Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Saturday, June 30, 2012

True North Strong And... Bonkers! Get Away From That Moose!

It's Canada Day tomorrow here, the one day of the year where we Canucks go around the bend and slightly crazy. It's the national birthday of the True North Strong and Free. Free, at least, until Herr Harperfuhrer passes his Deprival Of Rights And Freedoms Act. Stevie, if by chance this page happens to cross your eyes at some point, well, all I can say is middle finger fully extended, buddy.

There. Got my dig in at the Dictator at 24 Sussex in for the day. Anyway, we Canadians would like to assure the world that despite the current leadership dragging our reputation through the mud on the world stage at the moment, we haven't taken a turn for the worse, and yes, we will kick that idiot and his Cabal out at the first opportunity. Don't hold it against us. Hmmm, that's a second dig at the FrankenHarper Monster.

Well, anyway, I'll be busy tomorrow. I'm dashing about here in Ottawa with friends all day. We'll be hitting museums, taking in a concert at some point, seeing the fireworks, and generally enjoying ourselves. To my fellow Canucks, I wish you a Happy Canada Day! Try not to get too hungover, right?

And so without any more ado, I'll leave you with a photo tour from sea to sea, across my homeland, of places I've been... and others I'll have to see for myself down the line. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

West Point, Prince Edward Island

Hartland Covered Bridge, New Brunswick

Montmorency Falls, Quebec

White River, Ontario

Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba

Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan

Mount Thor, Nunavut

Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories

Along the Dempster Highway, Yukon

Banff National Park, Alberta

Helmcken Falls, British Columbia

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Doctor Strangemovies: Or How I Learned To Stop Having Good Taste And Love 3D

Director Congratulates Himself, Incurs Wrath Of Lawman

Toronto (CP) Director James Cameron, who brought such films as The Terminator, Titanic, Avatar, and True Lies to the big screen, made an appearance here yesterday to celebrate himself, being honored in what was billed as James Cameron Day in Toronto. The director, who recently descended to the bottom of the Marianas Trench in a one man sub, was in a jovial mood.

The ceremony got off to a rocky start. Local mayor Rob Ford, whose relationship with the media is difficult at best, spotted two reporters with the Toronto Star. His vendetta with the country’s biggest paper has become legendary, and he stormed out of the venue without greeting the director, ranting about wanting to crush and destroy the Star. “I’ll be damned if I show up at a press conference with a Star reporter hounding me!” he bellowed in between profanity laced screams and shouts before being ushered off by aides. Mayor Ford has become something of an embarrassment to the city, a punchline to a bad joke, and a loudmouthed cretin, in the opinion of this reporter. This latest incident only increases the derision against the city across the country.

It was left to one of Ford’s city council rivals, Councillor Adam Vaughn, to introduce Cameron. The director, whose films have made more money than the gross domestic product of many Third World countries, came out smiling. “Thank you, thank you very much,” he told the assembled reporters and various hangers on at City Hall. “It’s lovely to come back home to Canada every once in awhile. Sure, I don’t come back as often as I should, but when you’re as rich as I am, you can spend time living in places where you’re not freezing your ass off in January. Did I say that out loud?”

After an hour of going on and on, lauding himself about his accomplishments and films, and occasionally speaking in Na’vi, the artificial language he devised for Avatar, Cameron took some questions from reporters. One asked about his future film projects. “Well, I’m kind of up in the air right now. I mean, there’s always a couple of more Avatar films to do. Which, by the way, are really, really, really good ideas. Don’t believe anything being told by anyone who calls my Avatar projects, and I quote... Dances With Smurfs. End quote. I really resent that, and I’ve got people looking for anyone who dares to insult my movie like that. If you insult Avatar, you’re insulting nature!” Cameron paused for a long moment.

“On the other hand, the recent re-release of Titanic and how well it did got me thinking of another sinking. I’ve been seriously thinking of doing a film on the Lusitania. You know, we’re coming up on the centenary of the sinking of that ship, and I have an idea for a commemoration with a movie story. You see, there’s Jack Dawson’s kid brother Charlie Dawson, who’s on his way to Europe to join in the war, and he meets this first class woman on the ship. Her name would have to be Lily, you see. And she’s going back home to England to marry the wrong guy, a cad we’ll name Cade. Of course they fall madly in love at first sight, even though they have next to nothing in common. For some reason, I’m seeing Shia LeBoeuf and Blake Lively in the leads. Hey, nothing can go wrong with them headlining a movie, right? And we’ll have to have Celine Dion come back and do the theme song. I’m thinking we can call the song My Soul Will Never Stop Going On And On. Or something like that. I’ll leave the music production to someone else. After all, I can’t do everything. What do you all think? Wouldn’t that make a splendid film? Especially in 3D. Everything must be in 3D. Imagine a torpedo attack in 3D! Imagine the ship sinking beneath the waves! Imagine the calamity! ”

The reporters looked uncomfortable. In the opinion of this reporter, 3D is a silly and pointless technology. Pointing that out to a director who eats, breathes, and sleeps 3D, however, would be equally pointless.

At this point, Cameron seemed to be looking beyond the crowd. Several of the reporters turned to see where he was looking, and there, at the back of the hall, a man in uniform was walking past. This reporter recognized him as legendary RCMP Inspector Lars Ulrich, who recently foiled the efforts of Maple Leafs fans to hold the Stanley Cup hostage.

“Hey, I know you!” Cameron called out, stepping down from the podium, striding through the crowd, intercepting Ulrich. ”You’re Lars Ulrich!”

Ulrich sighed and rolled his eyes, his path blocked by Cameron. “And you’re that director who keeps insisting 3D is a good thing for some inexplicable reason. If you don’t mind, I have things to attend to.” Reporters had closed in on the pair by this time, and Ulrich seemed to be looking for a way out. His dislike of reporters is one of the many reasons he’s legendary, and this reporter has seen the Inspector beat the hell out of correspondents with various entertainment programs. In the opinion of this reporter, every last one of them deserved it.

“You and I should talk,” Cameron told Ulrich, oblivious to the Inspector’s preference to leave. “I mean, I’m a big fan, really. Always did love Metallica, after all, and I would love the chance to direct a concert film of the band. We could do it in 3D. In fact, we’d have to do it in 3D. After all, 3D is the greatest thing since sliced bread and Swedish bikini models.”

Ulrich appeared to be agitated. There was a dark, angry look in his eyes. “Metallica?” he asked, his voice low, almost a growl.

“Yes! It’ll be great!” Cameron exclaimed, still oblivious to the hostile glare coming from the Inspector. “You know, I wonder what a Metallica and Celine Dion end credits duet song would sound like for my movie Lusitania. Do you think the rest of the band would be up to giving it a try?”

Ulrich spoke softly, but his tone had a clearly aggressive cadence. He grabbed Cameron by the throat. “For the last time, you self absorbed oaf... I am not that Lars Ulrich! Now leave me alone!”

Ben Mulroney, entertainment journalist, son of a former prime minister, and all around smirking jerk, came forward out of the crowd, and asked, “Lars, are you speaking for the whole band when you refuse to work with James Cameron or not?”

Ulrich answered by decking Mulroney.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Four Score And Seven Vampires Ago

"....And that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a vampire to stake."

Every once in awhile, movie studios tend to put out two projects with the same theme within a few months of each other. Back in the nineties, there was Dante's Peak and Volcano taking on the notion of a natural disaster laying waste in America. A legendary Old West lawman got two different films within a few months in the form of Wyatt Earp and Tombstone. And of course the world itself was at stake due to an imminent cosmic collision with the films Deep Impact and Armageddon being released near to each other. This year is little different. Later in the year, Spielberg will be releasing a biopic of the greatest president in American history, with Daniel Day-Lewis in the role of Abraham Lincoln. At the moment, the new film Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter has just been released to theatres.

The film is based on the book by Seth Grahame-Smith, who earlier came up with the Jane Austen mashup Pride and Prejudice And Zombies. I particularly enjoyed the book, which was presented as a mix of narrative and letters, suggesting that Abe Lincoln, aside from becoming a lawyer, outstanding orator, and the saviour of his nation, spent much of his life waging a secret war against bloodsucking vampires. I wondered what might be done with it as a film, and as it turns out, the adaptation takes different turns from the novel, but still comes out as a satisfying, silly, and fun ride in the end.

As a boy, young Abe sees an attack on his mother by a man named Jack Barts (Marton Csokas, who might be recognizable to Lord of the Rings fans). She dies soon after, supposedly of poisoning. Years later, as a young man, Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) catches up to Barts, who is in fact a vampire. Lincoln encounters another man, Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper, from Captain America: The First Avenger), who takes him under his wing and helps him train to kill vampires. Sturgess himself is a vampire, a fact that he keeps to himself, not to mention his reasons for helping Lincoln.  

Benjamin Walker

Lincoln spends his off hours hunting and killing vampires, while making friends like Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson) and William Johnson (Anthony Mackie), and courting Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), his future wife. He achieves his revenge, and learns much more about vampires: that slavery benefits their kind enormously, that they are led by Adam (Rufus Sewell) and Vadoma (Erin Wasson), two Southern vampires with plans of their own for America, and that the undead include Sturgess himself.

Benjamin Walker and Dominic Cooper

Anthony Mackie and Benjamin Walker

Lincoln becomes President, and the Civil War erupts. During this time, one of his sons dies in a vampire attack, a fact that drives a wedge between Lincoln and his wife, and the President must continue to deal with the crisis unfolding in his country. Ultimately, the story leads to a crossroads in a small Pennsylvania town called Gettysburg (you may have heard of the place), where vampires are on the Confederate side (Jefferson Davis must be rolling over in his grave at how his reputation is completely skewered in the book and film, by the way). Lincoln himself must take up the battle against his old enemy once again. And no, the appearance of vampires at the Battle of Gettysburg wasn't in the history books.

Rufus Sewell

There's bound to be an inherant silliness in a film that weaves fact and fiction like this. Abraham Lincoln as a vampire hunter is an unlikely concept, and of course it's silly, but it's also fun. Grahame-Smith adapted the screenplay from his book, and it's a tongue in cheek sort of film that I quite enjoyed. It just requires a bit of suspension of disbelief. Director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) gives us a fast paced, rollicking bit of entertainment that doesn't take itself too seriously- even though the actors play it seriously- and is in the end a stylish mix of action and history, with a good sense of detail and pacing. The production is well done, with some thrilling sequences and action setpieces (particularly aboard a train), though there's a bit too much reliance on the slow-down editing tricks we see too often these days in action films.

Erin Wasson

The casting is key to the film. Benjamin Walker is a newcomer to me, at least, but he does well in the lead role. He looks the part, playing Lincoln from a young man to the Civil War years, and he comes across with the right amount of gravity and seriousness for the role, never descending into caricature. He rather reminds me of a young Liam Neeson, which is appropriate, since Neeson was long thought to play Lincoln in Spielberg's adaptation. Cooper as Sturgess is a good choice. He's a fine actor, playing a man who holds much about himself back, a vampire who has to come to terms with the right thing to do, and most enjoyably, a vampire who doesn't sparkle. Sewell is one of those great actors who's terrific in pretty much anything he does. You may recognize him from roles in The Illusionist, Hamlet, or Amazing Grace. He plays Adam with relish and menace; he's a memorable villain, and yet as an actor Sewell knows that it's best not to overdo the role. Erin Wasson is also new to me, playing something of a dominatrix vamp. She comes across as marvelously sadistic. Mary Elizabeth Winstead has a bit less of an ideal role, which comes across as understated, but then Mary Todd Lincoln is never an easy role to play, and not terribly sympathetic. I'm always reminded, when I see her being played by an actress, of that old line "So aside from all that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is not a serious examination of the President's life, obviously. If you're looking for that, wait a few months. It is, however, an entertaining, engagingly fun movie, and it treats most vampires like the bloodsucking fiends that they are. I enjoyed it thoroughly. One thought I had after it was all over though. I found myself thinking of the late historians Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote, two of the great experts on the Civil War. What would they have thought of an Abraham Lincoln waging war against the undead? I would hope they'd have a sense of humor about it.

Otherwise they might be rolling over in their graves....

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Day In The Life Of A Bear

"It's not who I am underneath. It's what I eat over the summer that defines me." ~ BatBear Begins

7:45 AM. Waking up. It's too early in the morning for this. I should really try sleeping in until noon sometime.

8:20 AM. Grouchy, grouchy, grouchy. Why can't we just hibernate all year? Oh, right. That whole starving to death if we tried that thing. Yes, well, at least those chattering birds could do me a favour and keep down the racket for a few hours. Hey, birds! Shut up while I go find myself a bite to eat.

8:45 AM. No food yet, though I do see me a camera left out on the lawn by one of those humans. Oh, come on, people, you're making it too easy.

8:50 AM. Shoved camera over. Pawed at camera. Something clicked while I was pawing it. Rats. Obviously my close up will be too close up. And probably out of focus.

9:10 AM. Success! Breakfast found! Some idiot human left garbage bag near roadway. Nice smells coming from it. Meat inside. Yum yum! Will drag it off road to have a meal.

9:20 AM. Stupid human chases me off from my find. I scarper for the woods. Hearing human muttering something about litterbugs while keeping close eye out for me. Hey, that's my food!

9:45 AM. Wondering if food might still be in reach. May have to break into garage. I've done that before, after all. Thinking back to last week. Stole that picnic basket while that park ranger wasn't looking. Stupid ranger. Thinks he can outwit me. Well, I showed him, didn't I?

10:05 AM. Return to scene of breakfast. All gone. Human has cleaned up site. Rats. Explore area. No sign of anything. Hear sounds up on deck. I think it's television inside. Wander up steps. Pause at window. Television on inside. Seeing documentaries about panda bears. Excuse me, but those aren't bears.

10:10 AM. Watching panda now being used as photo op fodder for visiting dignitary. Recognize dignitary vaguely. Have heard this human refer to him as schoolyard thug . Don't much like the sight of man. He seems very uncomfortable with panda. Had enough of this. Still hungry.

11:15 AM. Have found patch of wild blueberries. Ah, good. Time to gorge myself silly. Finally feeling awake. And really, really hungry.

12:55 PM. I think I've had too many blueberries. Oh, I'm absolutely stuffed. Nap time.

1:45 PM. Dreaming of teddy bears. Wondering why we real bears don't get a cut of the proceeds off of teddy bear manufacturing.

2:25 PM. Dream changes. Find myself being annoyed by an emo donkey who won't stop whining about how depressed and down he feels. Come on. Time to wake up.

2:55 PM. Finally waking up. Must have been something about those blueberries. Really weird dreams. Feeling like some honey.

3:05 PM. Found hive. Bees buzzing. Time to dig in.

3:50 PM. Finished gorging on honey. Stung a few times. No big deal. The yumminess of honey outweighs the annoyance of bee stings.

4:10 PM. Off again. Time to go on patrol. Might take a swim.

4:30 PM. Swimming about in Lake Tombstone. Nice and cool, takes the edge off the heat. Very important for those of us who are furry, you know. Spot canoe off to west. Two humans inside. Thinking of pulling a prank.

4:40 PM. Success! Have swum underneath canoe, knocking humans out from below and swimming away. Surfaced to hear them yelling and hollering about a lake monster. Humans can be such idiots.

5:10 PM. Swim time over. Let's see, what shall we do for dinner? Go fishing? Raid a cabin? Order out for pizza?

5:25 PM. Trying out some fishing in the river. Not much luck today. Just as well. I've had too much fish lately anyway. Feeling like something else. No, not blueberries. Had enough of that this morning, thank you very much.

6:10 PM. Wandering about. Smelling meat somewhere nearby. Yum yum. Must have it.

6:15 PM. Have located source of delicious smell. Human house has barbecue outside. No trace of humans in sight. Wandering over. One big steak on the grill, another two on plate nearby waiting to be grilled. Never could understand why humans cook food. Taking a look around. Snatching the raw steaks. Wandering off.

6:20 PM. Happily eating steak off in the woods. Hearing a human male in the distance ask "Honey, where are the other steaks?" Hah hah! Your loss!

7:25 PM. Hunger sated. Steaks were delicious. Yum yum yum.

9:30 PM. Getting late. Getting dark. Time to settle down for the night.

10:55 PM. Woken up by scatterbrained owl who rambles on and on about how much he knows. Thinking of tossing a rock at him, but it'll just miss the idiot in the dark. Plugging my ears while he chatters away about his day. Shut up, already!

Oh bother.