WORTH WATCHING: WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

Last year our son performed in the Complete Works of William Shakespeare: Abridged:

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (also known as The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)) is a parody of the plays written by William Shakespeare with all of them being performed (in shortened form) during the show by only three actors. Typically, the actors use their real names and play themselves rather than certain characters. The fourth wall is nonexistent in the performance with the actors speaking directly to the audience during much of the play, and some scenes involve audience participation. The director and stage crew may also be directly involved in the performance and become characters themselves.

The script contains many humorous footnotes on the text that are often not included in the performance. However, improvisation plays an important role and it is normal for the actors to deviate from the script and have spontaneous conversations about the material with each other or the audience. It is also common for them to make references to pop culture or to talk about local people and places in the area where performance is done. As a result, each performance can be vastly different from another, even with the same cast.

The play was written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield, former founding members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, and first performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1987 and later played at the Criterion Theatre in London, where it ran for nine record-breaking years. It has become one of the world’s most popular shows, playing frequently in a variety of languages. It is notable for holding the (self-proclaimed) world record for the shortest-ever performance of Hamlet, clocking in at 43 seconds.

It does not surprise me that it started out at the Fringe. We were there a few years ago (by accident) and it was the most amazing of festivals. Highly recommended watch, you can see it on Youtube. Enjoy ….

MEMORABLE WEEKENDS

 

Some weekends end and you look back and say, “Wow. That was a great weekend.” This weekend was one of those.

It started with Prince at the ACC. Going to high school in the 80’s, I will admit to being a big Prince fan and the rumor is that he thinks of Toronto as a second home. Toronto Prince concerts are famous for being long because he loves the fans. Via.

“I love Toronto,” Prince said late Tuesday in an exclusive interview with The Canadian Press after a wild two-hour concert in this north Florida city. It was the 21st stop of a tour he’s loathe to call a comeback — because, he insists, he’s never truly been gone.
“It’s cosmopolitan,” he said. “There’s all sorts of different kinds of people everywhere you go in Toronto, there’s all sorts of great music, great restaurants, great night spots that don’t respond to a lot of American playlists and have playlists which I really dig. It’s a real melting pot in every sense of the word.”

He did not disappoint. In a world where so many concerts feature artists who go up, do their sets and leave (i.e. The Police cash grab world tour which was a serious disappointment), it is amazing to watch an artist who so clearly loves what he does and knows that he is there to entertain. The opening was a jazz/funk mix that warmed the crowd and set the bar, followed by set after set of amazing guitar, sax, vocal and dance performances (Prince can definitely dance).

We could not stay for all 5 encores (Yes. 5) as I was taking 5 teenage boys to Barrie Paintball the next day to celebrate a birthday (Part 2 of an amazing weekend thanks to 14 degree weather and 17 courses), but wished that we could have.

And if you ever wonder if Prince can play the guitar, just watch the below video. Truly amazing. I remain a fan and will gladly go see him again.

Prince at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

YOU DON’T KNOW JACK

 

One of my favourite PC games has finally made it to the console. I downloaded the demo of You Don’t Know Jack from XBOX Live (It is CD form too) and introduced the boys too it a few Saturday night’s ago. What a great family trivia game, there really isn’t anything out there like it and we spent an evening laughing. For those who don’t know it, it is not like all of those other trivia games (which I simply do not play). YDKJ is all about irreverence and humour. This screenshot says it all.

image

About time and fortunately, it made the transition to 2011 quite nicely!

LARRY ROBINSON

 

I had the good fortune to sit with Larry Robinson at the Bell Celebrity Gala in support of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health last week, where they raised $2M for a great cause.

Beside the fact that the event was extremely entertaining, it was very cool to talk to Larry. 9 Stanley Cups (between coaching and playing), numerous Canada Cups where he represented Canada in those famous cold war duels between the west and the east.

Now, for those of you who know me, you know I don’t watch sports on TV because it bores me to tears. But I did as a kid, simply because that is what you did on a Saturday night in Canada. If I look back on my youth, it was always about hockey. We played once a week in a league, every recess at school in the winter we went on the canal or the pond and played hockey, in the summer we played ball hockey all day long and in the evening we were either in the basement batting a tennis ball around or playing table hockey for hours .. Making up tournament, using our hockey cards to build lines, tracking which player got a goal and an assist. In fact, after a 20 year hiatus, I have started playing hockey again, super early with a bunch of great guys.

So while I would struggle to name a hockey player who played after Gretzky .. The Canadiens of the 70s are ingrained in my brain. Ken Dryden, Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinsons. Heroes from my youth. So it was both shocking and cool to be introduced to him and spend the evening enjoying his company.

Toronto-20101014-00014

KINECT

 

Microsoft may be struggling with a few of their products and people, but one thing that isn’t struggling is the XBOX. The now departed Robbie Bach did an amazing job to ensure that the product lives on in greatness. Our Wii continues to gather dust ….

I pre-ordered our Kinect about a month ago, good thing as it is selling out already. It looks like a break out experience and the start of a whole new mode of gaming. Truly hands free control that has been envisioned in movies for decades.  Personally, I am really looking forward to the many fitness programs, already have the basement set up for it. Glad I didn’t order the Wii Fit. It looks truly amazing.

 

Now if the could just make a P90X version ….

BARNEY’S VERSION

 

On the weekend we had the opportunity to enjoy the Toronto International Film Festival launch of the movie Barney’s Version based on the novel by famous Canadian author Mordecai Richler. This is my first every TIFF event and it was interesting to hear from the Director, Producer, to see the actors on stage prior to the movie and to hear Mordecai’s wife talk about her husband. She was definitely the most charming speaker of the evening. Interesting enough, Minnie Driver’s demeanour on the stage matched the personality of the character she plays in the movie – which I had not expected at all. Perhaps she was simply uncomfortable with being up front.

I would agree with the reviews, it was a thoroughly enjoyable movie. Funny and poignant. Paul Giamatti was great in his role playing the fatally flawed, some times charming, smooth talking and often loutish Barney. Highly recommended.

MOON

 

This weekend I watched a surprisingly good movie, Moon. A twisting and curving plot, much more interesting than I anticipated. But then the indie movies that sit with 2 copies wedged between entire walls dedicated to blockbuster, big budget movies usually are. Well worth a watch.

DISTRICT 9

 

Very few movies are truly unique. The kind of movie that is very different, takes you by surprise, has a new premise. If I think of great movies, only a few truly unique ones come to mind;  The Matrix (the first one – can you believe it is 10 years old?), Primer (An indy must-see) and The Royal Tenenbaums are good examples.

District 9 is one of those movies. An adaptation of Neill Blomkamp’s short Alive in Joburg – it is well worth watching. Best movie I have seen this year.

Update: An interesting article on how the ghetto dwellers of South Africa are hoping that District 9 will shame the government into action can be read here.

JUMP THE SHARK

 

I was reading an interesting article on TV shows that have ‘lost it’. In North American terms this is called Jumping the Shark:

The term jumping the shark alludes to a specific scene in a 1977 episode of the TV series Happy Days when the popular character Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli literally jumps over a shark while water skiing. The scene was so preposterous that many believed it to be an ill-conceived attempt at reviving the declining ratings of the flagging show. The phrase has become a colloquialism used by U.S. TV critics and fans to denote the point at which the characters or plot of a TV series veer into a ridiculous, out-of-the-ordinary storyline. Such a show is typically deemed to have passed its peak. Once a show has "jumped the shark" fans sense a noticeable decline in quality or feel the show has undergone too many changes to retain its original appeal.

There are a lot of people out there who love to tell me about how they are above TV or ‘just don’t watch TV’ as they would rather listen to Chopin and read 18th century literature. I have said it before, I will say it again, I like TV. So for the heck of it, here is my list of current TV favourites categorized by shark status:

Definitely have not jumped the shark ….

  • Supernatural: I came across this series in a hotel a year ago (It was the beginning of Season 2) and was hooked instantly. Well written, great plot and I love sci-fi type stuff. Highly recommended viewing.
  • Battlestar Galactica: Another epic show with a great plot that keeps getting better. This is the last season, so like other smart series, they are ending it while they are ahead. A friend send me a link, looks like they are already filming the prequel – Caprica..
  • 30 Rock: Alex Baldwin, enough said. Love his GE Jack Welshisms.
  • Entourage: Brilliant. HBO continues to make some of the best programming around and anything that is loosely based on Marky Mark is fine by me.
  • Flight of the Conchords: Truly one of the weirdest shows you will watch. Two New Zealand guys trying to make it big in New York. That is what makes it so funny. This months Wired describes them as ‘New Zealand’s second most popular guitar based, digi-bongo, a cappella, rap-funk-comedy folk duo’. They also won this years Grammy for best comedy album.
  • How I Met Your Mother: I am surprised. I thought it would not last, but it has. Really – who does he marry and could Doogie Houser be any funnier?
  • The Office: I am a huge British office fan. I was sceptical about this show. As each season progresses, I hate to say it, I become convinced that it is better than the British version.
  • Life: I am a huge Band of Brothers fan and so was destined to watch this show. Gritty, unique plot, humorous, well written. It was just renewed for a second season. Fantastic. If you can, catch the rerun.

The shark is circling:

  • Dexter: Truly one of the best written TV series I have ever seen. Dark, brooding, cutting humour and a plot that has the twists and turns of a mountain road, a great series. However, the end to Season 2 bordered on too much. We will see if it can survive a 3rd season. I cannot recommend the first 2 seasons highly enough.
  • Boston Legal: How many more quirky characters with weird habits or afflictions can they bring on the show? Well written, Shatner and Spader are fantastic characters. We will see.
  • Carpoolers: A quirky sitcom written by Bruce McCullough from The Kids in the Hall (The best sketch comedy show of all time .. Daves I know and the Eradicator). This scene summarizes the humour. Didn’t think it would work but after a few they had me, just don’t know if it is mainstream enough to survive. TJ Miller is a very funny comedian and the Sliders dude is good too.
  • Chuck: Very funny comedy about a young guy who has a NSA computer downloaded into his head. I know, it sounds silly, but it is quite funny. The problem is that he walks around San Francisco and just ‘happens’ to bump into international terrorists. What, do they all live in San Fran? Sorry, it cannot last.
  • Scrubs: I am on the fence here. Funny show but it comes and goes.

Jumped the shark ….

  • House: Hugh, loved you in the first 2 seasons but it is getting a bit much. Gee, will he figure out the mysterious illness while playing with everyone’s mind? Tune in to find out. Sorry, you lost me with the whole ‘who gets to be my intern’ competition thing.
  • My Name is Earl: It was funny for a while. Now it is just old.
  • Rescue Me: Another truly great show. I am a big Dennis Leary fan – so when this show started I was on it. Dark sarcastic Leary humour, very deep plot (all about firefighters post 911, Leary had a cousin die). Well worth a watch, but expect a roller coaster of emotions. And as an aside, Leary plays a true anti-hero and season 5 (July) is the last. It is time.
  • 24: Oh my goodness Jack, die already. You lost me after the 4th crisis where you implemented your patented TV show framework.
  • X-Files: Look, I loved this show. Great writing and when they were actually solving mysteries, very entertaining. But by the end I was so confused as to who is doing what to whom, I did not know which way was up. Which begs the question – how can they make a second movie? If this movie has any link to the previous story line – who will remember what happened before except for the guy who still lives in his mom’s basement at 40?

Shows that never jumped the shark and I wish would come back …..

  • Firefly: What a great series. Although killing off a main character in the movie makes the likelihood of this come back low. How about if we say please?
  • John from Cincinnati: Too weird to survive, but a very interesting single season show. Bring him back, I want to know who he really is.
  • Seinfeld: Come on? One more season Jerry?
  • Arrested Development: Seriously, I would watch another season. Who doesn’t want to watch the plight of a family caught building houses in Iraq? Will Arnett is just as funny in 30 Rock.

And a few that I have on my ‘too be watched’ queue, and remain un-judged:

  • Lost (Much debate on whether this has jumped the shark. I have not watched it yet, but plan to this year), Nip/Tuck (On my to be watched), Gavin and Stacy (very popular Brit show), Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia (great reviews), Journeyman (Time travelling father? Another with good reviews), Monk, The Shield, Journeyman, Mad Men (watched a few – great show about 50′s ad guys – just watching them smoke and drink in the office makes me laugh), Painkiller Jane, Men in Trees (huge Northern Exposure fan .. is it like that?), Primevil (Brit show about dinosaurs .. one to watch with the boys), Pushing Daisys, Sarah Connor Chronicles (Terminator, of course we have to watch it), The Riches, Doctor Who (how can I be in the UK and not try it out?), Blade (loved the movies) and The 4400 (which was highly recommended to me).

As an aside, here are a few old UK shows that I have come across and recommend:

  • Green Wing: Great UK comedy about a crazy hospital. Good laugh.
  • Life on Mars: The story of a cop who gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1970. Like Mad Men, going back in time and watching their socially unacceptable environment is quite entertaining. They closed this after 2 seasons – perfect.
  • The IT Crowd: A story of 2 hapless IT support guys working out of the basement. A good geek laugh. Enjoy this support clip.

So ends my TV assessment.

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