11 Ways People Die Before Death (Cross Talk Ep. 9)

Death is a difficult thing to write about, I think. After all, I’m still alive and so I have no life experience (death experience?) with this particular topic. Films have addressed death since their inception in the early 1900s, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that more honest portrayals of death started to come to light. Much like sex, drugs, and rock n ‘roll, filmmakers have slowly opened up and arts and culture have become more accepting of these harder to digest themes.

For instance, one of my favourite movies about death is The Fault In Our Stars, which is full of love and beauty, but is also a very real in its depiction of the nearness to death that the two leads are experiencing.

But when we record an episode of Cross Talk, we want to present a nuanced view of whatever topic we set out sights on. So why would we treat death any differently. We wouldn’t, is the answer – because we think using our brains is important.

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With that made clear, we are going to explore a lot of great examples of the nature of death, in film on this episode nine of Cross Talk. You want to know more, dear readers? Well how about I lay it out for you?

We’re going to share an example of a character that can’t die, but not for an very obvious reason, associations of death and greed, an animated movie death that changed a franchise, whether we are really alive, dead or somewhere in between, if death is as unique as life is, and two movies that explore the idea of what we might do if knew we couldn’t die OR if we knew when we were going to die.

Just a quick disclaimer, Singh won’t be present for this episode, but we do give him a shout out, so please stay tuned for his next appearance; and as always, I’ve included a direct link to the full video for you here, but because we have the ability to embed vidoes you can click through here. After all, wouldn’t want you to waste any precious life overexerting yourself watching episode nine of Cross Talk!

I’m out of theories for now, but please check back tomorrow for an album review that is full of lemonade and bae. It’s a heart breaker for sure. Please comment, subscribe, and share this with friends. We want to hear your feedback!

Tim!

The Good Life (Taste of Edmonton)

This has gotta be the good life, we’re all still young enough to say that right? Right! The city is on fire and there is a feeling you can’t fight, so I know that means we should get out there and watch the day turn into night, because after that who knows what’ll happen.
Well I have a pretty good idea – Good music, food, drinks, and friends.
That’s usually what you hone in on when you look to develop your taste. And I’m not just talking about your cultural preferences of art, style and behaviour, I’m also referring to that which determines your food palette.
Luckily enough there is a local event that takes place every summer, and right around the the time that Fringe festival is getting ready to ramp up. That’s right, I’m talking about Taste of Edmonton. A local event that takes place over ten days and which is held at the core of downtown Edmonton in Sir Winston Churchill Square.
Like a few other festivals that take place in the summer here, Taste of Edmonton is the largest food tasting based festival in all of Western Canada. And it just so happens to include some other components.
There are culinary based workshops and lectures, and a fantastic sound stage which features all kinds of musical talent, both local and international, to give some fantastic atmosphere to all of the food trucks and pop up tents that appear during the festival.
Some of the names that I’m familiar with already are Shawn Desmon, Prozzak, and Scenic Route to Alaska, but there are twenty nine acts  taking the stage over the ten days, and because we are THE festival city, you know that whoever is performing will be high-calibre and entertaining.
After all, Taste of Edmonton gets attendance in the neighbourhood of 500,000 people every year, and this year marks the 30th anniversary of the event with a new venue called Sip ‘n Savour to help you take it all in. And I think best of all, entrance to the festival is free, so if you don’t “want” to eat every single time you visit, you can grab a drink and enjoy some music outside.
Now for the details.
Taking place between July 21-30, at Sir Winston Churchill Square (intersections are 101a avenue & 100 street and 102 avenue & 99 street), you can reach the event by bus, LRT or car. Though if you plan on parking I recommend taking your car to the Stanley A. Milner library parkade which is just south of Churchill Square.
And that’s all I’ve got for this week friends. I hope you have a fantastic weekend, and I’ll see you on Sunday with something stimulating.
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

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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!

I Think We’re Alone Now (10 Cloverfield Lane review)

I may be slighlty biased because I was born in midst the 1980s, but I see it as a time of significance for the arts – The height of excess and post-modernist exploration, combining disparate ideas together seamlessly and sometimes garrishly. If you need a good example, this is often best interpreted in the tradition of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, at least for me.

Probably because I enjoyed it quite heavily as a little boy.

Now, what this has to do with today’s movie review is less obvious, but I’ll give you a hint – the unofficial theme song for this movie was popular in the 1960s, and again in the 1980s, it was featured in the film trailer, at the turn of the plot, and is also one of my heart songs. Conspiracy? I think not.

 

 

 

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
released on blu-ray June 14, 2016
********** 10/10

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IMDB: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Audience Score 81%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Dan Trachtenberg is an American filmmaker who has also co-hosted a podcast called The Totally Rad Show and another podcast called Geekdrome in previous efforts, both of which were on the Revision3 network. When it comes to directing, Trachtenberg has been involved in a couple of large scale directing roles now, one being Black Mirror, which was made for televsion, and very recently the film 10 Cloverfield Lane.

But don’t let the rap sheet fool you. He has spent a fair amount of time behind the camera already, directing commercials for Lexus, Nike, and Coca Cola, AND he has directed a short film as well as an internet show.

As something of self-proclaimed pop culture expert, Trachtenberg is just one of many examples of young directors being given the helm for big movie projects, and I had to wonder if this trend is incredibly smart or incredibly reckless. Only time will tell, but in the case of 10 Cloverfield Lane the gamble seems to have paid off.

Without going to too great of detail, the story follows Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) as she is in the midst of leaving her fiance Ben (Bradley Cooper). In the rush to leave their home she leaves quite a few things behind. At one point while travelling, Ben attempts to contact Michelle, to which she reluctantly answers the phone, but does not speak.

Just as Ben is in the midst of calling a second time, Michelle is hit by a truck and taken off of the road. She wakes up in an underground bunker, chained to the wall and plugged into an IV, with several wounds and a sprained leg. Unfortunately there is no reception and she while she does struggle to escape, she is unsuccessful.

Eventually someone opens the door and we are introduced to Howard (John Goodman), who built the bunker and claims to have saved Michelle from an apocalyptic event. Despite her pleas to be let go, and at least 2 attempts to escape, Michelle eventually realizes that something has happened above Howards farm. Emmett has also stolen sanctuary in Howards bunker and as the story unravels we slowly learn that this is not a typical thriller or horror movie, and it dances the antagonist between roles of villain and anti-hero rather liberally.

If I were to explain too much more, it would absolutely ruin the movie, so I will say this. If Trachtenberg can make a song from the 1980s both humourous and intensely creepy, then franchise films have a bright future.

 

ProsJohn Goodman owns this role and makes the movie fascinating and terrifying simultaneously. If not for his characterization of a conspiracy theorist proven right, it wouldn’t have the same level of atmosphere.

ConsThe ending is definitely tacked on, and of course, serviceable to it’s predecssor. Which is kind of disappointing, because we all had something different in mind as we got to the final act.

Runtime1 hour 44 minutes.

Points of InterestMary Elizabeth Winstead was the first and only choice for Michelle. John Goodman is seen watching Pretty In Pink at one point in the film, and Molly Ringwald’s character also had seamstress aspirations. The cast members weren’t told the title of the movie during production, to help keep the secret.

I know I listed it as a con, but I feel very strongly that I should clarify that the while the ending is somewhat disappointing, upon a subsequent viewing, I think the studio decision to do what they did actually helps with the ambiguity of John Goodman’s Howard. And also I was pretty much on the edge of my seat the whole time, so that should say something at the very least.

Okay, I think we’re alone now – So I’ll fill you in as to why I really enjoyed this movie. It features all of the intimacy and practical effect gloss of a 1980s horror movie, but with the proper sensitivities of a contemporary self-aware thriller. If want to be surprised this year, watch 10 Cloverfield Lane. Otherwise, I’m out of theories for now.

Tim!

You’re Gonna Start A Howl (Wolfcop review)

I like to think I’ve seen my share of horror movies. Mainly because I’m a child of the 80’s and horror movies were in their heyday between the 1980s and 1990s, so just as I was growing up I got to know the major successes of the time and watch them in the comfort (read: discomfort) of my parents basement.

But the thing about horror movies is that they come out all the time and haven’t really slowed down by any means since that supposed heyday.

What that means for the novice movie watcher or the aged veteran, is that there are now all kinds of genre benders out there, and there is a good chance that you haven’t seen them all yet. Which is where this week’s entry comes in.

 

 

 

Wolfcop (2014)

Cast: Leo Fafard, Amy Matysio, Jonathan Cherry, Sarah Lind, Jesse Moss
Director: Lowell Dean
released on blu-ray March 10, 2015
******* 7/10

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IMDB: 5.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%, Audience Score 46%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Lowell Dean is a Canadian film maker – yay for Canadian content! He has directed two feature films to date, 13 Eerie which was released in theatres in 2013 and Wolfcop which was released in theatres in 2014. I scoured the internet, including IMDB, Wikipedia and even his personal website, in the hopes of explaining his directorial style some more but unfortunately that was all I could find. Oh, I also know he was born in 1979 which makes him 37 or 38 years old.

So yeah. There’s not much to go on in the way of an introduction.

But sometimes that’s what happens with indie films, you don’t get a lot in the way of traditional information. And further to that point, the content often strays from your typical fare because, dammit, it can.

Taken from Wikipedia and edited,

Lou Garou (Leo Fafard), an alcoholic cop in the small community of Woodhaven, spends most of his day either asleep at work or at Jessica’s (Sarah Lind) bar. When his friend Willie Higgins (Jonathan Cherry) phones in a complaint of occult activity in the area of his gun store, the police chief (Aidan Devine) sends Garou to investigate. After meeting with Higgins, Garou dismisses his concerns as the actions of heavy metal fans. Higgins again reports a disturbance, and the chief forces Garou to investigate. When he arrives at the scene, Garou finds occultists in the middle of a ceremony to sacrifice an upstart politician who was running on a platform of reform and anti-corruption. Garou is knocked out and wakes up the next morning in his bed, not remembering how he got there, though he has a pentagram carved into his stomach.

Garou’s senses become extremely sharp, and his wounds heal near-instantly. As he investigates the case, he surprises Jessica and his coworkers, all of whom had written him off as lazy and incompetent. As he goes over his notes at Jessica’s bar, she encourages him to drink more and invites him to join her privately. Before he can, two criminals part of a local gang sneak into the bar and attack him in the bathroom. Garou, who is in the middle of a transformation into a werewolf, easily kills one and drives off the other. Angry that they did not kidnap Garou, the gang leader stabs out the eye of the escaped gangster when he claims to have seen Garou transform into a monster. Meanwhile, Garou ends up in Higgins’ house, handcuffed to the bed. Higgins explains that he captured Garou and restrained him for his own safety. Higgins later researches his condition, and they learn that occult ceremonies in which a werewolf is sacrificed can strengthen the magic of reptilian shapeshifters.

Garou and his partner, Tina (Amy Matysio), investigate the deaths at the bar and a series of seemingly unrelated armed robberies by a gang who wear pig masks. Higgins convinces Garou that he must be restrained at night, and Garou submits to being locked in the town’s jail. However, when the police station receives a call for help, Garou, who has since transformed into a werewolf but has retained his human intelligence, dons his policeman’s uniform and heads to the local supermarket, where the pig-mask gang have taken hostages. Garou savagely kills all the pig-mask robbers and heads toward a meth lab. Higgins cowers in the car as Garou again savagely kills several gun-wielding gangsters…

This movie is rather short, as most horror and comedy films are, and it takes full advantage of the runtime to slowly draw you in and assimilate your sensibilities. It does this so that all of a sudden that when the final 25 minutes start to creep in, you haven’t realized how casually you’ve invested in the construction.

This is both a good thing and a bad thing, because the movie starts slow and is somewhat confusing, but as you understand Lou, the town of Woodhaven and it’s characters you almost feel robbed of more movie. On top of that Wolfcop walks a fine balance between the nostalgia of practical effects and the impracticality of them in execution. You can tell that the crew had fun making the movie, that’s for sure.

Pros: The spin Wolfcop takes on the werewolf mythology is charming, funny, and something to be appreciated. Of course, it helps that it takes it’s cues from the campiness of the 1980s. That’s the beauty of Postmodernism though, taking dissimilar concepts like a werewolf and a police officer, combining them, and producing interesting results.

Cons: Because this is unexplored territory and the comedy uneven, not all of the jokes come through – They are particularly dry. I wish that more time was spent on developing the humour of the situation.

Runtime: 1 hours 19 minutes

Points of Interest: The film exists in distribution because Dean was awarded the 2013 CineCoup Film Accelerator, worth $1 million in financing. The main character is is named Lou Garou which is a play on words. In French loup garou means werewolf.

So there you have it, a movie about an alcoholic cop turned werewolf and filmed in Canada exists. It’s rare for Canadian film to be part of the horror landscape (think Ginger Snaps), and even stranger still for a movie to do well, but it is in a fine tradition.

The truth is that Wolfcop isn’t doing anything tremendously new or interesting as it relates to horror movies, but what it does do, it has a lot of fun doing. Sure, there are lots of horror comedies out there, but that doesn’t mean that they are Canadian born and breed. As I mentioned earlier, maybe you haven’t watched a horror movie in a while, so If you want to try something “new” Wolfcop will likely surprise you, in a good way.

But that’s just a theory. What do you think? Have you seen Wolfcop? It’s been out for a couple of years now, but it’s not stale by any means. I’m done for now friends, I’ll see you tomorrow with some wisdom.

Tim!