Truly Terrible: A Good Day To Die Hard

dieWho isn’t a fan of the Die Hard movies? The first two gave us gratuitous bloodshed and fun. The surprising third one gave us a fun puzzle movie, and the fourth, while cheesy and ridiculous, gave us non-stop action and some pretty funny moments between Bruce Willis and Justin Long.

A Good Day To Die Hard, the fifth installment in the series, gave us none of those things, and it was truly an awful movie.

die2First, I’ll mention the good parts. The opening car chase scene was insane and over-the-top, but there was some good destruction. The evil Russian girl is very attractive. And the music in the movie was strong and suspenseful.

And that is it. Everything else about this movie was simply awful, and hopefully represents the death rattle in this series that had become so beloved by so many people (I have just read that they are planning to make Die Hard 6, so there goes that idea). Since there were so many things wrong with this flick, I will give them the quick hit treatment, as to not prolong the suffering.

  • Bruce Willis got old. And looks bad.
  • Bruce Willis was pretty much reduced to a sidekick in the movie. Unfortunately, his son, the hero, is awful.
  • Terrible acting, highlighted by how bad the son was (Jai Courtney was deplorable).
  • Insincere and forced relationship storyline between father and son (and did I miss this from the previous movies, but since when does John have a son?).
  • There is no real plot. Something about people trying to get plutonium out of Chernobyl.
  • Is it really safe to be wandering around Chernobyl with no radiation suit?
  • It is set in Russia. It doesn’t fit for this movie and ruins the idea of John McLane as an American hero.
  • Who is actually the villain in this movie?
  • The editing was terrible and seemed thrown together, especially during the action scenes.
  • There was not a single funny line in the film. Usually you can expect a couple of good one-liners in this series. None to be seen here.
  • Some pretty cheesy CG at the climactic helicopter scene of Willis.
  • It runs at about an hour and a half. I would have been pissed if I had paid to see that in the theatre.
  • McLane doesn’t seem to get hurt. Ever. He used to be loved because he was an everyman hero. Now he is practically indestructible. And it ruins his character.

I could probably go on. This movie deserves its place among Top 10 lists of the years worst films. I’m just going to go ahead and forget that this installment even exists, and enjoy the Die Hard series as a group of four films.

Throwback TV: Northern Exposure

Over the holidays, I have time to pour through several seasons of whichever television series I desire. I already wrote about my experiences with Homeland Season 2.

Perhaps I was the most excited about delving back into the 90’s, the era of my youth, to get a couple of years under my belt of a show I was too young to care about when it was on TV. My love for 90’s television needs quenching every now and then, and even I realize that it must go beyond my annual re-watching of Twin Peaks, or My So-Called Life.

I wanted to get into Northern Exposure, the fish out of water show about a New York doctor who is basically forced to work in Cicely, Alaska to pay off his student loans.

northern_exposureTwo days and two seasons later, I love the show. There are so many great, quirky things about it, that it goes beyond your typical TV show. It is much smarter than it would originally seem, and this came to a head while watching Season 2, Episode 6 (“War and Peace”). In this episode, the show did something I had never seen before.

They completely, and knowingly, stepped out of a scene to make an important social commentary on the First Gulf War and our nature as a warring society. The actors stopped their acting, discussing the fact that they were being watched by an intelligent audience. With cleverness, they skipped the scene they were in the middle of doing, discussed using one of the possible script revisions, and the actors discussed their characters. It was odd, but it was brilliant, and it really worked. Once their couple of minutes had passed, they moved on to the next scene that they had discussed, since one of the characters told us that “it was a good scene.”

I thought that a show being socially conscious and not only existing within the borders it had created for itself was a bold and interesting move. I really appreciated this as a viewer. It gave the audience credit for being an audience, and gave us credit for knowing that this was not the real world that we were watching, but that, in fact, there was a real world that existed outside of our television sets. Well played.

There are so many other things to enjoy about this show. The best parts, for me, are the highly intellectual radio DJ, Chris, who takes time to read Whitman and Tolstoy over the airwaves, much to the pleasure of his fans in town. For a town under 900, one would not expect them to appreciate this, but they adore Chris and respect his philosophical and literate views on life. There is also Ed, a teenager who knows his way around town, and loves Woody Allen while desiring to become a screenwriter or filmmaker when he gets older. And Maggie, the tough and sassy bush pilot who obviously becomes the love interest for the show, who has a curse where all of her previous boyfriends have died in odd fashion, including freezing to death on a glacier or being hit by a falling satellite.

There are six seasons of this show, and I am excited to see where it goes. There is a certain amount of predictability with the character arcs, things that I know will happen. But there are so many interesting and quirky secondary characters, that I am very much interested to watch the rest and see where they are taken.

This show was originally recommended to me by my tattoo artist, and I pass along the recommendation to those who have a soft spot for 90’s TV.

Oh, and to satisfy my Twin Peaks nerdiness and obsession, there is an episode in Season 2 where they make direct reference to the show, apparently spotting the Log Lady through a viewfinder while the music changed to a somber, Peaks-inspired tune. Brilliant.

Eating Edmonton: The Next Act

Trying a new place for food and drinks last night, a friend and I went to The Next Act, a local pub/eatery on 104th street and 83rd ave, just off Whyte.

And what a delicious surprise.


Like most new food establishments (even though the pub has apparently been there for quite some time, it has gained more fame over the past while due to its food truck, and this seems to have increased business big time), it seems to be hipster central in Edmonton, which kind of automatically gives it an aura of cool. There were a lot of beards and plaid in the busy place.

What makes it really cool, though, is the food and drink menu. A great selection of beers from across the country, and imports as well, at prices that are comparable to other pubs and restaurants. And the food menu, while looking like your standard pub fare at first glance, is very delicious.

I tore apart a PB&J Burger, which is exactly as it sounds. A layer of chunky peanut butter underneath the burger, and a delicious bacon jelly on top made for a really great and original tasting burger. The flavors were not overpowering, and I still knew that I was eating a burger and not a peanut butter sandwich. I quite enjoyed it.

My friend ate a Class Act burger, and raved about it as well. The fries that went along with it were plentiful and delicious, some of the best I’ve had in the city. They would be more similar to the fries at New York Fries or Original Joe’s than those of a fast food restaurant.

Despite being really busy and too hot for a restaurant on an unseasonably warm day in Edmonton, I really liked this place and will definitely frequent it again. Not too many places in town can you get a solid assortment of local beer (more than one type of Alley Kat on tap) along with other good ones like Steam Whistle, and a really solid menu where the food will impress you. There was also a good amount of nearby parking, but with anything in and around Whyte Avenue, this depends on the time of day you are going. Street parking is of course free after 6PM. The service was also quick and friendly, even with the place packed.

The Next Act is so much better than the chains we have been duped into thinking are original, and food tastes that much better; a little more authentic and not as standard.

Homeland: Season 2

The first season of Homeland was some of the most exciting television I had seen in a while. It was highly stressful and exciting, and there were enough twist and turns that it was easy to get hooked on the series and watch for hours on end. It doesn’t hurt that the first season was on Netflix, where it becomes evilly simple to waste an entire day watching episode after episode until the entire thing is done.

homelandThe characters were engaging, the storyline was complex and full of intrigue, and we were left wondering right down to the very end if Brody was going to do something terrible. It was an excellent show.

So for Christmas, I asked for the second season, and much like the first, I poured through it in a ridiculously short time frame. But at the end, I was left wondering if it was nearly as good as the first season.

Sure, the show is still very exciting, and the characters are still definitely interesting. The story was again strong, but I was forced to wonder if the expectations were simply set too high by the greatness of Season 1. By the end of year 2, I had to think if it was just pretty cheesy, or if the characters were making implausible decisions that seem totally unlike themselves. And it felt as though nothing was really resolved as the year went on. Sure, some terrorists died, some people were put into the jobs where they belong and there is definitely resolution to many of the stories, but it remains very open ended, and while usually a fan of that kind of cliffhanger, I don’t know if it worked extremely well in this case.

There is no doubt that this is still an excellent show, but somehow I felt disappointed by the second year of it. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but I don’t know if this was it. I felt more annoyed by the characters, and got angry at the choices they made. Maybe that was me being engrossed by the drama.

Despite my disappointment, it only means that I am anticipating more from Season 3, whenever I get the chance to see it. There has to be more, and they did leave it open to be interesting to see where the whole thing goes. Good guys becoming villains and returning to the good side, only to be set up to be a villain again. (SPOILER ALERT) I assume that Season 3 will revolve around the bombing and trying to prove Brody’s innocence as he flees. I don’t really know how Brody’s family will fit into it anymore, since they have sort of been cut off from the story now that he has left and the odd side story of his daughter and the car accident being resolved. But I’m sure the writers have something solid in store for them, because they are good characters, and deserve to continue playing a significant role in the story. I know that the daughter needs to continue to be involved, because of her knowledge about the bomb vest in season 1 and her speaking to Brody before the funeral at the end of season 2. Still plenty of options.

I guess I’ll have to wait and see where they go, but I know with such a solid show, they will be able to produce another year of high quality television that will leave you interested and on the edge of your seat.

Even though Season 2 was a step down in my books, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it or think that the show has gone to the garbage. It only means that I am wanting more, and I don’t want to have to wait for my answers.

Holiday Laziness

The holiday season is great because it always means a couple of weeks off from work, time with friends and family, Christmas and all the meals that accompany it, and plenty of time to relax. And the relaxing becomes addictive, to the point where it is criminally lazy. At least it is on my part.

There are plenty of things that I could/should be doing on my time off. There is work to be done, and my apartment is so messy it looks like a disaster zone. But I am not inclined to do anything about it just yet. I feel like it is perfectly okay to lounge around and watch an entire season of Homeland in one sitting, nap whenever I feel like it, sleep in as long as humanly possible, and go entire days without feeling the urge to leave the couch. Yes, I am lazy, but I like it. Each time I step over a pile of clothes that either needs to be washed or put away, I know that things need to get done. But there is always tomorrow for that. And by tomorrow, I mean an undertermined day sometime next week, when I again will find some excuse not to do it. By the time this vacation is over, I will definitely feel as though I could have used my time better, but at the same time, I wonder if I really wanted to use it any better. Maybe doing a whole lot of nothing is exactly how I want to be using my time.

If that is my goal, then I am doing extremely well at it and accomplishing everything that I want.


So the NBA has been having teams wear uniforms with sleeves over the past couple of years. Ok, maybe the teams haven’t been forced to wear them, but on all the Christmas games this year, the teams are sporting them. And they look ridiculous.

I get why the league is doing this. There will be people out there that enjoy them, and there will be people that buy them. But they look like PJs. I can see them having appeal to a fan of a team that doesn’t want to walk around rocking a no sleeve look. But for on the court, they look impractical, and made even worse by the contrast of the tight jersey tops and the baggy shorts the players still wear.

Save these ones for the stores, NBA, and save us from having to see them on the court again.

Merry Christmas to all!

Bringing back the Teal: Welcome back, Hornets

Despite not being a massive basketball fan, I was excited when I heard that the Charlotte Bobcats would be rebranding themselves as the Charlotte Hornets once again to begin next season. In a complex series of team moves and name changes and whatever else, Charlotte will get their name back, and their team will get their initial identity back, after years of having perhaps the most boring team name and uniform set in North American professional sports.

hornetsBringing back the name and the original colour palette of the 90’s Hornets, teal and purple, will bring us back to the glory days of the franchise, when Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning patrolled the floor for the tough and competitive team. Not that a colour change will do much for the team on the court, but it seemingly will re-energize the fans, and give the team a true identity moving forward. It can’t make them a better team, but it will make them feel like a better team.

The new logos were released yesterday, and they look good. The brightness is there, and it is simply an update version of what they had before. The logos are sharp and interesting, and I think they definitely have winners here. There will be a few people out there who will be able to dust off their old Starter jackets and wear them with pride once again!

Finally, the Hornets name is back where it belongs, and they look great. Charlotte-Hornets-New-Logo-3


Another beating: Six in a Row

The Oilers got whipped last night by a strong, contending team, showing us once again how far away they are from actually being a competitive team in the difficult Western Conference. The Blues shelled them 6-0, and the worst part for those of you who are unfortunately Oilers fans is that there was a complete lack of effort by the team after the first period.

It looked like they didn’t care, like they were watching the clock just hoping to get the game over and done with.

That lack of compete has been the death of this team all year. Sloppy line changes, weak defense, and a usual brutal goal given up by whichever goalie has the misfortune to play that night. It was ugly. There were a lot of people who were starting to get excited about this team again after they had a 7-3-1 streak; the fact was that this was against poor opposition. In their last six games, against competitive teams, they are 0-6. And generally looked pretty bad while doing it. The almost snuck one out against a napping Ducks team, but overall, the big guys of the West can push around this team to their hearts content. And not fear any repercussion.

Look at how David Backes pushed and shoved the Oilers all over the ice last night. Nobody stepped up to challenge him, so why on earth would he stop?

oilA running joke has been Craig MacTavish and his BOLD moves. So bold, that he is getting conditional 6th round picks for AHL players? How is that bold? When will the organization begin to see that so much is the fault of Kevin Lowe and his poor management of this team, that it trickles all the way down to the scrubs they are putting on the ice night in and night out. Time to look at real trade options. Could they get a definite #1 D for Taylor Hall? Time to explore the possibility. With no real assets on the team (let’s face it, Oiler fans, nobody is lining up to trade for Nail Yakupov, Ales Hemsky, or Sam Gagner, despite the perceived value fans here have placed on those players), it’s time to look at the most valuable players, and see if an actual NHL team could be built by moving them along. Does anyone want to trade one of the better left wingers in the game? Nope. But teams would pay dearly to get him. Multiple pieces is what the Oilers need, since they are definitely not one or two players away from competing. There are a dozen glaring holes. If you can get three roster players for Hall, isn’t that something that needs to be explored?

The Blues showed what a team with depth looks like. A team with size and speed and skill. And toughness. And teams like this will keep beating up on the Oilers until something drastic is done.

Downton Abbey: intelligent social commentary, or soap opera?

Before even beginning this post, I will admit: I have quickly fallen in love with Downton Abbey. I knew I would get to watching a show that had so much buzz about it, as well as an impressive haul of awards, but I didn’t think I would get into it so quickly. Thanks, Netflix. In just a couple of days, I have nearly completed the first two seasons. I realize there is much more to the show out there, but I feel this is a good start.

As much as I have enjoyed the stellar acting and engaging storylines, I must wonder if this show is really, really smart, or is just pulling the wool over our eyes and having us watch a soap opera with fancy costumes?

Well played. Now I am hooked.
Well played. Now I am hooked.

Some of the stories come straight out of the afternoon soaps: the gossip, affairs, back stabbing, murder (attempted murder?), pregnancy, sisterly fights, inter marriages, war, the gay character, strange and unexplained death. Don’t get me wrong, I like these stories and plan to keep watching to find out what will happen. But isn’t this exactly what a soap does? Throws preposterous storylines at us knowing that we have already become too invested to give up on the characters we have come to love or hate?

On the flip side, Downton Abbey does offer viewers the fun and somewhat unique (if you ignore the fact that it is basically Gosford Park as a TV series) glimpse into the lives of the elites, and those who serve them. There is very much an upstairs/downstairs separation between the characters, each set living their own lives. Yet, there is a fair amount of interaction between the two halves of the world, and it is interesting to see how each side will gossip about the other, while becoming close and friendly with them. It is kind of endearing, and all of the help on the show is wonderful. They are prideful people who respect their lots in life and take their jobs seriously. This is perhaps where the series is at its best.

But are they trying to do this, or is it simply just there because of the setting? Or because it provides us with two groups of people that we can discuss and gossip about, while they do the same?

High end literary television or not, this show is addictive and fun.

Fantasy Football Playoffs

Most of my focus goes into fantasy hockey at this time of year, and I am often only in football leagues that are low stress and not for money. I put minimal effort into fantasy football, it is more something that is there to check on every once in a while to see how I’m doing. And I don’t often do that well, meaning that Week 16 and 17 of the NFL is more a time to focus on the real teams and their playoff races.

However, this year, I actually seem to have drafted a pretty solid team. I finished in second place during the regular season, and am currently doing battle in a tight semi-final matchup. I have been a lot more invested in my team this year, made a few moves here and there, but mostly have just rested on the laurels of my top picks truly panning out. Instead of taking risky choices early on, I went with the tried and true. In this way, I got Marshawn Lynch and Drew Brees with the wrap-around pick in the first and second round (10th and 11th overall). And I have been riding that train ever since. Brees pretty much has got me to where I am.

So now I must be like millions of others. One eye on the scoreboard, the other glancing at my fantasy team. I no longer care about TDs and victories. I only care about my guys getting TDs, yards and receptions.

It is much more stressful than I am used to at the end of the season, but I like it.

Even if I’m not going to win any cash if I end up taking this thing. But still, pride counts for a lot.