Upcoming Summer Movies

Hollywood plays it pretty safe during summer blockbuster season. Sequels and adaptations are the order of the day.

To date I’ve liked some of each. The Great Gatsby was flawed, but delivered the glitz expected. Star Trek Into Darkness was pretty awesome. I walked out with nothing, but praise. Since then I’ve read three negative reviews I mostly agree with. Here (funny), here (theme issues), and here (portrayal of women).

But the movies I am most eager for are wholly original.

Now You See Me – Great cast. A heist movie. About magic. A trifecta of awesome.

Pacific Rim – Man driven giant robots fighting monsters. Rocket powered punches! Directed by the director of Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy. I’m very excited. Although my friends seemed skeptical.

Elysium – By the writer/director of District 9. The trailer leaves me a bit cold. But District 9 was very cool.

World’s End – ok. This is almost a sequel. Reuniting the key actors and director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. But those were funny!

That is four neat pictures beyond the easy picks. IMO.

Weekly Recap

Well Candy Crush has consumed my life. It is now interfering with other things.

I haven’t blogged. I haven’t finished a book.

And now I’ve missed my brother’s birthday. I shouldn’t blame a game since the fault is mine. But that game is what I did in every spare moment this week.

Which makes for a boring recap.

The only interesting item was attending my goddaughter’s confirmation. It was an excellent mass. Very nice.

And then we to today. Work sucked. My stomach is upset. And I’m missing dinner with my family.

Meh.

Weekly Recap

4 items left on my chore list. That counts making this blog entry.

That was my day today. Plus too much playing Candy Crush. I blame my brother for that.

For the long weekend I took it easy. Books, comics, tv and movies. Star Trek was the movie. It was quite good. I don’t have any criticisms actually. That is odd. I quite enjoyed myself without bring blown away with excitement.

The big news in the week was a sore leg. It was painless by Wednesday, but then Thursday it hurt again. Thursday night and Friday morning were actually when it was most painful. Today it is not even noticeable. So I hope there isn’t another relapse when I go to work tomorrow.

Hmm. It was an uneventful week. Thanks to Mom for dinner. I just finished the leftovers.

Three things left.
Take care!

Revitalization

It appears we are getting a new arena. A large part of the argument for its value is that it will revitalize downtown.

I’m still not convinced. But some of the discussion on upcoming projects is persuasive.

The arena will be a destination. Its value will be earned if it causes people to stay downtown and spend money. This will bring in retailers and restaurants and services. But the downtown already has several excellent destinations. The Winspear, Citadel, Art Gallery and many of the town’s finest restaurants. These all attract visitors, but they haven’t revitalized the downtown.

The biggest differences between those and the arena might be that the arena is a family venue and it is multi-purpose. All ages visit sports venues. Concerts, games and events all attract different demographics. And families spend money. That is cool. Multi-purpose means that it won’t just be to watch events, but to participate in them. That should be better then just watching.

The biggest argument against the destination causing revitalization is looking at the current neighbourhoods around Rexall and the Stadium. They certainly don’t appear vibrant and thriving.

I think revitalization is best spurred by residential development. People shop in their neighbourhood. Residences bring retail and services. And those won’t be uncommon visits. They will be repeat customers living nearby. People that aren’t worried about travel into the downtown or parking.

Of course those are going in too. Several towers for living are going up now and more are planned.

But hear is my final argument against. Urban sprawl. Edmonton sprawls out and is still rapidly growing at the edges. Urban sprawl is expensive since it requires more services than denser communities. More roads, more schools, more firehalls,

The city’s money is divided by the expensive need to develop the edges and the core. As long as the edges keep growing the downtown will be hard to revitalize. Regardless of the cool destinations there. It is a long way to travel after all. You might go to the destination, but why for anything else? You might work there, but you’ll go home to shop.

The money goes with the people. If they are at the edges then so is the money.

Be great if I’m wrong.

The Great Gatsby – A movie review

It is impossible for me to review the movie outside the context of the novel. So I won’t try.

The Great Gatsby is a new movie by director Baz Luhrmann. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio (Jay Gatsby), Carey Mulligan (Daisy Buchannan), Joel Edgerton (Tom Buchannan) and Tobey Maguire (Nick Carraway).

Nick is new to New York. He rents a small cottage on Long Island next to the mansion of Jay Gatsby. At first his only friends are his cousin Daisy and her husband Tom. He discovers that Tom is having an affair with Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher). Meanwhile he is drawn into a different circle when invited to a party at Gatsby’s. Gatsby sets out to befriend him. It turns out that there is nothing to chance and the two groups are drawn together until there is eventual tragedy.

The novel is a classic taught is high schools. It is short, only nine chapters, but beyond a story of love, betrayal, cruelty and hope it is filled with the sort of themes that English teachers love to make students write essays about. Hmm. A partial list: new money vs. old, untenable hopes, the draw of the past, community, appearances vs. reality, fidelity and infidelity, judgments, and more. It has strong visuals that are representative of themes: a green light and a large billboard in particular, but also the mansions, skyscrapers, ash heaps and more. Finally it now serves as a crucial look back into part of the culture of the 1920s.

It is amazing what it accomplishes in its length. It is dense, but the language is mostly simple (although having a dictionary near for words like fractious is handy).

The ending paragraphs and the final sentence, in particular, are near unparalleled in literature.

Luhrmann is known for the spectacle of his movies. He did the flamboyant Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge. He also prefers tragedies. As such Gatsby is right in his wheelhouse. In particular the wild parties attended by Nick are vibrant and exciting. The movie seems less sure in the middle of the book and I think it botches the ending. The climax of the book is in chapter 7 and, I think, the strongest parts are its resolution in chapters 8 and 9. But this is a movie and as such after the climax it doesn’t run for as long as the book. It ties up its plots as quickly as possible and finishes. That is unfortunate.

The other big change is with Nick. Nick Carraway narrates the novel. In the movie, it abridges all parts of Nick’s story not directly related to Jay, Tom and Daisy. They also change his backstory and and an new addendum. I can see the reasons, but it removes the depth of the source material. I’m also not a fan of Maguire.

The movie doesn’t cover all the themes of the book, but it hammers home the ones it does. Likely someone’s favorites are missing, but I think it succeeds here.

Other than Maguire I think the performances were good. I’m a fan of Mulligan (from Drive) and DiCaprio (from lots of stuff). I think both are effective. Edgerton is also good as an absolute ass. Jason Clarke also has a small, but crucial role and pulls it off well.

The movie doesn’t use period music, but modern music or remixes of older tunes. I quite liked that as well.

The movie’s strength is its spectacle. But I enjoyed it throughout. I’d recommend it. But if you are hoping for fidelity to the novel there are several other adaptations put there.

Don’t let “this” much bad mess up a day with “this” much fun

I eavesdropped on a mother giving this lecture to her child at the mall yesterday. It seems to accurately sum up my week too.

It was another good week at work. Friday sucked a bit. I had no meetings and no crises. I thought I’d accomplish a ton. But I didn’t do as much as I hoped. Until then… it was good. Thursday was particularly challenging. This went horribly awry, but it was great to watch the team get together and fix them. So I’m counting that as a good day.

Gaming on Friday was cool. We did a city building session. We weren’t great at keeping focus…but it was all good. Until the end. The homemade cider brought was disarmingly potent. I got drunk enough to see the room spin. And another guest drinker still. I had only three drinks. But lemme tell you if Thorogood had sang about one cider, one scotch and one beer, it would have been a much shorter tune.

Then came Mother’s Day. It was the highlight of the week. My usual routine of Church, then Edo, then a movie was bolstered. First, I quite enjoyed the movie. I saw The Great Gatsby. Secondly, instead of going home I went out for supper with Tim, Mom and Gail. (Confusing, but no relation between Mom and Gail.). We went to Izakaya Tomo and it was terrific. I enjoyed every dish. The owner calls it a Japanese restaurant that offers something different than just sushi, sashimi and chicken teriyaki. We had tuna, oysters, two pork dishes and a salad roll plus desert. All good.

But then I came home and fell down. My left leg buckled and I went down. I blame the 14 consecutive hours on the scooter. I don’t normally just sit that long. I didn’t hurt going down at all. As usual it was in slow motion. But I landed on my side awkwardly with my arm pinned under me. I wanted to free my arm and roll onto my back, but I couldn’t do it. So I rolled onto my stomach.

Oh, none of this was scary. I’d hit my call button and Dano was enroute. But once on my stomach I found my braces kept me from moving much. I couldn’t roll over. And my legs were forced to splay uncomfortably. So I was uncomfortable waiting – not in pain, just not comfortable.

Of course Dano didn’t have a key so it took him 25? minutes to get in. But once in, he had me up in no time. However I’ve stretched out my groin and putting weight on it hurts. Far less now then when I awoke this morning. So I called in sick.

Which brings us to the present. It was a good week that was full of bad endings.

Hoping for solid good this week.

Take care. And welcome back travellers!

Vignettes

Apologies to all for any wild inaccuracies in this fiction

—————————————————

Sam stood on the edge of the world.  Behind him there rose dark clouds of smoke from chimneys.  When money loses value there is still great wealth to be found beneath the earth.  Before him plunged the Saskatchewan Canyon.  Deep enough that he could see clouds drifting through the depths below.

In the distance on the far side of the chasm, he could see people working.  They were trying to establish a bridge.  What gods had broke asunder, men would try to rejoin.  It was a brave effort and that stirred within him.  But futile.  Clouds were not the only residents of the canyon.  Most were quite hostile.  The bridgeworks would be gone by the next morning.

He knew that stirring in his chest though.  Bravery was never a problem, but rather a curse.  He’d chosen a new way.  A way of service that meant sometimes you left in the middle of the fight.  Not to run, but because you were called away.  Sam examined the box in his hands.  He worried that Crow had played a role.  Crow was so quick to find opportunity.

He’d stolen the box.  Twice now.  Sam turned it over in his hands.  Into the pit?  Or back where it came from?

Sam tucked the box away.  There was time to make up his mind.  First he would speak to the brave people across the canyon.  He could guide them to a better way.  He stepped off the edge.  He shifted smoothly and rose up on thermals.  But putting off a decision is a decision in itself.  Come morning the box would be back where he had taken it.

The Crow would find him standing sentry.

—————————————————————————————–

Anders shifted the gold and silver coins in his enormous hands.  They look like dimes.  But they were solid and heavy and real.  They were assayed in his office and then stamped with a W3 on one side and a clawed hand on the other.  They were the only accepted currency at the Phase X Saloon and Casino.

Anders suit was finely tailored, but it was getting tight.  He was letting his fur grow out.  The result was that instead of hanging properly on his frame he looked a little like a stuffed doll.  A giant stuffed doll.

Nefer wanted things.  Information of course.  But other things as well.  Anders convinced him that the casino and the gold were the way to get those things.  But a dragon and his hoard are not easily parted.  Every coin was tracked.  Once Nefer had what he needed, he would go out and recover them.

Anders generally stood at the door.  They had swinging ones put in for the ambiance.  When things got out of hand, he resolved them.  Most thought he was just a bouncer, but he also handled all the money after closing and tracked the transactions in huge ledgers where he could write clearly and not be cramped.

He dropped two silver ones.  They landed on the chest of the man lying at his feet.

“Take your friend home.  No one leaves the Casino empty handed.  But he isn’t welcome here anymore.  If the is one thing we can’t abide is a cheat.”

—————————————————————–

Xin was tired.  He looked at where his shop used to be and he was exhausted.

Oh, he could find the energy to go out and save the world one more time, but at some point he wanted to come home.  meditate and get 3 hours sleep.  But that required a home to come back to.  How often had he repaired that place?  Many, many times.  Each time he was happy to do it.

But there was no rebuilding it this time.  The city was behind him.  Ahead of him were dark tunnels and caves.  This is where the city ended.  And he couldn’t rebuild in a cave.  He hated even standing here.

But he wasn’t actually here to mourn the shop.  He was looking for information about his family.  There were rumours of some descendants here and there, but most of them were apparently just gone.  Even more than a structure, he knew that family was home.  He needed others.  Family, companions and allies.

Xin didn’t work well alone.

The city was bright behind him.  The lights were always on.  Otherwise they were in complete darkness.  Even with the towering building all illuminated it was oppressive here.  Oppressive and dangerous.  Dangerous to be out alone.  But most that roamed the streets did so in packs.  Often very hungry and wild packs.

Xin clenched his fist.  Dry skin stretched over muscle and bone beneath like saran-wrap – tight and fragile.  Xin was tired.  He was alone.  But the packs were the only dangerous things in the city.

So was he.  Xin turned to go.  There were miles yet to go before he slept.