“Total Recall” trailer elicits totall recall

The new Total Recall trailer is very cool and actually changed my mind about this movie. I think it could be good, and not simply because it was shot in Toronto last year. Here is a link to watch it.

Total Recall is a strange choice for a remake. After all, the first one came out in 1990. Was that really such a long time ago? And I think it was pretty damn good; one of Arnold’s last best action movies. What more could be done with it now?

But the trailer answers the question of why in a very clever way. It opens with lines that are, in many cases, word-for-word of the original. So as I started watching the trailer, my biggest fears were confirmed. At least that’s what I thought until the trailer takes a huge detour from the Arnold version that left me thinking there could be something to it after all. I am psyched!

Total Recall today...


...and yesterday.

Aubrey Dan a one-act show for Toronto

Aubrey Dan says his first act in Toronto is done but I can’t help but feel Dan was a one act show here.

Dan recently revealed that he would pull his theatre production empire, Dancap, out of Toronto after the current subscription season comes to an end, leaving Mirvish Productions back in control of Toronto’s big theatre scene.

Dancap was good for Toronto but it could have been better. The company brought a lot more choice for theatre-goers and tourists in the city, but quality was a problem. There were some great shows, like Avenue Q and Jersey Boys, but a lot of it was either sub-par or had played in this city in the recent past. Not that every show Mirvish brings to town is a winner either, but to really make its mark in Toronto Dancap had to bring something different every time.

Of course, Mirvish managed to shut Dancap out of the best theatres. And without great venues, Dancap suffered. Perhaps if Dancap didn’t lose the Canon, things would have turned out differently.

I admire Dan for his efforts and I think that, overall, the competition he brought to the Toronto theatre market forced others to do better. Hopefully the bar for quality will not fall back to pre-Dancap levels.

I will disagree that Dancap’s exit means Mirvish has a monopoly again. There is tons of great theatre in this city thanks to Soulpepper, Factory, Terragon, and others. They don’t reach mass audiences like Mirvish, nor should they aspire to.

“Westworld” stands test of time

Look at this face.

Yes indeed it’s Yul Brynner in the film “Westworld.” Why would this 1973 classic sci-fi thriller be the subject of a blog post in 2012? Because it was on TCM recently and I watched it last night after recording it on my PVR.

What a treat!

I hadn’t seen this film in many years. I had no idea it was Michael Crichton’s directorial debut. All I could remember was the scene near the end with the “acid.” But less than a year after my trip to Disney World, this film really hit home.

First of all, 70s sci-fi really stands out. I’m thinking The Andromeda Strain, Clockwork Orange, Omega Man, Silent Running, Soylent Green, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien, (Star Trek: The Motion Picture? and of course Star Wars. It was, quite simply, a great decade for the genre. And Westworld fits right in.

Westworld is about a couple of friends that go to an amusement park called Westworld. But this park takes Disney a major step further. It’s run by robots that guests can shoot or shack up with, all for the low price of $1,000 a day. The problem is the robots malfunction and start to hurt the guests. After being “killed” twice, Yul Brynner’s gunslinger robot is out for vengeance.

I remember my Disney trip well. We had a great time, but Disney is exhausting. The tram rides from the parking lot to the entrance. The line-ups. The crowds. The money. All for fleeting thrills! Crichton, who wrote Jurassic Park years later, used the theme park setting again for his tale of rebellious dinosaurs.

Disney is mindless fun but Westworld really makes you think. It raises many questions about the morality of fun and what is acceptable for our amusement. When does a robot become a being with rights that should be respected? When do we cross the line? How far will we go for escapism? When is it unethical?

Perhaps today’s theme parks aren’t far off from what Westworld warned us about back in 1973.

Too many captains

What’s the big news for Star Trek fans? All five “captains” will appear live on stage together in London this October. William Shatner. Patrick Stewart. Avery Brooks. Kate Mulgrew. Scott Bakula. On one ticket.

It would be fun to see them all together but I can think of more important reasons to travel to London, like visiting my friend Tian and his beautiful family.

All too often, seeing stars of my favourite shows on stage is a bit of a letdown. I’ve seen William Shatner a few times and he is usually entertaining. I’d love to see Patrick Stewart because, of all the group, he’s probably the best actor, though not the best “captain.” (More on that in a moment.)

But I can’t think of any question I would want to ask Brooks, Mulgrew or Bakula related to Star Trek. For Bakula, I could think of questions about his roles in Quantum Leap, American Beauty and Desperate Housewives, but his role in Star Trek is not among my favourites. Brooks and Mulgrew really don’t deserve to share the stage with the rest.

Indeed, the thought of all of them together brings home another point: Star Trek simply overstayed its welcome on TV. The focus was on pumping out quantity over quality and the entire franchise suffered for it. I’d rather have great Star Trek on the big screen every couple of years rather than mediocre Star Trek every week on TV.

All five Star Trek captains will appear on stage together in London. A sign of too much Trek?

But I digress.

It should be obvious that Shatner and Stewart are my top two captains. Do I need to pick a favourite? They are both great actors, each in their own way. I think it comes down to which “character” I like the best – Kirk or Picard.

If I wanted to have a cup of tea and talk Shakespeare, Picard is my man.

But if I was a petty officer on the Enterprise, under which captain would I feel safer – the one with Kirk or Picard in command? Who would I rather have an ale with in the ship’s cantina? Who would I step in the way of a phaser blast to protect? Who is worth standing in line for two hours to get an $80 autograph?

Kirk wins.

Courageous artist sets fine example

Some people can find art in everyday life – like Allison Leadley.

The Toronto Star wrote a great article about her recent adventure in the streets of Toronto. What did she do? She placed two chairs on the bustling corner of Queen and Spadina then sat and waited for someone to sit down. No one did it at first, but that soon changed.

According to the story, some people sat for a few minutes while others stayed over an hour talking about…life! Of course, many others pretended that she wasn’t there at all.

An experiment? Performance art? Perhaps a little bit of both (or neither).

Performance art: don't try this at home.

If I had been on that corner the day she was there, I am pretty sure I would have been “one of those” and walked right by her without doing anything. I just wouldn’t want to draw attention to myself. That is too bad for me.

Had I the courage, I would have told her all about my blog and how much fun I am having with it. I would explain how much I enjoy writing about whatever I want within the “sophisticated fan” theme I created. I would tell her about all the surprisingly good feedback and comments from complete strangers around the world the blog has received.

Ah, the art of the everyday and mundane. Who would have thought it could be so interesting.


He-Man to make comic book comeback

He-Man is making a comeback.

Not in a feature film. Not a television show. But a comic book. Hey, it’s better than nothing!

He-Man – the original series – was one of my favourite Filmation cartoons. I loved the stories, the morals, the whole mythos of Eternia and its heroes and villains. Sure, it started as a toy line and evolved into other media, which is the reverse of how it’s usually done.

The difference with He-Man is that it gave birth to a whole new generation of animators, namely the great Bruce Timm, who went on to do Batman: The Animated Series. One of Timm’s first gigs was He-Man, which explains the high quality of the series.

The concept of the “new” He-Man series sounds interesting. Skeletor wins a major victory and wipes the memories of Eternia’s inhabitants. Will He-Man regain his memory and set the world straight? It should be a fun six-issue mini series starting in July.

He-Man returns via a new comic book series (and likely a new toyline too).

President Obama gives new meaning to the phrase “to the stars”

It’s official: the President of the United States is a Star Trek fan and has a thing for Uhura. Clearly there’s a wider audience for this site than I anticipated.

Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed the strong and beautiful Lt. Uhura on Star Trek, is a wonderful woman. I’ve seen her in person many times and her stories from the past – television’s first interracial kiss with William Shatner, speaking to Martin Luther King, attending the first Space Shutle launch - are always worth listening to.

And what fanboy didn’t have a crush on her growing up watching Trek re-runs? Barak Obama and myself (and Sulu) weren’t the only ones. Below are photographic examples of her range of talent, from the sophisticated to the sexy. Cheers, Nichelle!

Shakespeare like you’ve never heard it before

I have often wondered what it would have been like to experience Shakespeare in Shakespeare’s time. Until recently, I never considered that the Bard’s words would have sounded even better using their “original pronunciation.”

Thanks to the work of British father-and-son team David and Ben Crystal, we can now hear Shakespeare as the Elizabethans did.

The duo assembled a CD, released by the British Library, of Shakespeare recordings – sonnets and plays – called “Shakespeare’s Original Pronunciation.” For the first time, we can hear Shakespeare’s works as they orginally sounded 400 years ago.

A few clips I listened to weren’t as difficult to understand as I expected. There is a rawness to it but it’s decidedly Shakespeare. I would welcome a chance to sit through any Shakespeare production employing “original pronunciation,” or OP.

Laurence Olivier in "Hamlet": Shakespeare himself would probably prefer the Klingon version to this one.

Thanks to this research, we no long have to wonder why so many of Shakespeare’s sonnets don’t rhyme. In fact they do rhyme – or they did – until the pronunciation of the words changed. It’s not the Bard’s fault, it’s the evolution of language from Early Modern English to what exists today that’s to blame.

Lawrence Olivier, one of the 20th century’s most acclaimed Shakespearean actors, probably would have been laughed off the stage in the 1600s, as his performance would have come across as “over-acting” (even by today’s standards) compared to the slickness of the OP.

Kudos to David and Ben. They’ve opened our eyes to a whole new dimension of art preservation and appreciation.

“Game Change” too good for small screen

The HBO film Game Change has been sitting in my PVR for a few weeks and I’m glad I finally got to it. The movie is superb.

Game Change chronicles Sarah Palin’s run for vice-president in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Campaign. I will leave others to debate its accuracy. While Palin and John McCain have dismissed the film as fantasy, the filmmakers stand by their 25 other sources. Was Palin really unable to identify the location of Germany on a world map? Again, I’ll let others pick up that discussion.

Fact or fiction (probably somewhere in between), it’s great drama. The combination of director Jay Roach, who helmed the Austin Powers films and three of Hollywood’s finest actors – Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Ed Harris – results in pure movie magic. If I paid to see this in a movie house, I would not have been disappointed.

Moore, Harrelson and Harris are awesome in "Game Change."

With every accent and mannerism, Julianne Moore makes you believe she is Sarah Palin. Woody Harrelson takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions as McCain’s campaign manager Steve Schmidt. And if you didn’t think much of John McCain before, Ed Harris’s convincing portrayal could change your mind.

I remember the moment McCain announced Palin as his running mate. It terrified me. Not because of her lack of foreign policy experience. But because it was great strategic move that could undermine Obama.  At least that’s how it appeared at first. What this film does brilliantly is show how a great idea may not actually be so great once the “truth” comes out.

And to think I recently cancelled my HBO subscription. On second thought, that was probably a bad idea.