Midweek Music Moment: Letting go

Ben Sollee is a proud Kentucky-born cellist and songwriter who combines unusual classical cello techniques with bluegrass and pop.

I’ve fallen for his unique sound and warm, folksy vocals.

Today’s Midweek Music Moment ‘Letting Go’ was composed for the soundtrack of Killing Season, an action movie released in 2013 starring Robert DeNiro and John Travolta.

 

 

And here’s the original tune that introduced me to Ben Sollee: a reinterpretation of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is gonna come’. Note that his recorded version is much more chilled out.

 

 

Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond

‘Star Trek Beyond’ is the latest 2016 blockbuster in the revitalised Star Trek movie series (and #13 in the set).

Featuring the USS Enterprise crew (version 2), this is a strong ensemble cast that performs well together and brings more to the screen than perhaps the ‘go-go-go’ script sometimes allowed for.

Lead roles are filled by Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Bones), Zoe Saldana (Uhura), John Cho (Sulu), Anton Yechin (Chehov), and a very entertaining Simon Pegg as Scotty.

 

In a very sad turn of events, 27 year old Anton Yelchin (Chekhov) died in a freak accident outside his home in June, before the film had been released.

 

Unlike earlier Star Trek films, the aliens we meet along the way are smart, strategic, convincing – and hungry to get what they want.

Directed by Justin Lin (known for four of the ‘Fast and the Furious’ films), there is certainly no shortage of virtuoso stunts and amazing locations.

 

Sofia Boutella is excellent as the hard-hitting, independent Jayla and lifts the energy of the whole movie.

 

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Idris Alba plays Krall, a megalomaniac villain with a hate on for the Federation. He brings some interesting perspective on the Federation’s incessant expansion of their universe.

 

With a wink wink and a nudge here and there, there is just the right amount of hommage to what has come before – and certainly the dry sense of humour for us Trekkies.

However, the movie was such a blustering action film, that it lacked some of the deeper quieter moments that would have made for a more well-rounded, and ultimately satisfying film.

Currently playing second run theatres in Calgary, I highly recommend this film for Trekkies, sci-fi lovers or for those looking for a high-budget action film. Note that there is some short but graphic violence and not recommended for young kids.

Check out the trailer here:

 

Midweek Music Moment: Where the Streets have no name

It’s 1987.

U2’s fifth album, ‘The Joshua Tree’, has topped the charts in over 20 countries.

 

From Bono’s distinctive vocals to The Edge’s guitar hooks: everything U2 touches turns to gold as single after single is a hit off the album. 

 

They’ve spent a week fortifying the roof of a downtown LA liquor store roof in preparation for an 8 song set.

U2’s goal is to shut down the streets – to make a political statement and shake things up. There’s even a backup generator on the roof in case power is cut to the building.

The song is Bono’s dream of a place where the street you live on doesn’t reflect your income or your religious beliefs.

This is the official video for ‘Where the streets have no name’ and it won the 1989 grammy award for Best Performance Music Video.

 

 

(Although the video is of a live performance, the audio used is from the studio-recorded version of the song)

U2 have gone on to release 13 studio albums and are one of the world’s best-selling music artists of all time, with more than 170 million records sold worldwide and 22 Grammy awards.

And for something a little different, here’s a recent Jimmy Fallon clip with U2 busking incognito in the 42nd St subway station in NYC.

Not only did U2 pull off the Beatles stunt on top of the building in 1987, but I’m pretty sure The Beatles could never have pulled off a live subway performance like this one without major rioting.

 

Movie Review: Hell or High Water

‘Hell or High Water’ is a 2016 bank-heist thriller set in a gritty and impoverished West Texas.

However, despite the plot this really is a story of two brothers – and the lengths they’ll go to to save the family farm.

With clever casting by Director, David Mackenzie (‘Starred Up’, ‘Perfect Sense’), the performances are stand out and drive the film through any moments where the script seems to languish.

 

Chris Pine gives a surprisingly subtle performance as straight arrow and quietly intelligent, Toby. While Ben Forster dominates his scenes as twitchy, loose cannon, Tanner.

 

Although this is a steady drama, there is a notably acidic humour throughout the film: the bulk of which comes from the partnership of old-grizzled sheriff Hamilton – played with great gusto by Jeff Bridges – and his patient deputy sidekick, Alberto (Gil Birmingham).

 

Jeff Bridges has been receiving great reviews for his performance as a crusty, about-to-retire US marshall. Personally, I thought he was good in the role – but would credit Ben Forster with the best performance in the film.

 

Although it’s labeled a ‘thriller’ this is a slower character driven film and I recommend it this for those who enjoy a modern western with some depth.

It’s currently playing second run theatres in Calgary – and given it’s atmospheric cinematography, get out and see this on the big screen before it’s too late.

Here’s the official trailer for you to check out:

 

Annual blues: my top 8 change-of-season helpers

Well this year the cold has come early, with the first snow fall arriving before Canadian Thanksgiving.

And although Calgary is one of the sunniest places in Canada, each year I experience a blue phase as the light fades and the temperature drops.

Unfortunately with the decreased sun exposure the brain produces less and less serotonin (the ‘happy’ brain hormone associated with mood elevation).

Yet the trees turn the most spectacular shades of gold, amber and red – then dropping their leaves in wild, giant, fun-to-kick, irresistible piles.

 

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Waking up in the dark and the cold, pitch-black evenings are already getting to me, so here’s my top 8 of seasonal helpers:

1. A change of season = a change of food. It’s time to put away the tropical fruits and salads and eat earthier, more weighty foods. Eating seasonally helps give my body what it needs to adjust to the cold: in my case, root vegetables, cold weather fruits, dark leafy greens, whole grains and flavourful soups.

2. Get out a favourite scarf. Or hat or jacket or boots. Nothing sucks more than being cold in the cold. Long johns, a wooly hat, cute mittens: sometimes it’s the little things.

 

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3. Cut down on evening social plans. In the Great White North, Fall and Winter are traditionally a time of renewal. I trim back my socializing and let my natural introvert stay home and rug up on the couch: it’s already dark by dinner time anyway.

4. This is a time to catchup on all of those wonderful hobbies that were swept aside in the summer heat-wave fever. Fall is a great time to start a new crafty project – or perhaps even prepare christmas gifts. Enjoying creative activities in the house has been essential to helping me get through the darker months.

5. Enjoy the cooler weather with plenty of tea. Some folks get excited for pumpkin spice beverages at this time of year, but I’m an avid tea drinker. At this time of year I switch focus from water to herbal teas.

6. Find something outdoors that you enjoy doing – even in the middle of winter. This latest one is my newest: last winter I spent time learning to ski, skate and play shinny. What a difference! Getting out amongst nature on a cold but sunny day not only lifts my mood, but produces all those good exercise chemicals.

 

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7. Take Vitamin D daily. This magical nutrient helps the body absorb calcium. It also helps muscles, nerves and the immune system work properly. If you live in Canada, you’re likely Vitamin D deficient which can really affect mood. (Aussies, you can probably skip this one!)

8. Perhaps best of all is to remember that it’s transitional and impermanent – and truly only here for a short period of time. Deepak Chopra says that however we perceive an event to be, is how it is. In other words, attitude is perhaps the most important thing to enjoying your whole year without complaint.

What could you do to make these darker months easier and more enjoyable for yourself?

 

Midweek Music Moment: Sirens of Jupiter

Today’s Midweek Music Moment is the lush and soulful tune ‘Sirens of Jupiter’ from The Olympians debut, self-titled album.

Laid on the major soul foundations of artists such as Sharon Jones, Lee Fields and Charles Bradley, each track on this instrumental album tells a story of the Greek Gods.

Released on the Daptone label just two weeks ago, this is the only available track so far – but if the rest of the album is as good as this first release, it’s going to be dynamite!

 

 

The Olympians is a ‘melting-pot’ band featuring Thomas Brenneck (Menahan Street Band, Budos Band, Charles Bradley) Dave Guy (Tonight Show Band, The Dap-Kings) Leon Michels (The Arcs, Lee Fields), Nicholas Movshon, Homer Steinweiss (The Dap-Kings), Michael Leonhart, Neal Sugarman (The Dap-Kings), Evan Pazner (Lee Fields), and the creative mastermind of Toby Pazner.

And while we’re getting funky, let’s get your toes-a-tapping to this Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings tune ‘I Learned the Hard Way’ (this is the title track off her 2010 album).

 

 

Movie Review: Deadpool

‘Deadpool’ is a 2016 Marvel action-comedy film based on the comic book hero of the same name.

 

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Although ‘Deadpool’ has a strong fan following, it’s a newer comic (first published in 1991) and you might not have heard of it until now.

 

Starring Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool: a wise-cracking mercenary who is given accelerated healing powers after a rogue experiment – the film is propelled by his energy, sass and cynical delivery.

 

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Ryan Reynolds first played a freakish version of Deadpool in 2009 in’ X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ as a side character and eventual villain. (Wolverine and Deadpool went through the same Weapon X Program)

 

With solid direction from first-time Director, Tim Miller, the film’s only real downfall is it’s predictable storyline.

 

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Although this is Miller’s feature film debut, he is known for the opening title sequences in ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ and ‘Thor: The Dark World’.

 

Given Deadpool’s wild commentary and over-the-top behaviour, there is an opportunity here to push the plot far more out of the mainstream. And perhaps it will show up in a sequel?

Despite the standard superhero storyline, ‘Deadpool’ was really entertaining and is certainly worth a viewing.

Note that it’s rated R for it’s extreme violence (which it is) and over-the-top obscenity (that didn’t bother me so much), and is definitely not suitable for kids.

Available on Netflix and here’s the official trailer for you to check out: