The Gift of Responsibility

Welcome to my first ever Friday vlog (video blog)!

Today is the first of a new format that I’m trying out – I plan to post each Friday with a short video on what’s on my mind this week.

 

Midweek Music Moment: The Quiet Crowd

Patrick Watson is one of my favourite Canadian singer-songwriters. An established member of the Montreal music scene, this guy just oozes talent and cool.

Although he might not be topping any mainstream charts anytime soon, he did beat out Arcade Fire for the Polaris Prize with his 2007 album ‘Close to Paradise’.

With his distinctive vocals, innovative instrumentation and thoughtful lyrics: his albums are full of memorable and diverse ballads.

Today’s Midweek Music Moment is this wonderfully atmospheric tune ‘The Quiet Crowd’. Not only does it sound great, but it contains one of my all-time favourite lyrics: ‘Everyone’s got a little wrong in all the right places’

 

 

His 2015 album, “Love Songs for Robots’ has a more produced, lusher sound than his previous work – which doesn’t showcase his vocals as much as his acoustic pieces, but nonetheless has great energy and wonderful atmosphere.

‘Places you’ll go’ is a great example of his latest sound:

 

 

And if you feel like a truly weird art video (inspired by German ballet ‘Das Triadische Ballet’) then here’s a great one to checkout for ‘Love Songs for Robots’:

 

 

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention his classical prowess. If you love contemporary, sweeping soundtracks as much as I do, then you’ll want to explore his 2016 ‘9th Life of Louis Drax’ soundtrack.

 

Movie Review: Spy

‘Spy’ is a likeable 2015 comedy that showcases the slapstick talents of comedian, Melissa McCarthy.

A smart and quirky ‘everywoman’ – complete with low self-esteem, wardrobe fails and pie-in-the-sky dreams – Susan (McCarthy) is eager to prove that she’s got what it takes to succeed.

This light-hearted movie follows Susan as she kicks, punches, schmoozes and clevers her way through various dire espionage situations.

 

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The movie is worth it just for the costume changes alone!

 

With a great ensemble cast that includes Jason Statham, Jude Law, Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne and Miranda Hart (‘Chummy’ from ‘Call the Midwife’) the script is silly, playful and easy to enjoy.

 

There are some wonderfully strong female characters in the film, with most of the main relationships being between women.

 

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Despite the comedy leaning there are still some big budget, highly technical stunts and a good dose of international spy glamour.

 

Directed by comedy aficionado, Paul Feig (‘Bridesmaids’, ‘The Heat’, the new ‘Ghostbusters’), this is the film to watch when you’re looking for an uplifting action film with some strong female characters.

 

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Passionate about strong female roles, Feig said he was aiming to direct a ‘funny Casino Royale’ because it was the closest he would ever get to directing his own Bond film.

 

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

 

Midweek Music Moment: Mozart’s Requiem

Every now and again I’m in the mood for some classical melodrama.

And surely one of the most dramatic and powerful classical pieces is Mozart’s Requiem.

His final masterpiece, it was commissioned in 1791 by an Austrian count as a tribute to the passing of his young wife – but Mozart who was suffering with an undiagnosed illness at the time – came to believe it was his own requiem that he was writing.

 

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c1780, this portrait of Mozart is one of the most popular. He was 24 years old at the time and hadn’t quite made the ‘big time’ yet.

 

Unfortunately Wolfgang’s ‘spidey sense’  was proved right, and he died before he finished the work (there are many theories but we still don’t know exactly what he died of) which was later finished by his understudy.

Today’s Midweek Music Moment is this ‘shorter’ 8 minute version for you to get a feel for the piece. It’s had a whopping 63 Million YouTube views, which is impressive considering the competition.

 

 

And if you’ve got a full hour and interested in the complete piece you can enjoy this intimate performance here:

 

Movie Review: Dr Strange

‘Dr Strange’ is the latest whizz-bang blockbuster in the Marvel universe, and currently dominating North American box office numbers.

Wonderfully played by Benedict Cumberbatch, Dr Strange is an arrogant, self-absorbed neurosurgeon who seeks his own salvation and healing after a life-altering accident.

 

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Cumberbatch sizzles on camera, but his star power has been thoughtfully balanced by a truly veteran cast of Mads Mikelsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton and Benedict Wong (to name a few).

 

Tilda Swinton’s teachings as The Ancient One, lead Dr Strange to the mystic arts and a multi-dimensional universe.

 

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Mads Mikelsen acting prowess brings an intelligent, dark character who’s logic is quite convincing at times.

 

Given the stunning visuals created by the joint power houses of Disney and Marvel, this is a slick, new Marvel universe to explore – and I strongly suggest you see it on the biggest screen you can find.

 

The sets are stunning, with much of the movie filmed on location in Nepal.

 

Unfortunately though it’s this same strength that leaves ‘Dr Strange’ feeling a little light on depth. With so much CGI and a lack of character development (in patches), I was left wanting more from this exciting and complex world.

In particular Dr Strange’s arrogance seems justified when realizing that he really doesn’t have to work too hard for anything: including his magical expertise that comes after just a few short months of training.

I highly recommend this film for scifi fans and those who follow the Marvel universe, others will be turned on by the incredible visuals but might ultimately tune out from the somewhat-predictable storyline.

Currently playing on the big screen, here’s the official trailer for you to check out (oh, and make sure you stay for the credits):

 

Dropping the ball

We live in a world where the pressure to perform on all levels – at all times – is enormous.

Just under 200 years ago, when worldwide life expectancy was less than 40 years old – we didn’t worry about our bones, our retirement, our careers, our teeth, paying off our houses, saving for the kids college fund, losing that extra 10 pounds….

Life was short and hard and simply not dying of plague, childbirth, war or famine was the goal.

 

 

Today with greatly increased life spans and social imaging sites like Crackbook and Instafame crowing others success all day long, it’s normal and natural that we’re going to feel like we don’t measure up sometimes.

Yet the truth is that everyone drops the ball. Regularly.

For instance, I was eating McDonalds fries at 10pm last night. (I know, outrageous!)

 

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Delicious, salty, greasy cancer. Yum Yum.

 

And nowhere do I see this ruthless self-comparison harsher than with parenting friends.

 

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Dear Parents, you’re doing an amazing job! Take it easy on yourself.

 

I believe one of the true successes in life is learning to make mistakes with grace, kindness and self-compassion.

Being human means dropping the ball – and the gift of what I can learn and how I can grow from it.

 

Texas Rangers first baseman Brandon Snyder, left, and shortstop Elvis Andrus collide as they drop a pop fly by Baltimore Orioles' Robert Andino in the seventh inning of the first baseball game of a doubleheader in Baltimore, Thursday, May 10, 2012. Baltimore won 6-5. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

 

 

 

Midweek Music Moment: Million Reasons

As you know I’m quite the Lady Gaga fan these days, and her new almost-country song ‘Million Reasons’ has only further sealed the deal.

Since the first time I heard it on James Corden’s carpool karaoke, I haven’t been able to get the catchy tune out of my head.

It’s from her fifth LP, ‘Joanne’ – which has only been out for ten days – yet has already topped charts in the US, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Currently #1 on the iTunes chart, here’s ‘Million Reasons’ for you:

 

 

And if that wasn’t enough to impress, check out her flawless SNL (Saturday Night Live) vocal audio. Like her or love her (not digging the clingy pink swimsuit capey thing in this performance), you can’t deny the power of her voice!

 

Movie Review: The Intouchables

‘The Intouchables’ is an uplifting 2011 French buddy-comedy.

A French and European box office hit, the film is based on the true story of wealthy quadriplegic Phillipe Pozzo Di Borgo, and his Arabic ‘from the other side of the tracks’ caregiver, Abdel.

 

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Phillipe and Abdel today: there was some backlash for the casting of African, Omar Sy to play an Arabic man.

 

Beautifully written and directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano (‘Samba’, ‘Those Happy Days’), the movie glides along with wit, charm and humour.

But it really is the casting that really elevates this film beyond your typical ‘odd couple’ flick.

Surrounded by careful, well-paid attendants, Phillipe is looking for someone to shake things up. And when he hires ex-con Abdel, it’s an invigorating breath of fresh air.

 

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Driss’ upbeat energy and love of life is infectious to everyone around him.

 

The camaraderie between Francois Cluzet (Phillipe) and Omar Sy (Driss) lights up the screen and carries us through some prickly subject matter.

 

The film is sensitively directed through some prickly subject matter with Phillipe facing a difficult reality where he has been deprived of many of the things he once took for granted.

 

In the wrong hands ‘The Intouchables’ could have been a sentimental mess, but in this case what we have is a light-hearted testament to the power of camaraderie.

Filmed in French with English subtitles, I highly recommend this film to anyone looking for an uplifting story of friendship.

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

 

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: