Thursday, December 30, 2010

HOW DO YOU BURLESQUE? – A Burlesque Review

What do you get when you cross Coyote Ugly with Moulin Rouge and top it all off with the glamour of Cher? A whole lot of fishnets and glitter, that’s what.

Making the most of our Holidays, we embarked on a mid week adventure yesterday afternoon for sushi, shopping and a movie. Despite Christmas being over, the malls were still hopping and the theatre was crowded, but the flurry of people did little to deter us from joining in the song and dance of Burlesque.

Burlesque isn’t the kind of film that weighs heavily on the story line, you know the drill… small town girl (Christina Aguilera) with big dreams moves to the city with nothing but a pocket full of cash and some talent, hoping to make something of herself, just like every other girl in LA.

After some disheartening run ins with dead end job opportunities, she wanders into a burlesque club and is awestruck by the glamorous show she sees on stage. She begs the club owner (Cher) for a job, ends up waiting tables until she can prove herself, her apartment is broken into and the spoiled lead burlesque dancer (Kristen Bell) instantly sees her as a threat and becomes her rival.

It’s all very similar to the beginning of Coyote Ugly; however, instead of dancing on bars and spraying customers with water, these girls don corsets and sequins and dance on stage in fishnets, a la Moulin Rouge. It even goes as far as to duplicate the Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend number, only without Nicole Kidman on a swing.

Needless to say, it isn’t the plot or dialogue that drives the movie, but the glitz and glamour and that giant voice that Aguilera showcases. While we aren’t always a fan of the pop star turned actress, at least this is a role fit for a pop queen and Aguilera has the talent to fill those heels. With a repertoire of songs to compliment her vast vocal range, this movie is really just a stage for Aguilera to show off her skills as a burlesque singer, which we already know she can pull off thanks to the Lady Marmalade music video.

Cher steps in as the club owner and mother figure, which plays to her veteran role in the music biz. With her right hand man (Stanley Tucci – who is always brilliant in roles like this) loyally by her side, she takes each budding dancer under her wing and not only provides some direction, but a sense of family for a motley crew of lost girls with nowhere else to go in the big bad city. Even after all these years, Cher still is a legendary icon that you just can’t stop, a message she sang to us in a rather random number that seems like it was only included in the film to give her a chance to do her thing.

The reason this movie was on our radar, however, was not solely because it’s a musical, but because Ashley will not let any movie with Kirsten Bell go unseen. And it was refreshing to see Bell in a role that wasn’t a one dimensional rom-com character chasing love, but a character that allowed her to show that spitfire attitude that she perfected in Veronica Mars. Sure, she was the bitch, but she played it well and was able to throw some actual effort into it. And did we mention she wore a corset and fishnets?

With all these beautiful women dancing around in barely there clothing, it’s hard to believe that the film could get any hotter. But alas, we must make mention of the token love interest, the good hearted boy who keeps our small town girl grounded and on track. And does he ever look good doing it.

Cam Gigandet may be forever remembered as the long haired evil vampire James from Twilight, but that boy has far more to offer than fangs. And he had a chance to prove that when he dropped trou for a unique take on a strip tease during a comedic scene, which was actually a refreshing take on your typical love scene and was much appreciated (and not just because of the clothing the scene lacked). There is just something to be said about a man who straddles a motorcycle and wears eyeliner. (Ashley’s suggestion: more dudes need to wear eyeliner.)

All in all, Burlesque certainly follows a formula, and it’s not even a very successful formula, but no one goes to something like this in hopes of seeing an award worthy movie. It’s a fun, glamourous, glittery world with lots of eye candy, beautiful costumes and a handful of talented women taking the stage and showing us all how to Burlesque.

images from google images

** please note, this would have been posted sooner but ashley got distracted looking at images of cam on a motorcycle on google.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I’ve got a dream – Tangled: A Movie Review

We are aware that we’re about a month too late for this review but when it’s this awesome and enjoyable, you must forgive us. Disney movies have always held a place in our hearts (whether you can get Ashley to admit it or not), the catchy pop ballads and timeless stories will always bring us together to see each and every one.

Broken down simply, Tangled is a coming of age story that is relatable to anyone who has faced or is facing the burden of growing up and making their own choices. Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) is on the cusp of adulthood and yet has not seen the world beyond her window, having been locked away in a doorless tower by her Mother Gothel, a selfish old wench who wants to hide Rapunzel and her golden secret from the world. Her only friend is her pet chameleon, Pascal.

She has dreamed of venturing out into the world, if only for just one night to see the lights that appear in the sky every year on her birthday. Her Mother refuses to grant her this gift, as she wants to keep Rapunzel’s magic hair all to herself. Of course, one day a handsome bandit named Flynn Rider (voiced by Zachary Levi), with smouldering good looks and charm, happens to find his way into her tower prison. Rapunzel is no fool and brushes off his advances, making a deal with him to take her to see the floating lights.

It is during their travels together towards the castle that Rapunzel is faced with the challenges of breaking free from the nest, finding who she is in a vast world while avoiding the perils of traveling with a wanted criminal. She realizes that not all is as it appears, ruffians do have dreams and her mother perhaps is not looking out for her best interest. And of course, she finds the meaning of true love.

Our favourite character by far was neither hero nor heroine. It was Maximus. A horse with canine qualities who stole every scene he was in. His expressions and mannerisms spoke louder than anything anyone could say. From his proud stance to his dogged determination in finding Flynn, Max was the best character to date to come from Disney studios.

Not realizing that this week would be a busy one for theatres, we went to see a relatively early show, a poor plan when seeing a movie geared towards children. There were many screaming children in there causing quite a distraction. It was unavoidable but the consistent wailing and cooing at nothing grew old, fast.

However, it is still a great movie to see as it leaves you with warm and fuzzy thoughts, just in time for the holidays.

images from google image search

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

You’re a Funny One, Mr. Grinch

Whether you joyously wrap yourself in Christmas spirit (like Veronica) or prefer to remain more of a bitter Scrooge (like Ashley), you can’t escape the classic Christmas tale of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. There’s a cartoon. There’s a movie. Many television shows do their own re-enactment. And until December 30… you can watch the magic come to life on the stage at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.

Narrated by a grey and aging Max the Dog, the How the Grinch Stole Christmas Musical takes the audience (full of restless, excited children and their parents) back to the beginning where a scheming Grinch decides to put a stop to the cheerful holiday spirit bubbling over Whoville and steal Christmas away from the Whos.

The songs draw directly from the original Dr. Seuss text and tv special and are delivered with uncontrollable pep and ear piercing Who shrieks, the numbers sticking in your head with the bubble gum stickiness of a children’s pop song.

Bright costumes in rainbows of colour, crazy hair dos and lots of skipping splatters the stage and the set itself is a collection of hand-drawn houses and furniture. The entire aesthetic of the play feels like a living page straight out of a Dr. Seuss story book.

The star on top to the tree, of course, is the Grinch. Such an elastic, animated, expressive role that’s best let loose within the limitless cartoon world (or portrayed by Jim Carrey, who is pretty much a cartoon himself). A role that Icelandic actor Stefan Karl bravely steps into for the Toronto production.

Now, we had awful seats at this performance. We’re talking top balcony, very, very last row. We could not be any further away from the stage (thanks, Sony Centre, for moving our seats without giving us any prior warning). While the sound was no issue, we could not see any facial expressions and relied solely on body movement to draw us in. Not an easy feat if you don’t have what it takes.

Thankfully, Karl sinuously moved around that stage, slithering down the framed walls surrounding the set, posing dramatically, continually wiggling his long stringy green fingers in a bewitching trance. He vivaciously overacted in the necessary way to make that green character truly come alive. And from where we were sitting, the entire performance seemed eerily similar to the original 1966 television special.

As for the loveable, optimistic, fearless little Cindy-Lou Who, well, she even managed to warm Ashley’s cold little heart with her adorable little Who wiggle and flawless performance. Both Brooke Boyd and Carly Tamer are credited for the role (we aren’t sure who took the stage or if it was a shared effort for the Friday December 17 performance), but such little feet immaculately filled those big shoes.

Of course, the purpose of the musical isn’t only to allow us fully grown women to remember what it’s like to be a kid again, but to provide all the little ones with some Christmas joy and entertainment. As we mentioned, that venue was full of kids who were bouncing along with the music and giggling at the Grinch’s antics. And you can only contain a child’s excitement for so long before they are yelling out in the middle of the performance, shouting to the Grinch to help him remember how to properly wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

“Don’t rush me!” The Grinch shouted back, which only caused a sea of laughter and more children to join in until nearly ever child in the audience was hollering out Merry Christmas wishes in between fits of laughter.

Needless to say, the How the Grinch Stole Christmas Musical will thrill all little Whos and maybe even you too.

images from google image search

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Suddenly Ravenous - Veronica's Basil Eggplant

If there ever was a go to vegetable, it would definitely be the eggplant for me. From its gorgeous, glossy royal purple skin to its spongy interior that just begs me to season it to my liking. Luckily, living in Canada means that I can get my hands on them at anytime.

I do enjoy all varieties of eggplant but I am partial to Chinese long variety of eggplant and is often found in my fridge. When picking them out in the store, look for ones that are free of blemishes, bruises and brown spots. Look for ones with green stems, as they will be fresher.

For this recipe you will need:

• 4 long eggplants
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 3 cloves of garlic, minced
• 2 chilli peppers, sliced length wise in quarters
• ¼ cup Oyster sauce
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
• 1 bunch thai basil leaves, pick them off the stems
• 1 cup water

Slice the eggplants into irregular chunks by turning it 45 degrees, this enables easy turning in the wok.

o2. In a separate bowl, mix together the oyster sauce, sugar and salt. Set aside.

o3. Heat wok over medium high heat, add oil, garlic and chillies, stir until garlic becomes golden and aromatic.

o4. Toss in the cut up eggplant and stir.

o5. Add in the water and cover the wok. After 7 minutes or so give the eggplant a stir.

o6. Eggplant is done when it has turned translucent. If needed add more water and return lid to wok for another few minutes.

o7. Once eggplant is cooked, add in the oyster sauce mixture, toss until completely covered.

o8. Turn heat off, throw in the basil and stir until just wilted to retain that beautiful green colour.

This dish is so delicious; I don’t even bother with the steamed rice.

Try it some time!

images (c)CityGirlScapes

Monday, December 6, 2010

You Can't Be Us, We're Rock Stars! Our Big Night Out with Arkells

When it comes to luck, Ashley doesn’t have a lot of it. Not for winning things, anyway. So a couple of weekends ago when she was encouraged to enter an online contest through the Edge for one of their Big Night Out ordeals, she did so in jest, not expecting much from it. And yet somehow, she won.

On December 3, Ashley and nine of her friends (including Veronica, who co-captained the evening by assisting with pre-show preparations, organization and keeping Ashley from cowering away in awkward social interactions) were escorted by limo to the Phoenix Concert Theatre to check out Dinosaur Bones, the Reason, and headliner Arkells.

We were whisked past the line and up to the balcony area, where a roped off VIP section was set aside for our entourage to watch the show. Pizza and wings from Pizzaiolo were provided and the balcony housed it’s own bar so we could meet our needs without having to travel too far. The balcony, however, was also open to the nosy public who were often found trying to invade our VIP section, leading us to have to enforce our own security team (Veronica) to keep our premises clear of mooching bystanders.

Around 10:30, we were once again greeted by an Edge rep and taken down into a back room where a few members from Arkells were waiting for us. They had lost part of the band along the way, Max (vocals, guitar) informed Ashley. But it was fitting; since we had lost half our group as well, leaving behind reinforcements to man the fort while the rest of us played rock star with the band.

The next few minutes were full of nervous ramblings, photos, autograph signings and an embarrassing fall as Ashley’s feet slipped out from under her, sending her crashing down on a platform in front of the entire band. But the boys themselves were great, not only for agreeing to do something like this, but they were genuinely down to earth, cool guys. We couldn’t have anticipated a better meet and greet.

When we finally made our way back up to our section, which was once again overthrown by the general public, the Reason were just finishing their set. Ashley managed to befriend a couple of the band member’s mothers, who were welcomed into our VIP section without question, and we all waited patiently for Arkells to take the stage.

Simply put, they were awesome. We were fairly familiar with the tunes, but to see them take the stage with such energy, breathing life into songs from an album that is already two years old was pretty impressive.

We are definitely the kind of concert goers who like to be down in the scene and feel a part of the show, so to be sitting up on a balcony, detached from the crowd, and yet still drawn into the performance speaks volumes about their showmanship. And the cover of Bryan Adams’ Run to You during the encore was one of the best things we have seen in a really long time.

The night definitely ended on a high note as we all went our separate ways, the limo taking the East Enders back to where the night began.

A big thanks to the Edge and Arkells for such a wonderful night!

Images © CityGirlScapes and google images.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Review - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One

Veronica has lived with this series from the beginning, eagerly anticipating each installment and booking days off to read each one as they were released. Nerdy and awesome? Yes and yes.

Ashley, on the other hand, has followed the series through the film versions as they were released, only recently succumbing to Veronica’s persistent demands that she at least read the final book before it’s too late.

Either way, the Harry Potter franchise has been a constant companion in our lives for as long as we can remember and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 being the second to last movie of the epic series, we hoped it would live up to our expectations and all the hype. We were excited to learn that they were going to split the 700 page tome into two movies and hopefully do justice to JK. Rowling’s prose. And we can honestly say we were not disappointed.

A lot of people still think these are children’s films but they’re not. The dark turn, not only in the images but the characters as well, has made the last few films distinctively adult. This latest installment has firmly rooted adult themes, with the artistic nudity, death and torture; it is definitely not for kids.

It is the darkest of dark times in the Wizarding World, Voldemort now has control over the ministry and is seeking out those witches
and wizards who are not pure bloods. This is laughable being that Tom Riddle is himself a half-breed; but being the vilest of all dark wizards has its perks. Harry, Hermione and Ron are on the hunt for Horcruxes, seemingly ordinary objects that the Dark Lord himself has secreted bits of his soul, which must be destroyed if they are to win the battle against him. This is an uphill battle that even the most resourceful and cunning wizard would have a hard time doing, yet three fledgling wizards band together to do what others cannot.

While there is so much we can say about this movie, we don’t want to risk spoiling the experience for any other die-hard fans out there, so we’ll keep the movie rundown to a minimum and generally sum up the experience as being more than thrilling.

Having to adapt from a book that contains so much magic, it must have been a difficult task deciding what aspects to include in the film and what to cut. It was agreed that some scenes in the film lacked the tremendous intensity depicted through the written pages, but the overall impact of the movie far surpasses expectations and makes up for the missing components.

As for our three leading Wizards - such a risk was taken in the initial casting of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, committing to three unknown kids and giving them such giant shoes to fill. Those initial casting decisions could have gone drastically wrong (see: Twilight), especially without any solid indication of whether they would be able to grow up on screen and handle all the attention at such a young age while continuing to exert the passion and focus needed to do each role justice.

It’s almost unbelievable when you look back over the different films and realize exactly how much the three of them have grown, not only in age, but also as actors. As mentioned, this film dives deeper into some darker, heavier themes and there are many scenes that require a lot of emotion, angst and jealous anger. Each performance is sincere and believable; the kind of authenticity that leaves you aching for each character like you would an old friend. After all, at this point, anyone who has followed the story from the beginning has been standing alongside Harry, Ron and Hermoine as loyally as any old friend would.

One sequence that was done exceptionally well and deserves to be mentioned is Harry’s introduction to the Deathly Hallows. The creepy, Tim Burton-esque animated retelling was all at once perfect and apt. It flawlessly captured and illustrated exactly what the trio was seeking in their quest. And not only was it visually stimulating, but the short was thoroughly descriptive so that even those who have not read all the books will understand the significance of the Hallows and how they fit into Harry’s story.

Our only issue with the existence of two movies is that as the first movie comes to a close, the exhilaration beings to build and once you reach that final climactic moment and the credits role, you are callously left hanging and wanting more. We sat there stunned and waiting optimistically for a preview of Part Two that just didn’t come.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 will hit theatres in July 2011 and you have our word we will be counting down every day until we can witness Harry, Ron and Hermoine in all their deserved glory.

images from google images