Tuesday, 10 February 2015

My Magical Place: John Wick Review

A thing is clearly happening when it comes to action movies at the box office these days. I don’t know whether this is a good thing or a bad thing but it sure as hell is happening, what with the success of The Expendables franchise proving that you can take action heroes from the old school whom we all grew up with but had pretty much lost their relevance and revive their careers and audiences’ lust for some good ol’ skop, skiet en donner flicks at the same time. Why stop there when you can delve deeper and take a star like Keanu Reeves after the mess that was 47 Ronin and put him in an action movie that doesn’t try to lie to you about the depth of its plot? This right here is the future of making movies, you guys!

They totally killed this cute puppy. Bastards!

John Wick is straight up one of the coolest movies that I have seen in a long time. This movie doesn’t beat around the bush because the only beating that John does is kicking bad guys in the teeth. What you saw in the trailer is pretty much it in terms of plot. Seriously, it’s Keanu Reeves’ character, John Wick and his wife died but because she’s an amazing woman she arranged for a puppy to be delivered to their house after she dies so John has someone else to love and doesn’t become too lonely. This is all good and well till some punk, who happens to be a Russian mobster type of guy’s kid kills his puppy when he wouldn’t sell him his car at a petrol station. It turns out John Wick is the most badass of contract killers in the game and he sets out to exact vengeance on the punk kid and all the henchmen who dare stand in his way (which had me thinking why henchmen are such a loyal breed of people anyhow? After seeing my buddies get their teeth kicked in I’d just go home). That’s it. What more do you want out of life?

Keanu Reeves is perfect in his role as John Wick because he’s just the sort of guy who really doesn’t sell the idea of being an action hero when he’s just standing around putting petrol in a car and then later when he’s kicking the snot out of bad guys you can then turn around and totally buy into it. A proper action star in the mould of a Jason Statham would ruin a role like this because he lacks a certain banal aspect that Keanu Reeves has in spades.

John Wick is Chad Stahelski’s first venture in the director’s chair and he does a good job of always upping the ante in terms of the actions scenes. Stahelski comes from a stunt co-ordinating background and has had a hand in many action heavy films over the years, working on projects like The Matrix, V for Vendetta, 300 and even stuff like The Hunger Games. The man sure as hell knows how to make a stylish action movie. This movie might be light on plot but it oozes style and the banter between the characters, although not on the same level and cheesiness as The Expendables is funny enough to have you laugh out loud at moments.

Adrianne Palicki
There are no performances worthy of an Oscar nomination here but the cast is rock solid with names like Alfie Allen (an even punkier kid than his character in Game of Thrones in this movie), Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick and Michael Nyqvist. The cast all deliver on the goods and it all adds up to a fun action romp.

I was a bit late on this bandwagon because, you know, Keanu Reeves and John Wick is almost off of the local circuit so be sure to pop in as soon as you can or catch it on Blu-Ray and DVD soon. If you like action with almost no plot but a boatload of style this one is for you and boy is it fun!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A Little More Kindness

"More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness." - Charlie Chaplin

A few weeks ago a friend challenged me to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and this got me thinking about how everyone can do something around them to make the world a brighter place. I won’t lie, I’d never heard of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) before seeing all the videos of people pouring buckets of ice-cold water over their heads on my social media feeds. You’d think I’d know that Stephen Hawking suffers from ALS at least but nope, total ignorance on my part. ALS is a disease very far removed from my centre of attention.

The people behind the Ice Bucket Challenge, the ALS Association are looking to create a world without ALS. This, of course, requires money for researching cures for the disease and supporting people already living with it and affected by it. This is a noble cause and they used the power of social media to come up with a fun way to raise the funds they need for this good work. I commend this and it’s great to see a charitable drive gain so much momentum and create a stir. This is the sort of cause that people should donate money to or invest some of their time in whether they do it with a video or not. But you should always know exactly what it is that you are supporting.

The interwebs are a vibrant place where people vehemently share their opinions and very soon memes were making the rounds that people are wasting water whilst many regions in the world don’t have enough drinking water. Some celebrity personalities also declined the challenge on the grounds that there are reports stating that the ALS Association is involved in animal testing. Both these points are valid: wasting water is foolish and supporting an organisation that runs tests for cures for diseases on animals is not something everyone can agree on (and that’s a whole different and important argument).

The former issue made me think of my beloved mother warning me not to waste food or drink as a child because children in China are starving . . . but how would my not wasting the food ease their plight? I always thought. We live in South Africa and there were children starving in our neighbourhood that I could have given that food to. As far as animal testing is concerned, I don’t know whether the ALS Association is involved in this or not but it highlights the point that people shouldn’t blindly donate to organisations. As someone trying to ease the burden of other human beings you must go a bit further than just giving money to an organisation and invest some of your time finding out whether it shares the same values as you. This is also another reason I like the idea of volunteering because it gives you a first-hand experience of work being done by charities and other such institutes.

I took up the Ice Bucket Challenge but I did not support the ALS Association because I felt that there are causes closer to me that I can focus on. The world is in dire need of a lot of cleverness to solve many of its issues. Children should not be starving in China, South Africa or anywhere else when there is more than enough food to go around. There are enough resources for everyone on our planet but the problem is access. Clever minds are needed to enable such access but kindness is also needed. I am intelligent but I doubt I will be figuring out how to solve the issue of a child in China’s hunger anytime soon (sorry, mom) but I sure can give a hungry child who is right down the road from me something to eat. I took up my Ice Bucket Challenge in a spirit of being kind to all my fellow humans and helping where I can. I love food and I am the sort of person who packs a lot of it for work and sport so I will pack just a few more sandwiches and fruit to give to people.

Stories were my refuge as a child.

Giving sandwiches doesn’t solve the underlying problems though. I don’t have much money to give but I also don’t think that would help as much as me giving of my time. I love books and when I was growing up my family was poor (we’re only a little less so now) and stories were my refuge; they comforted me and taught me some wisdom. In addition to my grandmother and mother I was raised by stories and our local library was my second home. I can share that with children and will do so. I am privileged to work at the Children and Youth editorial office of one of South Africa’s largest publishing houses and to volunteer on the executive board (this is a whole lot less fancy than it sounds) of an organisation that seeks to get rid of the problem of illiteracy in South Africa. These are wonderful platforms from which to help nurture a hunger for learning in children and thus equip them with knowledge to support themselves as they grow older. I pledge my efforts and time to these ventures because that is a role I am most equipped to play in trying to make the world a better place.

I think most people are looking for opportunities to be kind but miss them in their daily lives because they think their acts of kindness may be too insignificant or they are daunted by the really large acts they really want to be doing. Look at all the opportunities on social media that are wasted! People will like and share the crap out of a status highlighting conflicts across the world and how we really should be doing something. Sometimes people even emotionally blackmail each other with posts about how you support something heinous like rape if you don’t share some picture. I hate stuff like that but it shows that people want to be kind, there is a spark of it albeit somewhat misguided. This whole Ice Bucket Challenge proves that social media can be a powerful tool to create awareness of issues and even to raise money for them but you still have to go out and be kind and generous in your daily life. Do small things for people and if you can, do big things. Just try and extend a helping hand whenever you can. That is my challenge to you.

The world is full of injustices like hunger, rape, murder, sexism, racism, corruption, war and many issues like disease and natural disasters. Lend your support wherever you can. You don’t have to be Superman or Wonder Woman (unless you can, then totally do that) but your small acts of kindness and even your cleverness can go a long way.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Book Review: Bom Boy

One of the great things about books is that they can sit on your bookshelf, unassuming and sharing none of their magic for months on end until one day out of some sense of boredom you pick them up and they captivate you from the first sentence. At least that’s the case with me and Yewande Omotoso’s Bom Boy. This is the sort of book that you inhabit while you’re reading it and its pages feel like home. The plot is not complex in any way but the story Omotoso tells breathes with a life of its own. It’s books like these that remind you why human beings love stories.

Bom Boy is the story of Leke, a socially awkward young man who is haunted by a family curse inherited from his father. It’s the story Elaine and Oscar, Leke’s parents and how that curse affected them. It’s also the story of Jane and Marcus, Leke’s adoptive parents. At its roots this is simply (and therein also lies the complexity) the story of people dealing with their situations by whatever means they can. It’s simply life.

Bom Boy is beautifully written and will haunt you like the family curse haunts Leke. This is definitely a book I’d recommend to anyone who likes stories, which is to say everyone.

Yewande Omotoso
Omotoso was born in Barbados and raised in Nigeria. She has a Nigerian father, West Indian mother and two brothers. She is an architect; space and buildings being a passion of hers second to literature. She lives in Cape Town working as a designer, writer and novelist.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Dogtective William

I spend most of my time with stories: whether it's in the form of reading books, comics, watching movies or playing video games. I share stories with friends, family and enemies too; usually assisted by copious amounts of alcohol to do so.

All these things don't make money for me though so I bookwormed my way into publishing and thus by day I spend my time in the editorial office of the children's books division of a fairly large publishing house. I get to work with stories and that soothes my soul even on those days when I don't feel like leaving the comfort of my bed to deal with the difficulties of publishing books.

Some days are just glorious though and at the end of the deadlines you find lifelines and get to do cool stuff like this voice over I did for our Dogtective William series of books. It's hell of a cute and was fun to do.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Sci-fi space opera with Guardians of the Galaxy

Hello lovable goodbuddies :)

Have I told you how much I love Guardians of the Galaxy? No?

Head over to Bizcommunity.com and read my my review of this insanely fun space adventure: Sci-fi space opera with Guardians of the Galaxy.

I am Groot!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Monday Morning Saturday Morning Slow Jams

Good morning furry friendlings :).

(Well, it's still morning in Cape Town as I jot this down.)

It's Monday, it's cold and rainy. Needless to say I'd rather be home all sorts of curled up in bed with the last few pages of Lian Hearn's Across the Nightingale Floor before plunging back into my annual trip to Middle-earth.

Alas, it isn't so and work needs to be done. We are allowed to work with smiles on our faces though and that's what these Saturday Morning Slow Jams are bringing me on a Monday Morning.


That's a whopping five videos in one go! That's even cooler than Steve Sweat.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Throwing Our Storytelling Toys

I went to go see Captain America: The Winter Soldier some time ago and it was the best movie I saw thus far this year and that made me think about toys and storytelling. Sitting in that dark cinema watching a remarkably good comic book movie I realised that we are living in the best time in terms of seeing things that you could only imagine translated into visual stories.

Growing up reading fiction novels and comic books many people of my generation are at home living in their heads. All you needed to keep you busy for hours was a Lego set. Older generations can boast that they only needed a stick and a stone and that’s fine too. The point is that we were all happy mucking around with sticks or Lego blocks and building these vast landscapes in our minds where robots battled it out with monsters or whatever else. But then we grew up . . . We grew up and our toys were discarded and left to gather dust in a garage but we didn’t discard our imaginations.

Our movies, books, video games and even our toys are taken from the things we loved as children. Michael Bay’s Transformers movies may not have had good plots but I absolutely adore them for their visuals. Every single time I see an Autobot or Decepticon transform I smile. Those are the visuals that I had in my head as a child every time I played with a Transformers action figure or watched the cartoon. To this day I can’t get over how CGI took images I could only see in my head and plastered them onto screens. There’s a little magic about it. It’s like pizza, even if it’s bad it’s still nice to have.

Stories and how we tell them has always been very fascinating to me.  Movies are big business and Hollywood has gone back to your childhood to dig up all your old toys and is telling those stories on the big screen and it works for the most part. Marvel has successfully translated many of its comic franchises into film and they have many plans going forward. Guardians of the Galaxy is their next venture and they sure are being adventurous because the characters aren’t well known by general audiences. Marvel is good at taking their quirkier franchises and making good films though. When Iron Man came out lots of people didn’t know who he was.

DC is not having as good a time with their offerings failing more often than not but Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy sure did set the benchmark for gritty, realistic superhero movies. Everyone and their dog loves Batman but even as a kid reading the comics, watching the cartoons and playing with the action figures you know that the idea of a running around fighting crime dressed as a bat is ridiculous. Batman is probably my favourite comic book character but I’m the first to admit that he is the most ridiculous of the superheroes. You buy into though because it’s fun. Then Nolan sells it to you in a straight-up serious setting and it works. If you didn’t have a guy dressed as a bat the movies could simply be good action/thriller stories. Marvel did a great job with placing Captain America in a realistic setting in Winter Soldier as well. Take away the star spangled costume and Winter Soldier is just a really good spy flick. It’s an interesting dynamic, that, taking stories people think are for children and selling them to adults (and children still) as fun shoot-‘em-ups or taking them seriously as stories that could be entirely plausible.

Sad Batman is sad because he knows he is ridiculous.
No worries, we still love you, bro'.
It’s a great time to be alive and to see things you loved as a kid being reincarnated in ways that make you love them again or make you want to hire a squad of ninja pirates to assassinate everyone involved in ruining your favourite comic book (guys behind Green Lantern, I’m referring to you). You even get charming things like The Lego Movie! We’re throwing all our storytelling telling toys in the sandpit and having a great time playing with or just peeing on them. Life’s good.

Monday, 19 May 2014

culturecrit: Democracy on a Cellphone: Social Media's Role in t...

culturecrit: Democracy on a Cellphone: Social Media's Role in t...: How technology, social media and the internet intersect with democracy during voting season in South Africa.

When I'm not too busy jamming to my beloved Saturday Morning Slow Jams I'm over at Culturecrit thinking how cool thumbies are and what it is to be a voting citizen in a democratic country . . . well, democratic for the most part.

Head on over and give my article a read and share your thoughts if you have any.

Now I can go back to telling you about those Slow Jams.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Chip 'n Dale Saturday Slow Jam

It's those lovable chipmunks, Chip 'n Dale's turn to feature in a slow jam and it's all good in the hood.

Enjoy :).

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Duck Tales Saturday Morning Slow Jam

Saturday mornings are when I sleep in till late in the afternoon and then wake up to bacon and eggs. I love Saturday mornings and they've just become better with Saturday Morning Slow Jams. This is one of the best things on the interwebs for me right now!

These guys kick you right in the childhood.

Vibe out to some Duck Tales lovin':