gastronomic evening

Two films I saw last Tuesday night while lazying around on my couch.  Both related to food – surprise!

Three Stars is a documentary that takes a look at the restaurants that have been awarded Michelin stars all over the world.  It was a bit slow and I did not think it really delved into what truly makes a restaurant be considered worthy of even one Michelin star.  The doc does touch on the mystery of the whole thing, especially the progression from two to three stars, but it all sort of skimmed the surface.  I thought that Jiro Dreams of Sushi (while focusing on only one Michelin three star restaurant) was a much better look at what defines a great chef and a great kitchen.

The Trip was next on the list.

Basically Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are the reasons to see this film.  They are great, the chemistry between them is great, there’s lots of laughs, but the actual movie itself was sort of dull and seemed dragged out in parts.  If you are a fan of the two actors, who are pretty much the only two faces you see for 90% of the movie, this is worth a watch. Otherwise, meh.

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this is the end

I watched This Is the End this weekend without really knowing anything about it, but me and my boyfriend ended up both really liking it.  This movie is basically a who’s who of recent comedy movies.  There are lots of cameos, but the main characters (who actually play themselves) are Seth Rogan, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson.  The movie starts off with a house party at James Franco`s house which quickly turns into an Apocalyptic nightmare with the remaining six main characters struggling to live together trapped in the house.

I will say that I found the first half of the film to be much funnier than the latter, but even considering the not-as-great second half, I still really enjoyed this and was laughing pretty hard during quite a few scenes.

Have you seen it?

sherlock

Ever since the bf and I moved and I have had access to his Netlifx account, I have been taking advantage of it fairly often, especially when I am home alone and just want to lounge around.  That is how I came across Orange is the New Black, which, despite what many people think of the show, I found to be not that interesting and fairly disappointing.  I have however, just started watching the Sherlock short series produced for BBC and I love love love it!

My brother actually told me about this modern-day Sherlock Holmes adaptation quite a while ago, but unfortunately I forgot all about it until I happened to see it on the Netflix screen.  I assume that some fans had trouble with seeing their favorite detective sending text messages and using a lap top in modern-day London, but I thought the writers transitioned both him and Dr. Watson into the 21st century quite seamlessly.

The series is made up of three seasons (so far anyway), with each season only consisting of three 90-minute episodes.  I have so far only watched the first two episodes of Season 1. I should also note that Season 3 only finished shooting at the beginning of this month so may not actually air for quite a while yet.

Let’s talk casting.  Sherlock Holmes is played by Benedict Cumberbatch.  Until quite recently I was not familiar with this actor at all but it seems like he has been popping up more and more as of late.  I just watched him play the part of Khan in the newest J.J. Abrams adaptation of Star Trek, saw a trailer for The Fifth Estate in which he portrays Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and now have seen him perform so well as Sherlock Holmes.  Pretty varied characters I would say.  Oh, and he also plays the Necromancer in the new The Hobbit trilogy, and will continue with this part as well as the part of Smaug in the remaining two films.

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a pretty impressive array of characters

And since we all know that there can be no Sherlock Holmes without a Dr. Watson, I am very pleased with the casting for his crime-solving partner as well – Martin Freeman!

You probably know him best either from his role as Tim on the original UK version of The Office or, most likely, as a young Bilbo Baggins from the latest J.R.R. Tolkien film adaptation by Peter Jackson.  In either case, he is a great actor and I think he plays Watson with a much harder edge than I have previously seen the character portrayed.

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I know that the first season of this series debuted in 2010 so I am pretty far behind, but if you are like me and have not seen it yet, I would recommend you fix that as soon as you can.  I am probably also partial to it because I have always been a fan of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, but I think that even to a novice this series has enough suspense, mystery, sometimes comedy, and action to make it worth your while.

Lastly, I will admit to having to turn the closed captions on halfway through the first episode simply because Cumberbatch delivers Holmes’ train of though so quickly sometimes that I had a hard time following without them.

Anyway, if you think this is at all up your alley I would highly recommend you check it out.

-The Postliminary-

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are on a camping trip.

In the middle of the night, Holmes nudges Watson awake, and says, “Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”

“I see millions of stars, my dear Holmes.”

“And what do you infer from these stars?”

“Well, a number of things,” he says, lighting his pipe:

Astronomically, I observe that there are millions of galaxies and billions of stars and planets.

Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo.

Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three.

Meteorologically, I expect that the weather will be fine and clear.

Theologically, I see that God is all-powerful, and man, his creation, small and insignificant.

What about you, Holmes?”

“Watson, you fool. Someone has stolen our tent!”

Update

Color your own Benedict Cumberbatch!

her

Have you guys seen the trailer for the new Spike Jonze film?  If not, have a look.

I can’t decide if this concept is SUPER depressing or instead showing the positive effects technology can have on individuals who do not have many meaningful human-to-human relationships.

I am pretty interested in seeing it though when it comes out, if for no other reason than being a fan of a few other films directed by Jonze not to mention the music videos he directed like this one, this one, this one, and this one.

Togaaaaaaa!

Last night my friend in I attended a screening of Animal House at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, as part of their “TOGA! The Reinvention of American Comedy” series, which includes some of my other favorite comedy classics like Ghostbusters, Meatballs, Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Old School. 

I first watched Animal House after my older brother handed over some VHS cassettes to me and my parents after he went digital and replaced most of his favorite movies with DVDs.  I had never heard of the film before and am not quite sure what compelled me to pop it into the VHS one day.  I think that I have grown to appreciate and like the movie a lot more since that day, but even then I remember thinking it was a pretty funny film.  I have seen it many times since then and it only continues to climb higher and higher in my opinion.  One key reason for this is me coming to fully understand its place in the film comedy genre.

Just take a look at Old School (which although mirrors Animal House in many ways, is additionally a comedic remake of Fight Clubseriously, think about it!), the crusty old dean in pretty much any comedy in the last few decades (including the TV show within The Simpsons “The School of Hard Knockers”, and the Futurama episode featuring Bender’s foray into fraternity life as a member of Robot House at Mars University), as well as university/college life in general around major North American schools and you will see that the influences of Animal House are everywhere.  When my friend and I were discussing this prior to the show I said that in some ways Animal House is like the Citizen Kane of comedies.  It has been spoofed so many times that watching the original just brings to mind the oh so many times I had seen the same scenes reenacted in other TV shows and movies.

animal house

It was great to watch this film with a crowd of people, the majority of which had already seen the film and knew what was coming next.  The anticipatory chuckles and the hearty laughter following funny moments always makes public viewing of comedies more enjoyable.  I personally think that is why outdoor film screenings have become so popular in Toronto over the past few summers.  Sure I could swoon over Lloyd Dobler in the privacy of my own home, but watching Say Anything under the night sky at the Harbourfront a few summers ago, just added a more special feel to the film.  A validation, if you will, of my personal appreciation of something.

I will leave you with one of my favorite clips of the movie and also a link to a very interesting article that discusses the origins and importance of Animal House.  Some of the particularly interesting tidbits you will learn from reading it are:

  • the script originally included what sounds to be a gratuitous number of vomiting scenes
  • how John Landis (27 years old at the time) became involved
  • the role The Graduate played in the crew finding a shooting location for the film
  • Richard Pryor’s small but important role in the final editing process

before midnight and company

Yesterday, as part of my belated birthday present, one of my dearest friends took me to see Before Midnight.  We are both big fans of this trilogy and I personally have seen Before Sunrise and Before Sunset a few times each and love them both.  The latest (and final?) installment skips nine years ahead from the last film.  Jesse and Celine are on a vacation in Greece and just like the previous two films, this one takes place over the span of one day as a snapshot of the relationship between the two main characters.

I thought this was film was just as beautiful and honest as the previous two and just as full of sometimes witty, at times serious, and occasionally philosophical dialogue.  I won’t lie, there was one scene in particular that made me cry because it was so beautifully written and filmed.

 

The film was preceded by three, equally interesting-looking trailers.  I am going to keep my eye out for screenings of all of them.

Frances Ha co-written by and starring Greta Gerwig who is all sorts of awesome.

 

The Way, Way Back.  Sam Rockwell is in this one, and although I know he has done all sorts of other stuff I can’t help but always think of him as Zaphod Beeblebrox from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

 

And finally, I’m So Excited.  I am not sure about this one but looks like it could be lots of fun!

phil hartman

Yesterday was the anniversary of Phil Hartman’s death who was killed by his wife on May 28, 1998 before she committed suicide a few hours later.  Talking to a friend we realized that unfortunately at the time there was very little conversation around mental illness (Brynn Hartman suffered from symptoms of depression and was taking Zoloft at the time of the murder) and the story was unfortunately spun mostly with the “crazy jealous wife” angle.

No matter the reasons behind this tragedy, it was a very sad day for the entertainment industry and fans alike.  I think my appreciation for his talent has only grown over time and I was reminded of it today while I browsed for pictures and videos for this post.  For those who may not be aware, aside from his roles on Saturday Night Live and NewsRadio, he appeared regularly on The Simpsons, most often as the voices of Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz (both characters were retired after Hartman’s death).  He was also slated to be do the voice of Zapp Brannigan on Futurama, which, if you are a fan of the show, you know would have been amazing!

There are so many amazing clips I would love to post that highlight his hilarity but I will refrain from a bombardment of them and limit myself to two.

Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn!

 

You may remember me from…

 

Also this, from one of my all time favorite movies.

RIP Phil.

zero dark thirty

I only planned to watch this movie because it seemed like one of those “have to see it” sort of flicks.  I actually was not all that interested in it mostly because of the first and pretty much only thing I read about it.  Way back when, before this film really gained any notoriety, I read a review (which now I can’t seem to locate) of which the author stated that this film promotes torture as a way of gathering intelligence.  Based on that I assumed that the film would depict a lot of torture scenes. I am already quite squeamish when it comes to fictional violence and brutality, but when things are based on real events it is that much more difficult for me to handle.  Reading about how the US obtained information after 9/11 was enough for me.  I figured that the last thing I needed was to see this reenacted on the big screen.

Having now seen the film, I will say that the torture scenes that are included were very hard for me to watch, however they were quite short and contained to within about the first 30-40 minutes of the film.  I also did not find them gratuitous.  I felt like they needed to be included in some ways, but were kept at a pretty minimal level.  There could have been a lot more included that is for sure.

Also, I found that although this film was documenting a CIA-led mission, it wasn’t quite as U-S-A! U-S-A! that it easily could have been.

After giving it some thought I am still not quite sure where I stand on the “pro-torture agenda” argument.  This film was based on real events which included torture, so to omit it completely would have been a real misrepresentation of what happened.  However, I can see how this film may place too much emphasis on the role it played in gathering information.  We will never know how things would have unfolded had the US not utilized torture at all, or as widely as it did, so it is difficult to say whether this was an overall “necessary evil.”  However, I will say that for me personally the use of torture, as depicted in this film, did not feel like it was crammed down my throat or depicted as the one thing that made all the difference.  To say that would be to take away from the efforts of the CIA  team, specifically the character of Maya played by Jessica Chastain, who were instrumental in using the gathered information to actually track down Osama bin Laden.

Although this film is based on true events, I personally will never accept it as the gospel truth of what happened both after 9/11 and on the night of May 2, 2011 when bin Laden was killed at his compound in Pakistan.  If nothing else, a 2.5 hour film could never capture all of the relevant information related to these events, not to mention the still classified nature of much of the story.  However, I would like to believe that there are the “little guys” out there, working for agencies like the CIA, who really care about doing their jobs, the safety of the public, and justice.  Don’t you?

I honestly did not think that I would like this film as much as I did, but it still didn’t quite live up to the hype it received either.  At the end of the day this is still a piece of entertainment and not a documentary about these events.  Keeping that in mind certainly makes it a much more enjoyable watch.

searching for sugar man

I have been hearing about this doc for a while and finally watched it on Sunday night.  It is such an incredible story of a musician from Detroit, who achieves zero success in his own country, but unbeknownst to him, is a huge sensation in South Africa starting in the 1970s.  This film follows the trail of his fans trying to track down the artists called Rodriguez.

Totally one of those stranger than fiction stories that is wonderfully told and presented.

A real treat.

legacy

What is your family history?  If it is marked my dark times and deeds are you at all influenced by it?  Responsible for it?  Do you walk away from it and disassociate yourself from it, or do you instead spend your life researching and uncovering the past?

We all may have family secrets.  Family members we don’t discuss, or would rather tuck away into the proverbial skeleton closet.  But what if those members were responsible for some of the most horrific acts in human history?  Hitler’s Children is a documentary that explores these questions through conversations with five descendants of some of the best known and monstrous figures of Nazi Germany.  They include grandson of the creator and head of Auschwitz Concentration Camp, the daughter of the head of the Plaszow work camp, and the son of the Governor-General appointed by Hitler to rule Nazi occupied Poland.

It is at times a heartbreaking and difficult film to watch, but it certainly looks at some very interesting questions.  Chief among them, for me anyway, was why do these people, who are at times more than one generation removed from these monstrosities, still feel guilt for what their predecessors did?  And the inevitable follow up question, would I?

Definitely worth a watch.

I am a bit confused, but I believe that there was an initial documentary produced that was about 80 min in length, which was then cut to 60 min and shown by the BBC, this is the version I watched which I just discovered is available in its entirety on YouTube.

Trailer below.