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Talkies

My introduction to Superman came via the old black-and-white TV show starring George Reeves. For those of a slightly more tender vintage, I imagine Christopher Reeve is their go-to as the Man of Steel.

I mention this now because on Tuesday April 26 the last of the four movies that Reeve did as Superman is going to get the BBQ treatment from local comic Jayden Pfeifer.

I don’t know how Superman IV: The Quest For Peace ranks in the Superman canon, but it opens, you might recall, with a scene where Superman rescues some cosmonauts in space. Then Lenny Luther (Jon Cryer) breaks his notorious uncle Lex (Gene Hackman) out of jail and Superman’s got to deal with them, while also taking it upon himself to rid Earth of nuclear weapons by hurling them into the Sun.

The screening goes at the RPL Theatre on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Admission is free with a donation to the food bank. And to get you primed here’s the trailer

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HotDocs ’15 – Day 2: Thought Crimes/The Arms Drop

Thought Crimes.

Thought Crimes.

The emergence of two major players in the documentary field –Netflix and CNN- plus the continuous strength of HBO is doing wonders for the genre. If there was a time a couple of outliers were the only ones to leave a mark in the box office, now documentaries are easily accessible and are more poignant than feature dramas by a mile. Yesterday, the CNN-acquired The Wolfpack had the crowd going. Today, the HBO-backed Thought Crimes drew a significant audience.

Thought Crimes (USA, 2015): It could have been a curio: NY cop Gilberto Valle was convicted in 2013 of conspiracy to commit a crime (kidnap and eat women). He used the police database to track down female acquaintances and discussed online what he would do to them in graphic detail. Here is the kicker: Valle never acted on it. In fact, his defense claimed he was voicing a fantasy in an appropriate environment (namely, a fetish website).

Director Erin Lee Carr taps on an interesting subject: As hard to stomach as Valle’s sexual fantasies are (and it gets pretty rough), he may have been penalized for a thought crime. The line is very grey as intention is a critical factor. Instead of staying with the abstract discussion about the limits of freedom of expression, Carr goes back to Valle time and time again. Her decision is unimpeachable cinematically (the former cop is hard to read and disturbingly watchable), but the matter of thought policing could have used additional scrutiny. Also, some of the recreations (like Valle sitting in front of a computer screen) have a film school feel to them.

Regardless, Carr knows how to tell a story. Shouldn’t be a surprise: Erin is the daughter of the great, much missed David Carr. Three prairie dogs.

 The Arms Drop (Denmark, 2014): In 1995, a Danish citizen, Niels Holck, planned to drop dozens of AK-47 in West Bengal. The idea was to arm local rebels against the repressive and vicious provincial government. In order to achieve this, Holck hired a British arms dealer, Peter Bleach, who in turn kept the English government and the MI-5 posted.

The plan went sour. Holck managed to escape, but his exploits didn’t go unnoticed and India demanded his extradition. Bleach landed in jail and the British intelligence denied knowing of him.

Oddly, this is just the setup of The Arms Drop, a fascinating spy story in which two guys who thought they were players realize they were just pawns. The film gets an extra oomph from the compelling Holck and Bleach. The British in particular, stiff-upper-lip, prim and proper comes across as more sympathetic. Twenty years later, Bleach seems still surprised he was betrayed by his government, and nurses the illusion of revenge against the agent that almost got him hanged.

The problem with The Arms Drop is that not even the audience has any clue what was the goal of the forces at play, outside Holck’s. There are no theories or insights, just two men fumbling in the dark, trying to remain afloat. Three prairie dogs.

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Monsoon

Here’s a heads up about a movie that’s playing at the RPL Film Theatre this weekend to celebrate National Canadian Film Day.

Directed by Sturla Gunnarsson (who recently did the award-winning David Suzuki documentary Force of Nature), Monsoon involved a journey by her to India during the 2013 monsoon season to chronicle the progression of the annual moisture-laden winds that sweep in from the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, bringing drenching rains to coastal states in the country before moving inland.

Monsoon screens Thursday April 30 and Saturday May 2 at 7 p.m. and Friday May 1 and Sunday May 3 at 9 p.m. Here’s the trailer

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HotDocs ’15 – Day 1: Drone/The Wolfpack

Games are perfect for drone operation.

Games are perfect for drone operation.

While documentaries seldom get the same distribution opportunities as feature films, there is a built-in audience looking for them. HotDocs, one of the foremost festivals dedicated to the genre, is already attracting crowds in Toronto. Judging by the first two films I had the chance to watch, the 2015 version is looking strong.

Drone (Sweden, 2014): The War on Terror’s favourite toy, drones are transforming the nature of warfare: They are cheap, broadly effective, don’t require a crew and can be operated from miles away (namely, a barely secluded location in Nevada). But drones also have introduced a battery of moral and legal issues, most of which the main offender hasn’t bother to confront.

This Swedish doc by Tonje Hessen Schei covers a lot of ground in succinct fashion: Recruitment in videogame conventions (!), PTSD in drone pilots, the lawlessness of drone operations and, above all, the indiscriminate killing of civilians (arguably over three thousand since 2001 in Pakistan and Afghanistan). Turns out the unmanned aerial vehicles are a lot less discerning than we have been led to believe.

If there is any problem with Drone is that each angle it covers deserves a documentary of its own. Three and a half prairie dogs.

The Wolfpack (USA, 2015): The winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize has nothing to do with The Hangover movies (thank gawd). It’s actually the story of the Angulos, seven siblings holed up in a Lower East Side apartment in Manhattan. Their dad prevented them from leaving their home growing up, so their only experience of society was through movies, thousands of them.

Slowly, a cute setup (the brothers recreating their favourite Tarantino films) gives way to a much darker reality. While the teens are pleasant, home-schooled and oddly well adjusted, their perception of life outside is warped, perhaps irremediably. Director Crystal Moselle shot the Angulo family for over four years. During this period, the siblings -tentatively first but with growing resolve- conquered the fear that clouded their development.

At no point The Wolfpack comes across as patronizing. For the most part, the filmmaker treats the kids as peers and, in turn, the Angulos reward Moselle with endearing openness. Here is a director fully aware of documentary filmmaking golden rule: If you have good subjects, let them do the talking. Four prairie dogs.

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Friday Afternoon Lizard: Kix?

Who says lizards don’t make good pets? Advanced pets with particular needs and specialized dietary requirements, yes, but… wait, you’re feeding your rhinoceros iguana what?* Um, okay.

Have a great weekend!

*It’s a one-off gag. The owners don’t feed their iguana breakfast cereal.

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Daily Aggregation: Guns, Fracking And Fat Captain Kirk

daily-aggregation-2BREAKING The Statue Of Liberty has apparently been evacuated due to a suspicious package?

1. MAN WHO MURDERED THREE CHILDREN AND THEIR MOTHER THEN KILLED HIMSELF WAS MENTALLY ILL Seems plausible but kind of tough to take considering that 99.99 per cent of people with mental health problems don’t go on savage, homicidal rampages.

2. HARPER GOVERNMENT WANTS TO KEEP A FORMER CHILD SOLDIER (WHO WAS BLACKMAILED INTO A GUILTY PLEA BY A GULAG COURT) IN PRISON The pro-gun Harper government should spend more time working to keep guns out of the hands of people who kill families and less time obsessively trying to punish a former child soldier.

3. RURAL SASKATCHEWAN SUDDENLY REALIZES FIREARMS SHOULDN’T BE TAKEN LIGHTLY Humboldt is tightening up its pest control procedures in the wake of the Tisdale massacre.

4. THEY SHOOT YOU FOR GRAFFITI NOW A 19-year-old is in critical condition in Long Beach after cops shot him apparently because he was spraying graffiti.

5. SHIT’S GOING DOWN IN OILERTOWN Press conference after lunch.

6. CANADIAN BORDER GUARDS STRIP-SEARCHED A BUSLOAD OF AMERICAN STUDENTS Don’t come to Canada for a party, apparently.

7. TWO AVENGERS TALK SOME SEXIST AND SEX-NEGATIVE TRASH ABOUT BLACK WIDOW; ONE MAKES AN ACCEPTABLE APOLOGY I hope we all learned something.

8. ADAM SANDLER’S EXTRAS AREN’T LAUGHING First Nations actors walk off Sandler’s latest project because the script is full of racist jokes.

9. MICHAEL BROWN’S FAMILY SUES THE COP WHO KILLED HIM Read all about it.

10. THERE WAS AN EARTHQUAKE IN BRITISH COLUMBIA Or British “Colombia” as the Harper Government spells it. Anyway, no biggie.

11. FRACKING CAUSES EARTHQUAKES Golly, who knew the radical environmentalists were right about something. More on the horror of resource extraction here.

VIDEO: IT’S FAN EXPO WEEKEND! And I’m on the Leader-Post’s nerd panel! Want to know more about the weekend as well as what my cosplay of choice would be if I did the cosplay thing? Check it out!

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Def Leppard

Fans of classic rock will be in their glory on Sunday, April 26 when the veteran English rock band Def Leppard hits the stage at Brandt Centre. The band has been through a fair bit in their nearly 40 year career — most notably drummer Rick Allen losing his left arm in a 1984 car crash, along with guitarist Vivian Campbell’s more recent struggle against Hodgkins lymphoma — but they continue to solider on.

Last summer, they did a big tour with KISS. For this show, things should get going around 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $55, $75, $95. To close, here’s video of the band performing their mega-hit “Hysteria” at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas in 2013:

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Saskatchewan Book Awards

The 22nd annual Saskatchewan Books Awards are being held at Conexus Arts Centre on Saturday April 25 at 5:30 p.m. Fourteen awards are up for grabs this year in various writing and publishing categories. You can find a complete list of the nominees on the SBA website.

As I noted in a blog post when the short-list was announced in mid-February, the awards will be preceded by a prairie buffet, and Saskatoon novelist Arthur Slade, who is just winding up his term as writer-in-residence at the Regina Public Library, will be the emcee. Tickets to the gala are $50.

Before Saturday roles around, the RPL will be hosting a Readers’ Summit from April 23-26. Readings will be held April 23 at 7 p.m. (Linda Biasotto), Friday April 24 at 7:30 p.m. (Anthony Bidulka), Saturday April 25 at 11 a.m. (Anthony Bidulka), 1 p.m. (Arthur Slade) and 2:30 p.m. (Edward Willett/E.C. Blake), and Sunday April 26 at 1 (Trevor Herriot) and 2:30 p.m. (SBA winner t.b.a.).

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Fan Expo Regina

We [by we, I mean Steve, Aidan, Carl and perhaps one or two others] blogged the crap out of the inaugural version of this event last year. Things went so well for organizers that it was pretty much a no-brainer that a second Fan Expo would be held in 2015.

The event’s been bumped up a week compared to last year, when it was in early May. The 2015 Fan Expo Regina goes Saturday April 25 and Sunday April 26 at Canada Centre Building at Evraz Place.

You can find out more on the Fan Expo Regina website.  Celebrity guests include Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: Next Generation), Lawrence Gilliard (The Walking Dead), Shannen Doherty (Charmed), Margot Kidder (Superman) and Jeremy Bulloch (Star Wars, Dr. Who).

While the celebs get lots of attention, the real stars of the show are probably all the fans who show up in costumes celebrating their love of science-fiction, comics, anime, horror and other niche nerd cultures. As well, there’s always lots of writers, artists, illustrators and other content creators who have loyal fans of their own. And there’s no shortage of retailers too offering products tied to favourite shows, movies, books and characters.

On Saturday the expo runs from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., while on Sunday the hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

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House Of Dance

A Moment In SpaceThis week is shaping up to be a busy one, what with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in town to perform The Fairie Queen on April 22, Fan Expo Regina on April 26-27 and the RPL Readers Summit and Saskatchewan Book Awards on April 23-26.

House of Dance is another event you can add to the list. It’s being presented by New Dance Horizons at its performance space at 2207 Harvey St. on April 25-27.

There are two works on the bill. First up is local dancer/choreographer Connie Moker-Wernikowski, who will be performing Open Heart Folds. That will be followed by a collaboration between Caitlin Coflin, Roxanne Korpan and Michelle Korpan called A Moment In Space (promo photo above).

House of Dance will be held Saturday April 25 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday April 26 at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. and Monday April 27 at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are Adults $20, Students & Seniors $15, and more information can be found on the NDH website.

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Vertigo Reading Series

I’ll have more on the Saskatchewan Book Awards, which are being held this Saturday at Conexus Arts Centre, in a April 23 blog post. But this event qualifies as a bit of a prelude, that’s because the three writers who will be reading are all nominees for SBAs in 2015.

Robert Currie is nominated in the Young Adult Literature category for his novel Living With the Hawk, Ken Dalgarno is nominated in the First Book category for Badlands: A Geography of Metaphors and Paul Hanley is nominated in the Non-Fiction and Saskatoon Book categories for Eleven.

Vertigo Reading Series goes tonight at Crave Restaurant (1925 Victoria Ave.) at 7:30 p.m. Music will be provided by the Quarter Tones Flute Ensemble.

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Sunday Matinee: Tarzan’s Desert Mystery

Tarzans Desert Mystery1943 saw Tarzan leaving MGM and moving over to RKO. Johnny Weissmuller continued playing Tarzan for another six pictures but as the series progressed, he was starting to look less and less the part. The first film that RKO made was Tarzan Triumphs which set Tarzan against the evil of the Nazis. Because Maureen O’Sullivan was unable or unwilling to reprise her role as Jane, Jane was written out for the next couple movies having gone to England to help with the war effort. Tarzan and Boy (returning Johnny Sheffield) continue hanging out in jungle only to have Frances Gifford appear and plead for help for her hidden secret village which is getting exploited by the Nazis.

Tarzan initially refuses to get involved in a war until those evil Nazis kidnap Boy, then Tarzan starts killing in the name of war time propaganda. Watching these films it occurs to me that Tarzan’s murder count is probably as high as Rambo’s. Many an evil village/tribe/Nazis/white hunter has met their death at the hands of Tarzan, either personally or through a standard issue stampede of elephants.
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The Fairie Queen

Faerie_Queen4Presented by Royal Winnipeg ballet, this production is choreographed by John Alleyne, and is inspired by a 1692 opera of the same name by English composer Henry Purcell. The opera was itself inspired by Shakespeare’s popular romantic comedy A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.

Written between 1590-96, Shakespeare’s play opens in Athens, where Theseus (who is a Duke) is about to marry Hippolyta (who is the Queen of the Amazons). Other plot threads include a troupe of touring actors who intend to put on a play to celebrate the marriage, and young star-crossed lovers Hermia and Lysander and Helena and Demetrius. There’s also Oberon and Titania (the King and Queen of the Fairies respectively) who meddle in the affairs of the humans and a whole bunch of romantic confusion ensues.

If you happen to be in Saskatoon in the next few days, the RWB is presenting The Fairie Queen at TCU Place on Tuesday, April 21 at 7:30 p.m. The Regina performance goes at Conexus Arts Centre on Wednesday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $30.25-$82, and can be obtained at the Conexus website.

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Director of Woman in Gold: “It’s a Reminder of the Perils of Picking on Anybody Because of Race or Religion”

Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds and the Woman in Gold in question.

Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds and the Woman in Gold in question.

Simon Curtis speaks fast. He can burn through fifteen questions in less than ten minutes. He also has no trouble keeping his answers short if an adverb suffices. The director of My Week with Marilyn (for which Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh received Oscar nominations) is now back in the big screen with the more modern drama Woman in Gold.

In 1998, Austria introduced new legislation to deal with the restitution of artwork stolen during the country’s annexation to Nazi Germany. While the measure was mostly a public relations move, it opened the door to dozen of claims. Woman in Gold follows Maria (Helen Mirren) and her lawyer Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) as they battle the Austrian Government for the ownership of five Klimt paintings, including the emblematic “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer”. The legal face-off is combined with flashbacks of a just-married Maria watching powerlessly as the Nazis wrecking havoc on his family and the Jewish community in Vienna.

I had the chance to talk with Curtis in Toronto a couple of weeks ago.

– Woman in Gold feels particularly timely.

– True, Woman in Gold is a movie of many layers, but the theme that emerges as the predominant one is to what extent do we have the responsibility to move on. The film has landed in very troubled times: Anti-Semitism is definitely alive, much more than one would have hoped so. Woman in Gold is a reminder of the perils of picking on anybody because of their race or religion. Continue Reading →

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Leaf Rapids

If you’re an expert on Manitoba geography, you might recognize the inspiration behind the name of this folk duo composed of Keri and Devin Latimer. Leaf Rapids is the name of a tiny town in northwest Manitoba that sprang up when Sherritt Gordon Mines discovered copper and zinc deposits in the area in 1969 and opened a mine.

At its peak in the late 1970s the town had a population of over 2300. That’s now dwindled to less than 500. Keri and Devin have roots in the area, and their new album Lucky Stars was inspired by ideas of isolation and wilderness.

On Sunday April 19 Leaf Rapids will be playing a show at the SCES Club. The show is being presented by Grassroots Regina, and the duo, who also play in the alt-country band Nathan, are touring with Grant Davidson who is performing under the name Slow Leaves. Keri, Devin and Grant will be sitting in on each other’s sets, and they’re also sharing a drummer.

The show’s at 8 p.m., and tickets are $15. Here’s video of Leaf Rapids performing their song “Healing Feeling”:

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Burton Cummings

There’s a freelancer at Prairie Dog who has a patrilineal connection to Can-Rock royalty.

It’s not Burton Cummings — although he certainly qualifies as Can-Rock royalty in his own right, both as a lead singer and songwriter for the Guess Who from 1965-75, and as a solo artist after that with a number of hits to his credit.

He even did a bit of acting, as I recall, in a 1982 movie called Melanie where he played a has-been L.A. rocker who ends up befriending a woman [Glynnis O’Connor] who is trying to win custody of her son from her ex-husband [Don Johnson].

On Monday April 20 Burton Cummings is in town to play a show at Casino Regina. Start time is 8 p.m., and tickets are $83/$88.

And for a blast from the past here’s the closing credits for Melanie where Burton Cummings performs the song “You Saved My Soul”

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Ranee Lee

Each June, the Regina Jazz Society hosts JazzFest Regina. Mixing ticketed events at local venues with free shows in Victoria Park and other locations, JazzFest offers a great chance for music fans to kick off the summer in style.

Before that happens, though, the Regina Jazz Society is hosting a fundraiser at Casino Regina on Friday, April 24. You can find out more on the RJS website, but the feature performer is Montreal jazz vocalist and recording artist Ranee Lee.

For this gig, which gets going with a silent auction at 6 p.m., Lee will be performing with the Regina Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Brent Ghiglione.

Tickets are $25/$30, and to give you a sense of Lee’s talent here’s video from 2010 of her performing the jazz standard “I’ve Got the World on a String”

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Friendly Update, City Hall: If Council Stops Praying I’ll Lose Valuable Twitter Time

This Week at City HallJust read on CBC how Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that opening city council meetings with a prayer infringes on people’s freedom of conscience and religion. And, I’ve also just read on Twitter that Mayor Fougere has told the Leader Post’s Natascia Lypny that the City of Regina will review the decision and will likely abide by the court’s decision.

So yeah, Regina council meetings probably won’t be starting with prayers for much any longer.¹

Not sure how I feel about all this. I’ve been through dozens of pre-council prayers. (I dutifully stand then use that time to log into my Twitter accounts.) It’s one of those quaint throw-back customs that I think are awfully cute. You know, like how people step over sidewalk cracks for fear of breaking their mother’s back. Or wear watermelons on their heads to football games because it…? Makes football players football harder?

But I think I’m going to have to side with the Supreme Court on this one and say it’s probably time for council prayers to go.

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Seth: Dominion

Dunlop (Seth)If you’re a fan of comics/graphic novels, Seth should be a familiar name to you. Born in Ontario in 1962, he’s been practicing as a cartoonist for a good 25 years now.

His best-known work is Palookaville, an ongoing series of graphic novels published by Drawn & Quarterly in Montreal that generally feature down-and-out characters trying to reconcile the past with their current circumstances. He’s also produced a mock autobiography called It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken, and has also served as an illustrator on numerous other book and magazine projects.

Since 2007, Seth has worked on a project called Dominion that involves the building of models tied to a fictional city. As you’ll be able to read in our cover feature by Paul Constant which hits the streets April 16, the city he’s envisioned involves plenty of references to settler communities that sprang up across central Canada in the early 20th century.

On Friday April 17, Dominion (which Seth describes as a work-in-progress) will be featured in an exhibition at the Dunlop Art Gallery. Curated by Andrew Hunter, Dominion opens with an artist talk at 6 p.m., followed by a reception at 7 p.m. As well, on Monday June 1 at 7 p.m. there’s a screening of the NFB film Seth’s Dominion at the RPL Theatre.

Dominion will run at the the Dunlop until July 5. Pictured above, by the way, is a companion work by Seth called City Founder and Residents that will be up at Central Library for the duration of the exhibition (click to enlarge).

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A Date With The Night

Created by Lucy Hill, Daniel Maslany and Eric Rose, this multi-media project uses music, movement and video projections to tell the story of an introverted woman who has trouble relating to the outside world. Instead, she prefers the sanctuary of her bedroom.

One night, she’s visited by a mysterious figure that offers her the chance to create a more compatible world for herself via her dreams.

Presented by the Globe Theatre as part of its Shumiatcher Sandbox Series A Date With the Night runs April 16-25. Curtain on April 16 and 22-23 is at 7:30 p.m., while on April 17-18 and 24-25 it’s at 8 p.m. For ticket info visit the Globe website.

If you’re looking for something to do tonight American folk/punk rocker David Hause is playing a free show at O’Hanlon’s Pub. Sharing the bill is Canadian singer-songwriter Kalle Mattson, and I’d expect things to get going around 10 p.m. Here’s the video for Hause’s 2014 song “We Could Be Kings”

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