Sunday, 30 August 2009

Movie Weekend

Had to do a u-turn this weekend and head back to Ottawa to return my brother-in-law’s keys.  Figured I’d take in a couple movies since a theater isn’t a luxury I enjoy in my current home town.  There were three movies I was dying to see: District 9, Inglourious Basterds, and The Hurt Locker.  I’d heard rave reviews of them all and I was psyched to see them all in one weekend.  I even managed to fit in a rental on Saturday night.  So, here’s my impressions in the order that I viewed them:

district_nine

District 9

The computer generated aliens in this movie are amazing.  Not enough has been said about this in my opinion.  The first close-up of a prawn’s face is shocking in it’s realism.  And then you find out that these amazing effects are part of a movie with a $30 million budget?!?  It is staggering.  I hope George Lucas and James Cameron watch this movie and feel it in every square inch of their respective colons.  Why are they spending hundreds of millions of dollars on special effects that look like they came off my Playstation 2?  Peter Jackson started something with the Lord of the Rings trilogy that is paying off big with this movie.

Beyond the special effects, the story itself is unique and intriguing.  The first half is challenging to watch (at least for me) because of the documentary style camera work.  I didn’t really feel engaged in the movie until the pretence of the documentary film was dropped.  But after that, it is a thrill ride to rival any big budget blockbuster of the last 10 years.  I especially like the alien weaponry and the “sploosh” of bad guys getting disintegrated.

Looking back at the story you don’t feel like too much was explained about the aliens’ predicament.  Why are they actually there?  What happened that they drifted to earth and 20 years later the ship can zoom right off?  Why is there no leadership amongst the prawns?  Maybe a sequel will explain more.  I’d certainly go see it.

I’d recommend the movie to anyone.  Not perfect but amazing to watch and the second half is just plain fun.

inglourious-basterds-poster

Inglourious Basterds

The first movie of the weekend was a solid triple.  I was hoping the second movie would be a home run.  It wasn’t.  A single at best.  I’m happy to see Quentin Tarantino is once again able to tell a story on his own and contain it to a single film.  But this is a Tarantino movie about movies and how much Tarantino knows about movies.  The WWII setting is just a framework for Tarantino to hang all his masturbatory film obsessions off of.

As film critics have noted, this isn’t really about the Inglourious Basterds.  They are a tangential part of the film really despite what the marketing campaign implies.  That’s too bad.  I think I would have liked the movie shown in the trailers.  I like Brad Pitt and his ridiculous affectations.  He and his caricature are cool, slick, and funny.  If they had been the focus of the movie, I’d have left the theatre less educated in German cinema but a hell of a lot happier.

As it is, there are definitely amazing scenes contained within the movie.  The bar scene is my personal favourite.  The fate of Hugo Stiglitz is disappointing after being built up as the bad-ass of bad-ass Nazi killers but that one scene could have been a short film I’d have paid to see.

The actor playing Colonel Hans Landa is getting all kinds of praise for his performance and similarly Tarantino for conceiving and developing the character.  I didn’t buy it.  He didn’t strike me as particularly menacing, intelligent, or entertaining.  He sure likes to talk though.  He likes his cream and strudel too.  That scene was really fucking annoying.  I think Tarantino has found a way to put a microphone right into the dental work of his actors.  Hearing people chew strudel doesn’t really help engage me in your film.  Some critics have said this is really a detective story with Landa as the starring sleuth.  And how did he brilliantly deduce the identity of the traitor working with the Basterds?  There was a note with her name on it at the crime scene.  Wow.  Well done Sherlock.

The rest of the movie is just a series of puzzles for film students to research and post theses on their blogs about.  I don’t mind hidden meanings or tributes or homages or easter eggs but that can’t be the sole purpose of your movie.  Make the movie entertaining first and leave some of those in there to be cherished on repeat viewings.  This movie is for film students and critics and that’s it.

Unknown

Blindness

Took a break from the theatre Saturday night to spend some time with my sister and her family.  There didn’t seem to be anything we wanted to watch out on DVD but we rolled the dice on this movie.  The dice came up snake-eyes.

This is a horrible movie.  That’s all I’m going to say.  It is shit.  OK, THAT’S all I’m going to say.  Do not see this movie.

 

hurt locker2

The Hurt Locker

This was a great movie to end the weekend with.  The acting and scenes were intense.  I was actually gripping the armrest through many of the scenes.  The director of Point Break did a surprisingly good job of building tension and getting you to feel how f’d up the situation in Iraq is.  Anything could happen anytime, anywhere.

Not perfect though.  I really don’t think the shakey camera and frequent zooms add anything to the movie.  I had hoped hollywood had progressed beyond this technique of making me want to vomit.  If two people are having a conversation, I’d actually like to see those two people.  Not the nostrils of one and the eyebrows of the other with a little shakey cam in between.

That and a couple plot holes are my only complaints though.  Good pacing throughout while still being thought provoking.  Best movie I’ve seen this year.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Speyburn – 10

SPBOB.10YO

The last of my New Brunswick bottles.  Dropped it right on its neck by picking the canister upside down.  No breakage so I can say the bottle is very strong.  I bought this bottle because I like speyside malts and it’s name is Speyburn.  What can I say?  I’m a simple man.

What I failed to notice at the store was the picture of a salmon on the container.  Now, some months ago a friend brought back a bottle from England with a picture of a squirrel on the bottle.  This malt, whose name escapes me, had the distinct flavour of peanuts.  So I was very concerned that my salmon labelled malt would follow the same initiative and contain hints of sardines.

Fortunately this is a representative Speyside bottle.  A fruity nose, a minor flare of taste to start, and then a clean finish.  My only complaint is that the finish is too clean.  There’s none of the blooming glow or battling undercurrents that give my favourite Speysides top marks.  A solid soldier though a little deficient in character.

Fish-less.  3 shots.

No one to complain to

Been getting the rages lately.  Thought I was beyond all that but, man, the last couple weeks there hasn’t been anything too minor for me to flip out about.  I think it’s the end result of not having any outlet for venting that rage.  In Welland and Brantford there was always somebody around ready to go out for a beer and bitch session.  Here?  Good Christ, half the people don’t drink and the other half are the people I want to bitch about.

Fishing has helped.  It’s relaxing and exciting at the same time.  But nothing can take the place of a full on rant delivered at a suitable volume to make others in the bar nervous.  Ah man, good times.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Jump Around

I love the Telus commercials.  Starting back at Clearnet, they’ve always hit a great spot with their “animals doing things” theme.  Their latest entry just makes me laugh.

 

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Benromach Organic

benromach_organic

I’d already picked up the Benromach Traditional but when I saw this I just had to pick it up too.  An Organic single malt.  If my hippie sister were to ever drink scotch, this would be the one.  The packaging says it’s made from all organic ingredients.  Sure, I’m game.

Like the Traditional, no mention of how long it has aged.  And again, the word Speyside is prominently displayed.  And again, I feel like I’ve been tricked.  Where the Traditional was a sneaky peat, this one is all sherry.  A sickly, cloying sherry.  Bart no like.  Bad medicine.

What’s surprising is the adulation from it’s entry on The Royal Mile Whisky site.  It says it’s made in virgin oak casks which boggles my mind.  Where does this sherry taste come from if not from the casks?  Maybe I don’t really know what sherry tastes like?  But I know it doesn’t taste like bananas and pineapples.  Weird.  I won’t be looking for this one again.

Shocking sherry.  2 shots.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Benromach Traditional

Benromach-SingleMalt

During my trip out east I found that New Brunswick Liquor carries a much varied collection of single malts compared to the usual selection at the LCBO.  So I loaded up on the ones that stood out to me.

The first of these East Coast pick-ups is the Benromach Traditional.  No mention of the number of years matured on the bottle or box.  Odd.  But it did say SINGLE malt and it claimed to be a citizen of the Speyside region so I figured it was a safe bet.

First impression is that it’s a shockingly light coloured malt.  However long it was matured, it didn’t have long to inherit much colour.  Sceptical, I forged on.

The aroma is slightly medicinal which fuelled my scepticism.  And the first taste?  PEAT!  From Speyside?!?  Impossible.  But there it was.  I settled down from my initial shock and tried again.  Definitely a peaty taste but none of the salty sucker punch I expect from the Islay malts.  I actually liked it.  Character without sweat.  And the aftertaste is a slow retreat of that same taste.  It’s a solid B list pick but not something I’d go looking for unless I knew somebody was looking for a smooth entryway to the Islays.

Islay Lite.  3 shots.

Aberlour Perspective

Before I moved to Nowhere, ON I was a conspicuous consumer of the Aberlour 10.  At $45 it was the best tasting value out there.  But I moved up here and it fell out of the regular rotation.  I’d get it when I could and I’d become a fan of the 12 year old bottle too.  On my last trip to Ottawa I picked up a bottle of each, seriously intending to savour them for the purposes of recording them for posterity on this blog.

That didn’t happen.  Those bottles were gone within the week.

I then went to New Brunswick for a vacation and found that the Aberlour 16 has been hiding out there!  But that was gone before the week was out and I never recorded anything.

So, quickly.  Aberlour is an awesome scotch.  Trust me.  The 10 is a bit fruitier than I remember.  The 12 is mellow goodness.  And I really can’t remember much about the 16.  But I know I’ll try them all again and I’ll try and take it a little slower when I do.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

New Brunswick - Then and Now

800px-flag_of_new_brunswicksvg Six years ago I was honoured to be the best man at my buddy Schmeck's wedding. His wife to be was a New Brunswicker from the Saint John region and that's where the wedding was held. I was excited to attend, not only to stand up for my best friend on his wedding day, but also to see a part of Canada I'd never visited before.

I'd known Schmeck's family since our university days.  They'd welcomed me into their homes when I was away from mine and tolerated any alcohol inspired antics.  Funny and friendly and makers of some killer salsa which I shamelessly stole throughout university.  Schmeck's family a comfortable known.  Kate's family?  Unknown.

But it didn't take long after arriving in Saint John to find that the Macnaughtons were every bit as welcoming and friendly as the Siemiaszkos.  In fact, the whole region seemed to be filled with like-minded people who exhibited the fascinating behaviour of making eye contact with and smiling at a complete stranger.  It almost sent this jaded Ontario boy into shock.

The Macnaughtons were exceptional though.  Peg, the intimidatingly intellectual matriarch whose generosity truly made me feel like one of the family, Al, Rachael, and their impossibly cute munchkins Hannah and Emily, and the amazing artist Molly.  They each were lively, fun participants in the festivities and went out of their way to make sure I felt at home.  That week in New Brunswick is a portion of time that will always be with me.  It was a celebration, a strengthening of friendships, a revelation that good people are everywhere.  It was good times.

But why do I bring this up now?  Six years after the fact?  Well, after that week I went home and went back to work.  A year later I returned to New Brunswick for another friend’s wedding.  This time it was for another university pal, Acad.  And the location was the Acadian region of New Brunswick in the North East corner of the province.  Despite linguistic challenges I was again blown away by the friendly attitude of everybody I ran into.  On return from these travels I decided to tip my hat to my friend Acad, his new wife, and the people I met in Acadia in a blog entry on the now static Angry Bear web site.  Why did I write about Acad’s wedding and not Schmeck’s?  I have no idea.  But it wasn’t long before Kate pointed out the discrepancy.

As is my habit, I laughed it off and used at as a way to antagonize Kate.  But, after just spending another week benefiting from the hospitality and generosity of the Macnaughton family, I figured it was time to rectify the slight.  These are just words but I hope they do something to communicate the honour and pride I felt in being a part of that week six years ago and how, six years later, I’m still giddy to know such great people.

We cool Kate?

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Fishing Rod Circumcision

One week I've been in New Brunswick, near St. John.  One of the first things I did was get a 7 day fishing license.  And then I went looking for fish.  I bush-whacked along streams.  I combed the coast.  I baked on lakes.  And what did I get?  One fish on the hook that flipped off within feet of shore (no idea what it was but it was THIS big).  Other than that, nothing.  My buddy Schmeck managed to catch a muskie through the eye somehow but he had similar luck as me the rest of the week.

And the topping to this shit sundae of futile fishing?  My rod is sticking out the rear window by an inch when the windows are rolled up after our last attempt to catch something on a hook before leaving this fishless province.  Snip.  There goes the tip of my rod.

Ah well, it couldn't last forever but it's served me well this summer.  The rod and reel were my 5 year anniversary gift from Deere and were selected at the time because they were the only option that didn't have any John Deere logos engraved on it.  Two years after sitting in a box I finally got the itch to use the damn thing and it was a versatile fish catcher in Ontario.

Like I say not to broken up about it.  I'm more ticked off about the one that got away this week.  If I'd known that was going to be my only bite, I'd have clamped down the drag and made sure that hook was set.  Anyways, an excuse to buy more gear.  At least one new rod and possibly a new reel as well!

Fishing Rod Circumcision

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Foggy Flogging

Finally made it out for the first 18 holes of the year.  Just happened to be while I was out vacationing in New Brunswick.  We were booked at the Westfield Golf & Country Club.  The fog was impenetrable for the first nine holes.  We'd tee off, look at each other, shrug, and hope for the best in finding the balls.  Lost two balls for no other reason than the fog. 

Once the fog lifted, you could see it was a nice course.  Wish my game was at a higher level but I'd made the choice of fishing over golfing this year so no surprise.  Couple highlights besides playing blind, hitting the stick on a chip to save par, two putts that came within an inch of getting par, and the solid play of my new Taylor Made driver.

Overall, nothing great, nothing horrible which translates to a good game of golf for me.  Anytime I don't lose my temper on the course is a good game.