Up! A Review

Before, I launch into my review of Pixar's latest blockbuster release, Up!, I have to admit, I haven't actually seen the movie. But I have read the colouring book. So my comments are based entirely upon that.

Truth be told, going into this colouring book, my hopes were pretty high. While I've never read any of the colouring book adaptations of their films in the past, I have enjoyed every single Pixar release I've seen. From Toy Story to the Incredibles to Wall-E, their work is witty, rich, complex and visually stunning. I'm not generally a fan of computer animation, but in the hands of Pixar, the cold precision of pixel art becomes warm and endearing. I'd pretty much decided I'd follow Pixar wherever they decided to go.

And yet, back before it was released, upon hearing what the hook for Up! was -- grumpy old man ties baloons to his house so he can escape his neighbourhood -- my immediate thought was, "Wow, this doesn't sound like my kind of movie at all." But, seeing as it was Pixar, I trusted they'd be able to win me over.

Well, after reading the colouring book, I think I should've trusted my initial reaction. If the plot of the movie bears any relation to what I've read, frankly, this film is a disaster.

(Warning: numerous spoilers ahead... of the colouring book... and maybe the movie, I'm not sure.)

The story opens with grumpy old man, Carl, floating away in his balloon-carried home. Sadly, the colouring book never really makes his motivation for tying balloons to his house clear, and I have to admit I found this jarring. But the idea was sufficiently amusing that I was willing to follow along and see where this floating two storey took me.

But before getting anywhere, I had to endure a couple of those obligatory "puzzle pages" that still plague the colouring book genre.

First up, there's a tedious "circle the two Russells that look exactly alike" puzzle. After that there's a truly baffling one where you're supposed to circle plates to keep them from cracking. The scene depicts the house shaking about in a storm so, presumably, your waxy circles of crayon are somehow supposed to save the china from crashing on the floor -- unnecessary busy work, if you ask me, as the plates are going to hover in the air forever because this is after all a picture in a colouring book and not a scene in a motion picture.

What turns this "puzzle" into a real annoyance, though, is that after all this circling you're supposed to identify how many unbroken plates there are. Do they mean how many in the picture are drawn unbroken? Or how many will remain unbroken if my crayon circles are drawn with precision about them? What if one of my circles isn't completely closed or if what passes for a "circle" from my three year old is really more of a scribble in the vicinity of a plate? Do we count those plates as broken? You see my confusion?

The colouring book never clarifies any of this but fortunately it provides a solution if you turn the page upside down. Phew! (Spoiler: the answer's four.)

Finally, Carl and his house wind up somewhere called "Paradise Falls" and it's here that things really go off the rails.

I won't blow the rest of the story -- such as it is -- for you. Suffice it to say it involves an exotic species of bird, mastiffs with talking dog collars and a mad scientist.

Up until this point I've been willing to happily suspend my disbelief. Floating house? No problem, I can accept that. But talking dogs and mad scientists? Come on.

No, seriously. A floating house with balloons coming out its chimney is a great idea. But a huge part of the magic of it derives from the fact that this house is special. Unique. If it exists alongside a completely unrelated island inhabited by talking dogs and mad scientists, the magic gets diluted. It's just one more crazy thing in a world where all sorts of crazy business goes on. Ho hum.

From then on out, the colouring book plot unravels pretty much as you'd expect, peppered along the way with a few too-easily-solved mazes and more of those "circle the two things that are the same" puzzles. (Nobody likes those puzzles. Why do colouring book writers continue to rely upon them? Is it laziness or malice?)

So far, Up! is coming up lacking, but at least with Pixar you can pretty much be guaranteed a colourful, visually-impressive spectacle if nothing else.

Not so with the colouring book, I'm afraid.

The art is standard black-outline fare, nothing innovative going on here. And as for the colours.... Well, the colouring book I picked up actually came with four crayons -- a nice touch, I have to admit. But the colours they chose were a pale lime green, pink, yellow and an innocuous purply-blue. Hardly inspired choices, and I have to wonder at what the editors were thinking. The lack of a fleshtone makes colouring the human characters difficult. And as anyone who's done any serious colouring knows, yellow crayons are almost always invisible on paper. Frustrating!

At least my daughter was happy to have a pink.

Ultimately, I can't say I came away with particularly fond feelings for Up! and I'm not inclined to see the movie at this point.

In short, I'll have to give Up! The Colouring Book a big thumbs down.

Daily Moon: One Last One

Streaming into my iTunes today came the Quiet Village's Moon Episode, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Apollo XI mission. I'm listening to it right now. The Quiet Village, by the way, is my favourite tiki/lounge/exotica podcast. And, yes, I listen to enough of those to have a favourite.

Anyway, listening to all this space age music reminded me that I still have a pile of moon-themed advertisements scanned from that July 1969 Globe and Mail that I haven't posted yet. So here they are.

And while I was scanning all these, I happened to look over the movie listings and discovered that sandwiched in between decent fare like True Grit and Midnight Cowboy there were a few really dirty movies. Have a look...

The Miracle of Love. Inga. The Gay Deceivers. Yowza. And mom always said movies were so much more wholesome back in the day.

Jane Austen needs more tentacles

Quirk Classics, the mad publishers who decided that Pride and Prejudice needed more zombies, seems to determined to continue to milk their success. Thus in September they are introducing tentacles to classic literature with Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

Here's an amusing trailer to promote the book.

Nostalgia Alert

Be forewarned, Aug. 15-18 marks the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock. Formally billed as An Aquarian Exposition, it was held on a 600-acre dairy farm owned by Max Yasgur in Bethel, NY, a hamlet 43-miles southwest of a small New York town called Woodstock. It was undoubtedly a special moment in history. One that has been commemorated through an outstanding documentary directed by Michael Wadleigh and edited by Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese, and numerous essays, novels, songs, interviews, movies and whatnot recalling the event and analyzing it from every angle imaginable. The news and entertainment media, as they are wont to do, will beat this story to death. Before they do, I'd thought I'd offer this as a reminder of how special Woodstock was.

Friday News Wrap Up

Here are a few news items to check out if you're looking to melt your eyes against a computer screen this weekend.

First, there's this story of a Brit who, covinced the Americans were hiding UFO evidence, hacked the hell out of military and NASA computers. He's facing extradition to the U.S., which under normal circumstances would be reasonable for cyber-crime (albeit pretty harmless cyber-crime, $700 K in alleged damage aside). The problem is that the hacker, 43-year-old Gary McKinnon, has Asberger's syndrome and is likely to be emotionally demolished by an experience in the U.S. courts. Nevertheless the U.S. is still pushing for extradition. And his own country is not doing enough to protect him. Story's here (Guardian). Hey, maybe then the Americans can just extraordinarily rendition him to Syria to be tortured. Save all those pesky jail and court costs.

Second, Corazon Aquino, a person and newsmaker I'd shamefully forgotten about, has died. Aquino was a former president of the Philippines who led an uprising to overthrew the regime of son of a bitch dictator (and naturally, friend of Ronald Reagan) Ferdinand Marcos, whose wife was the famous Imelda of the 10,000 shoes. Aquino was an important woman--and this obit in the Globe And Mail deserves your time.

Finally, here's a funny, sarcastic cartoon showing how the U.S. is totally screwed. (Salon) And that's as good a note as any to head to the bar on. Cheers!

Minimum Age Law Examined, Found Evil

Saskatoon blogger Joe Kuchta has another of his famous, mega-researched, lonnnnnng posts up over at his blog Owls And Roosters. This time Kuchta details a connection between Canadian Federation of Independant Business (CFIB) desires and Sask Party policy on the question of kids under 16 working. His basic point: that the CFIB pushed for the controversial rules because small Saskatchewan businesses need more worker bees. Not because it's good for young workers.

You can read it here.

On the topic... someone should, at some point, do a comprehensive study comparing the Saskatchewan NDP's alleged favouritism of the labour agenda to the Saskatchewan Party's oft-suggested favouritism of business. I predict The Sask Party government would be shown to be a lot more business-friendly than the NDP was ever labour-friendly.

But that's just a (very reasonable) guess.


Photo of Whitworth going "blah blah blah" at poor Michelle Hugli by Darrol Hofmeister, sharpshooter photography.

As usual on Fridays, Chris Kirkland from Planet S and I will be on CBC Radio's afternoon edition to tell you all what you should do with your weekend. Like we have any idea. Feel free to tune in and marvel at our silliness. You can also listen here, I think. Gotta run, stardom calls.

UPDATE: We were already on so you don't have to listen anymore. But you know what? You still can if you want!

New Dog!

Cover by Dakota McFadzean

The new issue of prairie dog came out yesterday, as usualy tightly-packed with all manner of wonderful articles and stories, even though (for a change) we have nothing about condo coversions or nuclear power plants or anything by Carle Steel. Well, that one guy did say to give her lots of time off...

Here's a short list of what you'll find inside.

FOLKY 40! It's the 40th anniversary of the Regina Folk Festival. To mark the birthday, Stephen Larose revists the origins of Regina's greatest annual event, while a fully-loaded squad of prairie dog writers (i.e., Rosie plus Gregory Beatty and Paul Dechene) look at how the world has changed since the festival was born. Oh and also, there's a long interview with Folk Festival musician/crazyman Chad Vangaalen, previews of top acts Plants And Animals and Ghost Bees (AKA the band too twee to be interviewed), and a feature on some Saskatchewan acts you'll see on stage during Festival weekend.

BEYOND FARGODOME So we're considering a new stadium in Regina, are we? Dechene, a sensible fellow, does the obvious thing and calls up some Fargoans (Fargonids?) to see how their dome's worked out for them.

THE LAST SOLDIER FALLS Gwynne Dyer eulogizes the passing of the last remaining WWI veteran and muses on war's general awfulness. A terrific, must-not-miss column.

GREAT GALLOPING GOBS OF GREEN GRAVY, THERE'S MORE? Of course there is. The new issue has piles of good stuff, including David Suzuki, News Quirks, a story on City Council salaries, Street Wear, some good read mail, Top 6 columns galore, the latest Typo Weiner contest champ (who as usual won $10 and a T-shirt), Ask Greg, CD reviews, a splendid interview with the always-excellent band The Pack A.D., who played here last night but I missed them (fortunately I saw them last time) and more stuff. I think there's a grudging footnote on Aerosmith and ZZ Top in there somewhere, too. Anyway, a good issue, make sure you pick it up--it's available at like 400 locations in Regina including most grocery and convenience stores, plus stands and street boxes all over the place. And see you at the Folk Festival next weekend. I'm the purple guy.

Friday Afternoon Kitty!

Earlier this week a military police officer in Scotland filmed...something cat-like...that he claims is one of Britain's mysterious "Big Cats"--unidentified felidae of robust proportions that allegedly roam the British countryside. Click to see his jerky, 10-second cell phone video here--if you DARE. (Telegraph). For more on Britain's Big Cats, click here (Google). Should help you kill at least an hour of the pre-long weekend afternoon at work.

Review Follow-up

For anyone who reads my review in the July 30 prairie dog of the war and violence-themed show Diabolique that's on at the Dunlop Gallery until Aug. 30, be advised that when I initially viewed the show and wrote my review I overlooked a wonderful work by Romanian artist Bogdan Achimescu that's installed above the reference desk and computer work stations on the main floor of Central library. It consists of hundreds of small-scale portrait drawings on paper strung across the ceiling. Given Romania's tragic modern history, it could be viewed as a memorial to the thousands of people in the country who have lost their lives due to political persecution and war. In more general terms, it could also be viewed as a memorial to victims of violence and oppression everywhere. Or the ability of the human spirit to triumph over political oppression and armed aggression. Regardless, make sure you check it out when you see Diabolique.

Six In The Morning

1 HE BOUGHT IT, THEY BROKE IT Responding to perhaps the greatest case study of irony the world has ever seen, a teenager is launching a class-action lawsuit against Amazon.com for erasing the copy of George Orwell's 1984 he bought for his Kindle. His attorney: "Amazon.com had no more right to hack into people's Kindles than its customers have the right to hack into Amazon's bank account to recover a mistaken overpayment." Go get 'em, kid. (CBC)

2 SASK WORKERS MAKING MORE MONEY Saskatchewanians earned close to four per cent more than at the same time last year. Saskatchewan average earnings for payroll workers (I guess this means people paid hourly?) are still below the national average, though. (StarPhoenix)

3 SASK ECONOMY LOOKING GOOD...OR NOT Predictions differ on the province's short-term economic prospects. (Leader-Post)


5 GIVE UP, ALREADY A senior military advisor says it's time for the U.S. to leave Iraq. (New York Times)

6 ABOUT THAT BEER... What can you learn from the beer someone drinks? How about when it's the U.S. president who's drinking it? (The Stranger/Slog)