The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013, Harald Zwart

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is one of the innumerable young adult fantasy franchises that has seemingly popped up out of nowhere over the last decade and a half. I watched it for the same reasons that I watch all of these – I enjoy bad movies. This one is, at times, better than a lot of the other lower tier of these films, because it has a sense of humour and it has a sense of humour about the cliches of the genre. Yes, I know, this one was a flop. But it’s certainly more entertaining than a lot of these pandering “You Read More

Charlie’s Country (2013, Rolf de Heer)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is an affecting portrait of what life is like for an Aboriginal elder living life on a reserve in the Norther Territory. It is extremely well done and it makes me think that we need its equivalent in Canada. (Excuse my ignorance: if such a movie does exist, please do let me know and I’ll watch it as soon as a I can.) The film does an excellent job of portraying the systemic racism of everyday Australia in a way that humanizes the situation of the aboriginal, rather than portraying this clash as just an “old ways are best” Read More

The Dilettantes (2013) by Michael Hingston

Categories: 2013, Books, and Fiction.

Full Disclosure: This novel was written by a friend of my brother. When I was younger, I reviewed everything without regard to who created it and so wrote some reviews of music made by friends that I didn’t love (though I couldn’t tell them this to their faces because I’m a coward). As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that personal relationships are more important to me than the supposed “integrity” of a review I’ve written and that, if I don’t have anything nice to say about something a friend or colleague has created, I shouldn’t say it unless I’m asked Read More

Broken (2013, Bright Wonder Obasi)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

Had I not seen other Nollywood movies, I might have been shocked by how awful this film’s production values are. But having seen a number of Nollywood movies now, I know that this is actually above average when it comes to those production values. It’s only the sound that’s really, really awful (and only at times), – this one is actually pretty seemingly competently edited, which is not always the case. Read More

Bright Days Ahead (2013, Marion Vernoux)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is the kind of film that I am glad exists but that I don’t get much enjoyment out of. Were I older – and were I female – I’d probably enjoy it much more. But I am super happy that people make movies like this and I wish there were more of them. (Also, I wish this particular one was better.) Basically, this is a November-July romance dramedy that probably feels great to watch if you’re a retired woman, but doesn’t resonate with me, personally, as I am nowhere near that part of my life. The result feels middling Read More

Borgen (2010)

Categories: 2010, 2011, and 2013.

Borgen is a remarkable, unique Danish television show that may have established it’s own genre. Every other TV show to focus on politics that I have ever seen has added elements of fantasy; normally these shows and movies are “political thrillers” where someone always dies; occasionally they’re comedies. Either way, there is a balance between realism (in some cases) and concessions to entertainment. Borgen is not one of those shows. Borgen is very like the most realistic fictional TV show ever made about politics. Read More

Informing the News (2013) by Thomas E. Patterson

Categories: 2013, Books, Journalism, Non-Fiction, and Society.

This book was written to make the case for “knowledge-based” journalism. It was sponsored by an initiative that is trying to establish that kind of journalism. The author believes strongly in the cause ans has been a crucial part of the initiative that sponsored his work here. But despite the fact that this is very much a work of advocacy, it is a compelling and informative read, touching on the history of American journalism (print, radio, TV and internet) as it explores the issues that have arisen with the rise of “Infotainment” and “Citizen journalism.” Though I question the methodologies Read More

Blue Jasmine (2013, Woody Allen)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

I have known a few people like the main character in my life; nobody who had this kind of wealth, but multiple people who have been unable to comprehend and deal with the world as it is, who have compulsively lied, and who have been unable to control themselves. And I must say, Blanchett nails it. There are moments in this movie that I have essentially experienced in my life (albeit without all the past financial history) where I have tried and failed to help someone like Blanchett. (I’m being a little kind to myself, as whether or not I Read More

The Great Train Robbery (2013)

Categories: 2013 and TV.

I like the conceit of this very brief miniseries (two episodes): first, tell the story of the crime, then, tell how it was solved. And the results are reasonably good, the show is well acted and reasonably well made (for TV, of course). There are a few issues with the direction – particularly in the second episode – but overall it’s entertaining and avoids the usual desire to spice things up. Whether or not this is an accurate telling, it feels accurate. Worth your time on a lazy long weekend if you’re into true crime stuff. 7/10 Read More

The Crash Reel (2013, Lucy Walker)

Categories: 2013, Movies, and Sports.

If you have a child (a teenager) who doing or is interested in playing or participating in a sport that involves serious risk of head injury, you should make your child watch this movie. There are lots of moving and penetrating accounts out there of what life is like after a head injury however I have never seen a full length feature to cover this topic this well. Though this is the story of Kevin Pearce, it is really the story of any athlete whose successful career is derailed by a traumatic head injury and has to learn to accept Read More

The Fifth Estate (2013, Bill Condon)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is a great and an important story, and it’s a story that deserves a great film, full of great actors. This film gets the latter part right – there are a whole lot of excellent actors in this film doing great work, sometimes major actors in really minor roles – but the film around them is pretty close to a disaster. It touches all the usual points these movies touch – especially all the beats the Hollywood versions of these touch, including work pulling a man away from his romantic life, and that typical shit – but it touches Read More

Blue is the Warmest Color aka La vie d’Adele (2013, Abdellatif Kechiche)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is an affecting, if long, coming of age story that contains perhaps the most graphic sex scenes I’ve ever seen in a coming of age movie (i.e. a movie involving “teens”). The film goes places other films don’t with the passion of “first love” thing, i.e. explicit sex. But there’s a lot more to the film than that and one of the best aspects of the film is its teenagers – who all feel really authentic, despite clearly being played by slightly older people – and particularly the lead, who eats with her mouth open and acts about as Read More

Mad Men (2007)

Categories: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and TV.

I watched Mad Men over an even longer period than most of you, so my memory of the individual episodes is not perfect. I know there were some weaker ones in there, and there even parts of seasons (perhaps even whole ones) that I didn’t enjoy on the level of the best parts of the show. But I want to talk about the show as a whole, and not dwell on its occasional missteps or the fact that it ran on too long (like most other American TV shows…). Read More

Blackfish (2013, Gabriela Cowperthwaite)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is an affecting documentary about the problems of keeping Orcas in captivity for human amusement. It is completely one-sided (though that might be a ridiculous thing to say, given that there is no other side, as far as the orcas are concerned) but that is in part because Sea World wouldn’t participate. The film raises questions about whether or not humans should be keeping animals (particularly large mammals) in captivity and, more specifically, working with them in close proximity. The main whale this movie focuses on had injured people before it killed someone. Other whales have also. It’s fair Read More

Bastards (2013, Claire Denis)

Categories: 2013 and Music.

Denis takes your typical revenge thriller plot – solitary man’s loved one(s) is wronged and he seeks revenge – and flips it on itself. The solitary man is solitary because he works on tankers. His family is hurt by a suicide – not, on its face, a wrong inflicted upon them. And the world he enters and tries to bring justice to – an extremely multicultural France where all the authority figures are immigrants and all the villains and victims are white – is one he doesn’t understand. SPOILERS!!! Read More

The Purge (2013, James DeMonaco)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

The opening text this movie displays, explaining what ‘the purge’ is, is basically the pitch meeting for this movie. The filmmaker likely walked into an office, said those exact words, mentioned some actors for the key roles, and got this green-lit. This film is a perfect symbol of what is wrong with “high concept” films that are just a pitch: it’s underwritten (in so many ways – it’s not actually 85 minutes, folks, that includes the credits), it resorts to cliches once the premise is established, it is not entertaining, it’s not smart – it’s just a steaming pile of Read More

Bethlehem (2013, Yuval Adler)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is a reasonably compelling film that appear to apply a sort of naturalistic crime drama lens to the Israeli-Palestine conflict. There’s no soundtrack and everyone is working at being as realistic as possible in their performances. But the conflict really does feel like it’s been reduced to a crime story: an informant is put in a bad position when his handler targets his brother. That could be a crime plot. It’s not that it’s a bad film. Everything about it is generally good. It’s just that it feels more than a little odd to reduce such a complicated situation Read More

Before Midnight (2013, Richard Linklater)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

Chapter 3 in everyone’s favourite European-style American romantic drama picks up with Jesse and Celine on vacation in Greece with their two kids. What began as a sort of male fantasy of a trip abroad has turned into perhaps the closest any American film has ever gotten to what a real relationship* (*between two smart people) is like. So many American films require plot to get in the way of characters but that is rarely Linklater’s problem. This third movie has much of the same directionless appeal and ambiguity about the future that the first two had. Maybe it resonates Read More

How to Work a Room (1988, 2013) by Susan RoAne

Categories: 1988, 2013, Books, and Non-Fiction.

There are parts of this book that are helpful if you are shy (the author claims that most of us are shy…) or if you don’t know how to go about networking. But… Like most self-help books, it is awfully repetitive.And that’s hard to take.Also, the author doesn’t understand proper emphasis, despite teaching English herself. She uses quotation marks and capitalization (mid-word!!!) in place of italtics. That’s nit-picky, I know. But excessive, incorrect use of quotation marks is a major pet peeve. But the problems don’t stop there. This book contains two separate chapters on online “manners” or “etiquette” and Read More