of Black Metal – awww, there’s that cryptic and obtuse Elverum we know and love.

This record is like Christmas morning: I ordered it from Elverum himself via his label P.W. Elverum & Sun, ltd. and it arrived promptly, hand-addressed by the man himself (you can tell, trust me). The package contained the six track 10″ record on pretty pretty white vinyl as well as a CD version of the album with an additional eleven live tracks, plus the packaging of the record which unfolds into two beautiful posters. And it’s good! It’s warm and it’s dark and it’s Mount Eerie. And I love Mount Eerie. Marry me, Santa Elverum.

Hits & Misses, Music | | 1 Comment »

REVIEW: Chaos Theory (Dir. Marcos Siega)

Posted on July 23, 2008 by

If I were to write a quick summary of this film (which I won’t), I would call this movie boring. But sometimes Ryan made really cute and playful faces that made me giggle.

It may come as a surprise to few that with all my vast writing knowledge and experience, I have never reviewed a DVD before. So when I was handed Chaos Theory I thought to myself… why the hell am I going to start now?

In fact, the only reason I put this movie in the DVD player was to inspire my girlfriend to have Ryan Reynolds role play sex (better than makeup sex if you can get her to be Ryan). Needless to say, I couldn’t get her to do it (we compromised and I made her play me instead) and the heartbreak of her refusal got me thinking: Why can’t my girlfriend be Ryan Reynolds?

Instead of writing a review of this movie, I will write an appeal to girlfriends everywhere explaining why guys want to fantasize about Ryan Reynolds and why girls should concede to (my) role-play demands. I thought the most effective way to do this was to write him a new resume. I call it ‘Ryan Reynolds is a cooler, better, sexier person than you: The Resume.’


Personal Information

Height: 6′ 2″

Weight: More than you but with less fat

Hair: Brown

Eyes: Soft Brown


Failed high school drama but will still make more money than you ever will

Relevant Experience

Rachel Leigh Cook
Alanis Morisette (also of Full House fame)
Scarlet Johansson

Films I have filled with badassery

Van Wilder
Blade 3

Television you own on DVD

Two Guys, and a Girl and a Pizza Place (BERG!!!!!111!)
Outer Limits
Sabrina the Teenage Witc
h (Television Movie)


Dad was a boxer
Proficient in finding fireworks from Indian reservations
Fan of competitive eating
Has an eight pack
Owns more motorcycles than you
One time went skydiving and his parachute failed to open


What makes you so heart warming?
My adorable expressions and ignorance of the missionary position

Did you really turn down the role of Xander in Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
Yes. I was too busy lifting houses (underage girls)


I enjoy long walks inside your girlfriend

In Conclusion: Does anyone know of a Halloween store open this time or year? More importantly one specializing in Ryan Reynolds?

DVD, Hits & Misses | | 2 Comments »

REVIEW: The Dark Knight (Dir. Christopher Nolan)

Posted on July 18, 2008 by

Being the coolest fucking dude on the internet, I just got home from a midnight screening of the most nerd-boner-inducing movie of 2008, The Dark Knight. It’s now almost 4 a.m. and my house is about four or five degrees hotter than it is outside, which would make it about 35 degrees Celsius in my house. Man, fuck this place. I’m also listening to the new Off With Their Heads record, which I highly recommend, so not everything is bad here. It’s kind of like Hot Water Music, but more like the Ramones. Like the Ramones covering Hot Water Music, maybe? Sort of. Also, my computer crashed while I was gone, which is a bummer since it was exporting this week’s video for my day job. I’m hoping it can render in time, so I’m writing this on a really old laptop with a weak battery. Who knows if anyone will ever read this? Also, I’m pretty hungry, but there were some leftover chicken wings in my fridge. Oh, Dark Knight kicked ass. Here are some text messages I got about it.

the dark knight=shit sandwhich. up there with daredevil as one of the great comic book movies
July 18, 08 2:44am

July 18, 08 2:46am

You either die a hero, or you live to see yourself watch Batman.
July 18, 08 2:51am

Liz Stannard
da na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na batman! rocks.
July 18, 08 3:09am


Film, Hits & Misses, Old Stuff | | 56 Comments »

REVIEW: Ribfest, Etobicoke, June 30, 2008

Posted on July 7, 2008 by


“I think I am going to find my husband here tonight,” Claire Richardson said as we walked up to Ribfest. Claire always says what everyone is thinking but is too scared to say. The 9th annual Toronto Ribfest was held from June 27th-July 1st at Centennial Park in Etobicoke. It’s got everything one could ever dream of: ribs, music, candy, freakshows, pizza ears (?!), cornbread, and husband material. Ribbers come from all parts of the world to showcase their award winning ribs and Etobians come from Lakeshore to Rexdale to eat them. One thing I learned when rib-feasting is you first have to scope out your options before you commit. If you get too excited and pick some unknown ribs without doing your research, your weekend is ruined. All the rib tents are set up with signs repping their name (i.e – Bone Daddy’s) and their accomplishments (i.e – Best Ribs in the South 2006). Their trophies are also on display. I think that’s how you’re supposed to pick where to eat… the more pigs on top of the trophies means the better the ribs. Thus, I chose Rib King from Spartanburg, South Carolina for their impressive track record. AND for only $10, you get ribs, beans, slaw and cornbread. To say I had died and gone to rib heaven is an understatement. But there is much more to Ribfest than ribs and pizza ears. Everyone’s favourite rides are there: Berry Go Round, The Cobra, and G-force. Ribfest can also be a home away from home for deep thinkers. In between discussions of Darwin’s theory of evolution and Einstein’s theory of relativity (over a Baby King Combo), I heard the question “Hey wait, do you think there is one pizza ear for each person in the world?” At the end of the night, I think I had found my husband, and his name is Ribfest. I LOVE RIBFEST.

Hits & Misses, Live | | 3 Comments »

REVIEW: Super High Me (Dir. Michael Blieden)

Posted on July 3, 2008 by

super_high_me.jpgSuper High Me…. Super Size Me? Whoa, they almost sound the same! Comedian Doug Benson was pinned down by sweet Mary Jayne when he discovered this gem. If I was baked right now, that might make me laugh along with him. A little. Unfortunately for Doug, I am only high on instant coffee.

Armed with a catchy one-liner, Doug sets out on a quest to get baked for thirty days. On the surface, it’s a funny concept, but one that isn’t foreign to many of us. I could pick any number of my friends and follow them around all day and they would be funnier than this dope.

To make his bogus investigation seem credible, Doug goes sober for a month. He consults with a doctor and a psychologist. He has his sperm count checked, does his SAT’s, and even does a test for Extra Sensory Perception! After the control month, he gets ripped and does the tests again.

If you haven’t given up already, or are too stoned to give a damn, hold on! Yes, there is a deeper theme in this cloud of smoke. During one stand-up bit, our man Doug actually brags that he has a license to smoke weed because he whined to a doctor about some back pain. But throughout the film there is no discussion with his doctor, or anyone for that matter, about this crippling back pain that can only be cured by cannabis. Like many of us, he just wants to get baked.

At the peak of the film, the DEA raids several Californian clinics that hook sick folks up with their meds. Why? The Governator and his crew running the state are cool with medicinal marijuana, aren’t they? But those pesky feds are not stoked. What! These people are sick! Well, as this film demonstrates, fuck-bags like Doug are inconsiderate and will abuse the system. He laughs at how easy it was for him to get medicinal marijuana. This undermines any serious discussion Super High Me presents about the right for sick people to smoke up.

If you are bored at work like I am and drugs are not an option, give this a go. If not, fuck it – go burn one with your friends. Your friends are funnier than Doug Benson.

DVD, Hits & Misses | | 11 Comments »

REVIEW: Burn Notice, Season One (DVD)

Posted on June 24, 2008 by

More than bad, this show is confusing. The premise seems to be that our hero, who boasts his profession as doing “a lot of things,” has a “burn notice out on” him. Judging by the plotline, it’s like being blacklisted, only sexier. But sexy or not, I’m not entirely positive what burn notice means, so I don’t understand his dilemma.

Burn Notice is like VIP without the distraction of all the boobs. And with Bruce Campbell. If this show isn’t on Spike TV already, you can probably look forward to that.

JUICEBOXdotcom says Burn Notice: Season One is:


“The wigs the wardrobe people got look very real!”

“Main character is against smoking!”

“Can watch this show for 20 minutes if nothing else is on!”

“Miami looks warm! Might inspire you to winter there!”

DVD, Hits & Misses | | 8 Comments »

REVIEW: Sigur Ros – Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

Posted on June 23, 2008 by

sigur-ros.jpgIcelandic atmospheric post-rockers Sigur Rós are back with their latest full length album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (translated into English: With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly). While still reigning on the throne of ‘shoe-gazing’ Avant-garde, they have taken serious strides towards harnessing an organic sound. The album opens with the single, “Gobbledigook,” and you immediately get a feel for this new direction with tribal drum beats and an all-together raw, unpolished sound (as far as one can use the words raw and unpolished to describe Sigur Ros). The album also features Sigur Ros’ first foray into English language lyrics with the album finishing “All Alright.” It’s alright. After listening to the record a few times, I decided that I liked all of it, but I didn’t love it all. But I’m sure there will be no shortage of films tapping into this album for ominous and transformation related scores. (EMI, XL Recordings)

Hits & Misses, Music | | Comment »

North By Northeast East (East)

Posted on June 19, 2008 by

Most have already forgotten, but this past weekend saw the 14th annual NXNE music/film festival and conference shove into Toronto, bringing with it hordes of industry geeks, regular people, and oh yeah, bands. I scored two wristbands and though I wasn’t stoked on too much this year, I do enjoy scouring data and making lists, and I definitely enjoy wandering into venues with the freedom of the above mentioned wristband.

It makes perfect sense, then, that I would be out of the city (out of the province!) for the festival. Months prior, I’d taken advantage of a cheap seat sale to fly east and visit the family for a week, not realizing the overlap. NXNE apparently didn’t care about my absence and carried on anyway. Jerks:

CBC Radio 3 Showcase

Not wanting the wristbands to go to waste, I conducted a rigorous audition process to select the worthy recipient, one Shaun Axani of Toronto, to be my personal roving North By Northeast East East (I was on the east coast, get it?!) reporter.

I’m pretty sure I sat on my ass at my Dad’s and re-read some Douglas Coupland and watched Whose Line Is It Anyway? Meanwhile, Shaun caught seven showcases! Good work, Shaun. The night’s winner seemed to be Halifax’s Mardeen (who snagged a great spot playing to a packed Rivoli for Two Hours Traffic fans). I listened to them afterwards and dig those meandering pop hooks. More… »

Hits & Misses, Live | | 2 Comments »

REVIEW: ANGO w/ DJ Cosmo – Live in Halifax, June 12, 2008

Posted on June 17, 2008 by

Photo by Robin Hart-Hiltz

ANGO is a stand-up guy. Sure, he just came off a tour highlighted by an opening set for Megasoid (Wolf Parade, anyone?) at one of Montreal’s renowned Turbocrunk parties. And yea, he is the top rated major label artist in each of his Myspace genres, without even being officially signed to any label. But what really sets ANGO apart, if you can forgive my bias, is the futon he gave my roommate and I before the show to replace the busted-ass one in our living room. Stand up!

DJ Cosmo opened the show. By this point not a single soul had arrived at Hell’s Kitchen. Cosmo mixed and scratched a solid set of old school tracks on the 1’s and 2’s, like Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” and “Everyday I’m Hustlin'” by our favorite bearded pimp, Rick Ross. Easily one of the most hype DJs in Halifax, and he has the DMC DJ finalist spot to prove it.

ANGO tore into his set of wild mixes, with thick beats punctuated by ‘lazer bass’. What really makes this guy unique is his fluidity. He blends elements prepared in advance with live loops of many instruments. So with his party intuition and musical/production skills, he is able to adapt to the ebb and flow of the crowd. And thankfully, a small crowd had gathered in the bar. He peered through the stage lights, using his hand to extend the beak of his Expos hat. “Shit,” he laughed. “I think I personally know every one of you here.” The whole city bailed on the show, but so what? ANGO and DJ Cosmo party with or without you.

Hits & Misses, Live | | 2 Comments »

REVIEW: Monotonix – Live in Toronto, June 14, 2008

Posted on June 17, 2008 by

Photo by Jade Maravillas

The honest truth is that I heard Body Language, the debut EP from these Israeli monsters/rockers, way before I actually had any idea who they were. It showed up on my desk with about a blagillion other records, I listened to it, and I thought it was really good. Kind of Sabbath-meets-Fugazi-meets-twenty-fuzzboxes. Good jams for the kids. As it turns out, this isn’t how most people first hear Monotonix. If I read blogs, apparently I would know this: Monotonix are basically the most insane live band since Iggy and the Stooges. Or at least, they really want to you to think that, and for most of their set, you almost do.

Hailing from Tel Aviv, these guys were in town for NXNE and played something like five shows. Which, after you’ve seen one, seems completely insane. At this, their final Toronto show of the weekend, the band packed Sneaky Dee’s, set up on the floor, and started their set by ripping the video projector off the ceiling. Legend has it these guys are banned from every venue in their hometown, which is why they’re here all the time now, and it kind of makes sense. Vocalist Ami Shalev pushed through the crowd, stole people’s beers, spit them back at confused de-beered dudes, took all the garbage from the bathroom, threw it in the air, and then ended up on top of the crowd for the set’s entire second half. The drummer also concluded the set held aloft by the crowd, and I think I was also holding up a guitar player at one point, but I didn’t have my glasses on, so who really knows. Musically, the band is a mess, but who cares? Monotonix are basically all hype and schtick, but the hype is mostly well-desereved and the schtick kicks ass. It’s not Iggy and it’s not GG, but it’s a fine fucking way to get kicked around on a Saturday night.

Hits & Misses, Live | | 1 Comment »

REVIEW: Coldplay – Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends

Posted on June 17, 2008 by

Coldplay has a new album out today. If you like this band, you’ll like Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends and if you don’t, you won’t. So instead of wasting time reviewing the album, let’s review the album cover.

The painting seen here is by a famous Romanticist painter named Eugene Delacroix. It’s called Liberty Leading the People (La Liberté guidant le peuple) and the painting’s message is rather blunt. It’s about the French Revolution, and is full of images that speak to Liberty (the tricolore flag, Liberty modeled after Marianne [a national emblem], the Phyrgian cap, even the young boy with the guns is said to be Gavroche, a child revolutionary from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables). Delacroix painted this as a cathartic substitute for not being able to fight for his country.

The reason that’s important is because Romanticism is a style that is often associated with fluidity, movement, and passion. When you look at Liberty Leading the People, the intent is that you are inspired with a sense of (French) nationalism, or on a grander scale, you are inspired by the power of freedom. At least, that’s what Delacroix allegedly felt through the act of painting this.

With all that useful knowledge, think about what Coldplay means by painting the words “Viva La Vida” over top of it. It could be a statement at the failing quality of Liberty. It could mean that the old value of freedom that was so valiantly (and violently) fought for some 220 years ago is once again slipping away and transforming into the evil that was once opposed. By graffiti-ing over a painting about rebellion, are you, in turn, rebelling against rebellion?

How smart do you think Coldplay is?

And what does it mean when the title Viva La Vida is an homage to a painting by Frida Kohler that’s of watermelons?

Hits & Misses, Music | | 3 Comments »

REVIEW: Nerf Herder – IV

Posted on June 15, 2008 by

iv.jpg I always pop a huge double-boner for this band whenever I hear about them ‘cause a) their name is a total Star Wars homage, and b) they’re the ones responsible for the theme to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Man, that’s a good theme. I think it was like the third thing I ever learned to play on guitar.

Anyway, if you’re paying attention: Star Wars! And Buffy! That’s already a huge amount of dork points in Nerf Herder’s favour. Too bad IV is like the single most derivative record of all time. If you’re gonna be all goofy and mix your punk with your pop and write songs about high school reunions and give them titles like “I’m Not A Loser,” you better be the Descendents or maybe a really good Descendents cover band. You know when you’re 16 and you’re pouring water into your parents’ wine bottle and then your parents have a little soirée and your dad is all, “What the dickens is wrong with this wine?” Imagine the Descendents are the untouched wine bottle, see, and then this Nerf Herder record is the same bottle after you’ve diluted it with all the… uh… you know what, I think you get the drift of what I’m going for here. In conclusion, Milo Goes To College is such a fucking sweet record, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still totally bitchin’.

Hits & Misses, Music | | 2 Comments »

REVIEW: Sloan – Parallel Play

Posted on June 12, 2008 by

It’s hard to pretend I’m still excited about Sloan when even the band sounds bored.

Sounding at best like a decent b-sides collection and at worst like wallpaper AM radio tunes, Sloan’s eighth studio album Parallel Play fails to follow the promise of last year’s reckoning, the 30-track grand slam Never Hear The End Of It. NHTEOI was more than an acceptable apology for the two preceding discs, Pretty Together and Action Pact, albums which, in all their modern rock radio gloss and gloat, at least showed us glimpses into the changing four-headed pet monster that is Sloan. NHTEOI brought the whole together, greater than we’d yet seen the sum of their parts, then they gotta go and drop this disjointed yawnzo bomb on us? Dang.

Using a psychology concept (referring to children who play side by side with nary an interaction) for the album title makes me hope they know they’re being stubborn children this time around; each wanting to exert their own personality (Patrick likes guitars, Andrew likes Frank Black, Jay likes pop records, Chris likes Chris) and get full attention for it, but somehow I mostly just picture a comfortable-to-a-fault old married couple who co-exist in habit, knives scraping the dinner plates as they finish another meal, another day, another record.

Of course I’m not so disappointed that I won’t listen to this record a lot this summer; I mean, it is a Sloan record. I hold them to unfair levels of expectations, just like any good parent would to a child whose potential shouldn’t go to waste. (I believe that is, like Parallel Play, another ultra scientific term called “tough love.”) The thing is, this weird little bump of a record won’t win any new fans (no hit singles here), and it will likely, ahem, underwhelm other faithfuls. What now, Sloan? (Murderecords)

Hits & Misses, Music | | 2 Comments »

REVIEW: Tell Me You Love Me, The Complete First Season (DVD)

Posted on June 8, 2008 by

Maaaaaan. Considering I chose this out of our Free Pile based on the triple-threat of ridiculousness that is its cover image + title + tagline, I feel like a bit of a goon for actually having enjoyed it in earnest. So goonly, in fact, that I’ve avoided slopping together a review for about a month in hopes that I’d eventually stop getting bugged about putting one up. But since that doesn’t look like it’s happening, and since I enjoy enjoying free things, let’s kick the ground and get this over with.

Tell Me You Love Me is a good television show. Its working title, though the network wouldn’t have it, was the far more charming/appropriate Fuck Me, Please and as such there are loads of dinks and boobs on the television screen.

It’s about three couples, all of which you see the dinks and boobs of, who are in various stages of their respective relationships, and are narratively linked by a common therapist (who you also see the boobs of… and she is 70!). The cast apparently had to do a bunch of tequila shots in order to get past the first-date-y-ness of the pilot where they barely knew one another but were still groping each other’s bits (see, I even listened to the episode commentaries for that nugget. WHAT HAS BECOME OF OUR HERO?) More… »

DVD, Hits & Misses | | 4 Comments »

REVIEW: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Dir. Tim Supple)

Posted on June 7, 2008 by

Luminato, a nine day festival of the arts and things that might be art, is taking over Toronto right now. Seriously, look outside. Anyway, one of the flagship performances associated with this madness is Tim Supple’s rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Canon Theatre.

Basically the play is interpreted through an east Indian lens, with a cast of 23 Indian and Sri Lanken actors, dancers, musicians and acrobats. While about half the play is spoken in English, the other half is a combination of seven different Indian languages, including Hindi, Tamil and Sanskrit.

Everything I’ve just told you is more or less what I remember from the Toronto Star’s glowing review of the play, and after having been lucky enough to see it, I must say that the reviewer painted an accurate picture of what you get, but there are a few things you don’t really realize before getting there.

While seven different Indian languages is cool and all, unfortunately I don’t understand any of them. Still, with the play expertly weaving its way from English to [pick an Indian language] and back again, often within the same line of dialogue (seriously, it was cool), you realize how much of the play you don’t really need to read to get the full gist of things.

Granted, seven Indian languages all sound sort of the same to someone who speaks none of them (read: me), and more than once I felt a bit left out when I would hear outbursts of laughter during a line I didn’t understand, but I had the benefit of seeing the world through the eyes of Charlie Brown (remember how the teachers sound like trombones? Yeah. Puck = Trombone), and you realize not only how big the world is, but how fucking cool it is.

The set design evolves through the performance and really takes on a life of its own as the play progresses. More than just the East Indian garb or the Indian wedding ceremony, you really get a feeling for how the forest is brought to life, not only with moving greenery, but with bright reds and oranges and purples.

And have you ever watched a Bollywood movie? At last, Shakespeare with awesome choreographed dance sequences!

If the idea of Charlie Brown loving Bollywood (and fucking, the play is all about intercourse) piques your interest, then you should definitely check this play out before it finishes its run this Sunday (June 15, 2008.)

Hits & Misses, Live | | 11 Comments »

REVIEW: Sex and the City (Dir. Michael Patrick King)

Posted on June 3, 2008 by


That’s it.

I think I’ll review all movies with poorly-constructed mosaics from now on. Plus give any person who can offer a reasonable explanation for each picture a five-dollar bill and a hearty pat on the back. Seriously. Hit me up.

Film, Hits & Misses | | 3 Comments »

REVIEW: Kanye West – Live in Toronto, May 21, 2008

Posted on May 23, 2008 by

kanyelive.jpgPlaying the part of space cowboy, Kanye West hauled his Glow In the Dark circus into the Molson Amphitheatre Wednesday night. And in true Kanye fashion, the futuristic theme of his set was hinged on him being needed to save the planet as, naturally, the best and brightest star in the galaxy. These are actual lines that his talking spaceship said to him. Yes, a talking spaceship. Not unlike KITT from Knightrider.

Her name was Jane (aww!) and throughout the 90-minute set, her job was to motivate Kanye to keep fighting the good fight in the face of haters, gold diggers, and a general assortment of negative influences who want to keep him down, or, in this case, lost in space. Did I mention that the stage looked like rough outer space planet terrain? With an IMAX screen showing fire, stars, and desert skies? And giant, descending glowing orbs? Oh, and an elevated stage? How it didn’t seem bloated or obnoxious, I don’t know. Must have been the magic.

Despite being the only person running around the set, Kanye filled the stage. When he’s up there, he’s working. He’s focused and serious… but I guess he was trying to save the planet. That’s pretty important stuff.

Lupe Fiasco was probably awesome, but I didn’t get there in time to see him. Apparently he only played four songs, though he did close the show with Kanye, coming out for his part in “Touch the Sky,” so I saw all I needed to see. Ladies Love Cool Pharrell and the rest of N.E.R.D. pretty much broke the stage both with their bass rattle, and with their awesomeness. And as much as I was excited to see Rhianna, she cheaped out and did a typical medley of hits, both hers and others (notably snippets from Lauryn Hill and M.I.A., the latter of which got maybe the biggest applause of RhiRhi’s entire set). More magic ensued when she sang “Umbrella” and everyone had umbrellas, because it was raining! You can’t make that stuff up.

It wouldn’t be a true Kanye experience unless he went on a crazy rant, which he did before leaving the stage for the night. He talked about how people don’t often like him because they’re afraid of his realness. He encouraged us all to be all we can be and to stand tall in the face of our very own haters. And when leaving the show, we were all handed Kanye-made books called “Thank You and You’re Welcome,” which were full of inspirational quotes like, “Believe in your flyness, conquer your shyness.” It was pure, Kanye West-ified magic.

Hits & Misses, Live | | 1 Comment »