Back on June 30, 2009, some work colleagues and I were out on an airy Toronto patio, raising a glass to the long weekend we were all about to enjoy. I was sitting near a woman named Nasrin, a woman who worked on the same floor but as me but on a different team. In fact, I'd only ever interacted with her at departmental social events. I always found myself gravitating toward her because let's just say that not everyone in IT is quite as charismatic or charming as she is!
That night, she turned to me and exclaimed, "We should start a movie meetup group!" She already belonged to a number of Meetup groups, including one about movies, but they always met on the weekend, and she “already had a life on Saturday and Sunday!” Why not the middle of the week? Meet more people! See more movies! Those sounded like good goals to me. I proposed Tuesdays, hoping for some theatres still offered discounts on Tuesdays, and the next day, “Tuesday Night at the Movies” was born!
Fast forward to July 2011, and here we were, celebrating our two-year anniversary! We decided to eschew the dark theatre for once and instead headed straight to a patio to celebrate! I definitely felt I had a couple of things to celebrate. Not only had I seen all the Oscar nominees the previous two winters, and I could now tell Ryan Gosling apart from Ryan Reynolds and Amy Adams from Rachel McAdams. I knew from the trailers which romantic comedies to avoid (anything not indie with Kate Hudson). In fact, I learned to avoid most comedy trailers because they give away the best jokes. I expanded my repertoire of cinematic masters like Kurosawa. I watched my first Hungarian movie, which prominently featured a rotting whale carcass and the longest walking shots I’ve ever seen. I learned that some of the least enjoyable films made for the liveliest discussions.
Beyond my newfound cinematic expertise, I had also met an incredible variety of fellow Torontonians, most of them a real joy to be around. Now some of my best friends are people I first met when their heads popped up in the RSVP pane. In a given week, ten to thirty movie lovers seek out “Beth and Nasrin wearing their meetup pins standing by the customer service desk” and get checked in and introduced all around. We discovered that we like the social part so much that we tack on a pub night after nearly every movie.
I knew I’d see more movies (I did!) I was hoping to make more friends (did I ever!) But the thing I wasn’t expecting was a great sense of pride and community and a humbling gratitude from my meetup members. They are truly grateful at the work we put in, week to week: they compliment our taste in movies, congratulate us on the fun, prize-filled parties we throw for our anniversaries, Christmastime and the Oscars, and they volunteer as guest hosts here and there so that we won’t get burned out. Being a leader of movie nights out has been incredibly fulfilling.
Back to the anniversary party, it was shaping up with the makings of a great TNAM night out: a stellar cast of friendly, movie-loving Torontonians, a beautiful, delicious setting (Grand Hive Mansion on Jarvis street), and a warm summer night. It may have lacked some of the usual cinematic clichés: no car chases, no dramatic confessions, and nobody fell in love (as far as I noticed). But as far as pure fun with friends, I gave it two thumbs up - way up!
We played movie trivia, mingled, and drank wine into the early hours of the following workday. Past midnight, anyway! Although the night won't inspire anyone to write "Hangover 3" (oh, please no!) I will keep this memory fondly among the many great memories I have made with “Tuesday Night at the Movies”.
Next week: Thomas Crowne. No, I mean Larry Crowne, starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. i keep doing that!
We did it!
For the second year in a row, my friends and I tackled The Ride to Conquer Cancer, a 2-day cycling journey from Toronto to Niagara Falls.
We were each required to raise $2500 for cutting-edge cancer research and care at The Princess Margaret, one of the top 5 cancer research centres in the world. Most of my teammates have reached or exceeded that amount. And I'm close, but I could use your help in getting there! I have a few more weeks to collect some final donations to boost me up to $2500. (Check out the badge below this post to see how far I've gotten and to donate!)
Let me tell you about our weekend:
On Day 1, we assembled at the Exhibition Place near Toronto's lakefront. After some inspiring speeches, fresh breakfast, and the chaos of almost 5,000 cyclist in a single parking lot, we clipped in and took off! As the weather called for rain, we opted for the 200km option (versus the 200 miles we did last year in the cold rain). Fortunately, we lucked out with the weather and our biggest obstacles were the defiant hills leading into Hamilton. We capped off the day with a barbecue with our friends at Hammer City Cycle (hammercitycycle.com) who generously donated all the proceeds to us riders!
Day 2 was partly sunny and the route was much flatter. My friends decided this was the time to put their high-end road bikes to the speed test. I tried my very best to keep up, and was able to stay with them until the final 10 kilometers. Nearing Niagara falls, I could hear the roaring of the falls and the cheering of thousands of friends and family who came to cheer us on across the finish line. It was an honour to once again participate in this awesome event. As a group, we raised a record-breaking $17.5 million for (or should I say 'against"?) cancer. I hope to collect my final couple hundred dollars over the next few weeks...
...and then it's all eyes on 2012!
Many, many thanks for your generosity and support,
Did I forget to blog about the Hangover, Part 2? I bet it was because any interest in it evaporated out my mind before I'd even left the theatre.
Don't get me wrong: it's a funny movie. I love Ed Helms (as Stu the dentist, also known as Andy from The Office) who takes a bigger role in this one. It's now his wedding on the line.
You see, two years have passed since the debacle in Las Vegas, and Stu has met the lady of his (boring) dreams. "The Wolfpack", Phil, Stu, Doug, and yes, Alan, fly to Thailand for Stu's wedding. He's not taking any chances this time, and refuses to let his friends plan a bachelor party, instead insisting on a single round of beer around a beachside campfire. What could possibly go wrong?
Fast forward through exactly the same hijinks as in the first movie, only this time they are in Bangkok.
Thank goodness Ken Jeong (until recently, a real-life medical doctor) makes a hilarious return as the high-pitched, fast-living Mr. Chow. And Zach Galafianakis is great as the deadpan weirdo, Alan, who just barely gets himself invited.
I enjoyed myself watching this movie, but wanted nothing to do with it as soon as it was over. I'd love to keep seeing more from these actors, but not in Hangover 3.
Kristen Wiig is the funniest person out there right now. Have you seen this movie yet? Go see it!
Annie Walker (Kristen Wiig)’s life is in shambles. Recently dumped and bankrupt, she lives with a hilariously icky brother and sister duo and sleeps with a hot, rich guy who makes her feel bad about herself. When her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged, the bizarre and expensive rituals that go along with being the maid of honour begin to wreak havoc on her sanity and their friendship. And then this other rich, perfect girl claims that Lillian is her new best friend, and whisks her away to a life of country clubs and first class, leaving broke, unlucky Annie struggling to catch up.
How awesome that this is much more of a female comedy than a romantic comedy. Oh sure, there’s the cute, bumbling British policeman that pulls over our protagonist. And Jon Hamm plays a goofy, rich, a-hole. But as cute and handsome as they are (respectively), they are definitely not the point.
As the bedraggled Annie, Wiig absolutely shines. And Maya Rudolph is great. The rest of the rag-tag bridesmaids are pretty good. Erin from The Office (Ellie Kemper, playing Becca) is adorable as always. I wondered, where can we see more of the incredibly funny Meghan (Melissa McCarthy), the groom’s heavy-set sister who makes up for a lack of manners with earth-flattening self-confidence? (The answer, as it turns out is that sitcom, Mike and Molly, commercials for which did not at all tempt me to see it. But maybe this actress adds a lot of funny to what looks like an otherwise flat character. She was also in Gilmore Girls, which I never got into.)
Finally, one thing I loved about Bridesmaids was Annie’s style. I am going to copy her blazers and dresses. I’m just saying.
Have you seen this movie yet? Come on, go! And then we’ll rehash our favourite belly-laugh moments over chocolate cake. But remember, it’s not just a fun chick flick. This is seriously good comedy.
NEXT WEEK'S MOVIE: The Hangover, Part II. The reviews, as far as I can tell by researching just little enough to not hear any of the punch lines, are not great. But it's a special event: on our second movie meetup ever, back in 2009, we saw Hangover I. This week's movie will be our 100th official event! So, to mark the occasion, we're going to see the boys get in trouble all over again, this time in Bangkok.
It was a dark, stormy night, and I was out of the rain and inside the belly of the cozy, sticky Underground Cinema, near Spadina and Queen. Once a place for primarily Asian action flicks, tonight the Underground was celebrating the one-year anniversary of its new incarnation as an independent cinema run by a handful of young movie lovers.
As we waited for the film to begin, I chatted with the guy next to me, Dave. “Tim Curry”, I began, “isn’t he the bad guy from Annie?” Dave did not know whether it was Tim Curry that I was fondly remembering as Rooster, the scheming little brother of professional orphan tormenter, Ms. Hannigan (played by the dazzling Carol Burnett). He did, however, helpfully suggest that Curry was the lead in the 1975 Rocky Horror Picture Show. Unfortunately, that’s one major cult classic that I have not yet seen. He assured me that I should.
And now to the movie at hand: based on the Parker Brothers board game of the same name, Clue opens up onto a dark and stormy night of its own. A half dozen well-dressed guests arrive one by one at a mysterious mansion, sizing one another up, and wondering why they’ve been invited and by whom. The characters are buffoonishly yet likeably archetypal: there’s the butler (Tim Curry as Wadsworth), Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd), and the beplumed politician’s wife, Mrs. Peacock (played by Eileen Brennan) as well as the colonel, the saucy madam, and of course, the sexy French maid. Things get ugly when the mysterious host (by now revealed) threatens to reveal each person’s dirty little secrets. But with a crash of thunder, a flicker of the lights, and the crack of a gun, the first victim falls to the floor. Now in this mess together, the guests pair off to search the house for the killer. Suspicions and theories multiply as the bodies pile up and curious policemen and other passersby are frantically shooed away. All is revealed in a final climactic, slapsticky re-enactment of the night’s events by the gregarious butler, Wadsworth.
Clue is an entertaining romp, and was especially fun to watch as part of the most enthusiastic movie crowd I’ve ever seen. These young cinephiles were pumped - on top of being treated to a double header of free movies (1993’s Jurassic Park came on next),they had been treated to the crowd-pleasing previews for such upcoming films as The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie (“opening July 1990”, a year in which most of them were likely toddling around in TMNT pajamas.)
If the movie was fun, however, the true highlight was experiencing the revitalized Underground Cinema in action. Four movie lovers passionate enough to look beyond a business model practically proven to fail have been plying audiences with a mix of unique programming and nostalgic appeal and making it work for a full year now. Here’s hoping they have many more years in them.
Incendies, which translates to Scorched in English, is a truly exciting piece of storytelling by Quebecois filmmaker Dénis Villeneuve.
The story opens with the reading of the last will and testament of Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal) to her grown twin children, Jeanne (Melissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette). The will contains instructions that stun them both, annoy Simon, and point them inevitably back to their mother’s native country, the allegorical Fuad.
We then live two parallel stories: first, the young Nawal is abruptly cast out by her family when a love affair with an ethnic refugee brings them shame. As political tensions heat up, she is on the wrong side of a civil war, burning with grief and desire for revenge.
Interspersed with Nawal’s story is Jeanne’s current-day journey to Fuad. Armed only with a decades-old black and white photograph of her mother, Jeanne attempts to retrace Nawal’s spiral from family cast-off to university idealist to political prisoner. Language and cultural barriers impede her search, but she presses steadily on, in the same way that her determined mother picked her way through the rocky terrain of the war-torn countryside decades before.
As the film reaches its midpoint, and dark revelations about violence, rape, and torture begin to emerge, the reluctant Simon accepts his role in solving the mystery that has been thrust upon them. He joins his sister in Fuad to pursue the identity of their father and the brother they never knew they had.
Throughout the film, Villeneuve builds suspense and momentum masterfully. As dark secrets come to light, Jeanne and Simon rely on the strength of family to come to terms with their mother’s history and their own. Brace yourself for a few disturbing moments, but be prepared for a gripping mystery and an excellent film.
Last summer, a fellow cinephile breathlessly praised the mysterious street artist Bansky and his unique documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, but I didn’t get what it had to do with a gift shop (note to self: write related post about gift shops), so I chose not to go see it at the Carlton. Besides, (yawn) I see a movie every Tuesday so I’m selective about what I see on other days of the week.
Well, that was my loss for about ten months. I finally had the good sense to stream the movie to my iPhone (an exciting first experience in and of itself) over the course of several recent morning commutes.
This was the craziest, most fun, interesting and exciting film I’ve seen all year. I loved the opening montage, I loved the crazy Frenchman Thierry posing as a documentary filmmaker, and I loved the mangled British accent coming from the direction of a hooded Banksy, the phenomenal street artist who still refuses to reveal his identity. I loved every moment of it, save for the several moments spent waiting for the stream to buffer.
It was truly exciting to see various artists crank out large-scale posters, spray-paint the shadows of street furniture, and make their marks – big and small – on the darkened cityscape. They fell off ladders, out-ran cops, and pasted, copied, and sprayed their hearts out. Later in the film, their art took on new meaning when put on formal display for the scrutiny and admiration of L.A. celebrities, collectors, and scenesters.
One of the best parts of the film was videographer Thierry’s transformation from curious to obsessed to egomaniacal. It was incredible and maddening.
Finally, Exit through the Gift Shop has cleaned up at film festivals and awards shows in the last two years (including a 2011 Best Documentary nomination). See this movie if you haven’t already.
Would you go back to school to get your GED, B.A., and law degree in order to possibly free your probably innocent brother?
Based on an amazing true story, Conviction is a moving and believable portrayal of the strong love between two siblings. It made me want to be a better sister. And possibly a lawyer.
The film had to speed through some parts of the 18-year saga, such as her undergraduate years and how she got the money to fund all that education.
Although the story is predictable (and some of my friends thought a little long, even with that speeding), it fortunately avoided cheesy clichés like a climactic courtroom scene at the end (cue the swelling strings!). Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell (no, not Jesse James) were incredible to watch.
It made me think that if I can find a story this good, I should write a screenplay. Any ideas?
Seriously, I couldn't make heads or tails or this film.
Perhaps the best part of this movie was the beginning. But after the initial jaw-dropping appearances of two ghosts (one, inexplicably, in the form of a laser-eyed gorilla) the movie plodded along. And the characters eventually plodded through a jungle and into a cave where one of them lay down to die.
Maybe the best part was visiting the spacious new TIFF Lightbox.
No, wait. The best part of this movie was the Thai dinner beforehand.
Thanks anyway, NOW magazine. I don't agree with you five "N" rating. You don't want to leave your viewer feeling stupid, and that's what this movie did.
Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps really lacked the charm of the first one. The film failed in that it really didn't make me care about the female protagonist's relationship with her father, Gordon Gekko.
As I described afterward, anytime a film makes me roll my eyes or shift around wondering when it's going to end, well, that's a bad film. This was not good. I left without remembering the protagonist's first name.
References to the original movie were fun, and included a cameo by Charlie Sheen as Buddy Fox (the first film's hero) as womanizing early retiree, and - for those really paying attention - a reappearance of the real estate agent who sold Buddy Fox his penthouse in the first film.
A new original track by David Byrne and Brian Eno upped the cool factor of this movie for me.
In other good news, after a few minutes of sleep, I was refreshed enough to go out for a beer with my friends and discuss what's on next week. I think we may try the brand-new Bell Lightbox, although if tickets are as pricey as during the festival, I'll have to think twice.
About this blog
I'll use this space to write about movies, bikes, communications trends, pop culture, and my adventures as a new New Yorker.