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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rowan Blanchard to Star in Girl Meets World

Written by Kyle Slagley


If you don’t know which ‘90s TV series I’m referencing, then you missed out on one of that decade’s best shows – hands down. For children of the ‘90s, Boy Meets World was one of those shows that profoundly impacted the way you looked at life.

Corey Matthews (Ben Savage) and Topanga Lawrence (Danielle Fishel) provided real-time guidance on issues like school, dating, jobs, and even death; and as the characters grew up, so did their audience. Beginning in 8th grade, the show follows the two kids and their friends through seven seasons of high school, the transition to college, and finally into marriage.

We haven’t heard much from Corey and Topanga since they signed off in 2000, but it seems only fitting that the children of the children of the ‘90s may have their own chance to grow up with Clan Matthews. After weeks of teasers about the new spinoff series Girl Meets World, it has finally been announced that Rowan Blanchard (Spy Kids 4 – All The Time In The World, The Back-Up Plan) will play Riley Matthews, the 13-year-old daughter of Corey and Topanga.

The pilot episode will likely begin production in February, and speculations are that it will easily be green-lighted to series on the Disney Channel. Don’t rush for your DVR just yet, though; the series wouldn’t make it to TV screens until the 2013-2014 season.

Now for the question I know you’re asking yourself: Will we get to see Mr. Feeny? The short answer: don’t count on it. William Daniels, who played the history-teacher-slash-life-coach to both Corey and his brother Eric, has yet to comment on the new spinoff despite requests from the media, leading speculators to believe he has declined any offer to participate. Rider Strong, who played Shawn Hunter, has stated that he also has no official participation.

While you may pass the time hoping for guest spots from the likes of Feeny, Shawn, Angela, and Jack, I will be wondering what Riley’s personality is going to be like. With the dual influences of Corey’s geek and Topanga’s hippie-chic, it should be interesting, to say the least.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Return of the Boy Band

Written by Kyle Slagley

If you were a girl between the ages of 11 and 20 anytime between 1988 and 2002, there’s about a 67.3% chance you proudly displayed posters, cassettes, CDs, t-shirts, or other assorted swag that sported the faces of Nick Carter, Brian Littrell, or Shawn Stockman. Guys who had highlighted or frosted hair anytime before 2005 should bow down and thank Lance Bass for making it “cool.”

The ‘90s were, by and large, the decade of the Boy Bands; together they formed an unofficial cartel that ruled the Billboard charts and teen girls’ hearts. Of course, this was back in the days when MTV actually played music videos still, so I’m sure that had something to do with it.

Much to the chagrin of teenage garage bands everywhere, earlier this week New Kids on the Block (aka NKOTB), Boys II Men, and 98 Degrees announced their “Package Tour” that will begin in Uncasville, CT, on May 31 and conclude in Minneapolis on July 13. It’s a heck of a lot harder to get a girl’s attention when you’re competing against the likes of Nick Lachey and Donnie Wahlberg, not that I’m bitter or anything.

In honour of this summer’s Grand Boy Band Comeback (Attempt), let’s take a look at the biggest groups of the movement. You’ll want to make sure your collections are complete before the tour triggers the inevitable stampede of fangirls.

The Beatles – Those of you thinking, “Wait a minute!” can rest easy. I am fully aware that the Beatles were truly the fathers of the boy band – as well as a slew of other pop music trends. Combine fashionable clothes, youthful faces, a lot of actual musical talent, and the sheer magnitude of their fan base and you have the formula that is still the industry standard. Much more could be said, but we all know how influential the group has been.

New Kids on the Block – Widely considered the first group in the “modern” boy band age, these five guys epitomized the ‘80s. Heavy synthesizer beats, break-dancing, ripped jeans, and pompadours can all be found in their family album. Their first big hit, “Hangin’ Tough,” put them on the map in 1988 and they would eventually break up in 1994. They reunited in 2008 and have been working ever since; meanwhile, there are those among us who can still sing you the chorus to “You Got It (The Right Stuff).”

Backstreet Boys (aka BSB)– Kevin is the quiet one, Nick is the heartthrob, Brian is the boy-next-door, AJ is the bad boy, and Howie is the fun-loving jokester. BSB quite literally became the definition of “boy band” in the late ‘90s. They hit it big with “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” in 1997 and have been working together in some form ever since. Their spiked hair, meticulously groomed goatees, and pensive looks into the distance would be emulated in millions of school pictures for years.

‘N Sync – The second quintet to appear in the ‘90s, the group was formed after band member Chris Kirkpatrick auditioned for the Backstreet Boys and failed to make the cut. The group blew up overnight after the Disney Channel aired a concert special in July of 1998 – a concert originally offered to BSB. ‘N Sync’s single “Tearin’ Up My Heart” became one of the biggest songs of the decade and by the time they released “Bye Bye Bye” they were fully out of the shadow of BSB. The group lasted a handful of years before breaking up in 2002 after member Justin Timberlake decided to go solo.

98 Degrees – Rounding out the boy band trio of the late ‘90s, 98 Degrees broke the five-man rule and comprised four guys from Ohio. The group’s story is similar to that of ‘N Sync in that they made it big in 1998. It’s interesting though that unlike BSB or ‘N Sync, 98 Degrees had some help in their early days. In 1997, they collaborated with label-mate Stevie Wonder to record “True to Your Heart,” the theme song to the animated Disney movie Mulan. They stayed together until 2002, and following Nick Lachey’s brief solo career and marriage to Jessica Simpson, reunited in 2008.

Boyz II Men – I hesitated to include Boyz II Men in this column, because I don’t consider them a typical boy band. After hours of contemplation, I (obviously) decided to include them because they are what a boy band should be: light on glitz and kitsch, heavy on quality and talent. They easily have the most staying power of any other modern boy band, and their tight harmonies are the envy of a capella groups worldwide. Having sold over 60 million copies of their 11 albums over more than 25 years, they are the standard for vocal R&B everywhere. Quite simply, these guys deserve every bit of praise they get because their ability speaks for itself.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Gear Up for the Super Bowl

Written by Jon Williams

Super Bowl XLVII takes place on Sunday, February 3, and the matchup has been set. This past Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Atlanta Falcons to earn the NFC berth to the game, while the Baltimore Ravens took out the New England Patriots on the AFC side.

If you pay any attention to sports (or even if you don’t, most likely), you’re going to hear a lot about this game in the coming week and a half. The NFL championship game is always a huge media event, usually turning out to be the most-watched television event of the year in the United States (hence all those amusing commercials that people who don’t even care about football will watch to see).

I won’t bother mentioning the “interesting” storylines you’ll be hearing about ad nauseam leading into the game. I will, however, list a few titles that will help your football-crazy patrons get through the coming football-free weekend, as well as whet their appetites for the big game the following Sunday.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Girls Returns to HBO Sunday Nights

Written by Jon Williams

On Sunday night, as the show was winning a couple of Golden Globes on ABC, the hit show Girls returned to HBO with its Season 2 premiere. The show centers on twenty-something Hannah Horvath and three friends as they feel their way through their extended college-to-real-life transitions in Brooklyn. Hannah is played by the series’ head writer, Lena Dunham, who based many of the show’s situations on her own real-life experiences after graduating from Ohio’s Oberlin College in 2008.

Dunham’s first break came when her film Tiny Furniture premiered at the 2010 South by Southwest Festival, where it won Best Narrative Feature. She parlayed this exposure into an opportunity to collaborate with Judd Apatow on the Girls pilot (Apatow is the show’s executive producer). It premiered on HBO on April 15, 2012, and immediately took off, sending Dunham’s star into the stratosphere. In October she signed a deal with Random House to publish her first book; in December she was named Time Magazine’s Coolest Person of the Year. The two Golden Globes she won for the show on Sunday were icing on the cake.

Now Girls is back as a staple of HBO’s formidable Sunday night lineup. Premiering along with it was the second season of Enlightened, a series starring Laura Dern as an executive go-getter determined to bring tranquility to her life after a breakdown. Like Girls, Enlightened was nominated for two Golden Globes in its first season, winning Best Comedy Actress for Dern. That was at the 2012 Golden Globes, however; the show was on break for over a year before returning this past weekend.

The next series with a firm premiere date for HBO is Game of Thrones, with the third season beginning on March 31. Based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels, the show follows various members and associates of the powerful Baratheon, Lannister, Stark, and Targaryen families as they vie for control of the Seven Kingdoms while facing a nebulous but growing threat from the untamed North. As an avid fan, I can attest that this meager description doesn’t begin to do the show justice; it’s worth watching for its action and intrigue, as well as its well-written characters. Peter Dinklage won an Emmy for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister in the show’s first season, and was nominated again for the second.

In April, Veep’s second season will premiere, once again starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the U.S. Vice President Selina Meyer, who heads up a dysfunctional staff that helps her navigate her way through any number of political pitfalls. Dreyfus won an Emmy for the role in the first season, and the series was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series. Then, June sees the return of The Newsroom, the Aaron Sorkin-created series that stars Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy, host of a national news show committed to serious journalism in an industry increasingly concerned with money and ratings. Although it didn’t win any awards on Sunday, it was nominated for the Best Drama Series Golden Globe, and Daniels was nominated for Best Drama Actor.

Finally, at some point this summer, hit series True Blood will return for its sixth season. Beginning in 2008, the series has capitalized on the vampire craze that followed the Twilight phenomenon, dealing with vampires and a number of other supernatural creatures as they attempt to live side-by-side with humans in the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. It’s based on Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampires novel series, the last volume of which will be published in May. Although it has only a handful of wins, the series has been nominated for a slew of Emmys and Golden Globes (as well as many other awards) throughout its long run.

Make sure you have previous seasons of these shows on your shelves for patrons who want to catch up for these series’ premieres, as well as for patrons who don’t have HBO and want to experience these shows for the first time.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Canada's 2012 Box Office, By the Numbers

Canadian box office revenues were up nine percent in 2012 over 2011, bringing in close to $1.1 billion across the country. To no one's surprise, The Avengers led the way with $58.4 million. It was followed by The Dark Knight Rises ($46.2m), Skyfall ($42.6m), The Hunger Games ($40.2m), and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ($32.2m).

Canadian films specifically, on the other hand, saw a drop in their 2012 fortunes. They made a total of $25.06 million, or around 2.5 percent of the total Canadian box. That's down nearly 12 percent from 2011. Resident Evil: Retribution, the latest installment in the horror franchise, topped the list, bringing in $5.2 million. Goon, a hockey comedy, came in second with $4.15 million.

Quebec-made films generally rule the box office among domestic films, but that was not the case in 2012. The top Quebec film was Omerta: The Movie with $2.74 million. Another, Monsieur Lazhar, brought in $2.12 million in 2012 despite being released in October of 2011.

Essential Early Hitchcock on Criterion Blu-ray

Written by Kirk Baird

The distinct elements to the Master of Suspense’s filmmaking career were always there, but our first full exposure to his genius in bloom is with 1934’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, just released on Blu-ray through Criterion Collection. The story of rather ordinary people who find themselves in a rather extraordinary situation, The Man Who Knew Too Much is the blueprint to many of the Alfred Hitchcock films to follow, including Rear Window, North by Northwest, and Vertigo.

Leslie Banks and Edna Best star as Bob and Jill Lawrence, a British couple on holiday in Switzerland with their teenage daughter Betty (Nova Pilbeam). Their vacation takes a macabre twist with the murder of a family friend who happens to be a British agent, who left an important note – and thus a clue to those responsible for his death – hidden in his hotel room. Bob recovers the note and thus becomes the titular namesake who must deal with a nefarious gang of spies who want the information. The story wraps around the assassination plot of an important foreign dignitary, though we know little else; Hitchcock’s films are often cloaked in mystery when it comes to the incidentals. The group kidnaps Betty to force Bob to give them the note, but he and Jill do not prove so easily pushed around, and Bob and family friend Clive (Hugh Wakefield) go undercover to learn more about the gang and to rescue his daughter.

The Man Who Knew Too Much is primitive by today’s slick standards of Hollywood moviemaking – perhaps even on the level of a well-produced student film. But the execution of this suspenseful thriller is more fully realized and gutsier than almost any movies opening in theatres today. Peter Lorre as the chief spy and criminal mastermind dramatically undersells his performance – an acting feat from which many actors-as-villains could learn – and is all the more effective because of it. There’s a substantially more menacing air to someone not unhinged but with his wits about him, and in complete control of himself and everyone – and nearly everything – around him. Lorre is chilling in his matter-of-fact and almost likable delivery and all the more memorable.

Banks and Best make for a believable couple who show amazing resolve when pushed. Yes, there’s the occasional histrionics, but this was the acting style of the time. And Hitchcock loved melodrama.  Also note the restrained emotions Bob and Jill display when they learn Betty has been kidnapped. It’s British “keep a stiff upper lip” stoicism at its finest.

While much of the drama unfolds in the plot twists and dialogue, The Man Who Knew Too Much has its share of gripping action. The violent shootout in a London street between London police and the spies who are holding up in an apartment building was undeniably edgy for its time, yet the bloodless carnage still resonates as rather shocking given the amount of deaths, especially to innocent men of law and order.

Criterion Collection, as it always does, went to great lengths to clean up The Man Who Knew Too Much’s video and audio presentation; it’s doubtful the 75-minute film has ever looked as good as it does in this Blu-ray version. And as a precursor to the greatness to come from Hitchcock, The Man Who Knew Too Much is an important film that any of the filmmaker’s fans should experience…or experience again.

The single Blu-ray also features new audio commentary from film historian Philip Kemp and a new interview with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, as well as a 1972 interview with Hitchcock conducted by journalist Pia Lindstrom and film historian William Everson.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Another Langdon Thriller on the Way

Written by Kyle Slagley

The publishing industry was given a huge boost yesterday when it was announced that Dan Brown’s sixth novel, Inferno, would hit shelves May 14. The novel features Harvard professor Robert Langdon, and involves a harrowing story revolving around Dante’s Inferno. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine.

Brown has had his critics over the years, but his fans are fiercely loyal. Now that Inferno has been announced, those fans are going to be anxiously awaiting that Tuesday release.

Inferno hits shelves on the same date as The King’s Deception – the new Cotton Malone thriller by author Steve Berry, one of my very favourite authors – so historical conspiracy/thriller fans will get a twofer that day. The problem is that May 14 is four months away. What in the world will we do for four months?! Don’t worry; I’ve got a few suggestions to help you pass the time.

The Amber Room by Steve Berry – Berry’s debut novel deals with one of the most tragic losses to the art world during World War II. The Amber Room was stolen by the Nazis on October 14, 1941, from Saint Petersburg and moved to Königsberg in East Prussia. Amid the chaos at the end of the war, it disappeared and has never been seen again. Berry’s novel follows Paul and Rachel Cutler as they follow the dying clues of Rachel’s father. It’s got art, conspiracy, murder, and mystery. Berry’s novels only get better from here.

Raising Atlantis by Thomas Greanias – Another debut thriller, this one follows Dr. Conrad Yeats, a rogue TV personality with a knack for getting in trouble, and Serena Serghetti, a nun entrusted by the Pope with a terrifying secret. Although not what I expected, this is still a highly entertaining read for fans of the Atlantis legend. Greanias also has two more novels in this series: The Atlantis Prophecy and The Atlantis Revelation.

The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury – This thriller should be at the top of the reading list for anyone who even remotely enjoyed any of Brown’s past three novels. The novel begins with a team of men dressed as Templar Knights riding their horses into the Metropolitan Museum during a gala with all Manhattan’s high society in attendance. They ride their horses through the museum, stealing a very valuable relic on display from the Vatican. Did I mention these “Templar knights” were riding horses in the museum? Not as fast as a car, but horses certainly have more of an impact. It’s a fantastic book, and there are two more books to follow this one.

The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry – Did I mention I’m a Steve Berry fan? Berry’s fourth novel kicks off his Cotton Malone series and was really the one that got me hooked. Cotton Malone is a former agent of the Magellan Billet, a secret agency within the United States Justice Department. Despite being retired from the Magellan Billet, Cotton seems to find himself alongside his former boss, Stephanie Nelle, fighting a fight that scholars have been battling for centuries. Cotton is strong, intelligent, and just broken enough to make the character real.

The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl – It’s 1870, and Charles Dickens has just died, leaving behind his unfinished novel. His publisher, James Osgood, along with Rebecca Sand, must dive into the depths of Boston’s opium cartels, thugs-for-hire, and publishing gangs to find the ending to the now famously unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood. Although this novel is far from perfect, Dickens and Victorian era fans will enjoy it, and how cool would it be if there really were a Victorian Book Mafia?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Happy Holidays Colouring Contest Winners

As usual, our annual holiday contest went over extremely well. This year we challenged you with a colouring contest that required more than a little attention to detail. The results we got back were nothing short of amazing! Below are the winners. (Click the images for larger versions.)

FIRST PLACE: Pickering Public Library

SECOND PLACE: Tweed Public Library

THIRD PLACE: Newton Public Library

Monday, January 14, 2013

70th Annual Golden Globe Awards

Written by Kirk Baird

Even as Lincoln’s 12 Academy Award nominations made the Civil War drama the prohibitive favourite for the Feb. 24 Oscars, Sunday night’s 70th Annual Golden Globe presentation might have shaken things up.

The Iran hostage drama Argo took the Golden Globe for best motion picture as well a trophy for the film’s director, Ben Affleck, who was not nominated for an Oscar. Lincoln and director Steven Spielberg were Golden Globe nominees in both categories.

Lincoln’s Tony Kushner also lost in the best screenplay category to Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained), Lincoln co-stars Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field lost the best supporting actor and actress categories, respectively, to Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) and Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables), and Lincoln composer John Williams lost best original score to Life of Pi’s Mychael Danna.
Daniel Day-Lewis, as expected, won the Golden Globe for best actor in a drama for his powerful and moving performance as Lincoln.

Overall, Lincoln was nominated for 7 Golden Globes but won only one.

While Spielberg’s film stumbled at the awards show, the lavish musical Les Miserables triumphed. In addition to Hathaway’s expected win, the adaptation of the stage musical based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 French historical novel won for best musical or comedy and best actor in a comedy or musical (Hugh Jackman).

Jessica Chastain won the best actress in a drama for Zero Dark Thirty. And Jennifer Lawrence won the best actress in a comedy or musical for Silver Linings Playbook.

Rounding out the film winners as voted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Brave won for best animated feature, Amour won best foreign language film, and Adele’s “Skyfall” won for best original song in a film.  

For television, Showtime’s espionage drama Homeland was the big winner, winning best television series drama, best performance by an actress in a TV series drama (Claire Danes), and best performance by an actor in a TV series drama (Damian Lewis). HBO’s new series Girls took trophies for best television series comedy or musical, and best performance by an actress in a TV series comedy or musical (Lena Dunham), while Don Cheadle from Showtime’s House of Lies won best performance by an actor in a TV series comedy or musical.

Best miniseries or motion picture made for television went to HBO’s comedy-drama Game Change, about the 2008 GOP presidential campaign, and to the film’s star Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin for best performance by an actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for television, and to co-star Ed Harris as John McCain for best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a series, miniseries or motion picture made for television.

Kevin Costner won the best performance by an actor in a miniseries or motion picture made for television Golden Globe for Hatfields & McCoys. And Maggie Smith won for best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a series, miniseries or motion picture made for television for Downton Abbey: Season 2.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Look at What's to Come in 2013

Written by Jon Williams

With 2012 behind us, it’s time to take a look at what 2013 will have to offer. In both music and audiobooks, it looks to be a big year, with big name musicians and authors releasing titles that your patrons will be excited to get their hands on.


Of course, you can expect a slew of books from names typical to the bestseller lists. Plenty of these have already been announced for later this winter. James Patterson (Alex Cross, Run), Jonathan Kellerman (Guilt), and Jodi Picoult (The Storyteller) are among the names to look for in February, with Harlan Coben (Six Years) and Joyce Carol Oates (The Accursed) releasing in March. Khaled Hosseini’s third novel, And the Mountains Echoed, comes out in May.

Also in May, Charlaine Harris waves goodbye to Sookie Stackhouse and friends in Bon Temps with Dead Ever After, the final novel in the Southern Vampires series that spawned the popular HBO show True Blood. Horror master Stephen King has two novels coming out in 2013. The first, in June, is Joyland, about an amusement park serial killer. Then, in September, comes Doctor Sleep, the long-awaited sequel to The Shining. King’s son Joe Hill, a bestselling author in his own right, releases his third novel, NOS4A2, in April. And if you enjoy the macabre, look for Neil Gaiman’s latest, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, in June.

June will also bring a new novel from Colum McCann, who follows up his National Book Award-winning Let the Great World Spin with Transatlantic. Literary heavyweight Thomas Pynchon will also deliver a new novel in 2013, Bleeding Edge, although a publication date has not yet been set.

And of course, what would a year be without a handful of posthumous releases? In February, look for one from Maurice Sendak, My Brother’s Book. In March comes The Tragedy of Mr. Morn, a play written by Vladimir Nabokov in 1923. With a movie based on his work staying strong at the box office right now, a new release from J.R.R. Tolkien comes in May. Leaving behind the world of Middle-earth, The Fall of Arthur deals with Arthurian legends and was edited for publication by the author’s son, Christopher.


There are plenty of new releases to look forward to in the music world as well. In the world of pop, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, and Justin Bieber all have new albums coming out sometime in 2013, as does Beyonce, who will also be performing for the Super Bowl halftime show. The current queen of pop music, Lady Gaga, will release ARTPOP this year as well. Paws up, little monsters!

Beyonce’s husband, Jay-Z, will have some new tunes coming this year as well, as he works on Watch the Throne 2 with Kanye West. Staying in the rap game, Eminem will release an album to follow up 2010’s Recovery. His protégé, 50 Cent, drops his latest, Street King Immortal, on February 26.

Two current American Idol judges have releases coming in 2013. Nicki Minaj says Pink Friday: The Pinkprint will have its basis in rap more than pop. Mariah Carey will also have a new CD out this year, which will feature her most recent single, “Triumphant.” No word on a new release from Keith Urban, although he will appear (as will Taylor Swift) on fellow country music superstar Tim McGraw’s album Two Lanes of Freedom, which comes out February 5.

Look also for new releases from a few music legends. In late March, Cher will release her first new album since 2001’s Living Proof. On his 66th birthday earlier this week, David Bowie released a new track (complete with video), “Where Are We Now?” His first album since 2003, The Next Day, comes out in March as well. In April, look for a new release from Black Sabbath, complete, believe it or not, with Ozzy Osbourne back on vocals for the first time since 1978. Another stunner, an album of new material from Jimi Hendrix, drops on March 5.

Also, Justin Timberlake announced today that he is in the studio recording some new tunes of his own. The first track, featuring an appearance from the aforementioned Jay-Z and produced by Timbaland, could be available as soon as next week. That being the case, the likelihood of the album being available sometime this year is pretty decent. This would be JT's first new album since 2006, as he's spent the past few years focusing on the acting side of his career.

This is just a very small sampling of all the great audiobook and music titles we’ll see in 2013. What are you looking forward to in the year to come?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

In Memoriam: Director David Ellis

Written by Kirk Baird

David Ellis, a longtime stuntman turned director best known for his work behind the camera on Snakes on a Plane and The Final Destination, died Monday in South Africa, where he was in pre-production for a new film. The cause of death is unknown, his agent David Boxerbaum told the Los Angeles Times. Ellis was 60.

According to his bio page on, Ellis began work in Hollywood as a child actor, appearing in the Kurt Russell Disney films of the 1970s, including 1975’s The Strongest Man in the World. He then moved to stunt work and has 75 credits to his name, including 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit, 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1983’s Vacation and Scarface, 1987’s Lethal Weapon, 1990’s Days of Thunder, and 1992’s Patriot Games.

Ellis’s first directorial effort was 1996’s family film Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco, followed mostly by horror films: Final Destination 2 in 2003, Snakes on a Plane in 2006, Asylum in 2008, The Final Destination in 2009, and Shark Night 3D in 2011. He also directed the 2004 Jason Statham action-thriller Cellular. Ellis worked as second unit director or assistant director on 42 film and TV projects, including 2001’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and 2003’s The Matrix Reloaded and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, as well as the upcoming graphic novel-turned film R.I.P.D. and the samurai revenge action movie 47 Ronin.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Science Non-Fiction: Today’s Technology From Yesterday’s Imagination

Written by Kyle Slagley

On the way to work yesterday I heard a news story about Lenovo’s IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC. If you just re-read that sentence while simultaneously thinking or saying “Huh?” trust me, you’re not alone. Though not much was heard about this gadget when it was being developed, it’s basically a tablet computer that can be laid down on a tabletop and used by up to five people at the same time.

At 27 inches and a larger version on the way, the tablet is about the same size as a small flatscreen television. Since it’s able to handle multiple users at once, some bloggers are speculating that it may bring back the golden days when a family actually gathers around a table to interact together like real people, instead of texting “Plz pass the potatoes kthx :)”

As I listened to this news story, I realized it was yet another classic example of fictional-futuristic technology made real. I was reminded of a scene in the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace, when M, James, and M’s assistant Tanner use a large touchscreen table to discuss… well, spy stuff. While Quantum of Solace isn’t an old movie, it got me thinking about all the technology introduced in “old” sci-fi that has since become real, normal, everyday technology. Let’s explore some of these no-longer-futurist technologies, shall we?

The Internet – Let’s face it, you are addicted to the Internet. I, too, am addicted to the Internet. I Internet when I wake up, at work, at home, and in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. You’re Internetting right now! Believe it or not, this simultaneously sinister yet magical connective web of computing devices was once an idea that originated in science fiction. The novel that really detailed the Internet the way we know it today was Neuromancer by William Gibson. Gibson’s novel put the ‘cyberpunk’ sci-fi subgenre on the map in 1984 and was the first book to win the sci-fi “Triple Crown”: the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award. Remember what computers were like in 1984? The Internet was a freaky-futurist idea back then.

Android robots – “Droids” have been a staple in sci-fi since before sci-fi was even a genre. Lost in Space, Star Wars, Star Trek, Fahrenheit 451, The Jetsons – droids in every single one of them. The book commonly credited with coining the word ‘android’ was published in 1886! Fast-forward to today, and the Defense Department is creating robots that can catch their balance and decide on their own whether to step on or around something. First, the decision whether to step over or around Mr. Whiskers; tomorrow, the world…

Indestructable metal (aka Adamantium) – X-Men is futurist in a lot of ways - mainly that whole mutated-genes-that-equal-superpowers thing. If you thought Wolverine’s indestructible claws were impossible, though, better think again. Modumetal, made by a company of the same name, is lighter and stronger than steel and as close to indestructible as we’ve got. I’ve read the explanation on the company website. It’s got a lot of big science-y words that I don’t understand, but let’s just say these guys are closer to Adamantium than ever. The weird thing about Modumetal? Parts aren’t manufactured, they’re “grown.”

Auto-drive cars – We saw this back in 2002 with Minority Report, and we saw it again in I, Robot: cars that drive themselves at high speeds on the freeway and take you exactly where you want to go. While we’re not exactly there yet, we do have cars that can parallel park themselves, cars that beep at you when you’re about to back into something, and cars that yell at you to wake up if you’re falling asleep at the wheel. Cars that actually do drive themselves are currently in testing. Cars that develop road rage are presumably the next step.

Monday, January 7, 2013

How Canadian Films Fared in Canada's Largest Film Market

Written by Wyndham Wise

(reposted from

Despite rumours to the contrary, 2012 was not a particularly good year for Canadian film. Consider this: the top four films in terms of audience appeal and weeks played in the Greater Toronto Area, the largest market for English-Canadian films in the world, were all 2011 releases: Jean-Marc Vallée’s masterful Café de Flore (at 19 weeks); Philippe Falardeau’s Oscar-nominated Monsieur Lazhar (17 weeks); David Cronenberg’s psychological drama A Dangerous Method (14 weeks); and Sarah Polley’s romantic comedy Take This Waltz (13 weeks).

The longest-running new release was Paul W.S. Anderson’s Canada/German co-production Resident Evil: Retribution 3D at 9 weeks. It’s the fifth in the franchise from Toronto producer Don Carmody and a sure bet for the 2012 Golden Reel Award. At eight weeks was Cosmopolis, a second film by Cronenberg that received his worst reviews since eXistinZ; Michael Dowse’s hockey bruiser, Goon, making it the most well-received English-Canadian hockey film, and a relief after the box office failures of Breakaway and Score: A Hockey Musical; and Deepa Mehta’s sumptuous epic, Midnight’s Children.

The Oscar-nominated Canada/Poland co-production, In Darkness came in at seven weeks, the personal documentary Stories We Tell, another Polley film, at six weeks, and Jennifer Baichwal’s documentary based on text by Margaret Atwood, Payback, clocked in at five weeks. Ruba Nadda’s unsatisfactory political thriller Inescapable and Guy Maddin’s eccentric Keyhole both did four weeks each.

At three weeks were Brandon Cronenberg’s debut feature, Antiviral, Nathan Morlando’s biopix on Toronto’s most notorious bank robber, Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster, Xavier Dolan’s gay romance Laurence Anyways and Michael Bassett ‘s Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, another Carmody co-production. Four documentaries round out the features that played more that two weeks at any one theatre in the GTA: Jesse Mann’s Material Success (4 weeks), Steve Suderman’s To Make a Farm (4 weeks), Peter Mettler’s End of Time (3 weeks) and Léa Pool’s Pink Ribbons, Inc. (3 weeks).

In total, 50 Canadian features were released in the GTA in 2012, and as usual the majority (60 per cent) don’t play beyond two weeks. This is typical of any year, and the ones that didn’t make the two-week cut include films from Québec, documentaries, indie features and films that have been funded by Telefilm, which require a theatrical release before heading straight to cable, DVD or VOD.

This year, Kim Nyguen’s Rebelle (which played two weeks at the Bell Lightbox) is on the short list for the final five nominated for the Foreign-Language Oscar, making it the third year in a row that a Québécois film has landed on the short list. Both Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies and Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar made it to the final five, but neither won. The last time a Canadian film won in that category was Denys Arcand’s The Barbarian Invasions in 2004.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Happy Birthday George Martin!

Written by Jon Williams

On January 3, legendary record producer George Martin celebrated his 87th birthday. He began his career recording classical music before moving on to produce comedy and novelty albums. In 1962, he began looking to capitalize on the rock n’ roll craze sweeping Great Britain. He struck gold on May 9 of that year when he signed the Beatles to his Parlophone label. He would go on to produce all of their albums (with the somewhat complicated exception of Let It Be). Later in his career, he would oversee production of their Anthology project in the mid-‘90s, as well as remixing songs for Cirque du Soleil’s Love performance in 2006.

Throughout his long and illustrious career, Martin has been, understandably, best known for his work with the Beatles. He is even one of several people often referred to as the “fifth Beatle.” However, he worked with a number of musicians and produced many successful albums (yes, including solo albums from both Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney). Here is a look at just a few of the albums Martin produced.

Ringo Starr – Sentimental Journey
America – Holiday
Cheap Trick – All Shook Up
Little River Band – Time Exposure
Paul McCartney – Tug of War*
Paul McCartney – Pipes of Peace*
Tommy Original Cast Recording
Celine Dion – Let’s Talk About Love

*These McCartney albums are currently unavailable, but are set to be reissued as part of the McCartney archive collection.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The New Twilight

Written by Kyle Slagley

Now that the New Year has dawned, we can all take a deep breath and mentally regroup. Often times as we move into January, the water cooler talk has to do with the normal slew of resolutions: diets, workout routines, quitting a bad habit, or the time spent cutting coupons in an effort to save more money.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that Bob from accounting cut 750 calories out of his diet just by giving up his nightly pint of Cherry Garcia ice cream, really I do! I’m sure you’re thrilled to hear that I’ve made it to day three of my decision to do the P90X Yoga routine every day. The fact remains that in two months, when Bob is once again making the yacht payment for the Ben & Jerry’s CEO and my Yoga X disc has been buried underneath the first four seasons of That 70’s Show, we will all be wondering one thing: Now that Twilight is finished, what will be the next Twilight?

It’s a legitimate question! At some point we’re going to have to have another fictional hunk for America to love, so we’d all best be on the lookout. I’ll need something to do with that hour-I’m-not-using-for-yoga anyway. Here’s my shortlist of contenders.

Warm Bodies – I mentioned this title a few days ago in my 2013: Year of the Zombie blog. The basic premise is that a zombie falls in love with a human girl and finds that love may actually be the cure to the disease that turned him into a zombie in the first place. The book really is its own Cinderella story; author Isaac Marion initially self-published the novel and it was later picked up by Atria Books. Marion has now announced a sequel that is currently in the works, and the movie starring Nicholas Hoult is due out February 1.

Beautiful Creatures – Written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, this series first appeared in 2009 and has been on the “Next Twilight” shortlist ever since. In the first (of four) novels, the two lead characters Lena and Ethan become inexplicably linked. Lena is a Caster (of magic) and Ethan is a normal high school sophomore. Swirling with mystery, romance, and the supernatural, this series has already been received well by critics and readers alike and, with the movie due out on February 13, it is a leading candidate to fill the void in the hearts of Twilighters. The three other books in the series are Beautiful Darkness, Beautiful Chaos, and Beautiful Redemption.

The Mortal Instruments – There are currently five novels in this series by Cassandra Clare, with the sixth due out in 2014. The first novel, City of Bones, was published in 2007 and is a YA urban-fantasy tale about a secret society of tattooed-teenage demon hunters. This series is a hit already with those that like their urban-fantasy fierce, rugged, and not-overly-sappy—it reminds me a lot of the Borderlands short-story series that originated in the ‘80s. The movie is due out on August 23, but with romance taking a backseat in the series kickoff, the crowd may differ somewhat from that of Twilight.

Divergent – This trilogy by Veronica Roth, already loved by many, will continue to grow this year and probably subsequent years. It’s not quite a fantasy-romance like Twilight, but will attract many of the same readers and moviegoers as The Hunger Games because of its dystopian future-Chicago setting. The first installment was published in 2011, the second – Insurgent – just last year, and the unnamed conclusion is scheduled for release this fall. The movie adaptation of Divergent is currently in pre-production with director Neil Burger; it’s listed for tentative release in March 2014 and will be distributed by Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate (who also distributed The Hunger Games).

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 Movies in Review

Written by Kirk Baird

The year is over. But before we march completely into 2013, let’s glance back at some of my favourite films of 2012.

Argo: Ben Affleck stars as Tony Mendez, the CIA operative who pulled off the daring rescue of six Americans in hiding at the home of the Canadian Embassy ambassador in Iran during the hostage crisis in Tehran. Affleck’s most impressive work is behind the camera, directing a gripping drama that almost never lets up its relenting pace. Even though we know how the true story ends, it’s a testament to Affleck that we sweat it out anyway.

The Avengers: Leave it to a comic-book geek to reinvent the superhero film…again. Writer-director Joss Whedon’s The Avengers is far removed from Christopher Nolan’s deadly serious reflections on what motivates masked avengers and villains, and amps up the fun, action, and a surprising amount of laughs as six superheroes band together and fight an evil god, an alien army, and each other.

Lincoln: Steven Spielberg delivers his most ambitious work yet in this stirring epic of behind-the-scenes politics in the waning days of the Civil War, as Lincoln marshals support for an anti-slavery amendment among a bitterly divided Congress. Tony Kushner’s weighty screenplay resonates with modern-day relevancy, and the superb ensemble is led by Daniel Day-Lewis as a president driven by conscience, not popularity.

Ruby Sparks: Zoe Kazan wrote and stars in this edgy, funny, and occasionally painful to watch romantic comedy about a celebrated literary genius (played by Kazan’s real-life boyfriend Paul Dano) who writes his ideal woman into existence, falls in love with her, discovers he can control her by whatever he types, and must deal with the consequences of that ability as their relationship changes.

Silver Linings Playbook: Bradley Cooper is terrific as a husband shattered by his wife’s affair as is Jennifer Lawrence as a neighbourhood woman who offers to help. Writer-director David O. Russell’s brilliant comedy drama, based on Matthew Quick’s novel, of two emotionally crippled people who find love and coping mechanisms in a Philadelphia suburb redefines the possibilities of what a romantic comedy can be — and should be.

Zero Dark Thirty: The Oscar-winning team of director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker) deliver a riveting and mostly true account of the U.S. government’s hunt for Osama bin Laden. Jessica Chastain stars as CIA operative Maya, who sacrifices her personal life, breaks government rules, and violates her own code of ethics in her decade-long obsession to find the terrorist leader.

Life of Pi: Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s bestselling novel offers serious subtext involving questions of God, faith, and humanity as part of this wondrous tale of a boy stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger. Lee nimbly straddles the worlds of indie drama and big-budget release with aplomb, and produces a gorgeous spectacle that entrances and amazes at almost every turn.


The House I Live In: Filmmaker Eugene Jarecki examines America’s never-ending crusade against drugs with an articulate and persuasive group of journalists, law enforcement officials, victims, as well as the creator of The Wire David Simon and a Lincoln historian -- all of whom make a sobering case that the biggest casualty in the war on drugs are young, impoverished black men.

The Imposter: In 1997, Nicholas Barclay, a Texas teenager missing for three years, suddenly and mysteriously appeared in Spain. His story of being kidnapped and held as a sex slave for years was stunning. And none of it was true. That’s just the beginning of this fascinating account of a young French con man named Frédéric Bourdin who fooled the missing teen’s family for three years. Or did he?

Searching for Sugar Man: Detroit folk singer Rodriguez was considered Motown’s answer to Bob Dylan in the early 1970s. Then he disappeared. Yet in South Africa he emerged as an anti-establishment icon to the young. So what ever happened to Rodriguez? That’s what a pair of his fans in South Africa wanted to know. Searching for Sugar Man is their dogged quest to find the answers.


Here are some other 2012 films that didn’t quite make my best-of list, but are certainly worth your time.

The Sessions: John Hawkes and Helen Hunt are dazzling as a man immobilized by polio as a child and an understanding sex surrogate who agrees to help him lose his virginity.

Beasts of the Southern Wild: Director Benh Zeitlin’s stunning debut about a post-apocalyptic future is full of relevant commentary about our post-Katrina world.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi: This quiet and beautiful documentary about an 85-year-old Japanese sushi master has as much to say about culture and tradition as it does food.

The Queen of Versailles: Director Lauren Greenfield’s documentary is proof that our economic collapse affected almost everyone, including a billionaire Florida businessman and his eccentric, shop-a-holic wife.

Moonrise Kingdom: Wes Anderson’s quirky comedy of young love and those adults trying to prevent it is his warmest and most human film in years.

The Dark Knight Rises: Christopher Nolan’s finale to his Batman trilogy wasn’t the epic we hoped for, but it was at worst a spectacular misfire.

Hyde Park on Hudson: Quibble with the film’s historical accuracy, but its star Bill Murray and his charismatic FDR is an old-school triumph.

The Cabin in the Woods: Just when you thought the zombie-horror genre was dead, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard give it a jolt of new life with their wild script.

Take This Waltz: Others were more enamoured with writer-director Sarah Polley’s love story gone wrong, but the ho-hum drama cracks this list for Michelle Williams’s heartbreaking performance as a wife who sacrifices what she has for what she wants.

Skyfall: Daniel Craig as 007 and Oscar winner Judi Dench as M, plus Oscar-winner Javier Bardem as the revenge-minded villain and Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes at the helm equals arguably the best James Bond movie ever.