New Thing #345: Kolchak: The Night Stalker

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My dad, who incidentally got me into watching The X-Files in the first place, used to tell me about this crazy show from the 70s called Kolchak: The Night Stalker

Firstly, it has Darren McGavin in, which is a huge selling feature in my father’s books. Secondly, it was basically the X-Files before there was such a thing. So much so, that Chris Carter cited it as the inspiration for Mulder and Scully’s exploits.

And while the show hasn’t exactly aged well from a cinematography standpoint, it was actually still pretty damned entertaining. Darren McGavin is one of those 70s actors that just exudes confidence and charisma. It’s hard not to love him. Although I could have gone without seeing him shirtless in a massage parlour. That was just uncalled for.

The pilot’s plot line revolving around Kolchak (a reporter in Chicago) chasing a never aging, super-powered Jack The Ripper was corny and fun. There were even a surprising amount of scantily clad women to be found peppered throughout. Not what I expected from that era of television.

So oddly enough, 38 years later I found myself wanting to watch more of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. 

 

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New Thing #333: Word Wars

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I love Scrabble.

In fact, I became rather obsessed with the game some years back after reading Word Freak, which chronicled the lives of tournament level Scrabble players. 

That’s why I had wanted to see Word Wars, which follows some of the same people documented in that book. Unfortunately, it was rather hard to come by back then and it fell off my radar.

But I fired it up through iTunes today and saw all of the dysfunctional, delusional, megalomaniacal behaviour set out on the page brought to life. And although the documentary is pretty trite and not that well produced they did manage to capture all of those things very well. The end moment even managed to stir up some emotion in me as one of the underdogs rose to the top.

Although I did study all the two and three letter words in the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary back in the day my skills have definitely gotten rusty. I’m rather intimidated to play in an actual tournament today. But I’m still pretty good competition in Words With Friends if anyone’s ever interested in a game.

 

New Thing #329: Star Wars Uncut

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I heard about Star Wars Uncut a few years ago, but never realized until now that it actually got produced, or more importantly, released for free on the internet.

The concept is simple, recreate the entire Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope in fifteen second clips using whatever means possible. Most are crude but creative, often funny and sometimes inspired. A lot of it comes off as a vintage Doctor Who episode, or childhood movie project. And there’s a lot of bearded Leias. A lot.

Clocking in at just over two hours you’d think that the visual cocophany of that many cuts would be overwhelming, but somehow it works. I suspect it’s because the original film is so ingrained into my memory that it was liking watching an overlay to the real thing. John Williams’ score is in place too which helps to meld the clips together even more. 

I’m really glad I got to finally see this, and if they’re ever remaking The Empire Strikes Back I’m definitely getting in on that action. 

New Thing #326: Listen to Fado

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I listen to the CBC at home a lot, and the traditional Portuguese music, Fado, keeps coming up again and again. So I thought I’d sit down and give it a listen today.

Unfortunately, this was a bad day to research something on the internet since Wikipedia has gone dark to protest SOPA.

Luckily though, with a little snooping, I was able to remember that Cristina Branco is the artist I keep hearing interviewed when it comes to the resurgence of Fado music in the world. 

It’s described as a mixture of jazz and the blues, mostly because of the melancholy nature of the songs. That might come across more if I actually spoke Portuguese though.

What does come across, at least from Cristina, is one magical voice. It’s rich, seductive and enthralling. This is the type of music that plays in my mind when I imagine cafes and cabarets in Paris before the war.

Sometimes I find it difficult to listen to things recorded in another language, but this is one of those occasions where the music really does transcend that.

If you have rdio, give her album Ulisses a try. It seemed to be the recording that kept popping up as the best introduction to Fado today.

 

New Thing #324: Russell Peters

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Aside from hearing Russell Peters do a couple of radio interviews, I’ve never sat down and watched one of his performances before tonight. But, being a good Canadian I figured I have to support anyone from Brampton that’s actually gotten out of there and made it.

The weird thing is that his 2008 Red, White and Brown show is basically an hour of racist jokes, but somehow told in a way that doesn’t feel that way. It’s a conundrum, and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. 

I guess it’s the fact that the jokes are more stereotypical observations rather than mean spirited, and it helps that the man just has a very nice “Canadianess” to him. 

I wouldn’t call him the funniest comedian I’ve ever seen, but it was still a pretty entertaining hour of comedy.

New Thing #323: The Golden Globe Awards

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Every year I look forward to The Oscars as a child looks forward to an abusive parent suddenly showing up at their piano recital. But every year I get burned so, so much.

But this year my wife suggested we watch The Golden Globe Awards, and I realized that I’ve never actually done that. And despite what everyone on Twitter seemed to think tonight, I found it rather enjoyable.

Unlike their big brother, The Golden Globe Awards don’t mire themselves in endless tributes, dance numbers and ridiculous set ups. Instead they fill everyone up with booze and give them a mic for two minutes. 

It’s snappy, fun and entertaining and if I had one complaint it’s that Ricky Gervais was only on for a total of, what seemed, seven minutes. But then again, he probably got paid a shit-ton of money to work for those seven minutes, so bravo Ricky.

Seriously folks, watch as they show the break-glass-in-case-of-emergency box containing Billy Crystal later this year and remember how fun tonight was. (Break-glass-incase-of-emergency prediction courtesy of Shauna Curtis…I give it even odds of happening.)

As an added bonus, we let Audrey stay up to watch the first half hour to see all the pretty dresses. You can get your daughter to play with all the dinosuars and robots in the world, but sequins seem to trump everything.

New Thing #321: Downton Abbey

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Downton Abbey proves, once again, that no-one knows acting better than the Brits.

You could easily mark this as a new thing based solely on the fact that I enjoyed a British period piece in the first place. Even Gosford Park, which I should have loved with it’s stellar cast and direction, couldn’t turn me. So the fact that I jumped at the screen when the episode was over, ready to watch the next one was quite a shock.

The show chronicles the lives of a British estate in 1912 from the servants perspective, to the royalty’s and back again. By the end of the first episode I was already invested in the lives of these people, both good and bad. And believe me, there’s a lot of stories intertwined here to keep track of, but they do a stellar job of keeping the audience up to speed.

I think I just found my favourite new series since Storage Wars…yuuuuuuuuuuuuup! (Please don’t judge me.)

 

New Thing #303: The Manchurian Candidate

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I borrowed the 1962 version of The Manchurian Candidate from my friend Scott some three years ago and can finally return it to him guilt-free. I can also thank him because, for the most part, it’s a damn good movie.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have had troubles wathching black and white films in the past. It’s not so much for the lack of colour, but the shear straigt forwardness of the storytelling. You don’t get that with this film.

The story jumps around in time, Frank Sinatra actually proves himself as a great actor and the ending actually shocked me. It’s dark, ruthless and holds up to today’s standards for a good thriller. 

I’d say that’s not too shabby for film that’s nearly fifty years old. 

Oh, and did I mention that Angela Landsbury is a total bitch in it? For all of us that grew up with Jessica Fletcher solving every murder on the eastern seaboard that’s something to see.

New Thing #301: The Five Doctors

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Every Christmas Eve my wife and I curl up in front of the television to watch some sort of terrible piece of entertainment. It all started with a bootlegged version of The Star Wars Holiday Special some years ago and, well, has only gotten better from there.

This year I wanted to see The Five Doctors, a Doctor Who special from the 80s that (sort of) reunites five incarnations of the Doctor into one storyline. I say sort of because Tom Baker makes about a two minute appearance somewhere near the start and a two second one at the end.

And although not nearly as bad as watcing Bea Arthur serenade an alien in a Star Wars cantina, it was still pretty aweful. 

 

New Thing #300: Watch Labrynth

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Although a seminal movie of the 80s, I just never really had the desire to watch Labrynth.

So, some twenty years later I am struck by two things:

1. David Bowie has a rather extensive package
2. You need to be a 13 year old girl to enjoy this movie

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