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Brad (is Online)
You've discovered the secret channel for gamer screenshots and culture reviews! Enjoy and read about some of the stuff I've been playing, reading, watching, and consuming.
The Mountaintop @ The Citadel Theatre
gamerdad There are no shortage of mediocre plays that pass through our city, and because we have been buying seasons tickets to various theatres for the better part of a few decades we have seen a lot of them. So, I’m never sure what to expect when I read the synopsis for any random play these days. Will it be another weird art piece? Will it try to reinterpret something in a kooky way? Will it break my mind or gum up the works of my heart? Or instead, like the Mountaintop, will it surprise me so that I walk away and it leaves me pondering the story for long after the curtain falls. I think the mark of a good play is in that no matter how out of time or out of sync with one’s own reality the setting and circumstances might be, if that play can draw you into its world and make you feel something then it has probably done it’s job. I’m not American. I try to live apart from the hate that drove the civil rights movements, though I’m sure I could be better. And I live in a world of vague priviledge that means I rarely intersect with the impacts that motivated the characters of this play. But all that said, I watched the play with a heavy heart and a deeply impacted soul and it left me feeling, if even just briefly, a bit of the struggle and hope and fear and love that swirled around the momentum of the story. A lot has changed even since the play originally debuted in 2009 and I wouldn’t say for the better, and much of that has intersected with my own life enough for it to have a deeper meaning, though admittedly peripherally. But I did enjoy The Mountaintop and would count it among the good plays that come to our little corner of this crazy world.
Monday the 8th of April, 2024, in mid-morning.
Movie Review: Arrival
gamerdad Hard science fiction is my jam, so it’s actually a bit surprising that I hadn’t knocked Arrival off my watchlist until this evening. Mix in a dash of alien mystery and some kooky time flipflopping and, wow, I should have dug into this slow burn of a film much sooner. Alien encounter movies are a dime a dozen in modern cinema, so it does take something a bit off the wall or a bit special to catch the public interest these days. Last summer I re-read The Three Body Problem which could easily be considered the new standard bearer for the hardest of hard science fiction, the kind of alien encounter story that takes the point right to the sharpest tip of trying to untangle what might unravel as humanity comes to terms with its place in the universe. That trilogy sets a high bar for the sociology of the impact of a meet up with ET, so having basked in that context I will forevermore compare every alien encounter book, story, or real-life adventure with it. That said, there’s still room for a new take, and a new perspective on the genre, and I think Arrival found one of those: looking at the whole thing through the eyes of a woman just trying to communicate across a literal barrier. So many other stories hand wave the problem of communications away: a translator or the aliens will figure it all out and just talk to us, and if not then we pull out the guns and start shooting. But here, I really enjoyed the notion that maybe, just maybe, someone smart enough will crack through the fog and untangle the messages between them, us, and ourselves.
Tuesday the 6th of February, 2024, in the evening.
Movie Review: Vertigo
gamerdad There’s a scene in Twelve Monkeys where the characters are in a movie theatre hiding out and watching an old film. That film is Vertigo, and it’s been on my watchlist for a long time because it was supposed to be pretty good and also, y’know, referenced in a science fiction time travel movie that I really like. Vertigo is a pretty slow burn, as I suppose was the style in the fifties and was the style of Hitchcock who was into intellectual horror and psychological thrillers versus more something, say, action packed. I had to remind myself of this over and over, remind myself that despite the Jimmy Stewart wholesomeness vibe that the film exudes, that yeah, it still is a bit of a thriller. And there’s the rub. Given that the film is going on seventy years old I was struggling to reconcile the logic of some of the characters against the sensibilities of modern reasonability. Not fair I know, but I kept asking myself as I watched if someone in the nineteen-fifties would have considered everything Stewart’s character said and did as creepy as I felt it to be, or was there some “that’s just how things were in the 50s” behavior mixed in there too. There’s a whole lot of getting away with stuff because he’s a well-mannered, fedora-wearing fifty year old white guy, if you know what I mean, and then a bit more pushing stuff too far, but I’m not sure where the line was then compared to where I’m pretty sure it is now, and I’m not sure the film holds up anymore because of that. Other than that, probably a classic of both genre and cinematography, blah, blah, blah, yet I’m not sure I liked it as much as I hoped I would.
Thursday the 1st of February, 2024, around lunch-ish.
Movie Review: The Whale
gamerdad Someone once told me that Moby Dick isn’t a book you should read until you are roundabout in your forties, not because kids won’t get it, but because the true weight of the story, the weight of a man chasing after the illusion of regret and fear and revenge and all those things that are tangled up in the story of Ahab and the Whale are things that only make sense after you have measured a few miles upon your soul. The Whale is a story that takes place far from sea, in the small apartment of a severely obese man who has lost nearly everything in the pursuit of honesty, honesty for himself, from others and from the universe. The allusions and references to Moby Dick had me sitting there watching, myself all tangled up in trying to latch onto the honesty of the story knowing that the connection to Melville’s work was likely not accidental nor frivilous. I even dredged through a few other reviews trying to catch a glimpse of what others had understood from this connection, but so many people are hung up on the obesity story or the religion story or the alluded-to tragic love story. Yet the film tells us over and over that those are the boring bits that the author is showing us to save us from the real pain and heart of the tale hidden under it all, the tale of a man trying to find a connection back to his daughter.
Tuesday the 30th of January, 2024, in the evening.
Movie Review: The Pirate Movie
gamerdad I distinctly recall seeing this movie when I was a kid and even enjoying it so much that my siblings and I recorded a few of the songs onto cassette tapes (by which I mean we held our cassette recorder up to the tv speaker while strategically queuing up the VCR to play.) It goes to show that there's no accounting for the tastes of kids. Someone mentioned this on social media this morning and I went down the rabbit hole of finding a 360p copy on YouTube and then spending an hour and a half of my life which I'll never get back watching this. In short it's a ham-fisted parody of the Pirates of a Penzance replete with a corny love story, cheezy 80s synth music and plenty of off-color jokes that would and do fall flat today, all of it taking place in a dream sequence. Nostalgia is the only reason I'm bumping this higher than a one star, and only then just barely. I love parody, particularly some of the best from the 80s and 90s but clearly there's a reason that the only copy of this that seems to exist is a lo-def transfer streaming on YouTube that even the copyright owners can't be bothered to take down. Yikes.
Monday the 29th of January, 2024, posted at bedtime.
Movie Review: This is Spinal Tap
gamerdad Forty years too late, I finally checked the mythical story of this strange and wonderful band from my watchlist. It's fair to say that this wacky little mockumentary-style film from the mid-80s has had a wide-reaching cultural impact, especially in the circles of television that I tend to watch. The Simpsons, for one, owes a small but significant legacy to the tone and tenor of everything from early season cameos by the actual band to the literal voice talents of Harry Shearer who voices something like a dozen main Simpson characters. I wasn't sure I would like this movie, to be honest, and part of me hesitated, and thought perhaps that in watching it I'd be rolling my eyes at the early-80s corny humour that didn't carry over well into the twenty-first century, and that I'd be knocking it from the unwatched but knew-it-by-osmosis pedestal upon which I'd put this film in my mind. In fact, it took me quite a while to locate it, and I was only able to find a copy thanks to putting my name on a reservation list from the local library and loaning out a DVD of the flick, an actual DVD that I actually had to put into my player and watch in that old fashioned way of years and years ago. But then while watching it, yes I rolled my eyes a bit, but then too I caught myself on multiple occasions laughing out loud, enjoying it thoroughly... and kinda hoping that it shows up on some kind of service some day where I can buy myself a digital copy to watch again (because the library will probably want their's back, right?)
Friday the 26th of January, 2024, in the evening.
Movie Review: Cocaine Bear
gamerdad I knew going in that this wasn't going to be a serious film, but the hype late last year hadn't escaped my notice and it kept popping up in my recommendations...so crazy bear movie it was. There are a long list of reasons why you shouldn't watch this: the acting is often hammy, the cgi bear is over the top, the characters are thin and you never even get the chance to care about them before they are mauled to death by a cocaine-fuelled black bear. Tonally, the movie swings wildly between comedic slapstick to gore-laden jump-scare horror flick peppered throughout with random banter and disconnected side-plots. But then, it is a movie about a coked up bear tracking through the woods in search of either her next fix or any excuse to violently disembowel or dismember one of the random characters. I didn't hate it, particularly sensing that since director Elizabeth Banks has a quirky sense of humour I might have just been missing the whole point in looking for something deeper than a one-joke skit expanded to fill a mountain forest. Or whatever. It's Cocaine Bear.
Thursday the 25th of January, 2024, posted at bedtime.
Movie Review: Jurassic World
gamerdad I've been known to tell people that one of the small but contributing reasons I studied genetics in University was because of the movie Jurassic Park. Alas my career in the sciences was as short lived as was the quality of the original sequels, so here I am thirty years later finally crossing the first of the reboot/sequel of my list, probably due to my lifelong skepticism of ruining my original memory of reading the book and watching the very first in theaters. So here we are. At its core the Jurassic series has always supposed to have been a parable of the hubris of technology when put up against the persistence of nature. Nature always seems to win so it would be interesting to see a movie that takes place between the two epic failures where someone tries to convince the rest of the world that rebuilding it was a good idea. Unlikely but, fanfic idea anyone. I enjoyed Jurassic World more than I thought I would and it's satisfying that ultimately the franchise has the advantage that the villains routinely are disposed of by hungry dinosaurs by the end of the flick, making bad guy comeuppance a built in feature and a generally satisfying wrap-up to everything. I hear the sequels suck tho.
Tuesday the 23rd of January, 2024, around lunch-ish.
Movie Review: I Like Movies
gamerdad I mean, if you're going to watch a simple drama about a kid who lacks social awareness and really likes watching movies, why not do that shortly after you declared online that you're about to try and watch a whole bunch of movies in one year, right? Oh, and why not make it a Canadian movie, too. This one popped up on my Netflix queue last week and caught my attention for the quirky, simple premise: an awkward kid who on the verge of graduating high school has shaped his life goals around a single-minded focus on getting into film school and living an unfettered creative life. But the same kid who misses out on countless social queues and is dealing with skirting along the poverty line while his widowed single mom copes with her own issues, also tends to be the kind of person who leaves a wake of interpersonal destruction in his wake and thus... drama! I Like Movies was decent enough and between the video rental store nostalgia vibe and the these-were-my-high-school-friends feels, it was a cozy watch for a quiet wintery Canadian evening.
Monday the 22nd of January, 2024, posted before bed.
No Man's Sky
gamerdad I've found myself chilling out in the methodical plodding advance of space exploration these days. I've got myself a settlement now which does force me to push into realms off exploring the uncharted galaxy to find weird and wonderful building materials that I may not have otherwise sought out.
Monday the 22nd of January, 2024, for elevensies.
Movie Review: Ponyo
gamerdad There aren't many flicks left in the Studio Ghibli catalog that I haven't seen yet, but Ponyo was one of those that I hadn't quite got around to watching yet for some reason... particularly odd as I don't have that same excuse as missing out on movies like Deadpool or John Wick during that same era. You know. It's a family movie after all and easily could have made it onto our home screen sooner. So, here I am in 2024 finally checking it off my list on a day so polar opposite from the film's seaside semi-tropical setting as to make me a bit jealous for the townsfolk who are bubbling through the ocean, as magically weird as it manifests. As expected Ponyo was a lighthearted magical realism type film overflowing with charm and amazing every-frame-is-a-piece-of-art wonder. Also as expected, the story is the typical Studio Ghibli oh-right-we're-making-a-movie-not-an-animation-demo thin, quick-ending piece of children's fare. I wasn't expecting much more than a Little Mermaid-type knock off, though, so two-stars for the story and six stars for the animation, which nets out a four star, you should watch this with a big bowl of popcorn review. Honestly, though, this one has been on my watchlist for a long time and as pure candy as most Studio Ghibli films are, this one was one of the relatively decent ones. Go watch something like Spirited Away, first, if you're new to this catalog, or if not, make sure to give this one an hour and a half of your life.
Monday the 22nd of January, 2024, for elevensies.
Movie Review: Robots
gamerdad What do you get when you cross a cheesy Hallmark movie with a Black Mirror science fiction flick? You seem to get a corny comedy sci-fi film starring Jack Whitehall and numerous cameos by Jack Whitehall's bare rear end. My wife was "not in the mood for anything too heavy" on this particular Saturday evening. Prime Video to the rescue with Robots, a 2023 flick about two terrible people who having in the near future bought black market robot doppelgangers off themselves to run romantic con games, game each other and consequently lose control of their robot doubles. Hijinx ensue. Now being someone who just wrote a corny science fiction novel with a crazy premise I get how it's easy to go a bit wild with your premise and paint yourself into some convoluted plot corners, thus offering the opportunity to make a huge leap into the absurd in order to unpaint yourself from such corners. I get it. Such leaps can be fun, and you either need to embrace that wholeheartedly or fix it. Robots made the first choice, and when you do that it's fine, but your audience definitely can't be in the mood for anything too heavy, not in the slightest, when you make that choice.
Saturday the 20th of January, 2024, in the evening.