Saturday, August 28, 2004

film: Hero

Hero 3/5

Jet Li plays a famed swordsman who apparently kills off three deadly assassins who were trying to kill the king of Qi, one of seven territories in ancient China.

The swordsman is granted a private audience with the king where he recounts his story. This subtitled film is mostly told in flashbacks.

Like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero features sword fighters who fly through the air, and defy gravity. The action is such that realism was not a goal here. The massive army of Qi marches on a calligraphy school to kill two of the aforementioned assassins in a spectacular hail of arrows. Released in simultaneously, the arrows emerge from the troops in such huge quantities and so close together that they look like clouds. Some of the action scenes are unintentionally funny and a reminiscent of what we saw in Kill Bill..seriously. Look for the scene for the cup of water in the library.

Many scenes are color coordinated. Witness the scene with Moon and Flying Snow. Moon is out to avenge the death of her master, and lover Broken Sword. Flying Snow commands vortexes of yellow leaves that constantly fall like snow to repel Moon. Suddenly, they all turn red at key moment. Several scenes are visually stunning, but they don’t make up for the poor script to make this a must-see film.

Director Yimou Zhang fails to draw the audience in, though, with a truly compelling tale. There are moments of apparently deep significance with the relationship between swords and calligraphy, but it merely washes over without being profound.

Some people are touting this 2002 release (also on DVD from as being Oscar material but it is too tedious and dull, in my opinion. I found myself anxiously waiting for it to end, actually. If you liked Ang Lee’s superior Crouching Tiger film, be aware that this film is nowhere near as compelling.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

golf course prices

This is a listing of the prices to play some local golf courses.

course 18 holes power cart
John Blumberg $25 $25
St. Boniface $34 $29
Rossmere $42
Larters $34 $30
Quarry $30 $25
Bel Acres $27 $30
Bridges $40 $32
Selkirk $30 $30
Portage Island Park $25 $27
Carman $24/$29 $26
Falcon Lake $37 $29
Pelican Beach $24/$27 $27

Sunday, August 22, 2004

film: Festival Express

Festival Express 3/5

This is a slightly long look at the 1970 train tour across Canada with the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy, The Band and a few others.

Stops in Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Calgary are documented with stadium shows that were met with much protest. Tickets were $14 for over 14 bands, but there was a groundswell of support to have free admittance to one and all. At the venues, protesters were met with mounted police. One cop apparently suffered a serious head injury in Toronto.

A friend of mine actually stood outside the stadium to listen in for free. He said the reason the tour lost money was due to the lack of advertising. There were only about 8,000 people at the Winnipeg show. The vibe among many people at the time was that the tour was a rip off and once people felt that way, they conformed to protest it.

The footage shows musicians jamming and partying on the train. Someone made the point that at large festivals, the bands usually don’t get to hang out, but on the train, it was musician heaven.

Some of the best performances are from the Band and Janis Joplin. Apart from being an electrifying performer, she openly discussed the pain in her life of not having found the right guy. Along with the 34 year-old footage, there’s a lot of current commentary from some of the players from the tour.

This film won’t win any awards but it was a fun look at a bit of rock’n’roll history.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

film: Exorcist: The Beginning

Exorcist The Beginning 4/5

A Christian church is discovered buried in Africa, about 1000 years before Christianity was supposed to have appeared in the area and it’s in pristine shape. On the inside are grisly images of the devil, suggesting that this is no ordinary church. The locals are terrified of the effort to unearth the church as some of them mysteriously die, disappear or go mad. Lancaster Merrin, an archeologist and a fallen priest, comes to check it out at the request of an enigmatic Brit, Semelier, an antiquities collector.

Haunted by his memories of the Nazis killing civilians and his forced role in the matter, Merrin gives up on God and decided to pursue archeology and drinking. What makes this film surprisingly enjoyable is the performance by Stellan Skarsgård as Merrin. He’s convincing as a former priest, privately fighting haunting memories of the war. We last saw him as a bad guy in King Arthur and as Captain Tupolev in The Hunt for Red October.

This film trades psychological intensity for gore and violence. It’s not really scary so much as it is a pederstrian romp through the catalogue of horror cliches. Some of the dialogue actually had the audience in stitches. Another director, Paul Schrader, made a version that relied less on carnage and more on tension, but it was deemed not commercial enough.

There are several scenes that don’t really make sense. Who would visit this very creepy church or dig up some graves, all alone, in the middle of the night? Some of the imagery borders on tasteless. There’s visuals of a young girl being shot in the head by a pistol. Put in the hands of a skilled director and such a scene becomes a powerful statement. In the hands of Renny Harlin, it’s as subtle as a sledgehammer and repeated showings don’t add depth. There’s lot of needless imagery strewn about just in case you didn’t wake up and realize that this is supposed to be a cool, scary film, man. Look for some well-placed leaches, maggots, a couple of suicides, claustrophobic crypts, death by Nazi pistol, cannibalistic birds, a wayward moth and some dreadful hyenas that stalk the priest but decide to snack on a young boy. What was missing? Just some guy who can change into a bat at will and say, “I vant to suck your blood!”

Despite all the bad points, I still enjoyed it and felt mildly entertained. It can’t compare to the first film but it does stand on its own as something horror fans will want to see.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Winnipeg - many failures in roadway planning

Early, early this morning, we had very strong winds that knocked down a few trees and wrecked havoc with powerlines. By the time I left the driveway, everything looked farily normal.

Upon getting to the intersection of Wilkes Ave. and Kenaston Blvd, with the latter touted as the busiest roadway in town, something was amiss. There were red flashing traffic lights instead of the usual red, yellow and green. Not a big deal, I thought. I'll just wait for a clearing in the traffic, then scoot across Kenaston to the other side of Wilkes and on my way to work. No such luck! Even at 6:30 in the morning, there was too much traffic to bother risking my life, so I drove down Kenaston and turned onto a residential road parallel to Wilkes.

At work, I struck up a conversation with one of the senior guys, who often comments on Winnipeg's poorly planned road system. He's lived all over Canada, and can raise several examples of city planning that seems rather lousy.

We live in the same neighborhood and both spoke about the two new stop signs at Lindenwoods Drive E and Kenaston Blvd, right by the Safeway and strip mall. To the casual observer, it appears to be a four-way stop, but my co-worker pointed out that in fact, it is a ten-way stop! Time and time again, I have seen people simply not know who goes next. To make matters much worse, when mini-vans and SUVs pull up to a stop sign, you really can't see enough traffic to tell who goes next. There's bound to be an accident in the works. I did my civic duty by e-mailing my new city councillor to request that he check it out and have the city develop a more viable solution. I have one - take away those two new stop signs. Let traffic flow the way it used to. Vehicles would flow better this way. Who knows? Maybe they introduced the stop signs due to a few accidents. Maybe my city councillor will find out the history of this "intersection."

It will be interesting to see how much traffic is messed up during the construction of the much-aniticipated Kenaston Underpass.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

operating system: Sun Java Desktop

My Dad and I ran a really long LAN cable from my router on the top floor to the basement. I then installed the Sun Java Desktop OS (live eval) on a P2 400 PC, with 256 MB of RAM.

I could not believe just how fast the live eval installed. This is the version that installs just from the CD-ROM and is not installed on the hard drive. So, when you shut off the computer, it's gone. Yep, it looks a lot like Windows, but it's not as intuitive. I only spent a few minutes playing with it, so I can't say much about it. I do know, though, that Sun's annual licensing program for this OS is very reasonable and it includes Star Office, an office suite that's similar to and somewhat compatible with, MS Office. The only catch is that you have to install it on a Sun workstation. OpenOffice is a free version of the Sun suite and can be used on Wintel systems, as well.

I don't have the real version but I do have a real version of SuSE Linux 9.0, so I may install that later.

review: Alien Vs. Predator

Take two well-known sci-fi franchises and merge them into a film in such a way that you can be assured of a huge audience, but also, that the sum is greater than the parts. Or as great. This film isn’t it. Alien Vs. Predator is a cold, calculated “product” that is too contrived and formulaic to provide much intrigue or entertainment value. And the most amount of suspense is provided courtesy of a penguin.

A corporate satellite, searching for evidence of natural resources, detects a significant amount of heat coming from an island in Antarctica. The billionaire head of the company quickly hobbles together an expedition team to investigate what appears to be a pyramid with Aztec, Egyptian and Cambodian traits, located 2000 feet below the surface.

The pyramid contains walls and floors that shift every ten minutes and hieroglyphics that are interpreted by one of the crew, to give them some sense of what they have found. The maze provides so much overkill that an Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider fan would blush. The humans get into the maze, the face huggers do their thing and you have a nice population of Aliens for the Predators to hunt.

It takes one human to “birth” an Alien, so why are there so many Aliens in the place? The gestation period took hours in the first Alien film, but here they seem to pop out with greater frequency. The dialogue appears to be written by a 6th-grader. There are no outstanding characters in the film, like a Ripley from the Alien series, although they try to create one in “Lex” Woods, played by Sanaa Lathan. There’s virtually no character development, so when they get killed, you don’t feel anything. Lance Henriksen plays the billionaire. In one scene, he briefly does the “knife” trick from the Aliens film, where he played a “synthetic human.”

This film is an empty-calorie spectacle that doesn’t satisfy, yet it promises too much potential for fans of either series to pass up. At least we find out who taught humans how to build pyramids.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Steinbach Fly-In Club

What makes this course a challenge is the water. Many of the holes have creeks that are dark enough to totally swallow up balls without any chance of getting them back. In one of the creeks, we saw an otter enjoying a swim.

The clubhouse is really nice and has a restaurant feel to it. When we arrived, we noticed they had a lunch buffet on. After the game, we stayed for a light dinner.

While there are no forests to lose your ball in, many of the fairways seem to favour a well-placed shot rather than a long one. The course is always busy, like most Winnipeg courses. Expect to play a round in 4 hours or more. The Fly-In Club is a fine golf course and we look forward to playing there again next year. Oh, I shot 49 on the front nine, with bogeys on most holes and 56 on the back nine, for a total of 104 - a few strokes worse than normal.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

"40 Days" the debut CD by The Wailin' Jennys

Here are my thoughts about "40 Days", the debut CD by The Wailin' Jennys, a teriffic group from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

One Voice. One my relatives who heard the this track as her first Jennys tune, was immediately struck by the beautiful vocals. It certainly makes for a good show opener.

Saucy Sailor is immediately appealing. The song hooked me totally in when the vocals kick in on "You are ragged love and you're dirty love." The "Lah dee dah" part at the end is really nice. I wish this song was twice as long!

Arlington compels me to listen, like I'm about to hear a story.

Beautiful Dawn. Tasty acoustic sounds. Sounds like it could get airplay on country radio. The woman from Festival Records (who I met at a bookstore Jennys concert) did mention that something from the album was already getting airplay on a country station.

Untitled. The catchy intro makes this song instantly memorable. An obvious Cara (Luft) song. Nice placing of the viola to add subtle colour.

This Is Where. Beautiful, tasty harmonics in this one. And the vocals are just lovely; expressive and sincere.

Old Man. I can recall waiting in the Grant Park McDonald's drive-through when this was played live on CBC radio in 03 or 02. I remember the idea was to cover a Neil Young song after something like an hour's notice, or something like that. It's well done and will provide an anchor for audience members who are seeing the Jennys for the first time and are unfamiliar with the repertoire.

Heaven When We're Home. Another tune that could get on country radio. Very nice fiddle playing. Sounds like a song the Indigo Girls could play.

Ten Mile Stilts. Wow. Loses none of its immediacy and intimacy. The vocals sound so personal. It's almost like the song is being sung to one person. For me, the sparse piano recalls the Ladies cover of "Lovers In A Dangerous Time." I swear, when the three vocals converge, endorphins are released in my brain, demanding I hit the repeat button. A single listen is not enough.

Come All You Sailors. While I can't point to any one song as being truly representative of the Jennys sound, this is a signature tune, due to its popularity. People expect to hear this one all the time.

Take It Down. I bet this would be a good track to fall asleep to, so gentle is its sound. I'll have to try it.

Something To Hold Onto. Another strong Cara song that tells a story. Bittersweet.

The Parting Glass. Just three vocals, but what a way to end an album. Would make a good show closer, too, with its lullaby-like style.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

August 10, 2004

Well, it's that time of the year again. I'm gathering articles to review with two other editors for the CIPS Winnipeg Professional, our quarterly newsletter of happenings in our section and of ICT technologies in general. CIPS is the Canadian Information Processing Society, the oldest and largest association for IT professionals in Canada. We hold monthly events, mostly dinner meetings, where you meet some of the nicest people in the IT community, and you get to hear a quality speaker, as well. It's a lot of fun, especially if you are a "people person."

So, REM are coming to Winnipeg! This is something that I have literally dreamt of. Tickets go on sale in September and given that they are playing the Centennial Concert Hall, it's bound to sell out in about 5 minutes. Maybe less. The Pixies sold out the Burton Cummings Theatre in about 4 minutes and while they have a fanatical following, they are far less known that REM.

I just noticed the new issue of Wired magazine in the library at work. This is one of my favourite publications and since I already buy or subscribe to so many magazines, I'm thrilled that I don't have to buy it anymore.

Today was the first day of class for the Aerospace Systems Course, a ten-month long course aimed at airforce officers, usually at the Captain level. We have 12 students this year, including two from Qatar, one from the United Arab Emerites and one from New Zealand. It promises to be an interesting year.

Thursday, I should be off to the Steinbach Fly-In Club for my weekly round of golf. I'm absolutely astounded that I can't find a website for them. I also bought some golf balls this past weekend, which is a bit unusual for me since I find so many. I bought several Stratas that have cosmetic imperfections, as well as several found Titleists. The NXTs have a real nice feel to them. The Pro V's actually work well for me, but at almost $7 a ball, I'll just have to find other people's lost balls.

On Friday, I'm off to see Alien Vs. Predator, a guilty pleasure sort of thing, if there ever was one. I'm going with one of my friends who is an intellectual sort of person and is a huge film buff with great taste, so I don't feel so bad.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Film reviews

Collateral 4/5 August 7, 2004.

The premise sounds pretty dull, doesn't it? Tom Cruise plays a hit man who coerces a cab driver to drive him around LA to knock off five people. Jamie Foxx portrays the reluctant cab driver. Director Michael Mann proves that a compelling drama doesn't require an excess in plot, car chases or violence or humour. Much of the film takes place in the cab with Cruise and Foxx exchanging philosophies of life, goals and dreams. Foxx, a cabbie for 12 years, wants to save up to open a limo service. Cruise is more enigmatic about his past, but instead is a relentless, cold-blooded assassin. Still, he's not one-dimensional at all.

Cruise is excellent as the laser-focused killer with taste. Witness the scene in the jazz club to see how good his taste in music is. He's not cocky like the mastermind bad guy in the first Die Hard, but he is cool, confident and obviously emotionally detached from his victims. He doesn't care who they are since he's just doing his job. He also doesn't flash the million-dollar Cruise movie star smile.

Jamie Foxx also performs well as the uncomfortable cabbie counterpoint to the Cruise character. He's just your average joe hoping to get ahead in life but obviously taking a long time to get there, just like most people.

What's refreshing about this film is that it doesn't scatter the character development over too many players. The lack of comedic lines also reinforces the grittiness of the script. Michael Mann has produced a mostly believable thriller, that makes the competition look like cartoons for adults. Sure, there are stretches in the storyline but so long as you're prepared to gloss over them, this is a fine film. Collateral is also much better than Cruise's last film, the pretentiously bloated The Last Samurai. Anyone looking for a non-stop action film or a "Lethal Weapon"-type film should look elsewhere.

King Arthur 3.5/5 August 4, 2004.

Despite being somewhat formulaic, this film has a decidedly different take on the legend of Arthur. Instead of being set in the medieval times, the setting is in the 5th century, with Arthur as a Roman centurion in Britain, leading a group of successful knights.

As the film begins, we see an adolescent boy being taken away to be a knight for 15 years. It's like being drafted. By the time Arthur enters the film, a Roman emissary from the Church announces that he needs the men for just one more mission: evacuate a prestigious Roman family before their settlement is overrun by the invading Saxons. It's almost like a suicide mission and the knights agree to follow Arthur despite being very bitter about having their promised freedom taken away from them for what might be the death of them all.

Arthur, played by Brit Clive Owen, is merciful, resolute and somewhat stoic. He never cracks a smile in the film, but is charismatic nonetheless. He has presence and may be too good to play James Bond, a role that usually doesn't require superb acting (save for Sean Connery.) We last saw Owen as a sniper in the farmhouse scene in The Bourne Identity.

The supporting cast are mostly strong. The Saxon leader doesn't have much of an accent while his son curiously does. Guinevere, played by Keira Knightley (last seen in Pirates of the Caribbean) portrays a strong woman, rescued from certain death by the knights. She's quick with a bow and arrow but lacks the presence to match Owen. Many of her lines are also quite weak. Merlin looks like a street person high on glue. The acting of the cast portraying the knights is excellent, though.

This is a Jerry Bruckheimer film, so not surprisingly, there is a lack of character development, and the script is too glossy and pedestrian. This film was enjoyable but it's not great. Expect to see great things in the future for Clive Owen, though.

The Manchurian Candidate 3.5/5 August 1, 2004.

This film doesn't top the 1962 original, however, it stands on its own as an exciting political conspiracy thriller.

Denzel Washington plays a psychologically troubled 1991 Gulf War veteran. One evening, his platoon was ambushed, resulting in a firefight. Knocked unconscious, he still has a vivid memory of what happened. One of his troops, Sgt Raymond Shaw, ends up performing some heroic actions that saved the lives of his fellow soldiers. All but two survive and the Sgt ends up winning a medal of honor. Upon returning to the US, the Sgt., son of a senator, ends up becoming a congressman. Oddly enough, the way they are touting John Kerry's military record for saving his boat crew is similar. The problem is, that Washington obtains discovers that his one and only dream, a nightmarish recollection as a result of brainwashing, is shared by another of his former platoon mates.

Mentored by his controlling Senator mother, played superbly by Meryl Streep, Raymond Shaw ends up as possible candidate for Vice President.

In the first film, the would-be President is a Communist sleeper. In this film, the conglomerate Manchurian Global serves as the conspiring organization. They are portrayed not unlike Dick Cheney's old employer, Halliburton. The spectre of corporate greed is a credible replacement for a much diminished political ideology.

There is a possible continuity error in the film. After VP candidate Shaw votes in an elementary school, his is ushered upstairs for a meeting with the Washington character. Moments later, one of the Secret Service men hides a gun in an air duct in the same building. We see the gun re-appear later in the film, but it appears to be a totally different building.

While likely not a blockbuster, this is an entertaining film nonetheless.

The Bourne Supremacy 4/5 July 24, 2004.

Loses a star for being basically the same idea as the first film - the CIA is trying to kill him and he is on the run. Like the last time, he's willing to fight back. Kudos to the writers for not making this an overly sentimental film. The main bad guy in the film is a relentless Russian Secret Service agent, who reminds me of the Serbian sniper from the film Behind Enemy Lines.

They say the adult thriller genre faded away after being peaking in the 70s. Hopefully, more quality thrillers will be made once this film is confirmed in a few days as a bona fide smash. Also, rent the astonishing sleeper film Spartan, if you enjoy the Bourne films. Worth seeing if you liked the first one.

I, Robot 3/5 July 16, 2004.

This film looked intriguing but ended up being more of a tedious action film than anything with as much meaning as Isaac Asimov intended. In fact, the initial story was blended with some Asimov short stories.

It would have been interesting to see someone other than the wise-cracking Will Smith in the main character's role. He's not as strong as Cruise in Minority Report or Harrison Ford in Blade Runner.

This film isn't terrible but it isn't great, either.

Spiderman 2 4/5 July 1, 2004.

There are a lot of jokes in this film but its weakness is its overly sentimental nature.

The science behind the Octavio's experiment is also so far fetched that it just seems like some dumb excuse to justify how those crazy mechanical arms became fused to his body.

Soon to be the number one movie of the summer, if not, of the year. Definitely see it if you enjoyed the first one.

Fahrenheit 9/11 3/5 July 1, 2004.

This film could have been improved by providing references to the dates that the footage was taken of most things. If you're at all interested in US politics as they relate to things like war, then see this film. But, keep in mind this film is more of an editorial than a true, unbiased documentary.

George W. Bush is seen speaking many times and you've just got to wonder about his intellect, or lack of. It continues to astonish me that Republicans chose this guy as the best candidate from their party, to be President. It's really funny at times, but I also felt a profound sense of sadness due to the footage of those maimed and killed by the current war in Iraq. By all means, take a friend to the film, particularly if they believed that Canada should have participated in this war.

Troy 4/5 May 23, 2004.

I went into this movie expecting to hate it, but I thought it was surprisingly good.
Brad Pitt stars as Achilles, the greatest Greek warrior. The character is cocky and overconfident, as a result of his superstar status among King Agamemnon’s army. Far from being one-dimensional, Pitt is out-acted by Eric Bana, who plays the Trojan hero, Prince Hector, leader of their army.

None of the acting is overdone. The computer animation is sparse and rarely noticeable. The story is based on Homer's The Iliad (no, not that Homer!) A couple of parts seems like a stretch, but overall this is an enjoyable film.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 3/5 June 4, 2004.

They say, if you haven't read the book, the movie won't grab you. I haven't read the book and the movie didn't seem as good as the first two.

So, this prisoner has escaped and is after Harry. How does he escape? We're not told. There's more questions that never get answered in this imperfect but enjoyable film. The three main characters, Hermoine and Ron Weasley, gel together well. In fact, in looks like the foretelling of romance for those two (I haven't read the books, so this is just a guess!!)

Still, there are parts of the movie that feel muddled. The audience laughed a lot, which means that I obviously missed a lot of jokes that were referenced from the book. The new director did put a fresh face on the film, toning down over-the-top monsters from the last film, in favour of darker, more mysterious creatures that remind me somewhat of the Ringwraiths from Lord of The Rings. This is bound to be yet another smash hit and if you enjoyed the first two, you'll want to see this one.

The Stepford Wives 3/5 June 19, 2004.

This works as a satire. It's also a bit creepy, but there's a fair amount of laughs.

Nicole Kidman is a powerful, popular CEO of a TV studio that specializes in reality shows. Matthew Broderick plays one of her employees, a VP. Kidman gets fired and the family moves to the idyllic, pristine, gated community of Stepford, Connecticut. Early on, they realize that something weird is going on as the women are all like giddy airheads, always wearing dresses and high heels, while the men are relatively normal, if not a tad nerdy.

This film makes some prickly comments about societal trends, hence its satirical side. Bette Midler is very funny. Glen Close looks badly preserved, Kidman and Broderick are fine and Christopher Walken is excellent. Due to the weak ending, this film falls short of being a must-see, though. It falls a bit flat, though, towards the end.

The Chronicles of Riddick 2/5 June 11, 2004.

Don’t be seduced by the computer-generated eye-candy, as this film is a confusing mess without any redeeming quality. Vin Diesel plays Riddick, an escaped convict first seen in the superior film, Pitch Black. The bad guys are trying to force humans to convert to their religion or die. The story, if you can call it that, is lousy. The characters are such that you don’t root for anyone. Avoid at all costs.

Hellboy 3.5/5 April 3, 2004.

This was a very enjoyable film and should spawn a sequel or two. The only question is, since this is one of those "save the world" films, what do you do for an encore?

Ron Perlman was excellent as the blue collar hero. But rather than be a simple caricature, we saw Hellboy's deep feelings emerge for one of his fellow teammates, whose powers resemble those of an X-Men 2 mutant. The scene with him spying on her from a rooftop while she was on a date was really funny and somewhat tender at the same time.

The mysterious Nazi in the "gas mask" is revealed eventually and he slices and dices his way through the film like a martial arts expect with nunchak-like steel blades. The CGI monster looks like a cross between a squid, a warthog and a wolf. There's proof that this film doesn't try to take itself too seriously when Hellboy battles one of these creatures with one hand while holding onto a box of kittens in the other. The comment he makes will crack you up.

At times, the story is a bit convoluted and would require a second viewing to follow closely.
Hellboy is a new cinema icon and so long as Perlman is able to play the role with humour and human feelings, much like Tobey McGuire's Spiderman, we have the makings of a franchise.

It's not as superb as the last X-Men film but Hellboy the character is much more charismatic that the Hulk, Daredevil or any of the cast from The Leagure of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The Ladykillers 2/5 March 28, 2004.

I'm used to automatically seeing anything associated with the Cohen Brothers. The previews for The Ladykillers made it look like a charming, Southern US, caper film. Sure enough, there were plenty of grey-haired folks in the theatre. I can't imagine they expected the constant MF swearing from one of the characters.

This is a remake of the 1955 hit UK film of the same name starring Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness. The new version relies on repetitive gag humour and the clash between a conservative Christian woman and a foul-mouthed, "hippity-hop" criminal, to get most of its laughs.

Some of the other supporting cast members are nothing but dumb clichés (big, dumb jock, quiet, sly Communist Chinese General, etc.) Tom Hanks plays the role of ring leader as if he were a cartoon character.

There's really no intrigue or really good humour in this obvious Cohen Brothers sellout. Not a must-see film.

Film: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 4/5 March 21, 2003.

A lot of people will see this film expecting a gushy date film or chick flick. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is nothing of the sort.

Jim Carrey provides his most vulnerable performance, serious performance to date. Kate Winslet is the Gen-Xer who is both desirable and yet difficult at the same time. Both actors portray characters who are against their usual types.

Winslet's character (Clementine) decides to erase her memories of the Carrey character (Joel). Upon learning this, Joel opts for the same procedure. However, while his memory is being erased, he changes his mind as he relishes the good memories he had with her. We see flashbacks that morph between one another, in settings that become surreal and dream-like. At times, it's humorous and poignant but not overly sentimental.

This film falls a bit short, though, of providing a knockout impact. Still, it's unique and daring. Written by Charlie Kaufman, screenplay writer for "Being John Malkovich" and the brilliant "Adaptation." Go see this with an open mind, otherwise take your date to something more pedestrian.

Film: Spartan

Spartan 5/5 March 14, 2004.

This is an extraordinary, taut, political espionage thriller. It kept me guessing and totally involved.

Val Kilmer plays a special ops trainer called in to recover the kidnapped daughter of the President. Her captors just see her as a beautiful blonde and don't know who she is. She's one of the many blondes kidnapped and brought to the Arab gulf states to be a sex slave.

Without giving away the plot, I'll just say that on the surface, this appears to be a ho-hum, cookie-cutter film. It isn't. None of the acting is overdone (well, just one secret service person). Kilmer plays an understated role where he doesn't smile, act cocky and look like a famous actor. This contributes to the believability to the film. Lesser films require such star quality. Spartan also doesn't rely on gadgets, stunts, car chases or silly fighting. The action isn't non-stop, but well-placed. It caused me to jump a couple of times.

This is better than The Recruit, Basic and Spygame, and while less of a spectacle than the last James Bond film, it's more engrossing.

This film is on its second day in Winnipeg, and although its only playing at Polo Park, the theatre was about half empty. It's too bad the studio doesn't believe there is a large enough market for this superb film.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

needed - a website with links to all MB golf courses!

Every week during golfing season, I spend time on the Internet trying to figure out where to golf. There are a lot of websites that list many if not most of the golf courses in Manitoba, but there simply isn't one site that lists all the websites for all the courses.

Here are some links to other courses I hope to play this year.
Lake of the Sandhills Golf Course. This opened in 2002 and is will apparently be regarded as a must-play course, according to writer Tim Campbell.
Hecla Golf Course, rated #1 in Manitoba.
Falcon Lake Golf Course, rated # 2 in Manitoba.
Clear Lake Golf Course
Pinawa Golf Course. My home course, and a real challenge.
Steinbach Fly-In Club
Pleasant Valley (in Belmont)
Bridges (in Starbuck)
La Verendrye (in La Broquerie)

Courses I've played this year:
Netley Creek
John Blumberg
Scotswood Links (in Elm Creek)
South Interlake
Rat River (in St. Pierre- Jolys
Windsor Park
Minnewasta (Morden)
River Oaks

It's being universally panned by critics and ordinary folks alike, but it's the number one film out this week. Here's a spoiler about The Village. I'll wait for it to appear at Shell for $1.

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