Showing posts from 2015

Can't Beat This Analysis by Peter T. Chattaway

Review:  Exodus: Gods and Kings  (dir. Ridley Scott, 2014) December 12, 2014  by  Peter T. Chattaway   Originally posted here   Early on in  Exodus: Gods and Kings , there’s a scene in which Moses, who is still an Egyptian prince oblivious to his Hebrew heritage, confronts an Egyptian viceroy named Hegep, who is supposed to be building a new city for the Pharaoh but seems to have diverted some of the funds towards his own luxurious lifestyle. Hegep tries to deflect Moses’ attention by pointing to the troublesome Hebrew slaves, and says he needs more resources to deal with them. As proof of how rebellious these Hebrews are, Hegep says, “Do you know what ‘Israelite’ means in their own language? ‘He who fights with God’.” An annoyed Moses replies, “‘He who  wrestles  with God’. There’s a difference.” It’s a key distinction, and one that applies just as much to Ridley Scott’s film. Scott, whose self-identification over the years has wavered between “agnostic” and “atheist” — and wh

Need to Go to the Framer's

 Scaffolding at construction site, Queen’s Quay, Toronto.  Photograph by David Allan Barker ©2015. I'm the proud new owner of a great image by my friend, David Allan Barker, a Torontonian  writer and photographer . I like his eye and enjoy his view of TO; it's hard to see the city with fresh eyes when you're born and bred here but David has a humorous and often wry take on us and our environs. Check out his equally refreshing poetry and prose !

3 Moons

Image If you believe's trivia page:  Kevin Spacey read the script and agreed to voice Gerty but when the film was finished and only if he liked it. Having loved it, he recorded his lines in half a day.  And that's how good this movie is.  Moon (2009, dir. Duncan Jones) is about Sam Bell's three-year contract to work alone on the moon for a company, Lunar Industries, that harvests Helium 3 as the main energy source for earth. The film has some of the feel of 2001: A Space Odyssey : Gerty is a kinder, gentler HAL; the credit graphics and some of the set type is groovy; there's lovely classical music. But there is also humour: the lunar rover has fuzzy dice in the front window and has the sign "Please Drive Carefully"; inside the station, Sam turns off his room lights with 'the Clapper'. The art direction is excellent and there are lots of in jokes if you know your science fiction canon. You don't f

Concern, Bewilderment and Optimism

The hardest thing about writing [reviews] is being smart about books.            Neil Peart, creator of Bubba's Book Club , on CBC's The Next Chapter (5/1/15 Encore) 'Ain't it the truth? Ain't it the truth?' said Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion. My first section involves concern, but only thematically: Advance Reader Copy.  Cover art by Sammy Yuen If this excellent book does not get adapted into a movie, I'll be very surprised. I do tend to talk up great books, and perhaps avoid negative reviews, mostly because I feel it is important to boost our writers and other artists in a time of government undersupport and book publishing changes. I was eagerly anticipating reviewing Mark Alpert’s novel, The Six , and did it ever über-deliver! There’re lots of YA fantasy novels being published these days, but this one stands out for several reasons. First, while sci-fi in genre, it accomplishes something currently rare: it's believable. As A

3 Renegades

Three disparate media about renegades: music, film and fiction. Picture two mountain ranges and a valley. Cameron Carpenter is mountain range #1. I have been an organ geek (and opera for that matter) forever, so I don't know how I missed out on this guy. He's kind of like the Nigel Kennedy of the pipe organ: badass! He got some unflattering and inaccurate (and ironically pretentious) coverage on Tone Deaf , but if you ignore the ignorant copy and read the sensible comments (Yes! It's a Comments section that isn't poisonous!) and watch his Sony Electronic Press Kit, you may find yourself intrigued as much as I was. As someone said, Carpenter is dragging the organ into the 21st century. Just as I Furiosi  have done for Baroque concerts. Check him out at his site  and on Facebook. Cannot wait to see this guy live. 'Pretentious'? I think that's jealousy speaking... Mountain range #2: The Tribe

Miss, Miss, Hit, Hit

A mixed bag of reviews this time. I recently went to see Woman in Gold (dir. Simon Curtis, 2015), probably now at the end of its theatre run. Like so many artists and art forms these days, I used to like Gustav Klimt’s work, but he is now plastered (as is drily alluded to in the movie) on ubiquitous mugs and mousepads, and I’d lost interest in him. So I thought this film might reignite my appreciation for Mr. Gold Leaf himself: not so much. As my companion commented, you watch the whole film saying to yourself, “Oh, there’s Helen Mirren…there’s Ryan Reynolds.” You just can’t get swept away by the beauty of the art because (perhaps) the direction is so intentional that it seems to play the main role, like an obvious music score. My bad for assuming it was an art film. I want to escape at the movies, not have a heavy-handed history lesson. The one thing I was impressed with was the singing by Max Irons (yes, son of Jeremy)—and then I read that he had been dubbed. Canadian actress

What I Didn't Like About "The Martian"

Photo: I just finished ripping through the 369-page  The Martian by debut novelist Andy Weir, self-confessed science nerd. This year, I have read more fantasy/sci-fi than ever, and several books have been about scientific disasters and/or space, but I tend to go for the more blockbuster and less techie stories, having practically failed science every year after intro biology. We won't even discuss maths. I'm a luddite, and I don't want to be scratching my head during my precious escapism hours. So books that go into thrust and scientific measurements and velocity and the nightmare-inducing periodic table of elements are a little intimidating for me. The story, if you haven't heard yet about the book or the upcoming Matt Damon movie, is about an astronaut named Mark Watney who gets stranded on Mars after a mission mishap. That's all I'll say in the interest of avoiding spoilers à la "Who Shot


Book cover design by Stephen Best   I was so entrapped by  Barbara Kyle 's novel that I devoured it in two days. Another dinner not cooked… * This thriller will please fans of Linwood Barclay, Paula Hawkins or Gillian Flynn—all the left-field twists and turns are there, plus you actually learn something, and without boring exposition. One of the things I loved most about the setting of the book was how unabashedly Canadian it was. Kyle includes doffs of the hat to our coloured bills and ‘bull’s eye’ coins, maple syrup, the RCMP, Canada geese and the CPR, but there are no  clichés or   schlock: no cops ordering double-doubles at Timmy’s or references to losing hockey teams. These cultural markers are seamlessly woven into the plot. And the Canadian setting is actually part of the plot. (I don’t know if the situation in the States is comparable, but I suspect American readers will find familiar themes.) An American oil company with a Canadian division is extracting

Remember those 1970s posters that said “I’m Special”?

Photo by V.Wells Copyright 2015  New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks has written a book that quashes that adage of modernity: in The Road to Character , he proposes that we have two sets of value systems that are embodied by inner selves Adam I and Adam II: the former reflects ‘résumé virtues’ and the latter, the ‘eulogy virtues’. We should be as worried about the latter as the former, he argues, and we’ve done a lot of damage by bringing up a few generations of kids by telling them incessantly and in every way possible that they are ‘special’. Brooks examines the lives of several illustrious individuals and fleshes out the defining moments and influences in their lives that led them to develop character. For instance, his thesis is upheld by the likes of George Eliot and her interest in ‘moral improvement’ (p.183). He also discusses several in light of their vocations, but not with the self in mind: “A vocation is not found by looking within and finding your pa