Category Archives: Movies

The Lord of the Rings / There’s so much to talk about / Two haikus for each


I had enough fun writing the haikus for the Star Wars and Harry Potter movies that I decided to keep going. Presenting: The Lord of the Rings.

The Fellowship of the Ring

Aragorn, Gimli 
Legolas and the hobbits
Galdalf, Boromir

The fellowship is
taking the Ring to Mordor 
Chuck it in the fire 

The Two Towers

Gollum is creepy 
He wants his precious back from
Nasty hobbitses

Battle at Helm’s Deep
Elves and Men fight together
Against Uruk-hai

The Return of the King

Despite Denethor,
Minas Tirith calls for help
Rohan will answer

Gollum and the Ring
Both are destroyed in Mount Doom
Two birds with one stone

More movie haikus / The Harry Potter series / But what will be next?


Continuing on from my recent Star Wars haiku posting, here are some for the Harry Potter series. I managed to come up with two different ones for the first movie. Not sure what to do next – Lord of the Rings? Star Trek? Indiana Jones? James Bond? No, that would take too long and most of the Bond movies blur together for me anyway. Toy Story? Shrek? Spy Kids? Ooooh, I know – High School Musical!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

He’s the boy who lived 
And a thumpin’ good wizard 
Wow, he can fly too

or

Fluffy guards the Stone 
You-know-who wants to steal it
We don’t say his name

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Is Harry the heir? 
They both can speak parseltongue 
That’s a big-ass snake

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

A powerful spell 
“Expecto Patronum” works
If you think happy 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry’s name comes out 
Cedric’s, Fleur’s, and Krum’s do too 
They all fight dragons 

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Occlumency fails
Voldemort plants a vision
Sirius is toast

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Thanks to his textbook 
Harry wins some liquid luck 
Who’s the half-blood prince? 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The final battle 
Voldemort and Harry fight 
One of them will die 

Movie review: Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage


I am a huge Rush fan, and have been since the early ’80s. I had heard some of their songs on the radio, but my real introduction was the first side of Moving Pictures, which someone copied onto a tape for me. Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, YYZ, and Limelight. Four unbelievably fantastic songs, which I played over and over again. Imagine my surprise when, at least a year or two later, I realized that there were more songs on that album! And they were really good too! I eventually got most of their older albums as well, and I remember Signals being one of the most popular albums when I was in grade nine. Hearing the opening of New World Man still reminds me of early high school. I started to lose interest with the Grace Under Pressure album, and wasn’t too thrilled with the next couple of albums. It wasn’t so much that they started using more keyboards (Signals had lots of keyboards and I love that album), for me it was more that the keyboards seemed to replace the guitar rather than complementing it. I didn’t even buy Hold Your Fire (or Test for Echo) for many years, which meant that Rush had been removed from my list of auto-purchase bands – when a new album was released by bands on this list, I would immediately go and buy it, even if I hadn’t heard anything from it. Dream Theater has been on this list for years, and Linkin Park was, up until the most recent album A Thousand Suns, and now I’m not so sure about the next one. But I digress. Presto was pretty good, and rekindled my interest in the band. For Christmas, Gail bought me the DVD of the new movie Beyond The Lighted Stage, a documentary about the history of Rush. I have heard (on the radio and twitter) that even people who aren’t Rush fans are really liking this film, so I figured I would love it, since I am a Rush fan. I wasn’t disappointed.

There was lot more footage and pictures from the very early years of the band than I would have expected, including video of early concerts at local high schools and such. There was even video of a teenage Alex Lifeson sitting at the dinner table at his house, arguing about why he should be going to school when music is what he really wanted to do. Why someone in his family was recording that conversation, I have no idea. I found it funny that to this day, Geddy and Alex still refer to Neil Peart (who joined Rush in 1974) as “the new guy” because he wasn’t there for the beginning of the band and didn’t appear on their first album. There was a fair bit of discussion on each album up to and including Signals. After that, they mentioned that Rush entered a period where they used lots of synths which nobody but Geddy seemed excited about, including many fans. They squashed the Grace Under Pressure, Power Windows, Hold Your Fire, and Presto albums into fairly one short segment, and I don’t think they even mentioned the names Grace Under Pressure, Hold Your Fire, or Presto. Roll The Bones and Counterparts were touched on briefly and Test For Echo was almost ignored before a section focussed on Neil Peart and the tragedies that befell him in 1997 and 1998.

Within a year of each other, Peart’s daughter and wife both passed away, and Peart took several years off from the band to ride his motorcycle around North and Central America. (He wrote a book about this trip called “Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road” which is now on my must-read list.) After returning, he had doubts as to whether he would be able to continue in Rush because he’d been away from the drum kit for so long. It seems amazing that someone as talented as Peart (widely regarded as one of the best rock drummers there is) could have such doubts about his own ability. A couple of people in the film described Peart as a perfectionist, so he’d likely be unhappy performing at 80% of what he used to be able to do – even though 80% of Neil Peart is still better than a large percentage of other drummers. They also talked about how private a man Peart is, and how he really doesn’t like meeting with fans who gush or fawn over him, and is uncomfortable with his fame (for reference, see the lyrics of the aforementioned “Limelight”). Neil, if you happen to read this, just know that I think you are an extremely talented drummer and lyricist and your music has meant a lot to me over the last thirty years. And I promise that if I happen to see you at a restaurant or store or something, I will leave you the hell alone.

Funniest scene: Alex and Geddy are sitting in a diner (the scene looks pretty recent, i.e. 2005-2010 time frame), and the waitress recognizes Geddy. She said that her son or nephew or something is a big fan, and asks if he can give her an autograph. He says sure, and she basically elbows Alex (who she obviously does not recognize) out of the way to give Geddy something to sign. Geddy asks if she wants Alex to sign it as well, and she just says “Thanks a lot” and walks away. Alex is laughing the whole time.

A number of prominent musicians were interviewed throughout the movie, including members of Rage Against The Machine, Smashing Pumpkins, Dream Theater, Metallica, and Kiss, as well as musician / actor Jack Black. Sometimes Jack Black can be really funny while other times a little goes a long way, and I kind of found that here. A few interviews with him were fine, but I almost wanted to fast-forward over a couple.

I guess it’s not surprising that I really enjoyed this movie, since I am such a fan of the band. But as I said, I have heard a couple of different people talk about how much they enjoyed the movie despite not being Rush fans. At least, they weren’t Rush fans when they started the movie.

Need a good blog post / Maybe some movie haikus? / I’ll start with Star Wars


I hated English class in high school. And the part of English class that I hated the most was poetry. But I always liked doing haikus. Why? Because they didn’t have to rhyme! The only real rule was the syllables, and I can count as well as anyone. Sure, you sometimes had to work a little to pack as much “information” into seventeen syllables as you could, but hey, I’m on twitter now – seventeen syllables, 140 characters, same idea.

I recently began posting Star Wars haikus to my facebook status as well as twitter. Both trilogies (in the order the movies were released) in a total of 102 syllables. They are summarized here. The Harry Potter saga is next.

Star Wars

Alderaan destroyed
Great disturbance in the Force
Death Star is no moon

The Empire Strikes Back

Yoda in a swamp
Trap is set on Cloud City
Vader is Luke’s dad

Return of the Jedi

Yoda dies and fades
Vader has some good in him
Ewoks save the day

The Phantom Menace

Droid army invades
Ani and Obi-Wan meet
Jar Jar ruins it

Attack of the Clones

Grievous coughs a lot
Ani and Padme get hitched
But it’s a secret

Revenge of the Sith

Dooku bites the dust
Anakin fights Obi-Wan
Darth Vader is born

Star Wars In Concert


I’ve been a Star Wars fan ever since I first saw the first movie during the summer of 1977. When Gail and I started dating in early 1992, I found that she too was a big Star Wars fan, and immediately decided to marry her. Well, maybe not that second, and that may not have been the primary reason, but it was a significant contributing factor. Consequently, our kids are now big Star Wars fans as well, so when my friend Lisa sent me a link to a stage show called Star Wars In Concert [warning: web site plays music with no warning], I was immediately interested. When I showed Gail and the boys the trailer on the web site, they were excited as well. The show was this past Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, and we were definitely not disappointed.

Star Wars In Concert The show is a montage of clips from all six Star Wars films on a three-storey crystal clear hi-def screen, behind a full live orchestra performing the music from the films. For some of the music from The Phantom Menace, there was also a full choir behind the orchestra. What’s more, Anthony Daniels, the actor who played C-3P0 in all six films, introduced each segment, and James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader, provided some voice-overs. When I read that Anthony Daniels would be narrating, I expected that he had recorded some stuff that would be part of the show, but was surprised that he was actually there. He only broke into the C-3P0 voice once, though his natural voice is similar enough anyway.

The music of Star Wars is not just pleasant sounds in the background of the movie; it is an integral part of the whole experience. The “Imperial march”, Luke staring out at the twin suns of Tatooine, the Jawa theme, the slow acoustic guitar when Vader/Anakin dies, Darth Maul’s haunting choir, even the cantina band songs are all so powerful, so meaningful, as part of the film experience that Star Wars without the music would be just another pretty decent sci-fi movie. My whole review of this show can be summed up in one sentence: Watching the movies on that screen with the music being performed live, right in front of you, was just unbelievable. The orchestra was amazing, and there were a couple of cameras on them as well, so we got to see close-ups of some of the performers in between movie clips. As a music fan and a sort-of musician myself, I love watching world-class musicians play, and these are some of the best. Daniels was very good with his introductions as well, even coming out at the end in a Leafs jersey with his name on the back. I’m sure he wore a Habs jersey in Montreal and a Flyers jersey in Philadelphia, but the crowd still loved it.

Gail is still kicking herself for not bringing our camera, but luckily Lisa brought hers so she and Gail took a bunch of pictures, one of which you can see above. Before the show, there were some memorabilia booths set up around the ACC, containing props from the films. We saw a Naboo backdrop next to a Queen Amidala costume, though the crowds around them were so thick that we couldn’t get close enough to take a picture – and since we hadn’t seen Lisa yet, all we had was my silly little camera phone. As expected, there were also little booths selling trinkets and shirts and stuff. I don’t usually go for the souvenirs at these shows since they’re way overpriced ($10 for a tiny little lightsaber thing that glows – you can probably also buy them at the dollar store), but we got the boys a $40 t-shirt each because we figured the show was so unique that they are unlikely to get the chance to see anything like it again. Plus the designs were cool – one is Darth Vader’s head made out of musical instruments, the other is Boba Fett’s head made out of musical notes and symbols.

Tickets were kind of expensive but it was a very unique show, and the boys loved it as much as we did. If you’re a Star Wars fan, and you get the chance to see this, do it.

Star Trek on the BIG screen


We went to see Star Trek at the Omnimax theatre at the Ontario Science Centre last night. (Luckily there was no line-up at the box-office to pick up our tickets or I would be forced to complain again.) We figured it would be very cool on the big screen and it was – the sound was particularly amazing. If you’re going to see this at the Science Centre, a piece of advice: however far back you are sitting, you’re not far enough back, so move back a row. Another row. Keep goin’. Keep goin’. Another row. What’s that? You’re at the back of the theatre? OK, well I guess that’s far enough.

We got there early to make sure we got a good seat (general admission dontcha know), but it wasn’t as full as we expected, so only two people entered the theatre before us. We sat about 3/4 of the way back but the screen is so big that trying to see everything happening on the screen was like watching a tennis match. The first five minutes of the movie were all but unwatchable because of all the on-screen action – there was so much going on that I couldn’t focus on anything. After that, the movie slowed down a touch and I got more used to the big screen and from then on it was fine. During some of the faster scenes things got a bit more difficult again, but I got used to it pretty quickly.

The movie itself: amazing. I have always been more of a Next Generation guy – I was never much into the original series, though I liked some of the movies. But the casting on this was really good – it seemed that everyone except Kirk tried to match the speech patterns or mannerisms of the original actors, and I thought they all did a really good job of presenting the characters we know but giving them a slightly different interpretation (Karl Urban as McCoy and Zachary Quinto as Spock are particularly good). Even if you’re not a huge Star Trek fan, William Shatner’s portrayal of Kirk is very familiar, so it would be hard to play him without just doing a Shatner impersonation, but Chris Pine nailed it. In the very last scene of the film, Pine does channel Shatner to some extent, and Kirk starts to sound similar to the Kirk we all know and make fun of.

Spoiler warning: If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read any further.

If they’ve truly rebooted the series and intend on making more movies following this timeline (and they apparently are), they’ll have to be careful, because with the destruction of Vulcan, they’ve started down a path where no Star Trek series or movie has gone before. There are a lot of situations in the subsequent shows that either take place on Vulcan or assume its existence, and they’re all invalid in the new universe. Plus the whole Uhura/Spock relationship thing is new. I guess doing this allows the writers to go off in any direction they want, without having to worry about what happened before / later. The only thing I really hope they don’t do is bring Shatner in for a cameo. Nimoy’s appearance in this movie was fine, but that should be it. Let’s be done with the whole time travel stuff now and just move on from here.

Star Trek – the acting career killer


I watched an episode of Star Trek: Voyager a little while ago, and wondered what happened to the actors on that show. After some investigation on Wikipedia and IMDB, I found that other than Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine), none of them had had significant roles in anything after Voyager ended. I did some more searching and found that to be true of just about every actor in every Star Trek series.

Note that when I say “nothing” below, I mean nothing of significance in terms of movie or TV acting. Many of these actors have gone on to do other things (directing, stage acting, music, etc.), and some have appeared in single episodes of shows or bit parts in movies, but I’m looking for significant roles.

Star Trek

William Shatner went on to to do T.J. Hooker and Boston Legal and some movie roles, but is mostly famous for being William Shatner.

Walter Koenig was on Babylon 5 for a while.

Leonard Nimoy, James Doohan, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei: nothing.

TNG

Patrick Stewart : X-Men, lots of voice acting

Brent Spiner: A small part in Independence Day

Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, LeVar Burton, Wil Wheaton: nothing.

Michael Dorn was on DS9 for a year or two.

DS9

Terry Farrell was on Becker for four years

Avery Brooks, Nana Visitor, Cirroc Lofton, Armin Shimerman, Colm Meaney: nothing.

Alexander Siddig was in a few episodes of 24

Rene Auberjonois was on Boston Legal for a couple of years

Voyager

Jeri Ryan – Boston Public, Shark

Kate Mulgrew, Robert Beltran, Tim Russ, Roxann Dawson, Robert Duncan McNeill, Garrett Wang, Robert Picardo, Ethan Philips, Jennifer Lien : Nothing

Enterprise

Scott Bakula, Jolene Blalock, Linda Park, Anthony Montgomery, John Billingsley: nothing

Dominic Keating (Reed) was on Lost for four episodes and Connor Trinneer (Trip) was on Stargate Atlantis for 9 episodes.


So of all of the forty actors listed above, only Shatner and Stewart have had starring roles in anything else. Of the rest, only Jeri Ryan and Terry Farrell have had anything more than a recurring guest role on a TV show. That’s four out of forty that have done anything significant since Star Trek. The other 90% have seen their acting careers wane or vanish completely.

Update: Just to be clear, I am not saying that these people are all washed-up has-beens, and I’m not suggesting that they are all sitting at home staring at the phone hoping someone will call them with a gig. Like I said, some are directing, some are acting on the stage, others may have moved on to other things. I know from reading his blog that Wil Wheaton is now a writer, blogger, and part-time actor, and is perfectly happy with that. I just figured that with the number of actors that had become successful through a Star Trek TV show, a greater percentage would stay with TV/movie acting and more would end up with starring or major supporting roles than actually did.

Recommendations for you


I’ve only bought a couple of things on amazon.com, since I mainly use amazon.ca. When it gives me recommendations, they’re based only on a few things and are therefore rather diverse:

  • A book called Understanding IPv6
  • a couple of CCNA guides (I had to look up what CCNA meant – it’s some kind of networking certification)
  • 101 Dalmations DVD
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars DVD (which I have, though amazon.com doesn’t know this)
  • Tool’s Ænima CD (which I also have)
  • Slayer’s Reign in Blood CD

I imagine that there aren’t many lists of anything that both Reign in Blood and 101 Dalmations are a part of.

Movie Reviews: Inkheart and Hotel for Dogs


We saw a couple of movies in the last week with the boys. Last Friday we saw Inkheart, based on a very popular book series. Gail’s read the first book of the series, but I knew nothing about it going in. We were a bit concerned about this one, since Ryan is pretty sensitive when it comes to movies — he doesn’t like anything scary, and tends to really empathize with the characters, so if something bad happens to them, he gets pretty upset. Gail and I rented a movie called Bridge to Terabithia a little while ago to see if the boys would like it — we thought it was very good, and there were certainly parts that the boys would like, but one very sad thing happens in the film, and Ryan would have cried for a week. We won’t be suggesting that movie to him anytime soon. Anyway, like I said, we were a little concerned that this one might be too scary, but they were fine.

The plot was interesting — there are people who have the ability to bring characters out of books by reading the books aloud. Unfortunately, when they bring someone out, someone from our world goes in. Brendan Fraser is one such person, but hasn’t read anything aloud in nine years, after bringing characters out of a book called Inkheart and losing his wife into the book in the process. The character he brought out has been chasing him ever since, trying to get Fraser’s character to read him back into the book. Gail said that a bunch of things were cut from the book or rewritten, as pretty much always happens when making a movie from a book. Since I hadn’t read the book, I figure I shouldn’t have been able to tell what had been changed, but there were a few instances where I could, usually because things that should be quite difficult and time-consuming happened quickly and easily – Elinor’s change of heart for example, as well as convincing Fenoglio (who was very English for a guy with an Italian name living in Italy) that characters had been pulled out of his book into the real world.

ObNit: OK, this one is really pushing it. It’s never revealed where Fraser’s character and his daughter live, but considering they hop in the car and drive to Italy on a moment’s notice, it’s likely somewhere in continental Europe. (The book is German, so presumably the book’s characters live in Germany.) After twelve years of living in Germany, wouldn’t the father’s American accent change somewhat? And why would his daughter have a British accent after living in Germany with her American father (her British mother has been gone since she was three)? I agree, in terms of plot holes, that’s one pretty thin.

I thought the acting was very good, particularly Paul Bettany, who was excellent as Dustfinger (and completely unrecognizable from his Silas character from The Da Vinci Code). Fraser is no Dustin Hoffman, but he has become an actual actor, not just the doofus from George of the Jungle. Eliza Bennett (I got a kick out of the actress’s name) was also very good, though she seemed older than the twelve her character is supposed to be. Andy Serkis was suitably slimy as the bad guy Capricorn, and Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren were also good in smaller roles.

For a while, whenever I heard the name Brendan Fraser, I thought of movies like Encino Man, Airheads, George of the Jungle, Blast from the Past, Dudley Do-Right (to be fair, none of which I have ever seen). I would see his name on a movie poster and immediately think “OK, there’s a movie I can skip”. I remember wondering if I could ever take him seriously as an actor. But after The Mummy series, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and now Inkheart, he seems to have done a pretty good job of reinventing himself as a real actor, not just a goofy guy that does physical comedy.

The other movie we saw was Hotel for Dogs, which we saw specifically because the kids wanted to see it. I had precisely zero interest in seeing this movie, but hey, when you’re a dad, that’s what you do. But it turned out to be a pretty decent movie. Lisa Kudrow and Kevin Dillon (Matt’s brother) are very funny as wanna-be hair-rocker foster parents, though how they would remain foster parents once any child care worker sees their apartment is beyond me. The movie did have its silly parts (which is why the kids liked it), but the poop humour was kept to a minimum, and thankfully, there wasn’t a single scene where the dogs talked or winked or raised their eyebrows or otherwise had their faces digitally enhanced and anthropomorphized. I hate that. If you’re want to have an animal with human characteristics in your movie, make it animated (Bolt, Finding Nemo, a zillion others).

I do wonder why more wasn’t made of Bruce’s ability to conjure up crazy devices for entertaining the dogs. Bernie really couldn’t find foster parents to look after a sweet and caring girl and her genius brother? I also thought it was awfully nice of the unseen pet store owner to let his employees leave the store and use the van whenever they wanted. And where did the kids come up with the hundreds of dollars to buy all the required dog food? And who arranged (and paid) for the dumpster full of “doggy doo” to be picked up? Did none of the strays they found have fleas or any other condition that might require the services of a vet?

Near the end, when Bernie stood up and looked like he was going to make a speech, I was kind of hoping that he would explain some loophole in the law that got the kids off, or that he had purchased the hotel and so the dog catchers were on his property, or something like that rather than making a “Come on, everyone, just look at these adorable dogs! They’re a family!” type speech, but no such luck. But overall, this was less of a kid movie and more of a family movie. Don’t bother going without the kids — it ain’t that good — but kids and parents alike will enjoy it. Not like Curious George, during which Gail and I both fell asleep.

I suppose I really should just shut up and enjoy movies, rather than continually pointing out flaws. But I can’t.