entertainment

Photo Credit: ctv.ca

Corner Gas: The Movie (2014) – NOT A REVIEW

As one of the most highly anticipated TV to film adaptations in Canadian cinema history, at least since the Trailer Park Boys movies, fans greeted the film with warm expectations and a readiness for a good time. As long time fan of the series, I know that I could not possibly review this in my promised objective and unbiased manner. This instead is a piece on the experience of seeing the small town of Dog River, Saskatchewan hit the big screen.

Corner Gas is one of the most successful comedies in Canadian television history. During its initial run from 2003-2009, it garnered an impressive worldwide fan base and raked in over 1 million viewers per episode on average (which for Canadian television is pretty outstanding). The show ran for 6 seasons, which is about as long as any other Canadian series has ever lasted (unless you count the many reincarnations of the Degrassi franchise). It even earned an International Emmy nomination during its first season! When this sitcom about a fictional small town where there’s not a lot going on came to an end, fans were devastated, but their spirit lived on through 6 years of reruns and rumours and demands for a movie starring the characters we’ve grown to know and love.

Earlier this year, the show’s creator, Brent Butt, announced plans to make a Corner Gas movie and the fans were thrilled. How thrilled exactly? A Kickstarter campaign to fund the film started up with the goal of raising $100,000 in one month to find the project. Skeptics of this goal were shut up when the money was raised in a mere 26 hours, the campaign going on to earn almost triple this amount. The fans wanted just one more chance to experience Brent Butt’s simple, dry, sarcastic humour and find out what has become of their favourite characters in the years since we left Dog River in the series finale, just as it always was.

Seeing Corner Gas: The Movie in theatres was quite an experience in itself. Instead of your typical pre-show, we got an address from Brent Butt thanking all of the fans and introducing the movie in the ways only he can. There was some fun trivia about the show and clips of viewers who sent in videos of themselves singing along to the show’s theme song, Not a Lot Goin’ On by Craig Northey and Jesse Valenzuela. There was even a playing of the national anthem, for which everyone in the theatre stood for. For a film made as a thank you to the supportive fans of the series, it was truly a memorable experience.

The movie itself was everything the fans could have hoped for. It took about 10 minutes to re-establish itself before it went straight back into the humour that made the show a success in the first place. As far as the quality of the production, acting and story go, it was no better or worse than the show was in its prime. The laughs lasted from beginning to end as the gang, shown six years after the series ended, acting as if no time had gone by. The only noticeable difference was how much the actors have aged. They have since greyed and all looked much older than they once were. The most evident of this was Janet Wright, who plays Emma Leroy, who barely stood or walked throughout the movie.

The plot was quite a risky move, since the show ended very smoothly and altering its conclusion ran the risk of ruining it. However, Brent took liberties in storylines that would change some character dynamics and made them make perfect sense. Actress Tara Spencer-Nairn, who plays Officer Karen, was pregnant during the filming of the movie. Brent wrote this into the movie, but did not inhibit Karen’s ability to do her job. She states at the beginning of the film that she is pregnant, and that’s it. No excessive hormones, no indulging in cravings, no vomiting, no morning sickness, no struggle with maternity clothing, no dramatic birthing scene at the conclusion of the film. Karen just does her job and is not inhibited by her pregnancy like how characters in other films and shows are by theirs.

Another touchy storyline featured in the movie was that of Brent and Lacey possibly dating. Throughout the show, there were subtle nuances and moments between the two, but they never actually dated. Lacey was the girl next door who moves to town at the beginning of the show and her cafe, the Ruby, is next door to Corner Gas. Their dynamic was central to the show and would be irrevocably altered if they ever dated. In the movie, Emma is determined for her to date and marry her son Brent and eventually give her grandchildren. This relationship was a subplot of the movie and a potential gamechanger in the world of Dog River. I won’t say how this ended, but in Brent Butt’s brilliant comedic and writing prowess, he ends this plot perfectly with just the conclusion it needed.

Sure, there were a few plotholes and inconsistencies both within the film and between it and the series. But this is a feature length film based on a sitcom that still sported more consistency and better verbal and physical comedy and effects than many higher budget Hollywood comedies. It was, however, a little suspicious that we never heard about Davis’s wife, even though we find out in the show’s finale that he eventually gets married. It could, however, be argued that he meets her after the events of the movie (and this desperate justification is why I cannot objectively review this film).

Another noteworthy difference was the upgrade from small to big screen. When the show was on the air, background music was rarely used, typically at the end of an episode to move things along or as a transition between scenes, if at all. Here, a score was liberally added to many scenes and added an unfamiliar seriousness to the situations at hand. This movie is not the first time that the residents of Dog River have dealt with a serious situation, but they are usually approached much more light-heartedly. Being in movie form, the film also lacked the familiar pacing that a sitcom would normally sport, opting for quicker dialogue delivery. Doing this ran the risk of viewers missing content from laughter, but luckily this did not affect the movie too much.

Over the past decade, Corner Gas has truly made its mark on Canadian history: it brought western small towns to screens all over the world; it showed us that you don’t have to be racist or vulgar to bring about a laugh; it taught us that no matter how silly someone seems, there will always be someone less intelligent out there; but most importantly, it made it socially acceptable to call someone a jackass. It was a perfect ending when we never thought there could be another one and is the experience that we all waited for and won’t be disappointed by. All fans of the series should check it out and those looking for a good laugh should see it as well. I’ll be waiting for a box set of all six seasons and the movie (you read that right!) for my collection.

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Photo Credit: mashable.com

Interstellar (2014)

Complex, dramatic, engaging. Christopher Nolan once again manages to transport his audience to his adventurous worlds outside of our own, complete with beautiful imagery and effects and a heartwarming, though far-fetched and implausible, story. Recommended? Fans of the writer/director’s previous works will be satisfied with this one, as it is fascinating and thought-provoking to the very end.

Photo Credit: IMDb

Photo Credit: IMDb

The story of Interstellar takes many science fiction and space travel clichés (dystopian future, curing an epidemic, sustaining the human population, coming out of retirement, doing a job that you are not fully qualified for, being the chosen one, getting lost in space, getting stuck in space, machines malfunctioning in space, humans dying on other planets, travelling through wormholes, travelling through time, aging at a different rate, confusing game-changer in the last few minutes) and mashes them with universal themes and Nolan’s unique elements and manages to hold its own. For a movie of almost three hours in length, it begins on a high note and continues to build until the very end. The pacing is very well done, for even though the movie felt like three hours, it was interesting the whole time.

The beauty of the artistic work behind this film is that elements like the production design, visual effects and score are not cheaply thrown at the audience. They are all well done, but in a believable way. Instead of staring in awe at the universe or expanses thinking about how well done they are, they can be just accepted as the setting for the movie. The effects and music are also just part of the experience. All elements of this film are successful in that they are felt as opposed to observed.

Interstellar is overall a wonderfully directed adventure from which viewers could learn a lot. Some of their science may be flawed or inaccessible to many viewers and there are one or two inconsistencies that aren’t quite explained. But this masterpiece could serve as a great conversation starter, as with most of Nolan’s original films, there is a lot to ponder and many different interpretations can become of it. It also poses a few ethical and moral conundrums, making viewers question whether the real human race could be headed towards a similar many years from now.

John Wick (lebillet.ch)

John Wick (2014)

Violent, intense, artsy. The fight scenes are choreographed and executed well, but all of the fancy artistic elements added to this movie seem to reiterate the superficial storyline. Recommended? John Wick is a fun action movie where not much thinking is required to watch it.

Photo Credit: IMDb

Photo Credit: IMDb

For a great deal of time, there is an intense feeling that something great is going to happen. The story starts off so simply and builds up like there is a twist of the proportions of movies like Fight Club, The Usual Suspects or even Kill Bill. The positive critical reception that this movie received upon release fueled this feeling even more. But as the movie goes on, there is nothing universal or deep that runs underneath and the story can only really be taken at face value. Sure there’s some love, vengeance, loyalty, family values and forgiveness in the mix, but these themes only go skin deep.

The one element of this movie that was impressive beyond all others was the action sequences. The combat scenes ranged from shooting to chases to hand to hand combat and all were driven by a sense of intensity. The visual effects and art direction were also impressive, as the wide variety of places added to the confrontation and action in each scene.

Also notably well-done was the sound effects and editing. The editors and mixers knew what to emphasize where and often let actions ring louder than words, not that there was much to be taken from that which was said. The music was eclectic, but fit the scenes of the movie well. Overall, the artistic elements of this movie were well thought out and executed, probably as a means of masking what lacked everywhere else.

The acting in this movie runs along the same continuum as the quality of the rest of the film. Keanu Reeves held his own in his role as the title character, but he typically delivers in roles that don’t require him to speak much or show a lot emotion. The cast also included big names like Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki and John Leguizamo, all of whom did what they could to bring out their one-dimensional characters.

John Wick is thoroughly a fun and exciting experience with an unfortunately predictable story. There is so much potential for something clever and surprising that would take the story out of its action/revenge flick mold, but the fact that the plot in this film is so easy to call and the production was overly flashy (including “creatively” bolded and placed subtitles for Russian dialogue) degrades the quality of the film substantially.

Photo Credit: movies.disney.com

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Funny, informative, emotional. This movie may look like a fluffy comedy about a cranky, middle-aged woman and her war of artistic differences with Walt Disney, but in actuality, the emotional life story that inspired the fictional phenomenon is entertaining, deep, and beautifully brought to life by the incredible actors who take on these icons. Recommended? This is a surprisingly impressive movie and it is very fun to watch.

Photo Credit: IMDb

Photo Credit: IMDb

 

The story of this film is far more interesting than most might expect it to be. The movie takes place at the time Mary Poppins was in pre-production, but features flashbacks to P.L. Travers’ childhood, where many of the influences for the adventures in her books are revealed. (more…)

Photo Credit: o.canada.com

Nebraska (2013)

Light, slow, humorous. The artistic appeal of this movie is fascinating and the acting is well above par, but with the exception of a select few funny moments and character nuances, this movie received its classification as a comedy for its drawn out and nonsensical conversations as opposed to its actual comedic value. Recommended? With the exception of its heartfelt base and meaning, this feel-good family comedy is not for everyone.

Photo Credit: IMDb

Photo Credit: IMDb

The storyline seems a little like Rain Man at times; a man takes an estranged family member on a cross-country journey in search of a large sum of money. The difference here: replace an autistic brother with an alcoholic father; a fortuitous inheritance with a million dollar marketing sweepstakes; and a journey of two men repairing their estranged relationship with each other with one man enabled by his son and his wife to face his life’s former demons. The dialogue comes off dry at times, but story is very touching and relatable. (more…)

Photo Credit: vividlife.me

Philomena (2013)

Emotional, dramatic, humorous. The journey taken by the characters is a fascinating one and Judi Dench perfectly executes Philomena’s more quirky moments where the film would be otherwise very dry. Recommended? This may not seem like the most exciting drama out there, but the story is eye opening and definitely one that should be seen.

Photo Credit: IMDb

Photo Credit: IMDb

The movie is based on the real life work by Martin Sixsmith about the journey of Philomena Lee in searching for her son from whom she was separated by the nuns at the abbey where she lived when he was only three years old. A few liberties were taken with some characters, but the story is a fascinating one regardless. Bouncing from one of hope to tragedy to determination, Philomena’s journey is unpredictable and entertaining all the way through. (more…)

Photo Credit: geek-lantern.com

Pacific Rim (2013)

Fun, simple, forgettable. While the story is not very original or interesting, the focal point of this movie is the visual effects which were completely on point here Recommended? This movie is fun and should only be seen in a fashion that will best portray the stunning imagery.

Photo Credit: IMDb

Photo Credit: IMDb

The only real reason to see this movie is for its special effects. From the aliens to the robotic sequences, from the ocean floor to outer space and down to the centre of the Earth, the effort put into the visuals for this movie left for a true success. The fight sequences alone make this movie worthwhile. If not for the visuals, this movie would be no better than the average 80s second rate science fiction movie, for here, the flawed storyline is supported by effects that actually look realistic. (more…)