Friday, July 29, 2011

O Captain, My Captain! A Captain America Review

Just when we thought this summer couldn't get any hotter, the first avenger and his glorious abs make their official debut in Captain America: The First Avenger and we couldn’t wait to witness the Captain in all his patriotic glory.

It is 1942, America has entered World War II and sickly but determined Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is frustrated at being rejected yet again for military service. Everything changes when Dr. Erksine (Stanley Tucci) recruits him for the secret Project Rebirth.

Proving his extraordinary courage, wits and conscience, Rogers undergoes the experiment and his weak body is suddenly enhanced into the maximum human potential – with lots of abs.

When Dr. Erksine is assassinated by an agent working for the head of Nazi Germany's secret HYDRA research department, Johann Schmidt aka the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), Rogers is left as a unique man who is initially misused as a propaganda mascot in a series of ridiculous motivational performances that eventually lead him into the field where he is told that his best friend from home (Sebastian Stan) is missing and most likely dead.

With the help of his love interest Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and business man Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), Rogers attempts a fearless rescue mission which ultimately gains him respect from Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and truly makes him Captain America, launching a personal vendetta against the evil Schmidt.

Unlike some of the other big comic blockbusters of the summer, Captain America proved to be an ongoing action packed battle from start to finish. It wasn’t overloaded with too much information, yet you didn’t feel left in the dark if you didn’t know the story behind the character, the love story with Peggy Carter didn’t overshadow the priority mission and the army of heavy weight actors leading the brigade made it easy to see how the whole thing came together so perfectly.

Chris Evans, of course, was a perfect fit for Captain America. Though it was kind of creepy seeing him so weak and tiny during the first part of the movie, Evans is a natural at balancing that cocky confidence with humility and proved that he really does embody every aspect of the Captain. Not to mention how well he fills out that uniform.

We would loyally follow him into battle any day.

Images from Google Images.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Billy Elliot is not my lover; he’s just a boy who says that he wants to DANCE! – A Billy Elliott review

It’s been a while since we’ve taken in a stage show, having missed The Lion King when it was here for a short stint while Ashley was in Europe. So when we were given a chance to see Billy Elliot last night at the Canon Theatre, we were quite eager to get back at it. And thanks to Veronica’s awful cold (really, who gets sick in the summer?) and antibiotics preventing us from grabbing a pre-show drink, we were actually early for a show for probably the first time ever!

Based on the internationally acclaimed film, Billy Elliot follows Billy as he stumbles out of the boxing ring and into a ballet class, discovering a surprising talent for dance that inspires his family and his whole small English community and changes his life forever.

Brought to life by a phenomenal cast of forty five performers, half of who were kids barely even into their teens, Billy Elliot is quick to step up with fancy footwork that doesn’t stop until the end. Having absolutely no dance talent ourselves, it’s incredible to see children of such a young age possess such immaculate control over their movements and the ability to express themselves on stage without saying a single word.

In last night’s production, eleven year old Billy Elliot was played by Julian Elia and while this tiny boy doesn’t look like much, when he takes that stage and starts dancing, it’s enough to make anyone sit back and give him the spotlight as though he’s been claiming it for years. From ballet to tap to more interpretive dance, this kid could do it all, something he proved with the closing number of the first act appropriately called Angry Dance. That was the point where you know Billy means business.

It wasn’t just Elia up there proving he has what it takes. The young girls in the ballet class moved across that stage with comedic grace, though their ear-piercing girlish screams and sighs bordered on irritating and Dillon Stevens, who played Billy’s cross dressing, tutu loving friend Michael, had enough flare to give Elia a run for his money. Billy’s aloof father (David Keeley) reminded us of a small town, passive Will Ferrell at times, at least from our mid-section seats, and his grandmother (Cindy Benson) was throwing out laughable lines almost as often as she gave someone the middle finger.

Kate Hennig brought Mrs. Wilkinson to life and took an aggressive satisfaction as the person responsible for pushing Billy to accomplish his dreams while having to stand her ground against his hard headed father and a town full of aggressive miners. Girl Power. We can’t forget, of course, Billy’s older brother Tony, played by none other than Degrassi alum Jake Epstein, who did a fantastic job as a passionate miner unwilling to back down from what he believes in, even when it puts him in the line of fire.

Though the focus of the play is dance, it’s hard not to notice the accompanying music, especially when it’s done by the legendary Elton John. Catchy, expressive tunes that match the energy of the dance numbers act as the perfect accessory to move the story along and push this play from a dance heavy performance to an actual story driven play. The music is the component that brings the whole thing together.

While the cross dressing scene with the giant dancing dresses was... something, and a close second, our favourite number was performed by Billy’s bitter Grandmother, expressing her dislike of her deceased husband throughout their entire marriage - unless they were dancing. Take a few minutes to read these lyrics and you’ll understand why this song is now our new theme song:

If I'd only known then what I know now I'd've given them all the finger and gone dancing and not give a sh*t and spin around and reel and love each bit. And I'd dance alone and enjoy it. And I'd be me for an entire life instead of somebody's wife and I never would be sober.
And I never would be sober.

The only complaint with the show, other than the poor British accents, was the puppets. Those of you who aren’t aware, Veronica has a very odd fear of puppets, so you can only imagine her state of mind when the second act opened with a Christmas pageant that not only featured a number of hand puppets, but also a giant Margaret Thatcher paper mache-looking marionette that came out of nowhere and snaked its lanky arms out over the stage, determined to claw at Veronica with its long, pointy fingers. Shudder.

Billy Elliot runs until September 3, so you still have time to get your dance on. Buy Tickets.

Images from official website and Google images.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Streak is Over! Jay’s Win 6-5 after 14 LONG Innings!

For being the passionate sports fan that she is, it’s been a long running joke that Veronica is cursed when it comes to sports. Or at least when it comes to watching sports, for every professional game she attends, the team is almost always destined to lose.

One could argue that it’s not HER, per se, but the talentless hacks she often supports (ahem, the Leafs), but theories aside, when we set out to cheer the Jays as they took on the Seattle Mariners last night at the Skydome (yes, the Skydome!) we weren’t really expecting a big payoff.

We got to the game in good time, grabbed a beer, found our awesome seats... first row of section 210, right along the first base line, just next to the foul pole. The dome was in the process of opening completely and this awful summer heat was somewhat bearable, making for a beautiful night to take in a game!

Our first glasses of beer from the Budweiser booth proved to be quite the challenge. They kept dripping spots of beer onto us; no matter how steady we held the glass or how often we wiped off the
condensation. Confused, Veronica inspected the cup, managing to unleash a stream of beer down onto her seat. “Don’t press the bottom of the cup!” she discovered, warning Ashley before she met a similar fate.

Always a sucker to her own curiosity, Ashley ignored the warnings and pressed the bottom of her cup as well, unleashing another stream of beer down onto her own seat. There were holes in the bottom of the cups, covered not so securely by a round stopper on the inside. I understand this is to fill the cups from the bottom, but honestly, WHO PUTS A HOLE IN THE BOTTOM OF A CUP? Needless to say, we spent the first few innings with wet beer-soaked bottoms.

Things started off a little slow, a couple runs here, a couple runs there, a few painful strike outs from people who should know better (Travis Snider) and then a string of innings with no runs at all, bringing us into the seventh with Seattle up by one. After Bautista hit the tying run home, it was a lot of waiting and booing and suspense as the game went into five extra innings before Ashley’s boy John McDonald hit a sacrifice fly, sending Rajai Davis home to win the game 6-5. Veronica’s curse is over!

Game highlights:

Adam Lind’s early game homerun up into the second deck in right field came incredibly close to being within reach of our beer-filled hands. Close enough, in fact, that during the televised replay, you can see your two favourite City Girls hanging out just at the edge of the scene.

After a much needed trip to the bathroom, we arrive back to the game just in time to see John McDonald make a nice little play, surprising us both with his unexpected presence. Ashley was definitely happy to see him.

Ashley leaving the game in the 11th inning in a fit of frustration, only to miss the exciting end and Johnny Mac’s stellar performance. Figures.

images (c)citygirlscapes

Monday, July 18, 2011

Spicy Lemongrass Tofu

I know it’s been a while since I’ve added anything to Suddenly Ravenous so here goes. Every so often I get a craving for anything tofu. I know, I know. Everyone’s complaint is that tofu is tasteless. But I prefer to think of it as a blank canvas for flavour! And nothing imparts flavour quite like lemongrass. I always keep some handy in the freezer for that very reason.

For this recipe you will need:

• 1 lb chunk of extra firm tofu
• 4 tbsp finely minced lemongrass
• 2 chillies, finely minced
• 1 tsp kosher salt
• Olive oil for frying

Cut the tofu into ½ inch slices and pat dry with paper towel. Take away as much excess water as you can or else it may pop when you’re frying them.

Combine the lemongrass, minced chillies and salt in a bowl then spread about ½ teaspoon on each side of the tofu slice.

Heat a pan on medium-high with a splash of oil. Gently put each slice on the heated, oiled pan and fry for about 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Place on your favourite plate and enjoy!

images (c)citygirlscapes

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Boy Must Die: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, A Movie Review

Last night at the Queensway Cinemas, Veronica had the elite pleasure of being one of the first to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 as a special guest of Cineplex. A word of warning, this review may contain spoilers, but if you’re a true fan, you’ve already read and reread the books so it shouldn’t entirely be a surprise.

It was very hard to write this review for fear of missing the essentials and not doing the movie justice. Veronica’s love affair with this series started about 10 years ago when she picked up the first book in preparation of the release of the very first movie and she can proudly say she has now stood by Harry until the very end.

In this final installment, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermoine (Emma Watson) continue on their perilous and increasingly difficult journey of finding the last Horcruxes (pieces of Voldemort’s soul attached to objects) and destroying them. Whatever action Part 1 lacked, Part 2 more than made up for it. From the break into and eventual breaking out of Gringott’s whilst riding a fierce fire-breathing dragon, to the battle on the steps of Hogwarts, there was barely a dull moment to be had.

The trio eventually makes their way back to Hogwart’s for the penultimate battle between the Order of the Phoenix (and those who stand for all that is good) and Voldermort’s (Ralph Fiennes) Death Eaters. Despite the severity of the situation, the castle being under siege by the scourge of the Wizarding world, Professor McGonagall (the venerable Maggie Smith) still exclaimed “I’ve always wanted to use that spell!” after casting the “piertotum locomotor” spell to give life to the stone statues to protect the school. This of course elicited laughs from everyone and helped break the tension in anticipation of what was to come.

It’s quite clear that the casting was well done for all the characters, particularly that of Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), who did a perfect impersonation of Hermoine, complete with jutted jaw. And of course to Ashley’s favorite WILF, Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) has grown into a hunky, Horcrux demolishing hero.

Part 2 by far is the shortest of all the movies in this epic series, with a run time of 2 hours. That being said, parts of the book that further explained Albus Dumbledore’s (Michael Gambon) tumultuous relationship with his brother Percival (Ciaran Hinds) were left out. And Severus Snape’s (The Alan Rickman) story, which encompassed an entire chapter, was whittled down to a little more than 3 minutes of screen time. Veronica wasn’t exactly disappointed in this but certainly felt that Snape and Rickman deserved more than what they were given.

In all honesty, after watching every movie (perhaps more than once), Veronica is still waiting for the onscreen chemistry between Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright) and Harry to happen. Their shared onscreen kiss was perfunctory at best and lacks the passion that JK Rowling had put on paper.

Director David Yates has done very well with tying up the loose ends from the previous movies and gives long time and casual fans the ending that will satisfy even the finickiest nerd.

Images courtesy of Google Images.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Black Keys @ the Molson Canadian Amphitheater - July 07, 2011

While Veronica’s passion is cooking, Ashley’s passion, without a doubt, is music. If you were to tally up all the money she spends on concert tickets alone, well, she could very possibly be living in a much bigger house, drive a better car and not be living paycheque to paycheque. But really, where is the fun in that?

Sadly, this summer has been a bit of a concert drought. While there are a number of big shows rolling in to town, the majority of them are being held at the Sound Academy, which Ashley refuses to set foot in ever again. So when the Black Keys announced they would be hitting the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre on July 7, Ashley was beyond thrilled.

The Molson Canadian Amphitheatre is not always the best venue for a show. At least not for a self proclaimed music snob who prefers to be as closely immersed in the concert scene as possible. And it’s not always the easiest venue to get to, especially when most of the roads around the venue are closed in preparation for the Honda Indy in Toronto. But fighting through the mass of people and vehicles, Ashley eventually arrived there just after 8pm as Cage the Elephant was taking the stage.

These boys from Kentucky hit the stage with a bound of energy, pouring out their radio familiar hits in the brief half hour-ish set. Knowing only their tunes that the Edge plays regularly, Ashley was relatively surprised with how many songs she was actually familiar with, which goes to say these guys have made a better impact on the Toronto music scene than initially expected.

Though lead singer Matthew Shultz often bordered on that somewhat annoying scream/yelling/forced singing, he rarely ever stopped moving on stage, throwing his hair around, throwing his body around, jumping off the stage into the crowd, and sometimes taking out innocent observers with the mic wire. Their stage presence was intensifying and the perfect attack to pump up the crowd before the headliners took the stage.

The Black Keys were a little later than anticipated, modestly walking out to a stadium of about 16,000 screaming fans only to thank them for showing up as if they were playing some small coffee shop and grateful to actually see some faces in the crowd.

Their set started with a mix of songs from their first three albums, something long time fans are always grateful for. Though the tour is generally in support of their newest album Brothers, it’s refreshing to hear the songs that made you fall in love with the band in the first place.

After playing a cover of the Kinks’ Act Nice and Gentle, which the band says is one of their favourite songs; they welcomed a couple more musicians to join the stage and jumped right in to their newer tunes.

Obviously what the fans were waiting for, this point of the show really picked up as Everlasting Light started and a giant disco ball lit up on stage, casting glimmering strands of light all through the Amphitheatre. Up next was Next Girl, accompanied by worn out black and white video footage of burlesque dancers, Chop and Change (their newest tune, recorded for the Twilight soundtrack, sadly), Howlin’ For You and Tighten Up – all of which brought those last few people still sitting to their feet.

After a couple more new and old numbers, the set ended with I Got Mine, where you saw for the first time a giant neon THE BLACK KEYS sign rise up on the stage. The sign, of course, remained during the low point before the encore, flashing rhythmically and enticing the audience into a BLACK-KEYS chant.

The two song encore started with Sinister Kid, ending on a high note with Your Touch, which sent the crowd into a flurry of screams, crowd surfs and howls. All in all, it was a fantastic show. Though Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney aren’t much for talking, their stage presence and impeccable talent spoke volumes and continued to resonate well after the show, enough to actually cause another sleepless night for this rock n roller.

Full Set List

(Ashley did not take any pictures at this show due to an unfortunate accident with her camera and water in Europe. But really, she would just much rather watch a show with her own eyes instead of through a camera lens. For pictures, see: Molson Canadian Amphitheatre or Karon Liu)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Celebs Abound

Today was just another Comic run Wednesday for Veronica and company at One Million Comix when lo and behold, in walks Golden Globe Award nominee Adam Beach (Flags of our Fathers, L & O: SVU and the highly anticipated Cowboys & Aliens) with what looked like his son Luke.

Veronica immediately took to the Twitterverse to alert her followers of this happenstance meeting. But being a true CityGirl and not wanting to disturb a fellow nerd’s comic selection, she did not approach him but watched him from a safe distance.

Mr. Beach is also known for hosting the annual National Aboriginal Achievement Awards, which celebrate excellence in our First Nations, Inuit and M├ętis communities nationwide.

Veronica contemplated snapping a picture of Mr. Beach but did not want to invade his privacy any further than she already had. Needless to say, their next “meeting” shall be when she sees Cowboys & Aliens in the theatre later this month.

Images from Google.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon – A Review

You know its Summer when all the major studios bring out their big blockbuster hits to the big screen for the nerdy at heart. This past long weekend, Veronica went to see Transformers 3 because, well, she’s seen the previous 2. And really, giant robots smashing each other, pure and simple, is so much fun to see.

With a runtime of two and half hours, you’d figure that there would be some sort of cohesiveness to the story and more character development but true to a Michael Bay film, this was a testosterone laden ride that was more often than not bumpy. Shia LeBeouf reprises his role as Sam Witwicky, the only human that the Autobots truly trust. Megan Fox may have made headlines by going head to head with Bay, which resulted in her not being included in the third film, but did the introduction of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as Carly Spence, Sam’s new love interest. Does she have what it takes to replace Fox?

The only positive thing about Spence was the fact that her role was downplayed, but that also meant she was excess baggage that was carted around, scene after scene. It might be speculated that the Victoria’s Secret model had problems remembering her lines so they relegated her to just screaming and squealing at opportune times. And we even got the patented Victoria’s Secret pose near the end to emphasize that Spence was just eye-candy (or eye-Carly) for the boys.

That being said, this third installment is being lauded as the best of the 3 so far. And truthfully, it had the potential to tell the tale properly, with its play on the decades old conspiracy of the real reason for the US moon landing. But somewhere along the way, in order for Bay to get his over the top explosions and to ram the age old story of good vs. evil down our throats, he lost his direction. And at the base of it all, it’s a story we’ve seen time and time again.

Surprising additions to this film were John Malkovich and Patrick Dempsey, both whom did the best they could in their limited roles. You can’t help but laugh at Malkovich’s Bruce Brazos, Sam’s new boss, as he takes over each scene he’s in. Even when he’s being bullied by Ken Jeong in the men’s room, you’re taken with him.

We also got more a more in depth look at Soundwave and Sideswipe, both of whom were just barely gleaned over in Revenge of the Fallen. And of course, we had the return of all our favorite Autobots (Bumblebee, Optimus Prime) and Decepticons (Megatron!, Starscream) alike.

This film might have been fun to see in 3D but the wait and the stupid glasses don’t make it nearly worth it and we don’t feel as though we missed anything. As far as trilogies go, this was a satisfying ending to it all. But of course with Hollywood, there’s always room for a fourth.

Images from Googe Images