Monday, April 30, 2012

Movie Review: The Raven

I’m a horror movie buff.  I love the feeling you get when you literally can’t stand to watch and must cover your eyes for fear of having your mind marred by something unthinkable.  What frustrates me most about a horror movie is when they leave the unthinkable in plain sight, and it is not terrifying at all.  In many of the best horror movies I’ve seen, it is what is not seen that makes me cringe.  Think back to the not too distant Paranormal Activity phenomenon.  The movie did more with less, and no budget than most bigger titles with massive budgets, and The Raven fills that gap perfectly.

 The Raven is chronicling the fictional last days of Edgar Allen Poe, famous writer and poet.  John Cusack is marginal as Edgar Allen Poe, bringing his own personality into the role where it may or may not have existed.  His love, Emily, played poorly by Alice Eve, was not compelling at every turn.  Their poor performances were mirrored by Luke Evans, as Detective Fields.  All three main characters were portrayed with a lack of energy that made the story move much slower than it actually was.

The story was fairly straightforward.  Poe’s stories are being brought to life and he is being challenged by his greatest fan to save the life of his love.  There was nothing new about it, but it was interesting to see the cinematic presentation of many of his stories.  The short scenes with his famous books being brought to life were the few instances, early on, where the story really flowed smoothly.  But as the movie progressed, it became harder to watch.  Ultimately, the story ends with an exchange, one life for the other, but by the end, I just didn't care anymore.

I can’t say I’d recommend this movie, I was barely interested in it as it closed, but Poe is a famous poet and author and certainly deserved better.  The idea that this could occur was so exciting I didn’t think the movie would fall flat with acting that felt wooden.  I am more disappointed in Cusack than I am anyone else.  I feel like any movie I see him in, he’s the same person.  I thought this was a malady reserved for Sean Connery.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sabrina the Teenage Witch: A Retrospective

I’ve been noticing a lot of nostalgia in my life.  It started several years ago when Cartoon Network re-released the old Thundercats and Transformers cartoons, which I quickly realised were not how I remember them.  But one of the few shows I can watch even now, from childhood, and still find hilariously entertaining is Sabrina the Teenage Witch.  Yes, punch my ticket for childishness, absurdity and general prop humour.

The concept of Sabrina is rather simple, girl turns sixteen, realises she’s really a witch, but of course can’t tell anyone, hilarity ensues.  The idea of not living with your parents at that age is always interesting, but having two aunts as eccentric as Sabrina even I could do without.  Over the course of seven seasons, Sabrina goes from high school to college and grows up.  But the story of her progress isn’t what keeps me coming back, but the random unrelated stories that tie the concept together.  Here are just a few examples of things I’ve been scarred for life from thanks to Sabrina Spellman.


I will never look at pancakes the same again.  During the first few seasons, there was a deep dark secret (two actually) that Sabrina couldn’t be told.  One was that she had an evil twin and the other, that she was addicted to pancakes.  Every time I got to IHOP (which I call IJUMP for those of you that know me well), I always say to my sister, ‘Do you remember that episode of Sabrina?’  To which she often replies something along the lines of, ‘God again, Hina?   What is it with you and that episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch?’  Yes, every single time I see pancakes, it reminds me of that episode of Sabrina.

All Spellman family members are cursed with an addiction to pancakes.  I think I have an addiction to waffles, but that isn’t the point.  Watching Sabrina consume massive amounts of pancakes over the course of the episode Pancake Madness is absolutely priceless.  At one point, she tries to lick syrup off of a plate in a very child-like fashion.


No, not the kind you use with candles or to remove unwanted hair, but your parents.  That’s right; Sabrina’s mom for most of the show is a big ball of wax.  One of the curses of being a mortal woman marrying a warlock and then divorcing him is that you apparently turn into a ball of wax should you you’re your daughter face-to-face.

Random, right?  They never lacked in drama in the show, and seeing her mother talk through the ball of wax was pretty awesome

Evil Twins

According to the world of Sabrina, we all have one.  In a series of episodes (I believe) Sabrina is faced with her evil twin.  All witches have one and she must prove she isn’t evil.  The trials to reach this conclusion are pretty fun, and Sabrina, despite her best efforts, all her attempts to be good end badly.  The trials consist of each Sabrina trying to show their goodness.  At the end, Hilda and Zelda stand by as Sabrina, who has been proven to be evil, is to be thrown in a volcano for being evil.  It is the final test and the evil twin fails it as she pushes Sabrina in.

I often wonder if this is a stolen plotline from that one Treehouse of Horror where we discover Bart had an evil twin and they wonder if they went with the wrong Bart.  I miss the older Treehouse of Horror specials; the newer ones are too obvious.

Two Crazy Aunts

Sounds like the title for some depressing Russian play (see Uncle Vanya), but no, Sabrina has two really great, really insane aunts.  As you may guess, I always loved the funny one.  Caroline Rhea was a great aunt, who can forget her failed career at being a professional violinist?  Besides, I can’t ever forgive Aunt Zelda for throwing Kate under the bus and not defending her when she killed her real father for abusing her mother.  Wait, was that the same show?  Doesn’t matter, I get Lost easily.  Zelda was always such a smarty pants, it was occasionally insufferable, but also very amusing.

I did love the Odd Couple mentality between the two aunts.  Hilda was fun and carefree, Zelda, serious and focused.  But both created a wonderful environment for Sabrina to grow up in.


I’m not an animal person to begin with; I find them unpredictable, much like children, and thus dangerous.  But Salem was no mere cat.  No, this animatronic feline was a wise-cracking, plotting megalomaniac.  People often forget that the reason Salem was a cat, was because he was being punished for trying to take over the world.

Some of my favourite Salem gags involve the back-and-forth between Salem and Harvey and the constant attempts to thwart the neighbourhood cat across the street.  Salem was one of only two characters who appeared in every episode of the series, Sabrina being the other.

I could go on for hours, but really, how many of you even read this far?  I don’t know that there will ever be a show that was as engaging and light-hearted, while still having great balance.  I miss the crazy musical guests, like Britney and NSYNC.  I miss the insane stories like Sabrina having a quizmaster and being placed on TV after Salem sells her life story to a Witching Channel.  Or the Witch Boot Camp that Hilda gave the instructor nightmares from.  Most of my friends make fun of me for loving Sabrina, but it was a great show that helped me combat issues like pancake addition with aplomb.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

For the Love of the Game: 2012 NHL Playoffs

A sea of red, a deafening crowd, the throes of defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.  This is the life of a Washington Capitals fan.  The venue was packed to bursting, the crowd in an uproar throughout the game, and yet none of this mattered.  They are the same Washington Capitals they have always been, and will ever be.  The heartbreak kids.  They give you hope, they let you believe and then they fall to pieces.

Late in the third period, the Capitals tied the game at three, after surrendering the lead on a terrible play with too much traffic in front of 3rd string goaltender Braden Holtby (who is easy on the eyes for all the other ladies out there).  The thuggery has hit an all-new high, and the refs have decried that the Bruins are free of fault in all things, which includes lead-thug Milan Lucic who spent the majority of the game picking fights with anyone wearing red.

Washington’s stars burned brightly, goals from the two Alexs and a three-point performance from everyman Brooks Laich (a goal and two assists).  Braden Holtby played his weakest game yet, but even then, that should have allowed the team some small sliver of hope.  This was foolish of any to believe in.

One of Washington’s best players accrued three penalties, one in each period, finishing the night with a rare match penalty, which is accompanied by an automatic suspension and hearing by the commissioner.  To say the Capitals were the better team is actually without question, their skill players are far superior, but what is making the difference, other than the uneven officiating in all playoff games, is the will to win.

The Capitals don’t believe in themselves.  They allowed the Bruins to bully them, out-hitting them by a wide margin.  Fights were aplenty as the game continued; matching roughing penalties were handed out during the final two periods on more than one occasion, giving the illusion of even handed officiating.

It is unfortunate that the refs take the front seat in a game of this magnitude, but it isn’t unusual.  What troubles me more is that the Capitals repeatedly put themselves in this situation, knowing they are undermanned at the outset, and then play without thinking, and suffer the consequences.

I still believe the Capitals can win this series, but I hope the NHL front office explains how to officiate a game to the referees, so perhaps the Caps can have a fighting chance.