V for DaVinci Code

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou
It has been a strangely dry year thus far for movies, to the point that there have been several times when I wanted to go see a movie and there was nothing I was interested in seeing in even the remotest way. May, however, has been an exception, with an interesting new movie opening every weekend. Last weekend, it was MI3 which, despite Tom Cruise, is a must see for any fan of action movies. Sadly, unlike the first MI movie, it does not transcend the genre nor bring anything new to it, but as action movies go, it is pretty decent, fun, and about what you'd expect. Certainly it is a far sight better than the second movie in the series, however, and in any case, if you're just looking for a little action, it's worth a view. But I'm not here to talk about how I was disliking Tom Cruise way before it was fashionable, nor even about MI3. Mostly because I don't have much else to say about it. I'm here to talk about a movie that is being unfairly panned by many critics and another that you have already missed seeing the first time around: The DaVinci Code and V for Vendetta.

The DaVinci Code
Ron Howard on the set
There's no rock on earth big enough that anyone could claim to not, at the least, have heard of The DaVinci Code. Dan Brown's blockbuster book is the world's best selling book after the bible, and I daresay that more people have probably read it from end to end; this both serves and hinders the movie. You see, when a movie has as much buzz around it at the time of release, critics - already leaning toward the negative - tend to skew their reviews in the negative, perhaps reviewing the movie based on expectations rather than reality. On the other hand, having many people who have read the book means, in all likelihood, that they will not only go to see it, but have an understanding of what is going on in the first place. The movie is a little fast paced in explanation, I feel, for someone who has not read it (though perhaps those who have will argue the opposite), and I got the feeling that someone approaching the movie without the background would not necessarily appreciate the subtleties that made the book so endearing. In this regard, I tend to agree with Ron Howard, who in the face of criticism from Cannes, said, "This sounds a little 'hucksterish', but people really respond to the movie better the second time than they do the first time."

Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou
I'm not implying that you shouldn't see the movie without having read the book - au contraire, mes amis - just that, as always, the book does a better job explaining than the movie. This is not startling Hollywood news, in fact it's about the oldest and most well-accepted fact in the industry. And so it does not imply the movie is not good or true to the book. It not only sticks quite close to the book (many critics, of course, argue too close), but manages to take a few poetic touches as well. That Saunier's yard is, for example, filled with roses was a very small and admittedly unimportant touch, but something I appreciated. And one of the few somethings I can share without spoiling anything.

Sir Ian McKellan as Sir Leigh Teabing
In short, the movie itself is fairly well done; it has a certain art to it. The mystery is engrossing, but I worry that it lacks the impact of the book. Comparisons aside, however, I think that someone going and paying attention will quite appreciate the mystery and thrills involved. This is not a movie where you want to go and be thinking about all the stuff you have to get done next week. I'm not implying it's brainy, just that - and perhaps this is my only real complaint when you boil it down - the movie does not do a good enough job of really pulling you in and it may take a little effort on the part of the audience. Otherwise, the direction is artfully done (thank you, Ron Howard), the acting is excellent (particularly Sir Ian McKellan, but I have yet to see him not deserving of his honorific), and I have a soft spot for Audrey Tautou (plus a fair amount of respect for Tom Hanks), so there you have it. Incidentally, if you have not seen Amelie, I highly recommend it when you're in the mood for something different. Audrey Tautou at her finest and in quite a different role. So, in Roman numerals, perhaps there is no V for The DaVinci Code, but I'd not hesititate to give it a III.V. In any case, it is perhaps fitting that "V" is supposedly the symbol for the sacred female... which is how I'm going to finally justify the title of this blog.

V for Vendetta is G for Good
V for Vendetta
First of all, nobody I have talked to has seen this movie. This disturbing fact is shocking to me for many reasons, here are a few:

1) The trailer = awesomeness. If you remember my post from some time ago, this passes all the trailer tests. That means you should see it. That's all. Go watch the trailer yourself here.

2) Natalie Portman. Enough said.

3) Wachowski Brothers. You may know them as the creators of The Matrix. Not good at making sequels, but I think they're due another chance on a new movie given how incredible the original Matrix was.

4) My personal recommendation. The movie may upset you, it may make you feel uneasy, but isn't that better than going to a movie and being bored after? I would go see it again, so you should see it once at least.

5) The Title. It takes guts to name your movie with a title that harkens back to the days of Dial M for Murder and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Though I guess we had Attack of the Clones recently, so maybe we're seeing a resurgence of poor titling.

Matthew McConaughey stars with Horseface in An Utter Abomination
6) It is a rose among the thistle. Really. OK, possibly excluding the indie circuit, about which I am woefully uninformed, but in the list of contemporaries, we have The Sentinel (I hate movies starting with 'the' as though that makes it sound important). It stars Micheal Douglas as a secret agent. It's rumoured he personally financed the movie in order to keep Catherine Zeta Jones with him. Silent Hill, yet another 'thriller' about a parent who must fight through the undead and the spirit worzzzzzzzzzz. I'm thrilled to not see it, thank you. And Thank You For Smoking, which might be okay except for Katie Holmes who basically I see/hear as Tom Cruise now. Really. Put Tom Cruise in her place on Dawson's Creek, that's what I see. Kind of makes things weird. Scary Movie 4 (need I say more), The Benchwarmers (another Adam Sandler/Rob Schneider movie long past the time where it might be funny), Take The Lead, where we discover that what the ghetto needs is ballroom dancing and what ballroom dancing needs is large-bottomed women and backwards caps.

Now I don't mean to say you should see this movie because the rest are not so great. Rather, that I am shocked that so few have seen this movie given the utter lack of competition. And the fact that it is in second run means that you definitely should catch it on the cheap. Oh, and I missed Failure to Launch, which, really... a woman so sadistic that she plays with mens' feelings, gets them to fall for her, or at least get attached enough to move out, and then dumps them? The movie should've taken place 32 years prior, starred Sarah Jessica Parker's parents, and been called Failure to Abort.

Anyway, I have a life to lead (believe it or not) and you have a few movies to see, so I shant keep you. As always, thanks for listening, let me know what you think of either movie or even if I'm wrong about some of my judgements on my "Must Miss List".


Franz Cab for Calgary

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Dean attempts low earth orbit. Succeeds in slam dunk.
The last few weeks have been hectic, in case you were wondering if I'd dropped from the face of the Earth. I haven't. Despite my best efforts, I can't leave the planet. Not even achieve low earth orbit; I did manage to clear the rim of my basketball hoop once it was set low enough though. In addition to that feat, I also left Saskatoon for a short trip to Calgary. John and I actually took off there last weekend to see Franz Ferdinand and, in his case, Death Cab for Cutie, which vies, in my mind, for the title of "Most Self-Consciously Ridiculous Band Name Ever". There is some stiff competition, of course, from bands like Pretty Girls Make Graves (maybe if they hadn't gotten in that death cab), !!!, and Eagles of Death Metal. Speaking of bad band names, I recently saw Run Chico Run when they passed through town, and was impressed enough to buy their latest album, Slow Action. As my cousin informed me, they were once a four-piece, then became a three-piece, and right before they left to go on tour, became a two-piece, and rather than cancel the tour they went and learned the other parts. So they both play all the instruments and switch around fairly often, multitasking as well - sometimes one guy is playing drums, keyboards, and singing all at the same time. Anyway, I'd definitely check out their music over at NewMusicCanada or else my favourite song of theirs is on Episode 3 of the community podcast I'm hosting at the moment; Sportscars for Everyone. They remind me a little of the Unicorns, very quirky but not death obsessed. But I digress... on to the Calgary trip.

The view of the concert from our seats.
John and I left for Calgary just before 11 AM on Wednesday, picking up some wine and beer for Steph, who was gracious enough to tolerate our existence on her floor over there. After picking up those various items and some velocity, we made the trip in five hours. Though I think John was a little frightened. He kept biting his nails and looking about nervously. We got there in plenty of time to stop by Steph's, drop off our stuff, hang out a little, and head to the concert which started at 7 PM. We got there early, figuring we'd secure for ourselves a good place on the floor near the front of the stage. Well, it turns out that the presale tickets I'd gotten didn't specify where we were sitting when I bought them. And it was in the farthest possible seat from the stage. Really. We were in the absolute top row on the opposite end of the Stampede Corral. See how the concert looked from our seats in the picture on the right. I wanted to sneak down - I'd been watching the security guys and found a hole in their pattern that I thought we could exploit to get to the stage, but John (probably wisely) didn't want to risk it. I guess I didn't care as much because I'd seen them already in London and had pretty much gone for his benefit plus a fun time in Calgary, though obviously I enjoyed their show enough in London to want to see them again.

Death Cab For Cutie leaves Dean standing on curb looking homely.
The opener band they'd used in London, The Cribs, followed them out here. They're not a bad band, certainly tight, but they have no sense of dynamics in my opinion. Their songs are very similar sounding, and so when their drummer stands to play drums on his stool as he often does, you're left to wonder what prompted it, rather than thinking, "Oh yeah! This part rocks!". Then Death Cab, who bored me as much on stage as they do on record. I'll admit they had some good songs, but their singer seems a little self-obsessed. I tried my best to get into them because by this point I was feeling rather low energy and starved. Neither John nor myself had eaten since breakfast, almost twelve hours ago, and we were sure feeling it. Especially coupled with a day in the car. The spaces in between bands was interminable. I think that bands today have forgotten the initial intent of a warm up band. To get the crowd into it. Nothing pulls the crowd out like 30 mins waiting for them to change equipment and soundcheck quickly.

I wish we had been this close
They didn't soundcheck though, or did a really rapid one, so when Franz came out, the sound was bad, but that corrected itself a few songs in. They really WERE high energy and brought even the bored-looking Calgarians to their feet on several occasions. Even from our distance, we really enjoyed them. Particularly the encore. And particularly The Outsiders. Man did they tear that song apart. It started with the guitar part alone, then Alex walked up to the keys and started playing the melody and built it into this massive wall of noise. Then he slammed his hand along the keyboard, killing the noise and walked to the microphone to start singing. I found a video of how they played Outsiders on our tour, but it was much better in Calgary - Part 1 / Part 2). At this point, he had once again become my stage-presence hero. As the song went on and broke apart at the end, the roadies brought out some extra floor toms and sticks, and there were five people playing drums, another on keys, plus Franz. They could've played that song all night so far as I was concerned. A great show, both John & I were beaming and we can only imagine how it would've been if we'd been up in the front.

Starved, we left the show and went to a lounge to grab a bite. I had a nice baseball steak and a few beer that really hit the spot. John partook of the stirfry, I believe. It turned out that a bunch of staff from The Keg here in Saskatoon were out in Calgary as well, and it's too bad we didn't see them. The pub they went to, they were soon joined by Franz and Death Cab, that would've been cool. If nothing else I could've given them heck for not stopping in Saskatoon - though their manager was kind enough to write me back at least. Though I probably would've instead been gushing over The Outsiders and how great a name "Death Cab" was.

Overlooking Banff
The next day was beautiful, plus 22 or something. John & I wanted to spend some time outside, so we drove to Banff and what a great idea if I do say so myself. We hiked up to the top of Tunnel Mountain, which was a perfect way to get some exercise, did a little shopping/walking around in Banff town, and also hiked down to the hoodoos. I'd been to Banff many times and never gone to see these, nor even heard of them, so it was great to actually get there and see these things. We also grabbed a few wings before setting on the road back. The plan for the evening was to take Steph out to a nice dinner, but she wanted to watch the Flames game (and heck, so did we) so we instead went to a little bar just off 17th (aka The Red Mile) and did that with a bunch of her friends. We also ate dinner there, and low and behold, guess who forgot to pick up Steph's tab. Yeah, I'm an idiot. We just kinda left in a bit of confusion and it completely slipped my mind. D'oh! We wound up going over to her friend's apartment, which was pretty darned nice if I may say so, and then out to Coyotes, which was less nice, but you'll have to ask John about that.

Friday, we tried to get tickets to the Flames game on Saturday, though after seeing how it went, I'm sort of glad we didn't. It's almost like they intentionally threw the series. Oh well, I can always cheer for Edmonton. We had Chinese food which I _did_ remember to pay for and then went shopping downtown. I saw a beautiful Canali jacket which I was very tempted to buy, but it was a little out of line with what I was willing to spend given that I'm still paying off travel debts. OK, who am I kidding, a lot out of line. At Steph's insistence, we stopped over at the Metropolitan Grill on Stephen Ave at 4:30, after I picked up an Alfred Hitchcock anthology (I've been meaning to see some of these movies for a long time) in order to catch the after work crowd. Very nice in there, but I didn't think there was anything especially unique other than a good location. Then off to John's cousin's house in Chestermere for a delicious BBQ. We stopped off in the wine cellar, a very nice store, and grabbed a couple bottles of Beaujolais, and made our way there. They were all very cool, Tara had some delicious Chilean wine as well, and was quite a martini maker - best vodka martini I've had, actually. The bbq and food was great, and we watched Montreal lose another disappointing game before heading out, then came back to find Steph was not in. So we went out for the evening, I was already driving for John since he'd had a few, and we wound up at Melrose, very nice lounge/club, with some nice women to boot, but John took a sip of beer and was instantly ill, and we were both tired anyway, so back home we went.

Saturday, John & I spent the afternoon exploring Chinook mall. I didn't find much I liked, and the one store I did was lined up quite a bit with women for the change room. I don't have the patience for that, so I left the only store with stuff I liked that was unique empty handed. Probably better off, anyway. I did pick up a few books from the store, but otherwise, nothing else. One of which, Freakonomics, I pretty much finished in a 24 hour period, a very interesting book, I enjoyed it quite a bit and would certainly recommend picking it up as an interesting read. Anyway, we made it back safely and watched Serpico before calling it a trip. Then, this week, my sister took off for London to start her trip through Europe to Greece with Contiki, so I was helping her to get ready for that. I think I may have scared her instead. She left Wednesday and it certainly feels weird to think she's over there alone and wandering the streets of London. Well, by now she's in Paris, I guess. She has a blog too, so check it out: larissa.katsiris.com. Living vicariously is highly underrated.

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