Anders Bergstrom's blog on Words, Films, and Music

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Year In Review - MUSIC

Ok, so I'm not normally known as the music guy (as has been stated, movies is my thing); but the end of the year came and I realized that, you know, I've listened to a lot of music this year. I've been to a lot of concerts. I've bought a lot of CDs. And boiling it down to a list of ten albums, takes a little bit of work, because music is such a constant part of my life. So like Luke I'm going to offer up my Top Ten Albums of the year, followed by some honourable mentions, some of my favourite singles and some memorable performances that I was able to take in this year.

Of course I do all of this with the caveat that I do not proclaim myself a music expert. I don't know everything about every band, nor do I have time or money to listen to every major release of the year (hence some major albums that I have yet to listen to, including Sufjan Stevens Illinois, The New Pornographers Twin Cinema and My Morning Jacket Z). Also, I do have to send some thanks in the direction of a few of the people who I credit with encouraging my interest/education in music: Ewan Currie, Joel Fonstad, Meghann Fior, and Lesley Matheson. And anyone else who suggested an album to me that I really liked. Thanks.

It's been an interesting year for music. Living in Victoria, in my own place, music is always on. I always have my iPod with me. That means that there's been some really great new discoveries for me this fall of old music as well. I must say that Joy Division and New Order will now always be among my favourites. Also, I discovered Jeff Buckley and realized what an impact he's had on the kinds of music I like. More recent bands that I've found, such as Interpol (thanks to Lesley's obsession) and The Libertines have also become regular fixtures in my listening patterns. It's also been a year of the Canadian Indie bands, a couple of which will appear on my list; discovering these bands has become much easier thanks to the CBC Radio 3 Podcast. It's a great weekly dose of the newest and most interesting happenings in Canadian music.

So, without further ado let me present my favourite albums of the year 2005.

10) Guero - Beck (Interscope)

There are certain artists who I will check out almost anything they release. Beck is one of those artists. He is the consumate eccentric musician (crazy tracks, Scientology) and he's difficut to pin down and define. Sea Change is one my favourite albums of the past few years, but for Guero he returned to the more "classic" Beck sound working with the Dust Brothers (Odelay) again and creating something that harkens back and looks forward at the same time. The first single "E-Pro" definitely got me moving, nodding my head along to the the album. The album title (which means roughly "white boy" in Spanish) is definitely fitting, as on the second track, Beck brings in the Latin influence that he experienced growing up. Of course part of the greatness of a Beck album is that you never really know what to expect, and yet you do at the same time. While Guero is a bit of a return to the sounds of the Odelay-era, and probably doesn't rank along with my very favourite Beck albums, it's so well done and sent me on a Beck listening spree in the spring and so it belongs on the list: Standout Tracks: "E-Pro," "Girl," "Scarecrow"

9) Don't Believe The Truth - Oasis (Epic)

Another old favourite band on the list. This album may get the award for "Biggest Surprise" of 2005. Last winter, when Ewan mentioned that Oasis had a new album out this year, I was kind of interested, but not really, since it seems it's been all downhill since (What's the Story) Morning Glory. But low and behold I listened to it and it rocks! Of course, if you're not an Oasis fan already, you're not likely to change your mind, but it's as if Noel Gallagher remembered what made Oasis the best wanna-be Beatles band in the world and went back to it. Standout Tracks: "Lyla," "Love Like A Bomb," "The Importance of Being Idle," "Let There Be Love"

8) Apologies to the Queen Mary - Wolf Parade (Sub-Pop)

The first Canadian Indie artist on the list, I had the pleasure of seeing these guys open for The Arcade Fire in Vancouver in October. Their stage energy and my friend Meghann's enthusiasm prompted me to check out a few tracks of theirs and low and behold, I liked their album work even better than their performance. The opening few notes of "It's A Curse" won me over, and Luke heard my comments and got me the album for Christmas. While the band may recieve some criticism from those who say they sound like other bands (their local compatriots The Arcade Fire, or Modest Mouse), I think they have a unique "indie" sound with a solid rock core. The whole thing is outstanding and makes me hungry for more. Definitely one of the best albums of the year. Standout Tracks:"Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts, "It's A Curse," "This Heart's On Fire"

Tune back in tomorrow for albums 7-5 of my favourite albums of 2005.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas Everybody!

I've been a delinquint blogger since I got back to Saskatoon. No Kong review. No music reports. No excited boyish exclamations about comics. But I did want to wish everyone who reads this blog and even those who don't a very Merry Christmas! To me Christmas is a wonderful time of year to be with friends and family, have good food and wonderful times, but most of all, for me and mine, it's about the birth of Christ. May the spirit of the season and He who it celebrates fill your heart with joy, in whatever way you observe this day.

P.S. I'm having a fantastic time here in Saskatoon. And you can all look forward to me publishing my yearly top ten movies list. And this year I'm also going to do a top ten albums list as well, as music has been a huge part of my life this past year. Stay tuned. At some point I will be back!

Friday, December 09, 2005

One last thing before I get back to work: the trailer for Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst and Jason Schwartzman. It looks beautiful, and both Dunst and Schwartzman look far better in the roles than I would have thought. Of course, this might be one of the coolest anachronistic music choices in a trailer ever. Gotta love New Order. Sofia might just have nearly perfect taste in music.

Essay writing in progress. However, you should all know that the song of the day is "Disconnect the Dots" by Of Montreal (click to listen), one of the catchiest little songs I've heard in a while.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The essay is going well. At least as well as things can be given the circumstances. However, I seem to have the attention span of a 12-year-old with ADHD. I'll get back to the essay writing in a moment, but first let's check in with the Kong news of the day.

The reviews are coming in now after the premiere in New York this past weekend, featuring the life size statue of Kong as seen in the picture above. How fun would that be? Anyway, the reviews are glowing! How glowing? Well, both Lisa Schwarzbaum from Entertainment Weekly and Peter Travers of Rolling Stone give the film their very highest grades, A and four-stars respectively. That's something, especially from the tight-fisted Travers who last year only gave out 2 four star reviews the whole year! I cannot wait!

On Monday night I finally got to see Good Night and Good Luck, the film about Edward Murrow and CBS news' conflict with Senator Joe McCarthy in 1953. Seeing the potential of the medium and way that Murrow and co. so doggedly pursued what they felt was justice was not only great filmmaking, but it was inspiring as well. Director/Actor George Clooney shows why I cite him as one of my favourite entertainers working today. His second film (the first being the underrated Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) shows that he is a serious director, with a knack for compelling drama and an eye for composition.

The Acting is fantastic - David Strathhairn does a great job as Murrow, and could even nab himself an Oscar nomination. The supporting cast, including Clooney, Jeff Daniels, Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey Jr. (great as always) and Frank Langella, are all great as well. Particularly interesting though is the use of historical footage for the portrayal of Sen. McCarthy. No need to fear that he's been "villanized." He does a fine job of that himself.

The picture is beautiful - This is a finely composed film, and the use of black and white makes me long that more films would do so. The black and white not only seems appropriate to the period, but looks great too. Clooney uses many tight close-ups in the film, giving it an intimate and personal feel.

One last thing that really stuck with me was the cigarette smoking in this film. Murrow always has a lit cigarette during his show, and at one point they even show an old 50s TV ad for cigarettes. It's shocking from the stand point of our modern culture which demonizes cigarette smoking, because it was so prevalent in that culture. But also, the black & white photography wonderfully captures the smoke in the air, lending some particularly memorable and beautiful imagery.


On another note, comic book fans should pick up the latest issue of Mark Millar's The Ultimates 2 #9. This is a shocker. Or if not a shocker, it's a definitely the most heavy-hitting issue of the series, especially if you thought that last issue (which saw Captain America accused of treason and placed under arrest) was full of surprises.

Millar is one of the best writers in comics (both this one and Frank Miller as well). His handling of The Ultimates concept (what if the Avengers existed in a world much more like our own) is spot on. He writes this series as if it is the ultimate political-action-science-fiction film. And what an insanely huge film it would be. This series has it all. Grand spectical. Personal insight. Characters who are well developed. Fantastic art design. I'd kill to be able to make this into a movie.


On a more personal note, I'm done one essay and working on the next two (hoping to be done by Monday before I jump on a plane back to Saskatoon for the holidays that night). Life keeps me busy here, so I haven't had a lot of time to contemplate going back home. Let's just say that as great as Victoria is (and it is), there are a number of things that will make the visit home very sweet indeed (and yes Aren, you're Xbox 360 is one of them).

Today I've been listening to Feist's album, Let It Die. It's great. I'm particularly enjoying "Mushaboom" and her cover of the brothers Gibb's "Inside and Out." As, Aren and Joel are prone to say, that is all.

Monday, December 05, 2005

In case anyone thinks my enthusiasm for King Kong has been on the decline, fear not! I've just had to force my mind to think about papers until next week. Today's Penny Arcade strip was of course hilarious. I don't know how many times I've talked about certain movies just assuming people knew what happened in them, in fact, I think I've done this about Kong as well in the past few weeks.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Today the unthinkable happened in Victoria. It snowed! When you think of how beautiful it was on the weekend it's even more strange. Of course, having lived in Saskatchewan for most of my life this didn't seem threatening. It seemed a fitting way to start the first day of December. But people in Victoria cannot drive in winter. It's not because they are somehow ridiculous, but the city lacks infrastructure to clean up snowfall, and people's vehicles aren't accustomed to it. Still it's got me in the Christmas mood, and it's still fairly warm out (zero degrees). I'm sure it will be gone tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The new Darkness album, One Way Ticket to Hell...And Back!, is available in streaming format on The Darkness' myspace site. I loved Permission to Land, in all it's faux-metal glory. It's still one of those albums that I throw on when I need a smile. Justin Hawkin's Freddy Mecury impressions are getting better all the time, even if the new album doesn't quite standout on first listen. Give it a spin. It might at least put a smile on your face.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Oh, and incase you don't check all the blog links which I provide on the side there, you should check Meghann's posting of some great pics of our walk Sunday afternoon and how beautiful Victoria was this weekend. Thanks Meghann. I'm glad I didn't spend the whole day in the library and instead went for a walk and watched the Grey Cup.

In 2001BMW, under the supervision of executive producer David Fincher, produced a series of 5 films to showcase their various cars. Rather than mere commericals, this series would be true short action films, all revolving around the unnamed character known only as The Driver. The Driver was played by a little known (at the time) British star called Clive Owen. This was my first exposure to Owen, who would go on to become a much larger star today. The series of films, called The Hire, added three more films in 2003. For a long time these films were available free on the internet at Not long ago, BMW "retired" the films, but not before making it freely available on DVD (with minimal shipping and handling costs) to the fans of the series. I mark myself a huge fan of the series. Not only is Clive Owen one of my favourite actors, but I love BMW cars, and this series showcases some of the finest action directors of all time. Of course I ordered the DVD as soon as I got wind of this. My DVD finally arrived today!

The 8 films are directed by John Woo, Joe Carnahan (Narc), Tony Scott, the late great John Frankenheimer, Ang Lee, Wong Kar-Wai (2046), Guy Ritchie, and Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams). And they showcase the acting talents of Gary Oldman, Don Cheadle, Madonna, Stellen Skarsgard, and Mickey Rourke among many others. They are thoroughly entertaining and finely crafted short films, showcasing some amazing driving and tense situations.

This DVD has been a long time coming. I'm very excited to have it now. I can't wait to watch it. Once I get a bit more work done on my paper for Chaucer and Middle Scots Poetry, I'm going to reward myself by watching a few episodes.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Today just reinforces a theory. I am planning on going to the library this afternoon and working on my "50 pages," so of course, today is the most beautiful, sunny day we've had in the last month!

I guess I should plan to be studious more often.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

There are a few things that I'm really enjoying right now. One of them is the iTunes exclusive, The Arcade Fire & David Bowie - Live At Fashion Rocks EP.

This is the recordings made at the show when David Bowie (right) joined the Arcade Fire (left) for their concert in New York earlier this year (l
I posted a link to a video of the performance of "Wake Up" earlier this fall).

Now iTunes has released three of the live tracks in an online EP. The tracks include two Bowie songs, and one Arcade Fire: "Life on Mars?", "Wake Up," and "Five Years." "Life on Mars?" is one of my favourite Bowie songs and the live version with the orchestrations of the Arcade Fire, accompanying Bowie's maturing (a nice way of saying aging) voice makes it unique from other takes on the song. Definitely worth the $2.97 CAN.

Another thing that is keeping me from getting much done on my "50 pages" project is, Turner Classic Movies channel. Some genius had the idea that putting one of the greatest television channel ideas of all time on basic cable, just before exams and papers are due, would be a brilliant idea. It is, but it's also really distracting. Basically, non-stop good movies. No commercials. Yesterday, was a Joan Fontaine festival. They played Hitchcock's Rebecca and Suspicion (which I'd already seen) and Fritz Lang's Beyond A Reasonable Doubt (1956, which I hadn't seen and was actually very entertaining with a neat twist ending). Today it's documentaries on Merican C. Cooper (the creator of King Kong), King Kong (1933, which I also bought today on the brand new Collector's Edition DVD) and some of his other non-Kong films (including the other giant ape film, Mighty Joe Young - the 40s version). It all makes for good background viewing while I make notes on Middle Scots Poetry.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Mission accomplished. I'm now the proud owner of tickets for Coldplay in Vancouver in January!

I've seen Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire twice now. Yes, I have three papers and a presentation to do in the next 3 weeks before I got back home for Christmas, but one must keep one's priorities straight.

I can say now with a fair amount of certainty that this is both my favourite, and the best, of the Potter films thus far. This is of course, in no small part, due to the fact that Rowling's novel is possibly the strongest of the series (though I really do like Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the most recent book in the series a whole lot as well). In the first three films (and books), the key event always seems to occur at the end of the school year, with the majority of the plot building up to the key event--they are mysteries at heart. With Goblet, the Tri-Wizard tournament takes us into the action from the beginning of the term, with the various tests taking place over the entire story. What it means for the film is that Goblet is rarely slow; it's remarkably fast paced and packed for a film that is over two-and-a-half hours.

Things I particularly liked:

  • Fred and George Weasley; every scene they are in is priceless
  • The Quidditch World Cup; the stadium is impressive, and the Death Eater attack particularly memorable (Ku Klux Klan anyone?)
  • The Hungarian Horntail; movie dragons are rarely impresive, but fortunately this one holds up both as a special effect and as a threat to the character
  • The Yule Ball; one of the most entertaining and moving sequences in the film, showcasing our heroes struggle with the pains of growing up (and the band is pretty cool too, what with Jarvis Cocker, Johnny Greenwood and Phil Selway)
  • Lord Voldemort; Ralph Fiennes creates a memorable villian for the series, which is important because as my brother Anton likes to point out, a story is usually as good as its villian
What I think puts this one ahead of Prisoner of Azkaban for me (as I especially appreciate the way that Cuaron tries to make the film art and really adds a unique visual style to film, despite creating a few plot holes), is that Newell seems to have a much stronger grasp of the characters. I think Goblet of Fire is a good example of a film that is able to present strong visuals and outstanding special effects without losing its characters in the mix. Of course, again, it helps that they had such a strong piece of source material to work with, but it's still quite remarkable when you realize they did a fairly successful job of paring down a 636 page book into an two-and-a-half hour film and still conveyed the sense of it all. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is one of the best times I've had at the movies all year...both times.


In other news, I'm in the middle of a Beatles marathon. I made an iTunes playlist of every single Beatles song. 237 songs.10.9 hours. Chronologically.

Also, tomorrow morning I'm getting up early to buy tickets for Coldplay's January 26th concert in Vancouver at GM Place! I'm fairly excited about this. It should be a good show. A lot of the songs on the new album lend themselves perfectly to the arena experience. I can't wait to hear "Fix You" live. Also, Fiona Apple is opening. Judging from the reception her new album has gotten, this should be good, though I see that Richard Ashcroft is opening the UK dates in December and I would have rather seen him. Nonetheless, this should be an awesome concert. I love living here!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I'm going to admit that I've never loved Superman. I've always had a serious respect for the character; he is an icon of the comicbook artform. Yet I never really had the same affinity for him the way I do for Batman (my personal favourite) or even Spider-man (who else comes closer to "me" as a superhero?). On the other hand, Superman has a mythology that is unrivaled in comics: the origin story, Lois Lane, Smallville, Jimmy Olson, Kryptonite, Lex Luthor. Perhaps only Batman comes close in having such a richly developed mythology (I use the word mythology here, specifically, for those two characters, because while the stories have appeared in many forms, there isn't really a definitive single story that explains all; they are constructed of repeated motifs that have made their way into the narrative consciousness...not unlike classical myths). But Superman has rarely, in my opinion, been treated in a way that would make me really fall for character. Perhaps the closest moments would be the Fleischer Superman cartoons of the 1940s. I have a fondness for the first two thirds of Donner's 1978 Superman film, and think that John Williams theme is perhaps one of the greatest movie themes of all time, but the failure to utilize Lex Luthor as anything other than comedy (though I do love Gene Hackman) taints the film for me. Again, John Byrne's 1986 mini-series, Man of Steel, also contains moments of brilliance, but is far from a perfect imagining of the character.

So it's rare that I find Superman particularly compelling. But today seemed to be his day to make me sit up and take notice in a way I haven't in a long time. I picked up Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's addition to the new DC All Star imprint (the first which was All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder): All Star Superman. The team behind Marvel's much maligned, but in my opinion brilliant, New X-men tackles the "World's Greatest Superhero." So what do we get? We get an icon treated with respect. We get Luthor acting appropriately villanous. We get iconic versions of Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White ("Great Caeser's Ghost!"). We get Superman behaving appropriately heroic. And we get new and wild things that feel fresh and classic at the same time (Who knew that Willy Wonka was a daring researcher and adventurer?)--which was what I thought was the point behind DC's All Star line in the first place.

In some ways this first issue capitalizes on the promise of the All Star line up more fully than Miller's B&RTBW in offering non-continuity based stories that explore modern takes on the heroes while staying true to the mythology. Miller's story seems to me to really be a take on his own Year One continuity--Batman: Year Two anyone?-- but Morrison's Superman story here is original and seems far more "super" than any have in a long time. Quitely's art is classic, bringing to mind the Fleischer Superman cartoons. The way he portray's Clark/Superman's transformation and differences in body posture, etc make it believable that people could not recognize the differece, but are also clearly the same person. In the end, the comic is a fully satisfying modern comic book, but also fittingly mythic in it's take on that most iconic of superheroes. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in Superman, but never read one of the comics.

The "return" of Superman continued today as the new teaser trailer for Bryan Singer's Superman Returns debuted online (for real this time). I've expressed doubts about this film before, and while I'm still not completely won over, this trailer did get me excited. The music, the look, even the costume which I was questioning looks good here. But the main thing is the voiceover by one of the greatest actors of all time reprising (post-humously) his role as Superman's father. Yes, that's correct. Marlon Brando is Jor-El!

Well, it looks like John Allison's experiment with hand drawn strips has ended over at the Scary Go Round. He has returned to the Adobe Illustrator production, as he says, "for the foreseeable future." I understand that it makes it much faster to produce the daily strips (and unlike certain other strips, he is never late), but at the same time I really enjoyed his experiment in pen and ink. Oh, well. It's still one of the best webcomics out there and I'll continue to read.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Yesterday my mom and I went to down to the Oak Bay Marina and walked around a bit, looked at the boats and the ocean. However, we found something even more interesting than that. These greedy little guys.

Apparently these seals are regulars around the marina, and the shop there even sells the fishes that the children are feeding to them. Of course, they're greedy and look how fat they are! This guy looks like he'll just float. No need for swimming.

Friday, November 11, 2005

There have been numerous "Top 5" lists making the blog rounds lately. Most of these have been things "people don't get", and while I could probably make a list of much more than 5 things that confuse the hell outta me, I'm going to try to be positive and make a list of 5 Things That I Really Appreciate At The Moment.

1) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - I watched the film for probably the fifth time last night with my mom, who hadn't seen it before. I was again moved by it, and how I both emotionally and intellectually respond to the film, and to appreciate the fantastic piece of art it is. I love the imagery in this picture below.

2) "Personal Jesus" by Depeche Mode - I love this song. I don't know what else to say about it. It's so good.

3) Gingerbread Lattes at Starbucks
™ - I was walking downtown today, on a beautiful sunny afternoon here in Victoria. My mom and I had returned from walking down by the water, and we both felt like grabbing a drink. Since I moved to Victoria, I haven't been as much of a Starbucks junkie as I used to be (having maybe had one coffee from there, since there is so much other good coffee here). However, Starbucks has their Christmas drinks out already, and I couldn't resist the Gingerbread Latte. It reminds me of Christmas. And though there is no snow on the ground here (and not likely to be), it's clear Christmas is soon upon us.

4) Scary-Go Round - This is currently one of my favourite webcomics. It's not as immediately hilarious as some, but it's unique (British) sense of humour and strong storytelling makes it great. I also favour John Allison's move from creating his art on Adobe Illustrator, to good old hand drawn work. I think his characters look better hand drawn.

5) Infinite Crisis - This DC comicbook miniseries is the real deal. It's been a blast to read the first two issues, and it reminds me of what I love about DC comics and superheroes in the first place. Geoff Johns knows and loves the mythology he's been granted to work with. It's a joy to read. There's been more worthwhile material in the first two issues of this series than in all of Marvel's much vaunted House of M (which was alright, but didn't need to be 8 issues long to hold 3 issues of content).

Well, I can't resist putting one negative thing on here (everyone else was allowed to). How about the fact that I have such a horrid short term memory? I do. This entire post wasn't what I had originally intended to post tonight, but I couldn't remember all the wonderful insights I had this afternoon (must carry notebook at all times!).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The teaser trailer for one of my most anticipated films of the past few years: Darren Aronofsky's (Pi, Requim for a Dream) The Fountain. Finally coming out. This should be interesting.

Monday, November 07, 2005

So, the weekend was not much of a break. I spent most of it working on a homework assignment (Early English Books project) and wasting time in the library (thank you iPod). But now this week, since I don't have Monday or Tuesday classes, is reading break for me. My mother is visiting, so it's nice that I don't have classes this week. However, I still have to work in the Writing Centre. Apparently there is no rest for people who don't know how to write, and thusly, no rest for me.

After taking my mom around campus and going for supper, we proceeded to watch the new episodes of Arrested Development that were on tonight. I've spoken about how much I love this show, and it isn't changing. This season may even be more absurdly wonderful than ever. The cast is uniformly excellent, though we could do with more GOB (Will Arnett), as he is possibly the funniest character on television. Jason Bateman continues to carry the show. And suprisingly (at least to me), Charlize Theron's guest role (4 episodes so far) as "Rita", Michael's new British girlfriend who may be more (or less) than what she seems. Ms. Theron (pictured above) had always struck me as nothing special, but I believe that my negative image of her was only reinforced by her bland as tofu performance in The Italian Job remake. However, even the often excellent Mr. Wahlberg was flat in that fiasco, and Ms. Theron is actually very funny, and her character is already a memorable one. I'm going to drop some "R" on this Academy Award winner for recognizing comedic excellence can be as praise worthy as Oscar gold. She's just earned a new fan.

Friday, November 04, 2005

You're probably asking if Peter Jackson has taken over my blog and is using it to promote King Kong -- nope. I'm just so ecstatic about this movie the more I see of it! I want to share the excitement with others. Like the fact that the full length trailer for King Kong is available now! Seriously, watch Kong on top of the Empire Stare building taking a swipe at that bi-plane; It's pure movie magic! (Sorry, Meghann, Danny and others. While I am very excited for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Kong is king!)

As for the rest of life, it's going well for the most part. Unfortunately my motto for November has become "50 pages!", as that's how much I have to write before I head home for Christmas on the 12th of December (and Kong opens on the 14th; maybe Jackson should pay me for this). That's just the major papers, not counting the presentations, teaching and writing centre work I'm doing. So, yeah, graduate school is a stress in case you're wondering - especially to those of you who are also suffering through heavy work loads. You're not alone.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

My excitement for Peter Jackson's King Kong just got a boost from the new "A Look Inside" production trailer that is online now.

This is definitely my most anticipated film of the remaining year. And if you think Kong is stupid, you probably haven't seen the original 1933 film. When the re-mastered DVD is released on Nov. 22nd, watch it!

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Weather Man is a depressing film. But it's also darkly funny as well. The performances are uniformly outstanding and the cinematography is wonderful. Perhaps what I'm trying to say is that, The Weather Man is a very good film.

Nicholas Cage is David Spritz, a Chicago weather man whose life is a complete mess. His marriage is over. His kids are dealing with all kinds of problems. His father (Michael Caine), a Pulitzer Prize winning author, is dying. On top of all that, Dave finds his job meaningless, and people think he's an asshole. One of the regular things he has to deal with is having fast food thrown at him. Of course, Dave wants to get things together, but as he finds, it isn't easy, and real life doesn't always turn out the way we dreamed things would when we were kids.

Cage gives another outstanding performance. I wish he would keep doing films that are dramatic/comedic (Adaptation, Matchstick Men) and just ignore the whole action star thing (National Treasure). Hope Davis, as his estranged wife, is appropriately frustrated and frustrating - she has a lot of appeal to me in many ways, the kind of woman I find interesting. I'll take this moment to recommend the little-seen gem, The Secret Lives of Dentists, with her and Cambell Scott. Very good. Nicholas Hoult (About A Boy) plays Dave's son, and newcomer Gemmenne de la Pena plays his troubled daughter. Michael Caine is likely to get an Oscar nomination for his role in the film.

The film isn't neccessarly happy. But it's real. As Michael Caine's character, Robert Spritzl points out, "Do you know that the harder thing to do, and the right thing to do, are usually the same thing? "Easy" doesn't enter into grown-up life." Not something you hear at the cineplex every night, from the mouths of big name actors, but a point well taken none-the-less.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

"Bond. James Bond." Halloween can be no fun when you're 23. You're too old to go out trick or treating, and yet you haven't resolved yourself to your fate, sitting at home handing out candy. I didn't know if I would get a chance to do anything for Halloween this year. No one was planning a party, as far as I knew, and so I didn't put a lot of thought into it, other than Monday night I'm going to watch myself some Halloween movies (Burton's Sleepy Hollow is a yearly ritual for me). But Meghann (who has posted a whole bunch more pictures here). was kind enough to invite me to a Halloween bash with a bunch of her friends, so I had to come up with a decent costume. In lieu of the Harry Potter costume which I've worn for the past 3 years, I decided that with my recent interest in all things Bond, I would go as the man himself: Sean Connery in From Russia With Love. I didn't have a rea bowtie, but I think the costume worked pretty well. And the fun thing is that as Bond, your drink is also your accessory: "Martini. Shaken, not stirred."

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Do you know what one of the most strange things to get used to here on the Pacifac Coast is? The fact that Hockey Night in Canada starts at 3:30 PM!

So what happens is that the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs game, which starts in a few minutes, is on the late afternoon, there by throwing a distracting wrench into my homework plans. Let's just hope that the Senators kick Toronto's ass!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Here you are Belle. You'll love to hear this.

On Sunday night, after spending all afternoon working on preparing my notes for teaching sentence structure, I decided I had had enough and went out to see a movie. The theatre has become my sanctuary from work and the world. I had wanted to see Flightplan, with Jodie Foster, for a while. While the film didn't have the greatest reviews, I was still curious about it. It turns out I enjoyed it quite a bit. While it's not a great film, it's an enjoyable ride. The film has a real Hitchcockian bent to it, employing plot elements reminiscent of The Lady Vanishes and others. Sean Bean is solid as always, and Peter Sarsgaard continues his string of outstanding supporting roles. What I particularly liked about the film was the atmosphere created in the enclosed space of the airplane (albeit one of those new 400 passenger super-airbuses, but still). Of course, the main reason to see the film is Foster. She's outstanding in pretty much ever role she takes; her icy blue eyes revealing both her intelligence and beauty. It's too bad she doesn't make more films than she does (and something more substantial, since this and her last film, Panic Room, were both fairly light weight, while enjoyable). If you want to see her at her best though, check out Silence of the Lambs, and also one of my personal favourites, the film of Carl Sagan's Contact. Both of her characters in those films (and in Flightplan) are intelligent, capable women. It's refreshing from the Hollywood norm.


Also, I found a poker night here in Victoria. Monday nights at Felicita's. It's not for cash (gambling laws and all that), but there are prizes and the players take it seriously, which is nice. While I do miss the house games from back home, this is good practice as some of these guys are really good. Still, I managed to hold my own and came away happy with my performance. It's nice to play against some different people, as I was wondering how good I really was and if I was just used to playing the same people over and over.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Danny posts some insightful comments on television and how it allows us to waste time. I like to waste time too, but I find myriad other ways to do so. For instance, posting to my blog, talking on MSN, reading web comics (Penny Arcade, PvP, Scary Go Round), organizing playlists in iTunes, going for a walk, and, or course, socialising with my fellow students over coffee or beer.

For the record, I have over 50 channels of television, but I only regularly watch the following:

  • FOX (Arrested Development, The Simpsons)
  • TSN (hockey games, SportsCentre)
  • CBC (news, hockey)
  • Much Music and Much More Music (on the rare occasion that they actually play music videos these days)
  • and The Comedy Network (The Daily Show)
Last week I bought Arrested Development: Season 2 on DVD, and have already watched the whole season again with highlights like "Uncle" Jack (Martin Short in a hilariously insane role), Franklin (Gob's hand puppet):
Gob: Franklin said some things White-America wasn't ready to hear.
: Gob, weren't you also mercilessly beaten outside of a club in Torrance for that act?
Gob: He also said some things that African-America wasn't ready to hear either.
and Zach Braff as the founder of Girls With Low Self-Esteem. Go watch it now!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

I don't really know why Cameron Crowe's films seem to work for me time and time again. While it's no suprise that I absolutely love the critically acclaimed Almost Famous , even Crowe's box office and critical dissapointment Vanilla Sky became a favourite of mine. Perhaps Crowe just hits on aesthetic notes that I mesh well with my own sensibilities. Or perhaps it's just merely that the man is the master of creating soundtracks, melding popular music into his films in memorable and remarkable ways (see the "Tiny Dancer'" scene in Almost Famous or the Tom Cruise freakout to "Good Vibrations" in Vanilla Sky).

The main reason to see Elizabethtown.

Elizabethtown isn't an out and out homerun; let's just get that out of the way (maybe that's for that other Kentucky town, Louisville to handle). It's flawed in a number of ways, and coupled with the failure of Vanilla Sky, this may hurt Crowe's Hollywood currency. It isn't going to win any awards, and won't probably bank hugely at the box office. But to me this is a much more interesting film than most directors are pumping out these days. It's a personal film; Crowe has gone to great lengths to highlight this in the promotional material and in the set up of the film itself. And it shows through in the film itself.

Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom shedding the armor and English accent) travels to Elizabethtown, Kentucky after his father passes away in the wake of a phenomenal personal failure at work and in life in general. As expected, over the course of the film Drew finds new zeal for life in the love of his family and friends and in the chance relationship with a peppy airline stewardess, Claire (Kirsten Dunst). The film is somewhat disjointed in some ways. The opening scenes of Drew's failure in shoe design and suicidal intentions don't mesh with the down to earth flavours of Kentucky. Some of the plot elements are downright goofy and too coincedental for a film that seems to demand that we emotionally connect with it. It's not until Drew encounters Claire on his trans-continental red eye that the film really picks up. Kirsten Dunst is amazing. Claire is so charming, so much so that I wanted to run away with her part way through the film. The performances of the two main actors go a long way to making the film work, and it shows that Crowe spends a lot of time working with his actors to get what he wants out of them.

While I said that the film doesn't entirely mesh, on their own the elements of the film are fantastic. From the hours long phone conversation (one interesting motif in the film is the use of cellphones, something that really grounds the film in the America of today) to the final roadtrip, these sequences completely engaged me. Especially in the last half of the film, the emotional elements of the story start to come together and work, perhaps in part because of my own travels and dealings with death in the last few months (my grandmother passed away from cancer at the end of August in case you're wondering).

A word on the music in the film: Crowe's use of music is spot on. From the almost theme song of the film, Elton John's "My Father's Gun" to Ryan Adams (a personal favourite) with "Come Pick Me Up" Crowe creates a solid, cohesive album of sincere, rock and alt-country songs that make it the perfect roadtrip music to travel across the heartland of America. Of course, this becomes the climax and most memorable piece of the film. When all was said and done, I wanted to take Claire's map and go on my own roadtrip. And on that count, Crowe succeeds.

Friday, October 14, 2005

It's official! Daniel Craig is the new James Bond!I'm very excited about this news. Craig is a wonderful actor, who I was mostly recently a fan of in Matthew Vaughn's Layer Cake. Other's might recognize him from his small roles in films like Elizabeth, Road to Perdition or Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. The fact is that he'll be perfect for returning the character to something a little more cold, a little more deadly, and a little more like original Sean Connery role.

The next Bond film will be Casino Royale, which was Flemming's first Bond novel. This will be the third time that it's been adapted: once for television in the 50s, and for the spoof film in the late 60s with Peter Sellers and Woody Allen. Martin Campbell (Goldeneye, The Mask of Zorro) will be directing. Goldeneye is easily my favourite non-Connery Bond film, so he's hoping he makes Craig's debut a good one!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Wanna read an interesting blog? Check out Radiohead's blog, as they work on their new album due out in Spring 2006! Thom gives some tantalizing glimpses of a new track entitled "Rubbernecks." I must say, this is one of my most anticipated albums of next year (even if I think Hail to the Theif is their weakest album, here's hoping they're back on track). I think I'm going to go listen to some Kid A.

In other Radiohead news, I must also mention that Johnny and Phil are going to be part of the band, The Wyrd Sisters, in the new Harry Potter movie along with Jarvis Cocker from Pulp.

Also, you should all go and download the newest Radiohead single, "I Want None Of This" which was released for the charity album, Help: A Day In The Life in the UK.

Monday, October 10, 2005

It's time for a massive update. And a wish to all of you whom I haven't personally talked to, a very happy Thanksgiving weekend. Here's to a shortened work week of eating turkey sandwiches. On this Thanksgiving Monday afternoon I decided I really need to update the blog: a time for reflection, perhaps? Or maybe I'll just give the narrative. Living in Victoria, I'm close to two major cities (Vancouver and Seattle) and it means that there are a lot of good concerts. Also, how could I live here without exploring those cities a little bit? Well, that's exactly what I did this past week and half.


It's been a very busy couple of weeks. School in particular is getting very busy. I find myself swamped with readings and writings and weekly presentations for my Literary Computing class. But one cannot live on work alone, so in the name of unwinding and doing something fun, I jumped at the opportunity to see Franz Ferdinand on the Oct. 1st weekend at Seattle's gorgeous Paramount Theatre.

Of course the trip to Seattle was more than merely a hop on a bus and jaunt down the street (though it did involve both of those activities). Because of the nature of living on an island, one has to find a way to cross the body of water that separates us from the mainland. Lesley Matheson, whom many of you know, (but who still hasn't sent me the photos from the concert!) came with me as she's even more of a music nut than I am. We caught the Victoria Clipper ferry from the downtown harbour on Friday afternoon, and had a comfortable and speedy ferry ride directly to downtown Seattle. Conveniently, the Hostel International, where we stayed, was only a few blocks from Pier 69. We found it with minimal trouble and found our room to be clean and comfortable. As a spoiled brat I've never had the hostel experience before (I stay in hotels), but this time on a student budget, it made sense and it ended up being a lot of fun.

The concert was Saturday night, so we had to find things to do in Seattle on the Saturday. One exciting part of the trip was that I had the opportunity to meet Jeffrey Overstreet, whom I have participated on message boards with, but not had the chance to meet in person. Jeffrey knew a great coffee place and amazing bookstore as well, and we also explored the Pike Place Market as well. Seattle is a great place to visit as there seems to be no shortage of cool places to shop, cool places to drink, and cool concerts to see. In short: it's cool.

I mentioned that the Hostel International ended up being a lot of fun. Specifically, we found out that two of the other people staying in the hostel were also going to the Franz Ferdinand concert that evening: Tracy, from Vancouver, and her boyfriend Keith, from Sydney, Australia. We ended up going for dinner with them before and having a few drinks as well. And then we went to the concert with them as well. That's something that would never happen in a hotel (as opposed to a "hostel" - the "s" is very important). There's something about a community of travelers that seems to open itself to that kind of fast friendship making.

Now for the concert; I know that's what you've all been waiting for. The opening bands were Cut Copy and TV On The Radio, both of whom were unfamiliar to me. But Franz was the real attraction of the concert. The lower level of the concert hall (where the tables are in the above photo) was all cleared out for the audience, so the crowd (at least the standing crowd) was reading to dance! The lights dimmed, and then they busted out the opening number from the new album "The Fallen." It was a great opener and the guys were all in top form, energetic and dynamic, especially lead-singer Alex Kapranos. They then segued into "The Dark of the Matinee." Then they followed it up with another new song, the catchy single "Do You Want To." The crowd was then fully in their hands, as they unleashed their number one hit. "Take Me Out" was a homerun. The crowd went insane. As soon as the opening guitars were heard, even those casual Franz Ferdinand fans were excited. That was what we were there for. And it was worth it. They played a fairly long set, going through mostly their old album, but with a few tracks from the new one ("Walk Away" was a stand out). They closed with "Michael" (perhaps one of the most playfully ambiguous pop songs of all time) but then came back to an encore performance of "This Fire" as the drummer from one of the other bands came out and joined Paul on the drums, in a whirlwind drum duel that was fantastic to watch and really left the audience on a high.

The ferry ride the next morning was early, but we made it. Seattle had been a good experience, and I was a little sad that I had to go back and face the daunting reality of grad school once again. Little did I know that the fun wasn't over just yet.


Wednesday night rolled around. I had a monster of a reading to finish up for my Chaucer and Middle Scots poetry class. I was listening to The Arcade Fire's album, Funeral, as I also chatted with my friend Meghann on MSN Messenger (the bane of my productive existence - MSN, not Meghann). I mentioned that I was listening to the album, in part because many of my friend's back home had seen The Arcade Fire in Saskatoon the previous weekend (as I was enjoying Franz Ferdinand in Seattle). Everyone had said what a great performance it was. On a whim I checked the band's website and discovered that the were actually playing the final show of their tour in Vancouver that coming Friday night (less than two days away!). I mentioned this to Meghann, assuming that the show would long have been sold out, as it was in Saskatoon. Meghann soon popped back saying that she had found tickets to the show if we wanted them! It was too good an opportunity to pass up. I said yes, figuring the logistics would take care of themselves. So, with two days notice, after having just been to Seattle the weekend before, I had committed myself to going to Vancouver to see another show that I was very excited for. Like I said earlier: spoiled.

Things have a way of just working out it seems. You know that part in Shakespeare In Love where Fennyman (Tom Wilkinson) and Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush) are concerned about the fate of their play?

Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?
Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Hugh Fennyman: How?
Philip Henslowe: I don't know. It's a mystery.

Well that is sort of the way things always seem to work out for me. I knew I was going to the show on Friday night in Vancouver, but I still didn't know where I was going to be staying. Meghann mentioned that there was a hostel downtown, but we didn't have a reservation or anything. I mentioned in passing to my friend Percy that we were going and he reminded me that it was Thanksgiving weekend and that he would be going home to Vancouver to see his folks, and that it would likely be no problem for us to stay there that Friday night. Percy's serendipitous hospitality turned out to be the perfect thing. I got his home phone number, and we agreed that we would stop by his house on the way to concert Friday evening.

Of course it couldn't all be that easy. Friday after class, I raced to the bus and Meghann, her friend Erin, visiting from Ontario, and Jag, one of our grad student compatriots jumped on the bus and made our way to the ferry crossing. The ferry trip was great and within a few hours we were downtown in Vancouver. At the train station, I decided that I needed to check a map to find Percy's house. I proceeded to look up the street and then direct my friends to board a Skytrain and ended up in New Westminster, where I was convinced that Percy's house lay (Trivia: It also happens to be the place of my birth!) After a fruitless search, I called Percy, who politely informed me that they didn't live on that particular numbered street in New Westminster, but rather the same numbered street in West Vancouver...a good distance away in another municipality. Someone had neglected to tell me that the maps had all their listings divided up by municipality and I hadn't paid enough attention to the index. Embarassment and a speedy 45 min cab ride got us to Percy's to drop off our stuff and make our way to the PNE Forum.

Fortunately for us, the first band didn't start playing until 8 pm, so we didn't arrive late and even got pretty good seats. The opening act was Belle Orchestre, a side project of The Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry. They were interesting and actually quite solid. The second act, whom Meghann was a fan of, Wolf Parade, put on a decent performance but the real show didn't begin until The Arcade Fire took the stage.

The opener was the opening track of Funeral, "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" and it was amazing! This is a band who knows how to perform. The various members of the band all took turns playing different instruments, and Win Butler's vocals were perfect. If there was ever an example of a band who really uses the live performance to give the audience something different from what they get on the CD, this is it. Whether it is the rock star antics of Win (smashing his guitar) or the vaguely creepy dancing of Regine (Are you a robot?) or even the fantastic stage set, complete with lamps which make it feel like they're playing in your living room, or the way the percussion wailed on motorcycle helmets at one point, these guys and gals gave one of the most fantastic live performances I've ever seen. They played most of their album, and also a couple older songs including the fantastic "Headlights Look Like Diamonds" from their self-titled EP. Other highlights included the live performance of
"Une Annee Sans Lumiere" and "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)." The band ended up doing two encores. The first was the much anticipated "Wake Up," where they also brought on stage all the other bands from earlier in the evening and even a few audience members as well. However, for the second encore Win came on stage and said "Well, we've run out of stuff to play, so we'll just play something by New Order." It was a fantastic conclusion to the evening, and the band picked up their instruments (as I hear they have done in both Seattle and Saskatoon, my friends tell me) and move out with the audience, playing acoustically as they led us out into the evening. It was definitely one of the concert going highlights of my life.


We made it back safely from Vancouver, thanks to Percy's hospitality and the excellent Greater Vancouver Transit System. The Thanksgiving weekend proved to be a lot of fun, and not a let down at all. It all helped to ease the pain of missing my mom's fantastic cooking and the company of my brother's and uncle David. Of course, there are other things that happened over the past week, but I think I've written enough for the moment. Maybe when another long weekend comes along you'll get another monster post like this, but don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

First the Halo announcement, now this teaser poster. I love Peter Jackson.

You should all go and listen to LCD Soundsystem, the self titled album that was released earlier this year, but I just picked up. This is great music that compells you to move. Imagine a blend of post-punk, garage rock, disco, techno and a touch of the Beatles. "Tribulations" just might be one of the catchiest songs I've ever heard. I dare you not to tap your feet or nod along.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, I'm going to recommend the new Sigur R
ós album Takk...This is even better than their 2002 release (). It's more focused, more melodic, and les wandering. Not to say that Sigur Rós has gone pop, but this album will be less off-putting to people who haven't moved beyond five minute "songs". "Sæglópur" makes me feel euphoric as it builds to a wonderful crescendo. What is it about Iceland that I love so much?

Video game movies suck. Name one that's actually really good. You can't. Can you? Didn't think so.

It looks like Microsoft and Bungie are out to change that with the adaptation of my favourite video games of the last 5 years. The Halo movie is being produced jointly by 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios (why? think $100 million plus budget) who declared that they want to make Halo: The Movie their tentpole release of 2007.

But why my optimism that this won't be another suck-fest, like the latest from Paul W.S. "I didn't make Boogie Nights" Anderson (Resident Evil) or Uwe Boll (House of the Dead)? Well for starters they've got a real screenwriter: author Alex Garland (28 Days Later, The Beach). Always good to start with a decent script. Plus, Bungie has been personally involved in the production from the beginning. But the icing on the cake was announced today. And it just about blew my mind.

Announced today was the name of the Halo film project's executive producer. His name? Peter Jackson. Yep. That Peter Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh. Yep, the Oscar-winning duo behind the best films of the decade. And they're bringing their amazing WETA workshops with them to work on models and effects of the Covenant, the Flood and all our favourite weapons and vehicles. This is crazy. This movie could be huge. This movie will be huge. Halo 2 made more in one day than any film ever has ($80 million). Jackson's Lord of the Rings are among the most beloved and highest grossing films of the decade. Mark my words. This is great news for gamer and movie fans.

P.S. Yes, I'm working on a post about my weekend in Seattle and the Franz Ferdinand concert. I'm just waiting for Lesley to send me the photos.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

It's been a while since I've done this, so I'm going to post my current Top Ten Most Played Songs from my iPod (Note: In the move to the new computer, I had to reset my playcount, so this is actaully a very current record of the last month):

10) The Verve - "This Time" from the album Urban Hymns
9) Ryan Adams - "Oh My Sweet Carolina" from the album Heartbreaker
8) The Arcade Fire - "Rebellion (Lies)" from the album Funeral
7) U2 - "Bad" from the album The Unforgettable Fire
6) Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx - "Gold Digger" from the album Late Registration
5) New Order - "Ceremony" from the album Substance
4) Stars - "Calendar Girl" from the album Set Yourself On Fire
3) Kanye West - "Diamonds from Sierra Leone" from the album Late Registration
2) Natasha Bedingfield - "These Words (I Love You, I Love You) from the album Unwritten
1) New Order - "Bizzare Love Triangle" from the album Substance

A song that's not on the list but will probably be soon is from Ryan Adams newest album, Jacksonvile City Nights, "Dear John" which is a duet with Norah Jones and is just amazing.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

How can you tell I'm trying to avoid the huge piles of reading and work that are beginning to build up (besides blogging)? My movie watching is back on track.

My friend Meghann had never seen a James Bond movie! I was shocked, so I made sure her first exposure was a good one with the only real Bond: Sean Connery. We watched From Russia With Love, which was the second film in the Bond series - to put it in perspective, the most recent film (Die Another Day) is number twenty. In this case, the plot involves an elaborate ruse by S.P.E.C.T.R.E. to gain a decoding machine, Lektor, from the Russians by involving 007 and a female Russian agent, Tatiana Romanova. Bond engages in plenty of womanizing in this one, including a pair of catfighting gypsies. Robert Shaw (Jaws, A Man For All Seasons) plays the deadly S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent who's trained to elmininate Bond. Shaw is a great film actor, and it's great to see him in this early role. What's most engaging about this film, however, is Connery's performance. He owns this movie portraying Bond as he was meant to be. Witty, strikingly debonair and yet rough enough that one believes he can hold his own in a fight. Connery embodies Bond in a way that none of his forebearers have been able to do. Hence, over 40 years later he still owns the character in a way few actors have done.

Here's looking forward to the upcoming From Russia With Love video game, for which Sean Connery voiced new dialogue and lent his (young) likeness to the on screen character. Ever since Goldeneye (N64) - which I credit for making me a 007 fan - none of the other Bond games have even come close. Here's hoping that Russia changes that.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride marks a return to what he does best, which is creating imaginative and wondrous worlds. Which is why, despite my disappointments sometimes at Burton's storytelling, I keep coming back to his films. Corpse Bride is no exception to this, and pushes the stylistic envelope further than Burton has since Sleepy Hollow. Burton's own Nightmare Before Christmas showed how well Burton's gothically-styled imagination worked so well in animated form (specifically stop-motion animation; however, see Luke's blog for a more detailed, insider look at how incredible this style is. Now, over a decade later, Burton returns to animation, and the result is possibly the best Burton film since.

Corpse Bride concerns the story of Victor (Johnny Depp) the shy son of a rich fish merchant, who is promised in marriage to the daughter of a penniless aristocrat. As the characters themselves note, this merging of "old blood with nouveau riche" marks the setting of the film as well, a indeterminate 19th Century, Dickensian world of drab stone streets and skeletal forests. Upon meeting his bride, Victoria (Emily Watson), the two realize they could be happy together, but Victor has difficulties in remembering his vows. Out in the woods, while practicing his vows, Victor accidentally slips the ring onto the finger of the murdered corpse bride (Helena Bonham-Carter AKA Mrs. Burton). With this simple act, Victor is plunged into her world: the world of the dead.

In this film the world of the dead is less frightening and more visually dazzling. Contrasted against the cold whites and dark stone of the living world, the world of the dead is awash in bright greens, reds and blues. The corpses and skeletons who inhabit this world are charming in their own ghoulish ways, and engage in lively song and dance numbers written and sung by Danny Elfman as Mr. Bonejangles. There's something about dancing skeletons that seems so fun, recalling classic Disney and the work of Ray Harryhausen (watch for his name in the film). The sequences of charming skeletons, bright colours and Elfman's music reminded me several times of a fantastic video game for Playstation called MediEvil II and how much fun it was to play that game. The world of the dead is more fun than the world of the living in Burton's film.

Of course, Victor cannot remain in the land of the dead with his corpse bride. In the meantime Victoria has her own complications with an aggressive (and mysterious) suitor, Lord Barkis. If there's a fault to be found in the film, it's the abrupt ending and non-existent denouement that leaves the film feeling a little bit short (probably a result of the extreme labour that mere minutes of this form of animation requires). However, the film is focused enough, and the story (lifted from a Russian folktale) charming enough that one is likely to forgive it.

Burton should stick to doing films like this, drawing on his own imagination, rather than trying things that are either beyond his storytelling abilities (Big Fish) or odd mergers of creative styles (Charlie and the chocolate Factory). He assembles an outstanding cast here, including Albert Finney and Christopher Lee in standout roles, yet never allows even his biggest star, Johnny Depp, to draw us out of the animated reality (the way recent "stunt" casting in animated films often does). For that, and for making the best Halloween film since his own Sleepy Hollow, I'm willing to forgive any recent disappointments.

A couple of news items:

1) I'm going to Seattle next weekend to see Franz Ferdinand play at the Paramount Theatre. It is confirmed now. It should be very exciting as their new album debuts Tuesday, October 4, and their new single, "Do You Want To," is currently heating up. This should be an amazing show. If I had the resources and time, it would be nice to Sigur Rós on Wednesday night a well, but gotta work with what I have. This area is so ripe with great shows and concerts, it would be a shame not to take advantage of some of them. I think Franz Ferdinand is a good choice.

2) One of the most intriguing films I've read of on Peter Chattaway's blog, is the currently in production film written by Mike White (School of Rock), directed by Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) and starring Jack Black, about the supposedly true story of a Mexican priest who moonlighted as a masked wrestler in order to save an orphanage from closure. It's been titled Nacho Libre, and is due out next year. Sounds fascinating, goofy and uplifting. Here's hoping that they pull it off.

Friday, September 23, 2005

What a busy week: lots of reading, a presentation and keeping busy in the Writing Centre. I also started my tennis intramural league! What I'm really trying to do here is justify why I haven't posted in two days.

Anyway, since I'm going to use the blog to rave about things I like to see, listen to or read here's another comic book you should be reading. Eric Powell's The Goon is one of the most fun, most pure and most uncouth comics out there. It is HI-larious. It is one of the few comics where I burst out laughing regularly (and it's supposed to be funny, not accidental like in some of the crappy X-men titles lately). It's pure in that it's written and drawn by one guy, and while it has a large and varied cast and mythology, issues are self-contained and don't carry on forever. So if you're tired of Bendis-dialogue that goes on for issues without any action, get yer ass reading The Goon. Most issues involve the Goon kicking the crap outta some kind of zombie monster. This is pulp entertainment at it's best. Did I mention that it's funny?