Books & Writing · Movies, TV & Theatre

Black Dog: 4 vs the Wrld by Matthew Heiti: Book Review

Black Dog: 4 vs the wrld

Obtained: Playwrights Canada Press
Pages: 112
Publish date: March 14, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

SUMMARY

A darkly comic story of four teenagers struggling with death, depression, and the shadow of a black dog.

Two is fraught. While dealing with the impossible expectations of her parents, she is trying to understand why her brother has taken his own life. It’s not until a fateful school detention that she meets three other students as lost as she is.

-from Goodreads

WHAT I LIKED

I loved the fact that this play breaks the fourth wall. Heiti doesn’t invite the audience to think about mental illness, but forces them to. The play begins with the cast members in the audience. People who suffer mental illness aren’t “those people over there”, they’re everyone and anyone. The characters don’t even have names: they’re Two, Three, Four, and Five. It allows the reader to relate to them, rather than distancing them with a name that isn’t their own.

I’m sorry, when I read theatre, I automatically go into “essay” mode. Because to me, theatre is just smart and much more fun to analyze. Which I definitely did the entire time I was reading this piece.

I loved the realism of the characters. I loved the way that Heiti incorporated technology and the screen into the play; I thought that was particularly interesting.

AND WHAT I DIDN’T

My only complaint is my usual complaint about what happens when I read theatre: it was too short. I wish I could have seen a production of the play to see how it was interpreted from page to stage, but I guess reading it gave me the freedom to come up with my own ideas of what this story looks like.

RECOMMEND IF…

  • You liked The Breakfast Club;
  • You like literature that breaks the fourth wall; or
  • You are interested in stories about characters who have to overcome intense internal struggles.

Black Dog: 4 vs the Wrld is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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Books & Writing · Movies, TV & Theatre

You Are Happy by Rebecca Deraspe: Book Review

You Are Happy

Obtained: Playwrights Canada Press
Pages: 128
Publish date: October 11, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

SUMMARY

Bridget finds her brother Jeremy in a closet attempting suicide. Again. Determined to help him find some kind of happiness, she searches grocery stores looking for his potential wife, which affirms what she already thinks: there are couples practically everywhere. Eventually she meets Chloe, and her plans to stage a happily-ever-after are finally set.

-from Goodreads

WHAT I LIKED

You Are Happy was the first piece I’ve read in a while that blatantly makes a statement. It was honestly really dark, but I just kept laughing at the absurdity of it all – the absurdity that I realize surrounds us, but we take for granted as normal. There are not couples everywhere. Being in a relationship isn’t the one thing that will save you from being depressed. It won’t change your life and give you purpose. But that is the premise of this play.

I also laughed at how fast Jeremy and Chloe fall for each other. Bridget just decides that the two of them should be together, and immediately, they just are. As though deciding to be together equates to falling in love. It was uncomfortable to see how the couple goes from just having met to full-blown long-term relationship in a matter of seconds. I loved the comment on how our society expects relationships to be one thing, when really a partnership should be built on the two personalities involved.

AND WHAT I DIDN’T

I loved everything. If I had one complaint, I’d say I wish it was longer. I wish I could see it on stage.

RECOMMEND IF…

  • You enjoy satires;
  • You want to read something short but powerful;
  • You don’t need to be in a relationship to be happy.

You Are Happy is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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Books & Writing · Movies, TV & Theatre

Waiting Room by Diane Flacks: Play Review

Waiting Room

Obtained: Playwrights Canada Press
Pages: 128
Publish date: March 14, 2017
Rating: ★★★

SUMMARY

Chrissie and Jeremy have spent a great deal of time waiting—for news of their baby daughter’s post-operation recovery, for weekly scans to show that her tumor is gone, for forty-five-second updates from Dr. Malloy, their brilliant but arrogant pediatric neuro-oncologist. The hospital waiting room has become a second home where they constantly struggle with a series of difficult decisions.

-From Goodreads

WHAT I LIKED

Oh, how I have missed reading plays. I love that I can imagine this being acted on a stage; in a lot of ways, that makes the story even more real to me. Waiting Room is dramatic and makes me feel like I’m reading an episode of House, honestly. The play similarly addresses issues about the philosophy of medicine and how the doctors look at a patient, vs. the concerns of the patient’s loved ones.

The play sort of hit home for me, because I’ve been through a sort of similar experience recently. Sitting in a waiting room, hoping someone I loved would be okay. As much as you want to stay logical and follow the issue from the doctor’s standpoint, you’re being emotionally tortured as you sit and wait tirelessly for an answer to the nagging question. Will they be okay? Will they be okay? Will they be okay? The medical jargon doesn’t make it easier to deal with. And Flacks really captured the struggle with this family.

As a side note, I love reading Canadian content, because it feels even closer to home for me. I love being able to read about a character saying something like, “Going to Tims – do you want anything?” just because I’m pretty sure it’s a thing every Canadian has said at least once in their lives and it adds to that realism, for me.

AND WHAT I DIDN’T

I feel like it would have been better to watch this play rather than to read it. There was a lot of medical jargon and there were parts I was just sort of pushing through to get to the more emotional stuff. But I guess that’s the situation with most plays – they’re meant to be watched.

RECOMMEND IF…

  • You like watching medical dramas (like House);
  • You want to support Canadian playwrights .

Waiting Room is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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Movies, TV & Theatre

The OA: Netflix Review

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Publish date: December 16, 2016
Genre: Mystery, Drama, Science Fiction, Supernatural, Fantasy
Rating: ★★★★★

Guys I’m normally so behind on the times (no, I still haven’t watched Stranger Things). But I was immediately all up over this show. The first season is only eight episodes long, and every single one is jam-packed with quality storytelling.

The OA begins by introducing us to Prairie, a blind woman who has been missing for seven years, and when she finally returns to her parents’ home in her small town, they discover she is no longer blind. The entire series works to unravel what happened in those seven years, how she got her sight back, where she went, who had taken her… As she tells her story to a group of high school boys (and another familiar face), we also learn more about their lives and how Prairie’s story affects the way they choose to live.

I went into the first episode knowing nothing about the show except what’s revealed in the trailer (which is basically what I summed up for you just now). After the first episode, I had so many questions and I didn’t want to stop watching; not only does Prairie’s story make you want to learn more about the person who kept her captive, but it also raises questions you never expected to have, such as, “So is she like, magic, or have telekinetic powers or something?” Because it is apparent right away that Prairie is not normal.

I can’t even describe how much I love The OA in words, so I’m hoping this will do: The plotline is nothing like anything I’ve ever encountered in any other story before. The characters are all so beautifully rounded and dynamic. The way this show is shot is visually gorgeous. The emotions that were drawn out of me while watching it were so powerful.

Seeing how Prairie brought this unlikely group together, and the way her story created a bond between them made me feel so hopeful and happy, despite how weird and unsettling her story actually is in most parts.

If you haven’t watched it yet, just do yourself a favour. Be ready for some weird stuff, and get ready to have some confusing questions, but strap yourself in for the ride and I promise you’ll enjoy it.

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Movies, TV & Theatre

Game of Thrones Tag

For those of you who know me, know that it took me quite a while to jump onto the Game of Thrones bandwagon, but now I’m completely obsessed. I found the Game of Thrones tag on Anne’s blog, Anne Smiles, and thought it looked like fun – answering all of these GOT-related questions in GIF-form, heck yes.

PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THERE WILL BE MAJOR SPOILERS IN THIS POST. If you aren’t caught up on Game of Thrones yet, do not read this, lest you be spoiled forever. You have been warned.

#1 | BOOKS OR TV SHOW?

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#2 |  YOU ARE BORN INTO ONE OF THE NOBLE HOUSES, WHICH IS IT?

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#3 | IF YOU COULD HAVE ONE OF THE OTHER A DRAGON OR A DIRE WOLF, WHICH WOULD YOU CHOOSE?

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#4 | WHAT HAS BEEN THE SADDEST DEATH FOR YOU?

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#5 | OUT OF THOSE DEAD, OR PRESUMED DEAD, WHO WOULD YOU BRING BACK AND WHY?

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#6 | WHO WERE YOU MOST HAPPY TO SEE KILLED?

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#7 | WHO DO YOU THINK WOULD MAKE THE BEST SPOUSE? (THINK LOGICALLY AND NOT JUST WHO YOU THINK IS BEST LOOKING!)

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#8 | OUT OF ALL METHODS USED TO KILL ON THE SHOW, WHICH WOULD YOU RATHER USE TO KILL AND WHICH WOULD LEAST LIKE TO BE KILLED BY?

I’d like to kill with…

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And would least like to be killed by…

Tomas Ferraro, Sports Editor game of thrones got ramsay ramsay bolton

 

#9 | ‘WHEN YOU PLAY THE GAME OF THRONES, YOU WIN OR YOU DIE.’ TELL US YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE FROM THE SHOW.

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#10 | HOW DO YOU THINK THE SHOW WILL END?

game of thrones winter is coming white walkers winter is here the nights king

 

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Daily Life · Movies, TV & Theatre

Disenchanted Tour: Theatre Review

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I accepted my friend’s invitation to join her in seeing a musical that was touring to Toronto called Disenchanted. I was expecting something like Disney Princesses gone wrong, or an adult take on our childhood favourites – something you really don’t want to bring you kids to – but what I got was a whole lot more.

Disenchanted is a very self-aware show hosted by Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, who are all simply tired of living in the Princess Complex – a world where they’ve been written by men, so all they really have is big boobs and the dream to get married to a handsome prince.

Each of your favourite Disney princesses will make an appearance in this show and sing their story to you in a way you’ve never thought of that story before. Cinderella just wants to eat something, but princesses are trained not to eat. Rapunzel sings about the crazy commercialism of these princesses. But my absolute favourites were sung by the actress playing Mulan/Pocahontas/Jasmine, who belted emotional songs about the issues of racism and why girls have to be prettied up and be hyper-feminine to have their story be interesting.

Disenchanted was satirical, funny and insanely smart. It’s the musical you go to for the laughs and then stay because you’re literally using the raise-the-roof emoji in your head a million times and saying, “YES THANK YOU FOR SAYING THAT OUT LOUD.”

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Because it was their last show in Toronto, the princesses spent some time in the audience afterward and took some princess selfies (see below mine and Christine’s photo with Snow White – what a bad ass woman). I was crushed to hear it was their last show in Toronto; there were  quite a few people I wanted to recommend the show to, but I’m glad I was able to catch the show just in time. It was phenomenal.

Ladies – keep spreading the awesome that you are with this show. I left the theatre feeling so inspired, and I’m just so proud to know that this show is gaining success, and touring, and that more and more women have the chance to see it, hopefully leaving the theatre feeling as empowered as I did. Incredible.

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Books & Writing · Movies, TV & Theatre

Event Recap: Kathryn Hunter on A Midsummer Night’s Dream @ TIFF

Last night, I was fortunate enough to attend another fabulous #BooksonFilm event at TIFF. William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream introduced the All the World’s a Screen: Shakespeare on Film summer series.

I was really excited for this one, because as many of you may know, I am a huge fan of Shakespeare. I voluntarily took a handful of Shakespeare-based courses in university – one of them specifically rooted in studying adaptations of his work – so being able to watch a film adaptation of one of my favourite plays that I’d never seen before was quite interesting.

Not only that, but actress Kathryn Hunter (who plays Puck in the Julie Taymor adaptation that was screened) introduced the film and then stuck around after to discuss acting techniques and the Bard.

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The film itself was incredible. It was a taping of a live performance, but it was also so much more than that. The theatrics involved were quite spectacular; it’s definitely something that I would have loved to see on stage. It was dark and eerie, but didn’t lose the play’s original comedy elements.

Following the screening, Kathryn Hunter – Julie Taymor’s Puck – spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about her performance in the film (which was utterly perfect) and what it’s like to take on roles in Shakespeare pieces.

Hunter told stories about how she creates characters by drawing them out, and really wanted her Puck to fly – a suggestion to which Taymor was hesitant, but accepting. She also spoke about how she originally wanted to play the character of Bottom because of the wonderful writing, but enjoyed playing Puck, and creating that image of the shape-shifting trickster.

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I’m so glad I got to take part in this magical evening, and I’m really looking forward to hopefully seeing some of the films in the rest of TIFF’s Shakespearean summer series!

TIFF’s All the World’s a Screen: Shakespeare on Film runs from June 9th to July 3rd with some of the most iconic Shakespearean film adaptations, such as West Side Story, various versions of Hamlet, and Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet.

Movies, TV & Theatre

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Film Review (Spoiler Free)

Released: December 18, 2015
Rating: ★★★★

I had to sit on this one for a while before writing a review, because I didn’t want to come out of the film and rave or rant based on the strong immediate feelings I had coming out of the movie.

First and foremost, let me say that I am a Star Wars fan. Not the biggest fan, but a fan. Part of me was terrified of seeing the new film because of all the hype – what if they were getting us all excited and it wasn’t going to be that great? And I couldn’t trust fan reviews, because passionate nerdy fans, such as myself, tend to be very biased toward the things they love. Well, it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve seen the movie, and I’m pretty set in my opinion. It was probably one of my favourite Star Wars movies of the series, if not, my absolute favourite.

For those who don’t know, The Force Awakens follows new characters Rey and Finn, as they go on a mission to return the loveable new droid BB-8, to the Resistance to ensure that the map to Luke Skywalker hidden inside the droid doesn’t fall into the hands of the evil First Order, ruled by Kylo Ren. On the way, they join up with the classic characters, and all sorts of epic battles ensue.

Let me just say, I loved the new characters. I was worried this movie wouldn’t feel like a Star Wars film, but it totally did. The characters were cheesy yet badass; the cinematography was strong and symbolic, complete with both gorgeous shots and cheesy fade-swipe transitions; there were just as many witty one-liners as action-packed scenes. I was extremely entertained watching this movie from beginning to end.

I appreciated that the main character was a kick-ass female with a male sidekick who barely knew how to use a gun. That was kind of awesome. The character of Kylo Ren as the “bad guy” was really interesting and dynamic; I’m curious to see where they take his character in the next few movies.

Most of all, I love how they brought back Han, Chewie, Leia, and other fan favourites from the original series without making them the stars of the film. (Okay, so their names are first in the credits, but the focus the entire film stays on Rey and Finn and their mission.) The original stars had their trilogy, and I’m glad they didn’t take away from the new actors getting to bask in the limelight of this new series.

Overall, I thought The Force Awakens was really well done and entertaining. I’m going back to see it again this weekend, and it’ll likely be one of those movies I keep in my collection and put on every few months when I’m feeling in the mood to laugh, cry, and be transported to another world.

What did you think of Star Wars: The Force Awakens?

Books & Writing · Movies, TV & Theatre

Midnight’s Children at TIFF: The Art of Adaptation

Midnight's Children (2012) Poster

I was given the opportunity by TIFF to watch this amazing adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children, and there is so much I can say about the way this story was formatted for the screen.

First off, I will say this candidly: I find it really beneficial to watch a film adaptation before reading the novel. When you read the novel first, you have so many expectations of the film, and it leads to let-downs when something gets cut, or a character isn’t portrayed as you imagined. I like to enjoy the film and then get more information about the story by reading to novel later.

Films and novels are two different formats of storytelling, and I believe that a film is a visual story that needs to stand on its own, away from the book.

The film of Midnight’s Children was stunning, and just watching the film, I can see how beautiful the novel will be when I read it. I’ve noticed a lot of books made into film often keep the narrator of the story as a voice-over in a lot of instances, and this one is no different. It keeps the voice of the protagonist in the forefront of the film and allows the audience a bit more of the internal monologue that is expressed throughout the novel. Similarly, there were a lot of very literary-sounding quotes and dialogue in the film that allowed the story of the novel to resonate with the audience.

The visuals in this film spoke very loudly, explaining very effectively what Rushdie would have had to say in words. For instance, the way time passing was portrayed sometimes as a time stamp graphic, and others as a creative shot of Saleem first as a younger child and then transitioning flawlessly in the same situation to an adult. Or the film’s portrayal of Saleem’s visions of the midnight children, using an outer glow to determine that they were only in his head, and getting rid of that glow to express that what the audience sees is, in fact, reality.

The film is a beautiful depiction of dualism and destiny: showing a constant duality between Shiva and Saleem, Pakistan and Bangladesh in the civil war, dark and bright in the colours as well as the themes. Midnight’s Children is visually gorgeous, as well as a very interesting portrayal of the danger of looking at something in black and white, and later discovering that the truth had been in the grey.

I was given the opportunity to view this film from TIFF and their Films of Deepa Mehta series. Check out TIFF.net to discover what’s on now!

I highly recommend this film to those who are a fan of the book, and even those who are fans of Mehta’s other films.

Take a look at the trailer below:

Daily Life · Movies, TV & Theatre

Event Recap: Night on the Towns

When I purchased my ticket to see the film adaptation of John Green’s Paper Towns, I was just really excited that my favourite YA novel was going to be on a screen. I loved Nat Wolff in The Fault in Our Stars (probably one of the few things I continue to like about that movie), and I was really looking forward to seeing him take on the role of Q.

This ticket I purchased to Night on the Towns included a showing of the film the day before it hit theatres (July 23, 2015), a Paper Towns locket, and a movie poster. Following the movie there would be a live stream of a Q&A with the cast members, the director and John Green. Well. If I had known what was going to happen in the theatre I went to, I probably would have avoided drinking so much coffee, because the caffeine was not helping to control my nerves.

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I got inside the theatre and saw lights and cameras pointed at a series of chairs, and I immediately went into freak-out mode. My sister saw a guitar sitting up by the screen and she knew exactly what was going on. “Michelle, Nat and Alex are here.” She is a huge fan of Nat and his brother’s band, and given the circumstances, she didn’t appear to be wrong. We were soon told that Nat Wolff and Cara Delevingne, the two stars of the film, would be doing their end of the live streamed Q&A in our theatre! AHH!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The film itself was beautiful. It was funny and moving and everything I expected from the adaptation of one of my all-time favourite books. I recommend if you like the book, you should see the film. Love. I’ll likely post a more detailed review of the film later on.

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After the screening, Nat Wolff and Cara Delevingne came out and were entertaining us by dancing around the stage, as their characters had done in the film. Their chemistry was evident, just as it had been on the screen, and it was so nice to see two people who genuinely seemed to enjoy each other’s company acting as friends in the film. It made their relationship in the film seem that much more real.

The Q&A itself was fairly typical, and I didn’t find any of the questions to be evoking particularly interesting responses, but it was still exciting to be seeing these two actors in our theatre, which was broadcast globally to others attending their own Night on the Towns events! They were both very sweet and it was a great chat.

Once the interview had wrapped up, Nat and his brother Alex took to the stage (as my sister predicted) and they performed a song that they did in the film, as well, which was a great experience!

IMG_0108All in all, I had an amazing time at the theatre and I’ll likely go see Paper Towns again before it heads to DVD!

Also, I was lucky enough to grab a couple of extra goodies from the event, and will be holding a Night on the Towns giveaway very shortly!

Who else saw Paper Towns this weekend? What did you think?