Swordfish Doesn’t Even Taste Good Anyway (The Fast and the Furious 15th Anniversary)

Fifteen years ago my life changed, and for the better.

Last Wednesday marked the anniversary of that transformative experience and so I sat down in a theatre by myself to watch my favourite movie of all time and reflect on it’s impact on my own life – I remember that first experience like it was yesterday, dear readers.

My best and oldest friend, who we’ll call Rick for the sake of the story, was living in the city of Airdrie and I was visiting him for a couple of weeks at the start of the summer. We had grown up on the same block, living in mirrored houses of all things, and we spent most of our free time together, though we did go to different schools and had somewhat different hobbies, we were inseperable. Life was pretty good for two young boys, and we got into all kinds of adventures until he moved to Drumheller for his dads new job after the final year of elementary school.

So Rick and his family lived in Drumheller for the next 3 years and we would hang out for at holidays and in the summer, and we did our best to keep in touch. Initially with letters and phone calls, migrating to MSN messenger as new tech become available. And then Rick and his family moved a second time – now to Airdrie for another 3 years, right at the start of high school. I mention this because it helps bookend those memories for Rick and I and it REALLY helps me in the recall of this tale.

In the summer of 2001 Rick and I had both finished grade 10, hormones raging away. We decided to sneak into an 18A movie, but because we weren’t 18 yet, we needed to buy tickets for another movie first. What did we want to see you ask? Well if your memory is as good as mine, you’ll know that Swordfish had just come out that summer, and Halle Berry was paid an additional $500,000 to go topless in the movie. $250,000 per breast if you want to be specific.

As straight CIS males in the midst of puberty, and who didn’t have high speed internet, money, or legal adult status, nudity was in high demand for us. To put it another way the sexuality supply was short. And so, context given.

But we chickened out, and ended up in the theatre for The Fast and the Furious instead. Thus, my first taste of this franchise was born. On first pass I thought it was a fun action movie, but I didn’t make too big of a deal out of it, because I didn’t drive yet, and the actors were unknown. It was quotable though.

The summer concluded, and I went back to school, though I decided it was high time to get a part-time job at an arcade called Playdium. I learnt a lot about retail, people, and West Edmonton Mall working there, but most of all I watched a lot of partial movies on my breaks. I must of seen The Fast and the Furious in 30 and 15 minutes pieces over 15 complete times that year. This is because one of the older techs at Playdium lived on his own and would record movies from the movie channel onto VHS and bring it in for the staff. And so the quotes and culture of the first Fast became ingrained in my mind.

It was tough to invest in the franchise though, because as the as the first couple of sequels came out, I was entering into university, and getting involved with hipsters and philosopher king types. So my love of movies and brooding love for Vin Diesel and Paul Walker took a back seat. I would tell people it was my favourite movie, mostly under the thin veil of irony, and I also proclaimed that it was a standalone film.

Then I graduated from university and a couple of years later Fast & Furious came out in April of 2009 – I finally had a true sequel with the original cast and the beginnings of a tie-in with the 2nd and 3rd entries. As movies were added, the ensemble cast grew and the relationships between characters evolved. And then I realized that I had grown as well.

As a cultivators of the arts, a student of film, and a fan of this franchise, I can say confidently that The Fast and the Furious instills values of friendship, love, and family from it’s first few minutes all the way throughout its films and into the culture.

Best of all, in watching this limited release I had an opportunity to see advance footage from the set of the 8th instalment, and I was not disappointed. This is a franchise that has grown organically and so has it’s fanbase. I was so happy to see a packed theatre last Wednesday, and you really do feel like part of a family sharing with these actors and their characters.

Most of the already existing posts on this re-release have focused on the scale of the franchise and the “improbability” of it’s success. But what has been ignored time and time again is that at it’s core The Fast and the Furious is about heart and honour, it started out as films about car thieves, and slowly evolved into superheroes, but the heart has always been there, and I think that’s why it’s beaten the odds. But hey, that might just be a theory.

Tim!

Toot Toot, Beep Beep (Midnight Special review)

Science fiction is supposed to challenge and stimulate our thoughts about life. This is usually accomplished through escapism and “what if” situations.

But what is curious is how it does it.

You see, I have this theory that one of the best ways to share new ideas is through science fiction, because the medium inherently combines the creative with the analytical. And it cuts through all of the ego, to get to the root of humanity… and what makes us special.

 

 

 

Midnight Special (2016)

Cast: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Jaeden Lieberher, Adam Driver
Director: Jeff Nichols
released on blu-ray June 21, 2016
********** 10/10

Midnight-Special-Poster

IMDB: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, Audience Score 72%
The Guardian: ****/*****

 

Jeff Nichols is an American film director known for making independant films with minimal budget. He has now directed four films total (Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, Mud, and Midnight Special) and is currently working on a fifth movie about prejudice against interracial marriage in the 1970s. That movie is called Loving.

All of these films are dramas, though Midnight Special is without a doubt the most interesting film he has made to date. And it should be noted Nichols has cast Michael Shannon as his lead three times now, with Matthew McConaughey as an alternate and correctly chosen for 2012’s Mud.

Which came out just a year before McConaughey got his Best Actor award at the Oscars for Dallas Buyers Club. So keep that in mind.

Set in the the southern United States, I believe somewhere in Texas, Roy (Michael Shannon) and his friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton) have seemingly kidnapped a young boy named Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) – who we later find out is Roy’s son.

Roy and Lucas are on a mission to return Alton to his mother Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) and eventually get Alton to an undisclosed location by a certain date. The movie reveals information to us in pieces. With each piece of information letting us in on the story a bit more.

It turns out that Alton and his parents were part of a religious cult, and because Alton possesses latent supernatural abilities, which are also slowly revealed to us, the FBI has become involved and sent Paul Sevier (Adam Driver) to investigate cult.

To reveal more of the plot would be a huge disservice to the story, but before I move on, I will mention this, this film is grounded the grittiness of dramas of the 1970s, very slowly giving ways to fantastic wonderment of early 1980s science fiction. And it is amazing to behold.

ProsThe story manages to avoid direct violence and rely on the imagination where necessary, but also use CGI in a way that the story becomes better, rather than extraneous. The relationships between family, friends, and believers are beautifully depicted.

Cons: At times the pacing felt too rushed, while other times it was oddly slow. And so the movie often feels strange, and the tension never raises to a point where leads are in imminent danger.

Runtime1 hour 52 minutes

Points of InterestJeff Nichols wrote the film as an allusion to becoming a father himself, and it was shot over a period of 40 days.

Midnight Special is, to use a single word, special. It is an excellent example of GOOD modern storytelling in that it relies on both practical filmmaking camera work and CGI to tell its narrative. It’s cast is well chosen and the implications of the final reveal make it worthwhile on any science fiction fan shelf, but it holds a special place in the current political environment as well.

I still don’t really know why the movie is called Midnight Special, I think it has something to do with the song, but maybe that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the movie is accessible and addresses issues that we can all relate to. And so it qualifies as good science fiction.

But what do you think? See you tomorrow with some wisdom, dear readers.

Tim!

A Return To Reform (Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool review)

We all have a point in our life when we do terrible things, and everyone around us, including ourselves suffers, but I truly believe that out of tragedy greatness can be achieved… And that’s what this week’s music review is all about.

 

 

 

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
released June 17, 2016
********* 9/10

xlda790-radiohead

This is the 9th studio album by Radiohead. Radiohead are an English experimental rock and electronica band that formed up in 1985, which as a personal anecdote, is the year I was born. Made up of Thom Yorke (mostly lead vocals), Jonny Greenwood (mostly lead guitarist), Ed O’Brien (guitar), Colin Greenwood (bass), and Phil Selway (drums), they have all worked together since the band’s formation.

Two more fun facts before we move into the review. First, their breakout single, Creep, was released in 1992, the year my youngest brother was born which demonstrates the 7 year gap between their formation and “breakout” succes. Second, Radiohead has used the same visual artist (Stanley Donwood) to design their album art, Thom Yorke’s solo ablums, and Yorke’s part-time gig, Atoms for Peace.

A Moon Shaped Pool has a really high score on Metacritic and has received high praise in all of the album reviews I’ve read thus far. As a long-time fan of the band and despite really really enjoying this new album, I am at something of a loss though as I don’t own nor have I really listened to their previous record, The King of Limbs. I mention this because at it’s time of release I had heard bad things about TKOL and couldn’t be bothered with it.

And now I read statements about how much of a hot mess King of Limbs was, and while I personally see why this is an excellent Radiohead album, I can’t make that comparison.

But fuck that, it shouldn’t even matter. If we all operated in a vacuum this review would be incredibly different, so you got my backstory, my perspective and I suspect the review is all the richer for it.

I remember when I was a bright young university student. Full of angst, rebellion, and a thirst for melancholy. It only made sense that one of my professors thought I was a huge fan of Radiohead, a joke not lost on me at this stage of my life.

But Radiohead have traded in their mopey sad songs for dreams and the eternal – This is best showcased on the tracks Daydreaming and Decks Dark which are early enough in the record to solidify this new position.

Opener Burn The Witch is typical of Radiohead and well constructed like a much needed timepiece for our generations arm. Especially since it’s an older song finally realized in studio format. The story about lynch mobs can be applied to any number of current pop culture and political hysteria too.

And in case you were wondering, the electronics that made Radiohead synonymous with alienation and genius, and consequently the root of numerous imitations, is alive and well. If you listen to Identikit, The Numbers or Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor […] in isolation, you’ll get  that old familar feeling.

On Present Tense, I’m reminded of the entire vibe of the amazingly good album In Rainbows, which is cool because that album came out in 2007 and Radiohead have been honing this song since that time period. But the best is definitely last and will pay service to true fans. True Love Waits has been part of their archives since the mid 1990s.

I can’t say enough good things about this album, because the band fused two things. They took what we love about Radiohead and simultaneously helped themselves push forward, which is the reason why they keep making records. Would I say this is their best album ever? I don’t know, but would I say it’s one of the best albums of this year or even of this decade. Yeah, yeah I would.

 

 

 

Sometimes you have to hit your lowest low to realized what the hell you were doing there in the first place and why you care about what you care about, The King of Limbs was definitely a low point for Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool is a demonstration of a return to their power to reform. And yes I am using multiple definitions there. I’m theoried out friends, I’ll see you tomorrow with a movie review.

Tim!

Is There Any Way To Make It Play Itself? (Real Time Games update)

A few months back I wrote a niche post about an idea we have at timotheories.

I put it fairly directly at the time, and it still rings true, but I’ll expand on that idea today. The idea was one that might be obvious, but like many obvious ideas, it should be repeated. BECAUSE it’s important – Board games have been associated with children, fun, and idle time for a few decades, but the truth is that not only are they a lot of fun, they are now absolutely useful and necessary in our culture.

And they will continue to be a key feature of life as we become more reliant on digital tech to work, communicate, and conduct most affairs in our personal lives.

The reason for this need is that board games do something that is really is important for human beings, but which cannot be achieved via digital tech. Direct human contact.

See a little light bulb just went off, didn’t it?

But before we continue, we should clarify that much like realm of advertising, which is a component of marketing, and not a root word, board games are a facet of something larger and should be used in context. As dogs are to mammals, board games are a type of table top gaming.

Table top gaming can refer to games played with dice, cards, on a board, with tiles, timers, miniatures, wargames, and any other variation that would be done on a flat surface. Which is what separates them from live action role-playing games, video games or sports games. Which is why I would make the argument that playing sports or playing video games in the same room as your friends works decently well too. But video games aren’t made that way any more

As for the politics surrounding chance for strategy in table top gaming, let’s not get into that today.

This is where Real Time Games came into the fold – Real Time Games, as I’ve mentioned before, is about people and sharing the joy of board games with them. My brother Ryan and I set up a weekly gaming group so that we could ensure that we spread the message, so-to-speak, about the hundreds of hobby games now available and which have slowly been cropping up since the turn of the century.

Nowadays, there are all kinds of hobby websites, YouTube channels, brick-and-mortar stores, and organizations that help promote this niche industry. But the proletariat are less versed in culture shift that needs to take place.

Yes, it’s happening, but ever-so-slowly, which is ironic given the motility we are supposed to have with the current technology at our fingertips.

And so we play different games every week, with the intent of sharing the social value of the games that we play. And my original plan was to develop a video series for Real Time Games wherein we discussed the value of said games via a standard table top review. But it occurred to me that that wasn’t a realistic use of Ryan’s time, and he wasn’t comfortable getting in front of the camera to declare expertise. So the idea sat, and ruminated for 6 months or so.

But now it looks like I have found a new partner in crime, and so Real Time Games evolves to become more timely delivering content to those who are using technology but looking for analog connection.

So please stay tuned as that idea unfolds. Because we’ll be discussing the latest and greatest at Edmonton’s new hot spot, The Gamer’s Lodge. I’m not going to reveal any more, since I’m out of theories for today, but stay tuned as I work with my new partner to set up this regular service and help flesh out our community.

Tim!

A Full Plate (The Works)

There are not a lot of purely visual art based festivals in North America.

It’s a sad reality, and one that I’ve never had the problem of in my entire life. Seriously, I’ve always had a festival for visual art and design in my city. There has been a group of artists dedicated to providing programming for artists since 1985.

They build a festival called The Works and are now celebrating the 31st year of their labour.

The Works International Visual Arts Society has a long-standing tradition of delivering a combination of excellent food and even more excellent art over a period of 2 weeks. They do this through The Works Art & Design festival, which is the largest FREE outdoor art and design festival in North America.

The event averages 60 exhibits via 29 venues throughout the downtown core and surrounding areas of the City, while the food and art vendors occupy 1 square kilometer of space in Churchill square. I’ve stolen The Works map for quick reference.

Downtown Map Final

This is seriously one of my favourite events in the Festival City because it features street performers, 90+ musical performances, tours, demonstrations and all sorts of performance art.

More impressive is the giant list of volunteers and education programs that allow emerging artists the opportunity to explore the art community and truly see what is involved with a career in the arts. Whether it’s an internship in exhibition production, curation, design, administration or marketing, there are a number of opportunities available and a consistently surprising amount of information to unpack.

Let me put it this way, the interns begin their work placement at the start of May and carry through all the way to the end of the summer.

And there are TONS of opportunities if you want to volunteer too. Working on the street as a greeter, in grounds maintenance, and working on the patio are just some examples. But if you want to get involved with the exhibitions there are a number of places that need help with the programs, administration, and installation.  I know this from personal experience and because I had friends and a former girlfriend spend their time helping out with the festival over their summers in previous years.

That being said, I don’t think it matters if you are a visual artist, an art enthusiast or simply a spectator, The Works International Visual Arts Society is delivering again this year. And you’ll literally (read:literally) have a full plate when you arrive and you’ll literally (read:metaphorically) have a full plate when you leave.

The Works is located at 10635 95th street Edmonton, Alberta, between June 23 and July 5. Check out their website for more information! I’m out of theories for this week friends, so check back on Sunday for something stimulating!

Tim!