Thursday, February 21, 2013

Saying Goodbye, for now.

Since starting this blog a few years ago, neither of us has ventured this far from home for this long a period. Veronica is about to embark on a trip back to Vietnam and will be noticeably absent from posting. But fear not, Ashley will be posting updates of her solo adventures in the city!

Over the years, we've evolved and expanded our adventures to include not just outings in our fair city, but also included our love of reading. We hope you'll continue to support us as we discover our city, one bar at a time.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Canada Rocks!

While we’re still a month away from Canadian Music Week, this week has still been a great week for Canadian music with back to back shows at the Rivoli by some very talented Canadian women.

Wednesday night, Halifax singer-songwriter Mo Kenney took to the back room stage for an intimate look into the corners of her mind. The Rivoli was decked out with low strung Christmas lights and set up with tables and chairs throughout the entire room, not the typical concert scene but for the delicate intimacy of Mo’s sleepy, emotive first album, the scene seemed fitting.

Ashley first saw Mo during NXNE. This somewhat bashful east coast girl took the stage in the ridiculously small back room on the Free Times Cafe and blew everyone away with her powerful voice and raw talent. It’s no wonder Joel Plaskett has kind of taken her under his wing, producing her first self titled album released last September and taking her around the country to open for him on tour. 

Her debut album is a solid piece of art, spinning wisdom and confidence that seem far beyond her 22 years. While Plaskett did produce the record, Mo was alone up there Wednesday night, just her and her guitar, and she radiated a certain unique form of energy that will push her far out of Plaskett’s shadow to really shine brightly on her own. 

Mo has a number of cross country shows over the next few months, including opening for Ron Sexsmith at the Randolph Theatre in Toronto on March 22 as part of Canadian Music Week. 


Thursday night, while most people are planning romantic dinners and escapades with their loved ones, Ashley was once again at the Rivoli spending her night with three women who know what it is to rock. 

Magneta Lane has been a part of the Toronto music scene for years, playing clubs around the city when singer/guitarist Lexi Valentine and bassist French were only 17, drummer Nadia King a mere 15. And while they knew how to rock from the start, their young and eager passion was never taken seriously and they quickly found themselves tangled up in a sticky web of corporate label bullshit that stifled their energy and creativity, limited their hand in things and ultimately lead to a band hiatus around 2009.

But the girls are back and stronger than ever. With new management and their new EP Witchrock, produced by Rick Jackett and James Black of Finger Eleven, Magneta Lane clearly had lots to celebrate during their CD release party at the Rivoli. 

Showcasing new songs from the EP, as well as old favourites and a punk-inspired rendition of Paul Anka’s Put your Head on my Shoulder dedicated to Lexi and Nadia’s father, Magneta Lane once again proved that they deserve to be taken seriously, because they seriously rock. 

Witchrock is now available.

Photos by Jeremy Spanton

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Safe Haven – A Movie Review

Last night these CityGirls and their gaggle of girl friends had the opportunity to see a prescreen of Safe Haven before masses of girls drag their unfortunate boyfriends out to see it. Believe it or not but while we waited for our party to arrive, Ashley was caught grooving to the tunes of Justin Bieber!
Safe Haven is yet another adaptation from best seller novelist Nicholas Sparks. If you’ve never read any of his books, they all basically go like this: boy meets girl, they fall in love. One or both are deeply flawed. One may have a hidden, dark past. Once they realize that their love is greater than any obstacle, someone dies. Safe Haven is no different. It’s not new or even refreshing but it is entertaining and worth watching on cable.

Katie (Julianna Hough) is on the run, in search of her safe haven away from her past. She stumbles on Southport and decides to stay. One can hardly blame her for wanting to; it’s on the beach with a tight knit community. Not wanting to get close to anyone or setting down roots, she keeps everyone at arm’s length but she can’t help but notice Alex (Josh Duhamel), a widower with two young children. 

Unfortunately, Katie’s past come roaring back into her life, putting her life and the lives of Alex and his children in danger. The South Carolina coast is simply beautiful and that alone was worth the price of admission.

As with most movies being released these days, they are just too simple. We’d figured out exactly what was going on from within the first few minutes and spent the majority of the film waiting for it to catch up to us. But even so, the romance part of it wasn’t completely nauseating and you won’t need a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and tissue to watch. 

images from google

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Beautiful Creatures, more like Beautiful Disaster

As avid readers, if a movie is based off of a book, chances are we’ve already read it and know the story. The rule of thumb with these cases is that the book is always better and we’re okay with that, we’re prepared for that. 

Understandably, not everything will work on screen in a two hour time slot and certain elements have to be changed or left out to make the story work. 

But a great adaptation is able to do this without butchering the existing story. After all, if you’ve bought the rights to a book and are basing your movie off of it and marketing it as such, wouldn’t you want to stay true to the text and characters?

That’s what we don’t understand about the movie Beautiful Creatures, which we saw an advance screening of last night at the Scotiabank theatre. Having read and really enjoyed the book written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, we were looking forward to seeing how they would bring this refreshing story to life. While it shares similar elements you expect from a supernatural teen book, there were also very unique tones that set it apart from, say, Twilight, or every other book/movie of the same genre and we felt so much could be done with that to make a great, unique movie.

So why, then, did Alcon Entertainment and writer/director Richard LGravenese think it was a great idea to completely change the entire story when adapting it to film? Sure, the characters are the same, the fate of mysterious Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert) is still uncertain and her life is still heavily intertwined with that of Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) and certain elements still play out as expected, but the events that do stay true to the book happen out of sequence (for no real reason) and the main events in the movie just never happen in the book. They are completely fabricated.

We cannot for the life of us understand why you would secure the rights to a book and then change the story completely. It isn’t just about making it work on screen, the Beautiful Creatures story does work, the story is strong as a whole. In fact, we would argue it might have even worked better. But what we were left with was a replica of every other teen movie, a number of plot holes that didn’t have to be there and a handful of very angry viewers (we were not the only ones).

It would be really nice to sit down with authors Garcia and Stohl and hear their opinion on the film. We can’t imagine that anyone would be comfortable seeing their own creation ripped apart at the seams and sewn back together so jaggedly and carelessly. It would break our hearts to hand over something we had worked so hard on only to see it completely gutted. We genuinely feel bad for them.

Granted, we don’t know much about the movie business or how it works. It’s not hard to imagine that these days Hollywood is so busy chasing the top box office slot that they care little for creative integrity or doing justice for an existing fanbase. And I’m sure buying an existing idea and manipulating it is easier than having to come up with your own work from start to finish. But that shortcut was the first of many in the making of this film and it really shows. If they were hoping for the next Twilight, they’re falling very, very short of that. Even the Twilight train wreck manages to be more credible than this disastrous attempt.

As an original movie, Beautiful Creatures isn’t horrible. There were actually some really cool things about it and some strong scenes. But tying it to a book series (a series that we happen to really, really enjoy) and then completely revamping it, that’s just never going to work for us. And while we’re just two people with little to no influence on a massive machine like the movie industry, our distaste for this won’t do much overall. But we are certainly getting sick and tired of seeing these great ideas completely ruined. Something’s gotta give.

Beautiful Creatures opens in theatres on Valentine’s Day, but don’t ruin yours by going to see it.

Images from Google images

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Real to Reel: Sound City

Dave Grohl has got to be the coolest dude in Rock n Roll. Not only is he a wicked good musician, but he’s been around forever and has been a part of some really big musical projects that have shaped the rock and roll world. 

With the Foo Fighters currently on hiatus, Grohl’s creative energies have jumped off the stage and behind the camera for his directorial debut Sound City, a documentary about the legendary LA studio of the same name

Sound City follows a typical documentary style laying out the colourful history of the studio with interviews from former employees and artists who all had an opportunity to be a part of the magic. Artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Rick Springfield, Tom Petty, Metallica, REO Speedwagon, Rage agains the Machine, Queens of the Stone Age and Foreigner all recorded there and Nirvana’s Nervermind was put to tape in those very rooms, an album which of course blew up and put the studio on the map.

But as time went on and technology grew, it was hard to deny that the recording process itself was changing. The physical and literal sense of recording music in a studio was becoming less and less standard and more people were recording through digital programs like Pro ToolsWhile these progressive options can make certain things easier, it can also arguably make certain people lazier and over saturate the market with "musicians" who may not really have any place in the business at all.

Not to mention the change in the entire dynamic of music and live shows (I was just at a show this past weekend where not a single instrument was played. Other than vocals, every other element was pre-recorded and played digitally through the sound system. Not exactly my idea of a live show).

It takes real skill to manipulate and record to tape, but once programs like Pro Tools started becoming more popular, Sound City just couldn't keep up and eventually closed its doors in 2011. 

It was at that point that Grohl purchased several items from the studio, including the one of a kind Neve mixing console that was the foundation of every recording done in that studio. The way they spoke about that console and the sound it produced, you would think it were magic. And maybe it was, for on paper, everything about that studio shouldn’t have worked, and yet listening to the albums recorded there, that sound really is like nothing else.

But Sound City is more than the remains of a battle between analog and digital recording; it’s a nod to a family who helped produce some of the greatest albums music has ever seen and a chance for some very iconic artists to show their thanks and respect to the studio that jump started a lot of their success. It’s a celebration of the authentic human element of music, the flaws, the feeling, the things that you don’t necessarily hear in today’s music. 

Sound City is a reminder of what music used to be like and a reassurance that those genuine musicians are still out there, writing music, recording albums, creating feeling and making magic.

Sound City is currently playing at the Tiff Bell Lightbox until February 7 and is available On Demand.

images from google images

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Book Review: The Lion Seeker

The Lion Seeker is a coming of age novel set South Africa during the political unrest leading up to, during and after Hitler's rise to power.

Unbelievably, this is the debut novel for Kenneth Bonert, a South African native who now calls Toronto home.

The Lion Seeker is written in 3 parts, the different phases of Issac's life. Sometimes brutal, often honestly upfront, we follow Issac Helger as he blunders through life facing difficult choices, many of which shape him to be the man he turns out to be.

Gitelle, his mother, is the most important person in his young life and from a young age as instilled in him a sense of familial duty. But every family has it's secrets and Helger's are deep and disturbing.

Often we're faced with decisions, some that we end up regretting and others we learn to live with. Through this epic journey, Bonert's prose and knack of weaving social and political issues all the while keeping the reader enthralled, makes this one of this years must read novels.

Look for The Lion Seeker from Random House in stores February 26th 2013.

City Girls Rating: Five out of five glasses of wine.

images from google