A Slough of Reviews

I’ve been on airplanes a lot lately, getting caught up on my movies-to-watch list. :)

The Maze Runner – Garbage : I was excited for this one since mazes are such a rich subject in fiction, there were so many places for this film to go. The premise is really cool – kids keep appearing (by elevator) at the gates to a huge maze with no memory of their purpose, and there’s a kind of lord-of-the-flies maze-cult society that emerges. I hate giving a bad rating because there were lots of things I really liked about this film, but the big twist reveal at the end was so, so incredibly bad that I felt it ruined the whole thing.

Guardians of the GalaxySuper Fun : If you haven’t already seen it, I thought this was the best spectacle film of the summer. The writing is snappy and fun, the action sequences are well thought out and hilarious, and the visual effects are bombastic. There’s a bit of material in here that I’d be hesitant to show to a young kid, but it’s pretty intelligent humour and there’s some real heart in the film. Hollywood take note: this is the first example of a comic book film I can think of where the origin story of all of the characters doesn’t take up the first hour – we’re willing to take a talking tree, bipedal raccoon, warrior princess and beserker at face value (and even care for them). Please please stop retelling the origin of Spider-Man.

The Italian (L’Italien) – So good : This is a very clever French fish-out-of-water situation comedy about an Algerian muslim man who, in an effort to avoid discrimination, pretends to be an Italian while living in France. The ruse gets tricky to maintain when his father, from his hospital bed, begs him to observe Ramadan. For a film that has something serious to say about racism, this is way more fun than it ought to be. :) The writing is hilarious, and the situations he gets into are totally absurd. Loved this one. Really good.

The Imitation GameReally great : This Hollywood adaptation of Alan Turing’s contributions to decrypting the Nazi ‘enigma’ codes was surprisingly watchable. Even as an secret code enthusiast I was expecting the material to be a little dry, but Alan Turing was such a compellingly eccentric character that there was lots of human story to tell. The film had a more than a few hollywoodisms – this shouldn’t be considered a bio-pic so much as a dramatization of events that really happened. But it was well put together, especially neat to see the replica Cryptographic Bombe machine running.

Ice Sculptures at Winterlude

I took a walk around Confederation Park with Natasha one night when it wasn’t too cold out, and admired this year’s crop of beautiful ice sculptures. I think my two favourites were this ice cherry blossom tree (in a snow zen garden) and this screaming eagle – the detail and texture in the wings is incredible. Super fun – I’d like to carve some ice soon (it’s pretty easy to find!) but I have to admit I’m not sure I’d have the patience to scrape away at a frozen block for hours in sub-zero temperatures. Maybe if I lined up a chain of hot chocolates and beaver tails to fuel me through the ordeal. :)

IceTree

IceEagle

Vegas!

We took an extended holiday in early January and hopped a plane to Las Vegas to take in some sun, shopping and spectacle! The strip is amazing! You can spend a week just drinking in all of the over-the-top sights – dancing fountains, roller coasters, volcanoes, ferris wheels, wax museums, pinball arcades, chunks of other cities reproduced in the desert in the middle of nowhere.

I’m so inspired by the technology behind all of the spectacle – it’s given me that push to figure out the little missing bits I’ve got to work out to do some spectacles of my own.

VegasFountain

We stayed at the Paris! Las Vegas hotel – which was, in my opinion, a super lucky pick. The hotel was lovely, but more importantly it was situated almost right smack dab in the center of the strip, between Planet Hollywood, The Bellagio, and Bally’s, so we were in walking distance (and boy did we walk!) to just about everything. There’s a replica half-scale Eiffel tower out front, as well as an Arc de triomphe – it’s almost like being in the real Paris! ;) The rooms were nice and clean though, and the service was pretty good. I’d definitely consider staying again!

VegasParis

The Dangers of Recycling Video

I was at City Hall waiting for Natasha to finish her skate on the weekend and caught myself absently staring at an Ottawa 2017 (Canada’s 150th birthday celebration!) video on loop in a kiosk. The camera pans over the city skyline and local monuments and cuts to colourful projections on buildings, and then for just one frame – it flashes red. I could swear it’s a Marvel logo – in a Canadian national holiday ad?

I did some digging around and figured it out – I’m not crazy. They repurposed footage from the Canadian Video Game Awards promo, where Glitchsoft’s Marvel X-Men game makes an appearance fake-projected onto the Supreme Court. It certainly looks cool – I wonder if we could get the supreme court justices into x-men outfits for some cross-branding. :)

I’m guessing the same outfit produced both videos and needed something festive-looking for the kiosk in a hurry.

MarvelBldg

Tomorrowland

I’m excited about Disney’s Tomorrowland movie! Though we’ve only seen the tiniest snippets, and it seems absurd to make a film around a theme park attraction (Ahem, Pirates of the Caribbean) I’ll go see it if only to support the first optimistic view of the future we’ve seen on film in a loooong time.

Even Star Trek, the last holdout of do-gooder diplomacy in space, in recent iterations seems to have gone fairly dystopian to compete with the endless stream of bleak grey post-apocalyptic visions we’re subjected to in theatres now. Don’t get me wrong – I fully support arena-based death-sports for teenagers, I’d just like to mix it up a little bit with some blue skies and happy little trees now and then. :) Tomorrowland looks (possibly!) like a breath of fresh air, and something to look forward to.

Tomorrowland

Jason Cobill : Supergenius

So it took me seven years of on-and-off fiddling with it (mostly it sat in a drawer while I was frustrated with it), but after some concerted effort in the new year I’ve successfully solved the metal pocket puzzle that I was given for Christmas… 2008. Checkmate, Aunt Viv!

I won’t spoil it for anyone, but early on I had figured out that the asymmetric linkages (look at the top one on the left, vs the top one on the right) were the key to getting the dangly bit off – it just took me forever to figure out what to do with them. :) It ended up being one of those things where it’s easy to overthink the answer. I was obsessed with a red herring for a long time – the solution ended up being a perspective thing.

PuzzleSolver