Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy birthday to our CityGirl, Ashley!

The day has come, our very own music loving, Palahnuik reading CityGirl has reached another milestone: The 27 club! Tonight we celebrate with drinks and dancing and drag Ashley out of her comfort zone through the wonderful haze of booze. Keep your eyes glued to Twitter for the live updates as the celebrations go down!!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Was he or Not was he, that is the question – Anonymous Review

William Shakespeare. Unless you’ve been living under a rock your entire life, William Shakespeare is a name you’re familiar with. A name you’ve probably studied in depth in high school, a name associated to many plays you’ve read (Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet) or many modernized movies you’ve seen without even realizing it’s a Shakespeare adaptation (10 Things I Hate About You, She’s the Man, Get Over It). Shakespeare was a legendary historic poet and playwright, often considered the greatest writer in the English Language. But was he also a fraud?

Last night was the prescreening of the movie Anonymous, which explores the controversial theory that all the works of Shakespeare were actually written by an Elizabethan aristocrat named Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford who used the power of theatre to speak to the people and create an uprising against the monarchy.

A literary prodigy,writing his first play (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) at age eight, Edward (Rhys Ifans) held a prominent place in court and was taken under the wing of the Queen Elizabeth I (Vanessa Redgrave)'s advisor William Cecil (David Thewlis) after the passing of his parents.

The intention was to groom him to be an obedient component of the monarchy, but the strapping romantic continued to write his plays, fell willingly into the young Queen’s bed and defied all his responsible duties, causing more trouble than the court had bargained for.

With the Queen’s advisor Cecil on his death bed and his son, Robert, anxious to continue his father’s scheme to bring James of Scotland in as heir to the crown, Edward knew he had to do something to ensure that the Queen’s true heir, one of her many hidden bastard sons, found his place on the throne. He decides to use his plays as a device to speak to the common people and eventually coerce them into an uprising against the Queen.

Realizing he could not pen his own name to the plays, Edward approaches struggling playwright Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto), imprisoned for his own controversial play, and offers him his freedom if he puts his name to the plays and has them performed. A true poet through and through, Jonson sees this act as offensive and declines to sign his name, but stages the play anyway, naming an anonymous playwright.

The play is a huge success and the crowd demands to know who penned it. It’s at that point that an illiterate drunk actor by the name of William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) appears on stage and pretends to be the playwright. Shakespeare becomes the front man for Edwards plays and thus, the legendary Shakespeare is born.

The movie itself plays out like an authentic Shakespearian tragedy with plenty of scandalous love affairs, betrayals and twists. A strong, well acted British cast of relatively unknowns helps put real substance to the story, which was written solely on aged gossip and no actual historical evidence, and make the entire scenario seem plausible and believable.

Though it may not be for everyone, literary buffs with an appreciation for Shakespeare or period pieces such as this will find it an interesting watch. There is little action, but it’s the historical conspiracy that draws you in and the scheming characters who keep you enthralled. Not to mention the vindictive web laced with secrets and lies that tangles itself around all the key players.

Anonymous creates an intriguing take on a well known historical figure, leaving you wondering how much of the story was historically accurate and how much was fabricated for the sake of entertainment. And while the truth of the man behind the quill may be forever lost on the world, his words will forever resonate through the ages.

images from google images

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Phantom of the Opera – Live at Royal Albert Hall

If you’ve been following us then you’ll already know a few things about us; we love musicals and good ‘ole Rock ‘n’ Roll. So what’s better than Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Rockpera The Phantom of the Opera? NOTHING. The Phantom is the longest running show on Broadway, surpassing ‘Cats’ on January 9th 2006 and if you’ve ever seen this on stage, you can clearly see why everyone’s love for it never dies. In celebration of its 25th anniversary, the London performance was videotaped and many of those in the know had the opportunity to watch it on screen in movie theatres around the world days later.

We’ve never seen anything like this on screen before and thoroughly enjoyed how they presented it to viewers. At times it most certainly felt as if we were live at the Royal Albert Hall in London and not watching a live satellite feed. Though even in the comfort of a movie theatre, with a three hour run time every patron was thankful for the 20 minute intermission before the big finale.

What really impressed us the most was the size of the principle cast for the Phantom, there was little to no room left on the stage when everyone came out to bow at the end. And what really made this memorable was how great the stage was, with mechanical moving sets and giant chandeliers. Putting the orchestra right on the stage as part of the set design instead of down below was a stroke of sheer genius. Seeing such a well put together production always puts us in a great mood and left us humming all evening long.

Every role was well cast, Sierra Boggess’ (Christine) voice perfectly complimented the strong, powerful vocals of Ramin Karimloo (The Phantom). Boggess’ superb acting kept us engrossed throughout while Karimloo stole the show with his haunting presence. Hadley Fraser (Raoul) rounded out the love triangle, holding his own and looking very pretty while doing so.

The bonus was at the end when Sir Andrew joined the cast on stage, bringing with him the original cast as well as all the previous Phantom’s (Peter Jöback, John Owen-Jones, Anthony Warlow and Colm Wilkinson), the original Phantom Michael Crawford and Sir Andrew's own ‘Angel of Music’, Sarah Brightman. Of course we can’t have this reunion of sorts without a performance of “The Phantom of the Opera” followed by “Music of the Night”. That made Veronica’s night, as witnessed when she clapped enthusiastically.

If you missed this showing on Saturday, you’ll have to wait for the DVD/Blu-ray release so you can (not so) secretly possess it. No North American release date for the DVD has been set yet, but if you’re in the UK, you can have it as early as November 14th.

images from Google Images

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stewed Tofu in Tomato Sauce

I used to look forward to the end of summer simply for the excess of tomatoes we’d have at the house. My mom had the greenest thumb and could make just about anything grow. One of the dishes she would make often for me after a fall harvest is her stewed tofu in tomato sauce. I think I’ve gushed about my love for tofu before so I’ll spare you that again.

For this recipe you will need:

• 5 tomatoes
• 1 small onion
• 2 green onions
• 1 package fried tofu
• 2 tbsp sugar
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 tbsp oil

Dice the tomatoes and set aside in a separate bowl. Cut the onion in half and slice into half moons. Cut the green onions into 2 inch pieces and set aside. In a medium sauce pan over medium high heat, add the oil and sliced onions. Sauté for a few minutes until onion is translucent.

Add the diced tomatoes, sugar and salt. I always add sugar into any tomato sauce to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes. Give everything a good stir and cook until the tomatoes break down, about 20 minutes. Continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated, about another 5 minutes.
Give your sauce a taste, add more salt or sugar if needed. Add in the fried tofu and continue cooking for another 5 minutes to allow the tomatoe-y (is that a word?) goodness to seep into the tofu.

Toss in the cut green onions, give it a good stir. Invite a friend over to impress her with your tofu prowess or just serve it to yourself on a lovely bed of rice. Enjoy!

images (c)CityGirlScapes

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

TONIGHT! All Female Chef Line-Up at the 16th Annual Eat to the Beat Fundraiser

Sixty of Canada’s top female chefs, each donating their time and talent, will serve up edible treats at the annual culinary fundraiser, Eat to the Beat, Tuesday, October 18, at 7:00pm at Roy Thomson Hall (60 Simcoe Street).

Eat to the Beat is a cornucopia of sweet and savory foods, wines and premium beers for sampling, all “tastefully” presented around the hall’s outer lobby.

Among the chef line-up are Anne Yarymowich, Frank, Art Gallery of Ontario, and Donna Dooher, Mildred’s Temple Kitchen. This year’s focus is on locally grown, sustainable, seasonal foods and will include “The Country Chicks” with the best chefs, cheese makers, farmers and wine makers from Prince Edward County (Ontario).

Not to be missed at the event are the “class with a bit of sass” ladies, modeling food-inspired corsets; many created by Canadian designers some of who have been affected by breast cancer. The evening also includes live music, a silent auction featuring must-have items, and a raffle draw for a chance to win great prizes including a five-star, all-inclusive trip for two to the Dominican Republic, donated by Air Canada Vacations and The Gran Bahia Principe Esmeralda.

The event is organized by Willow Breast Cancer Support Canada, a not for profit organization that offers free peer support to women coping with breast cancer, their families and friends. Now in its 16th year Eat to the Beat has raised $3.1 million for Willow’s free programs and services.

Tickets that include all food and beverage sampling are still available for $150 each (with a tax receipt) by calling 416.778.6314, x 229 or are available at the door.

images from Eat to the Beat

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Thing - A Movie Review

Last night, Veronica had the opportunity to prescreen The Thing, the prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 The Thing. Not having remembering Carpenter’s version, this prequel was a surprise at some points and a disappointment at others. The treat was having starlet Kim Bubbs, who plays the French geologist and translator Juliette in the film, at the screening with us regular movie loving folks.

It’s always a treat when we get to see a film where the female lead is strong and can hold her own in the face of adversity. Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World”), a paleontologist is recruited by Dr. Sander Halversen (Ulrich Thomsen, "Season of the Witch") to recover an extraterrestrial life form trapped beneath the ice in Antarctica.

Things start going awry when the thing comes to life after being freed from its ice prison. Not knowing whom exactly to trust, Lloyd has to rely on her scientific background to quarantine everyone in an already isolated Antarctic station. The alien life form has the other worldly ability to mimic humans in order to move amongst them, isolate it’s next prey and kill them.

The dialogue was rather lame and director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr uses inevitability to build suspense but even that fell short and flat. For some reason, movies these days use loud noises to make the movie better, but it doesn’t(here's looking at you, Paranormal Activity 1-3). Honestly, there was only one part in which we were genuinely surprised. And that was more due to the loud banging than what played out on screen.

The Thing plays out exactly how you expect it to with very few intriguing points and even the ending seemed rushed and not well thought out. It seems they parsed everything together and forced a seamless ending of the prequel to the beginning of Carpenter’s film of the same name. Just make sure you stay for the credits though, or else you’ll miss it.

images courtesy of Google Images

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wild Flag @ Lee’s Palace – October 11, 2011

If Ashley had been born ten years earlier, she would have reached her prime during what she considers one of the best eras in music – grunge. While the lecture on the influence of grunge music will be saved for another time, it’s not hard to see that music and the fan base has changed drastically since flannel took over the scene... and unfortunately, not for the better.

We are in need of a musical revolution and we’re not the only ones who realize that. With bands like Soundgarden, Hole, Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains reuniting and making new albums and the likes of grunge veterans Pearl Jam still selling out arenas, there’s obviously still a need for a rock alternative to the mainstream music scene. So it’s not surprising that last night Lee’s Palace was packed for another reunited and revamped altr-rock band, Wild Flag.

From Portland, Oregon, Wild Flag fuses together the extensive musical histories of Carrie Brownsein (Sleater-Kinney), Mary Timony (Helium), Rebecca Cole (The Minders) and Janet Weiss (Quasi, Sleater-Kinney) into an unstoppable punk-fuelled riot grrrrl revolution - something the music scene has been in dire need of for some time now. Or at least something Ashley has been in dire need of for some time now.

Their self-titled debut album was released mid September and packed the kind of punch that resuscitates everything music used to be and kick starts the kind of commitment and dedication that modern music seems to lack. The night and day differences between Brownsein’s rock ‘n’ roll anthems and Timony’s charming and quirky pieces are rounded out by mediators Cole and Weiss who hold the two together with a strong, dreamy foundation. With heavy guitars and fierce vocals, the entire album doesn’t miss a beat. They know what they are doing and they know how to do it right.

Music aside, just watching these women on stage owning their instruments is enough to inspire every aspiring rocker to revisit their rock and roll dreams. The sad stereotype that music is a man’s world is shot in the face with every beat Weiss viciously lays down, with every musical tangent Brownsein and Timony veer off on, with every eerie organ infusion Cole adds to the mix. They fit so perfectly together and produce the kind of nostalgic relapse that just may help launch another musical revolution.

images from google images.
images from last night's show here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

PORTISHEAD @ The Sound Acaedmy - October 9, 2011

This weekend, Portishead made their triumphant return to Toronto for the first time in fourteen years - an epic event that led Ashley to make her triumphant return to the Sound Academy for the first time in... three years (give or take). A decision she did not make lightly.

But! Being a big fan of Portishead since early high school, Ashley was determined to relive her glory days no matter what it took, even if that meant revisiting her most despised music venue.

As was expected, Ashley saw absolutely nothing during the show, despite wearing boots with
the highest heel she owns and positioning herself in an area that was not overly crowded. The cow-trough like narrowness of the venue eliminates any line of vision for anyone less than 5’5”. Trying to make your way closer to the stage only causes a severe sense of claustrophobia and manages to make the view of the stage even worse.

It’s a lost cause, but at least it was anticipated and the annoyed grumbles were kept to a minimum. And thankfully, the minimal stage show really only consisted of a video screen that reflected distorted images of the band and other psychedelic visuals, so what wasn’t seen wasn’t really missed.

It was the music that made the show and while the sound at the venue isn’t always the best, you barely noticed. With only three albums to pull from, the set list was a good balance between old and newer tunes, their first and last album being so different from each other that it provided quite the contrast in piercing dynamics.

Beth Gibbons poured herself into each song with impeccable self control and barely even bat an
eye between the various transitions on stage. With three extra members sharing the stage that night, the band was in full force to recreate the layered brilliance you hear on each album. It all came together beautifully.

But it was the mid set stripped down version of Wandering Star that makes you remember why Portishead are so brilliant. It was so haunting that it gave you chills. This is why they can refrain from touring for fourteen years and still manage to sell out two nights at Toronto’s worst music venue.

All in all, Portishead’s return was definitely something to be thankful for this past Thanksgiving weekend. The Sound Academy?
Definitely not.

Images from Google Images. More good pictures here and here.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

We’ll Make Like A Nail and Press On – The Great American Trailer Park Musical Review

Hart House Theatre’s 2011/2012 season kicked off at the end of September with The Great American Trailer Park Musical, which they promised was “a tongue-in-cheek, rockabilly romp filled with strip clubs, hysterical pregnancies and dreams of the Ice Capades”. With a claim like that, we didn’t bother to even look into things any further and eagerly accepted our invitation to this.

Sitting in the best seats Hart House has given us yet, we had a fifth row view of the trashy hijinks of the folks dwelling on the other side of the tracks in a Stark, Florida trailer park. The story is musically narrated by three trailer park dwellers: Betty (Saphire Demitro) – the leader of the pack, clad in a full leopard print body suit, Lin (Jennifer Morris) – whose full name is Linoleum because her mother gave birth to her on the kitchen floor and Donna (Sarite Harris) “Pickles” – who suffers from a severe hysterical (and hilarious) pregnancy. It’s a whole lot of hairspray, leopard print and manicured finger nails – believe us.

The three “ladies” spread gossip throughout the show, keeping us up to date on the details concerning the demising marriage of Jeannie (Janice Hawke), an agoraphobic who hasn’t set foot outside of their trailer in 20 years and Norbert Garstecki (James R. Woods), who’s frustrations with his wife’s issues lands him in the arms of the new girl in town, exotic dancer Pippi (Kelly McCormack). But Pippi’s past, ex-boyfriend Duke (Justin Bott), is hot on her heels and determined to find Pippi and bring her back home, no matter what the cost. Just another day at the trailer park.

We have seen a lot of musicals, two of which have been Hart House productions, and we are rarely disappointed. That said, we can easily say that the quality of the musical numbers in this production is definitely one of the best. The cast is probably one of the most talented casts we’ve seen perform together. The harmonies between Demitro, Morris and Harris are almost angelic at times. Well, angelic with a hint of hick twang, anyway. And the set of... lungs on McCormack are most impressive, especially in her end number where she has the chance to really show off her... talents.

We were suitably impressed that even with a small cast of seven, they were able to pull off such a full bodied play with effective use of props and characters. The dream sequence was absolutely perfect and completely spot on for atypical American trashy talk shows (we’re looking at you, Jerry and Maury!). A sequence which left these CityGirls in hysterical stitches.

From start to finish, the play is laced with stereotypical trailer trash jokes, outrageous dance numbers, cat fights, witty song lyrics and pop culture references that had the audience laughing nonstop throughout the night.

Hart House’s season definitely started on the right side of the tracks. The short three week run ends on October 8, so try and catch it before it’s too late.

images from Hart House website

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It Takes a Pair to Beat the Odds - 50/50 Review

To us CityGirls, October has always been known as Rocktober, full of fall concerts and Ashley’s rockin’ birthday. But more importantly, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and there are tons of events all through the city in support of Breast Cancer research, including the CIBC’s Run for the Cure (which took place this past Sunday), The Booby Ball (October 14) and Eat to the Beat (October 18).

Though not exactly breast cancer related, this past weekend was also the opening weekend for the movie 50/50, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as 27-year-old Adam who is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer. With the help of his best friend (Seth Rogen), his mother (Angelica Houston), and a young therapist at the cancer center (Anna Kendrick), Adam learns what and who the most important things in his life are.

Almost everyone has known someone affected by this disease in one way or another and knows how trying, frustrating and scary the entire process can be. They don’t sugar coat it in the film, it’s not a pretty sight, but it does a good job of exploring how each character tries to come to terms with the situation and how each person deals with it in their own way. Seeing it play out on screen, while emotional, can also be somewhat therapeutic and in a way, acts as a subtle reminder to the viewer to pay attention to those things most important in their life as well.

Gordon-Levitt is the new it guy these days. He’s been in big blockbuster movies (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises), more indie films (Brick, 500 Days of Summer) and he’s created his own hipster collaborative production company online and still manages to throw himself 100% into everything he does. His performance in the movies speaks for itself, the raw emotion during some of the more intense scenes seems to come from somewhere deep down and watching him break on screen is enough to make your heart break for him or break for anyone you know who has been in his position.

The biggest concern going into the movie was Rogen. We’ve said it time and time again, we just cannot see past Seth Rogen in any role he plays. It’s always the same character, the same kind of jokes, the same approach to roles. It was concerning to see how that stereotypical character would play into this story, but by the end of the film you have a hard time imagining anyone else in that role. In fact, Rogen is exactly the kind of person anyone should want by their side while dealing with something like this. Not only was he severely loyal and supportive, his inappropriate humour is the kind of distraction you need to lighten the mood and keep things in balance.

** Just a little spoiler warning for those of you who want to avoid knowing how the movie plays out**

The film was written by Will Reiser and is based on Reiser’s own battle with cancer in his early 20’s. Close friend Rogen helped him cope with his disease and later convinced him to write the screenplay. The character Rogen plays in the movie is based on his own role in Reiser’s life and many scenes in the movie are based on actual events, including the scene where Rogen applies medicine and jokingly plays around with Adam's back wound. This personal aspect to the film is what makes it worth seeing. Not to mention, creates a whole new level of respect for Rogen.

** End Spoiler **

It’s not a light hearted movie, but it is laced with laugh out loud and uplifting moments which makes for a pretty well rounded, moving film – something you don’t really find all that often anymore.

images from google images