Mid-Week Tangent: Worst of the Holiday Movies

On Monday, I wrote about made-for-TV  holiday films that are so bad they’re good.  You know the movies, the ones that you just can’t stop watching even though you spend at least half your time wondering why you’re watching it.  Well, today I have another treat for you. Today I cross the line into the land of the legitimately bad Christmas movie. Thanks to our aggressive viewing schedule, we’ve seen some doozies this year.  I could go on forever about the crap that we’ve sat through, but for your sake I’ll narrow it down to my top three.  Without further adieu, here goes nothing!

3. Four Christmases: I’m constantly amazed at just how bad a movie can be even when it stars a bunch of A-list actors. To be fair, Vince Vaughn can annoy me at the best of times, but I can usually rely on Reese Witherspoon not to drive me nuts.  Not so this time around.  Start to finish virtually all the characters annoyed me. Who are these people with insane families? Do families who constantly look for ways to shame and embarrass each other actually exist? Am I just sheltered and blessed with a relatively normal family life? No matter the answer to any of these questions, this movie is a steaming pile of crap.

2. A Christmas Story 2: Did you know this movie existed? I didn’t. Apparently it went straight to DVD and for good reason. Why must casting agents cast the most annoyingly precocious children in roles? They are not cute nor funny.  I’m sure Randy in A Christmas Story 2 was meant to be precocious, but he just came as off as a jerk.  He could not hold a candle to the original Christmas Story’s Randy who makes that whole movie with his whiny “I can’t put my arms down” and hiding under the kitchen sink because “daddy’s going to kill Ralphie”. That’s genius.  I guess his sequel counterpart didn’t stand a chance with that kind of greatness preceding him. And don’t even get me started on Daniel Stern as the father. No. Just no. What ultimately impressed me most about this film was that they somehow turned our dingy, Vancouver train station into a holiday magic filled department store. Like seriously, how did a low budget film like this manage to shut down a functioning rail terminal for filming?

1. A Christmas Tail : Two strangers decide to share custody of one cute dog and romance ensues. Yup, you read that right. if you’ve ever wondered if you can watch an entire bad movie just because of a cute yellow lab, this movie proves that the answer is yes.  Other than the fact that the protagonist had what is essentially my dream job–creating ice cream flavours–this film made no sense. The dog ends up in a shelter three times and is immediately adopted out to new people each time. I’m no animal shelter expert but I’m fairly confident that’s not how it works. The movie’s also full of so many everyday villains that it made me wonder what’s happened in the writer’s life to make him or her see humans in such a negative light. I mean, what kind of person would tell his girlfriend the dog had run away when in reality he’d dropped the dog off at the animal shelter just because he didn’t like the way it looked at him while they ate dinner? That’s true evil. The quick review on this one is simple: really bad acting, really really bad writing, and a storyline that has virtually nothing to do with Christmas are saved by a really adorable dog.

There you have it, the worst of the worst…for now. Because you know full well I can’t stop myself from watching even more festively awful flicks…

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Mid-Week Tangent: over-analyzing Wheel of Fortune

Have you ever discovered that you have a completely useless skill set for everyday life? I have. I am outstanding at hangman. I see words quickly. My mind can fill the space between letters at the speed of light.  How did I discover this? I am embarrassed to admit it’s because I’ve been watching Wheel of Fortune, regularly and (gasp!) on purpose. I am good at it. Like, I am really, really good at it.  And that’s despite the fact that they barely show the damn puzzle screen to at-home viewers. I mean, seriously Wheel of Fortune, can you just implement a screen in screen so I don’t have to wait for minutes on end while you pan over to Pat Sajak making awkward small talk with contestants? Is that too much to ask?  If you think my rage is in jest, I assure you it is not. I take this seriously.

I’m convinced that I would walk away a wealthy lady if I were to compete on Wheel of Fortune. Actually, let me make a correction: I would walk away a wealthy lady IF, and this is a big if, I could keep my largely uncontrollable facial responses in check during any and all of the following:  a) Pat Sajak’s inane jokes and slightly lascivious manner with female guests b) the wheel’s wrath (i.e. its tendency to stop on ‘bankrupt’ just as you’re getting greedy by wanting one more spin) and c) not getting my way.

I actually believe that one’s ability to successfully garner a spot on this game show is only partly based on her word wizardry. The bigger part, I’m sure, is the ability to be a good sport, to clap when the person next to you solves the puzzle that you essentially solved for them if only you hadn’t gotten greedy and decided to take one more spin.  I watch contestants closely…mostly because I’m forced to when they pan away from the puzzle board to here about Jean’s three brilliant children and supportive husband. Ugh. Seriously. Okay, moving on. As I was saying, I watch the contestants.  They smile when they hit bankrupt. They say “way to go” when someone else solves the puzzle. They look like they’re about to say “aw shucks” when they call out a letter that isn’t there.

Are they robots? Are they simpletons? There is money on the line here, people! I would be a seething ball of rage when Jean from Wisconsin solves the puzzle after I spent minutes carefully filling in all the critical letters. I am rarely the bigger person in any situation, but when money’s on the line I’m certain I would lose it. I’d drop an F bomb, serve some serious stink eye, throw near temper tantrums, and I sure as hell wouldn’t clap for my fellow contestants. This is why I’d never get onto the show in the first place, and why I will also never win 80 grand for thirty minutes of hard work despite my knack for solving puzzles.

It is a bitter pill to swallow, realizing that you have a skill whose only chance to earn you cash is on a game show for which you lack the other required skills. Maybe one day I will find my inner zen and you’ll see me up there dazzling even Pat, rarely impressed after 30 years of hosting the Wheel, and winning every cash and trip prize in view.  You just better hope that I don’t win a Ford Focus on the final puzzle, because even the zen version of me can’t handle that kind of slap in the face.

Trail Tuesdays: I watched an outdoor survival movie and I’m never hiking again

Recently I wrote about watching too many murder mysteries. Well, in an effort to diversify my viewing habits, I unwittingly surfaced an even scarier breed of entertainment: outdoor survival movies.  It shouldn’t be surprising for me. After all, watching 127 Hours and Into the Wild weren’t just cautionary tales for me, they were horror stories pure and simple. As it turns out, as much as I am afraid of murderers and rapists like the vast majority of the population, my biggest fear is actually dying alone in nature. It may seem irrational, but given how much time I used to spend in the great outdoors, it is actually far more statistically probable than my being murdered.

This weekend, we watched a little-known Canadian movie called Backcountry. Years ago I watched a really bad made-for-tv horror movie about an insane predatory bear in the woods, so bad in fact that even a thorough Google search didn’t surface its name, and I expected Backcountry to be similarly kitschy, unrealistic and full of over-the-top bad special effects.  Well, Backcountry was kitschy for sure, but it was also more terrifying than I expected. Long story short, a couple gets hopelessly lost in the Northern Ontario wilderness and then gets attacked by a really unusually pissed off black bear. I’ll spare you the spoilers but suffice it to say that there were many, many a scene that I actually couldn’t watch because it was too graphically awful and horrifying. And when someone wasn’t in the midst of a vicious bear attack, I was experiencing deeply unsettling discomfort at the thought of being so very lost in such a vast wilderness.

Perhaps the fear of being lost in nature comes naturally to me, care of many of my own near-getting-lost experiences, one of which actually occurred in Ontario’s wilderness. That was the near-getting-lost event that sticks with me the most because in the depths of Ontario’s forests there are no directional markers. Out West, I would be more likely to identify mountain ranges that would give me a sense of direction and, because the West is so mountainous, it always feels at least a relatively safe bet to just walk downhill. In Ontario, however, there are no peaks and valleys and I can personally attest to the fact that every “viewpoint” from escarpments in the forest looks identical, to the point that even within a two hour hike I convinced myself that my brother and I were walking in an endless circle, destined to die from hypothermia on an unseasonably cold day in October.

Alas, we clearly survived, but that experience has stuck with me.  What made Backcountry even more terrifying was the added element of bear attack. I can think of nothing worse than being near death from a bear attack and also having no idea if you are heading towards safety or further into danger. To say watching this film was a bad way to spend a Saturday night is an understatement. Not only was I left emotionally scarred, albeit temporarily, but it also made me solemnly vow that:

  • I will never hike in Ontario again. Ever. Apparently, bears be crazy out there.
  • I will never go deep into any nature by myself again.*
  • I am done with outdoor survival films as a genre. My naturally anxious self does not need reminders of human vulnerability to the elements…and sadistic wildlife.
*I reserve the right to revoke this second statement at such time that the shock value from watching this film wears off, which is not quite yet, but hopefully soon.

Mid-Week Tangent: Battle of the Fort Langley Gelato Part I

Unbeknownst to me until last weekend, I have not one but two gelato shops right in my own backyard (not literally, of course, although that would be a pretty fantastic backyard).  Now that I’ve kicked off my summer gelato challenge , I think I am hyperaware of gelato shops everywhere I go, sort of like when you buy a new car and then you start to see the same model everywhere you look.  What I was most excited by is that there are duelling gelato shops.  While not quite directly across the street from one another, they’re pretty close and I think that gives this gelato-off a very West Side Story vibe. I’m excited to see which gelato shop reigns supreme.

We checked out the interior of both shops this past weekend before choosing where to taste first.  I admit, I may already be biased against one of the shops. Bucking all gelato trends, they’ve opted not to display their gelato. While I’m usually supportive of bucking trends, part of the delight of gelato is being able to scan the flavours in their glass case. I’m not sure how I feel about sight-unseen gelato. But we’ll get to their products next week. For now, let’s take a look at our first Fort Langley gelato experience.

Reminder: I am not a food blogger. My goal is shoot as fast as possible to commence eating. But kudos to me for actually taking a picture before eating half of it…unlike the last two weeks.

Where: Maria’s Gelato, Fort Langley 

What I Had:  For some reason, though I typically select the most sickeningly sweet and rich dessert options, when selecting gelato I love me some fruit flavours.  It’s inexplicable to me. That’s my Cherry Mania on the left there, and my boyfriend’s (wiser) choice of coffee and salted butter caramel. I also sampled the peach gelato.

As a sidenote, I was disappointed in the lack of really interesting flavours. Aside from the pistachio and rosewater and strachiatella, most flavours were completely standard fair, lacking that Italian flair that I’m ultimately seeking in my quest for gelato perfection.

What stood out:  I had lower expectations for this place. For once, I did my research before checking out a gelato shop. The things I do for this blog! At any rate, I read countless reviews of tiny portion sizes, high prices, and rude service. I didn’t find any to be fair reviews.

As you can see from the photo above, these are fairly standard gelato serving sizes. My own theory is that customers are comparing to ice cream shops where double-scoops are often the size of your head.  It’s not ice cream. This is how gelato works. As for prices, I felt they were comparable to other shops at $5-7ish, depending on how much you ordered. Maybe it’s because when I lived downtown all the ‘artisan’ ice cream shops charged an arm and a leg for ice cream, but I’m not phased by that sort of price tag. Lastly, service was fine. It was pretty empty when we went, though, so perhaps when it’s busy service goes downhill. But I also have pretty low expectations for service. If I were scooping gelato on the daily, you’d better bet I’d have trouble being pleasant when customers want to sample every flavour under the sun and suffer from analysis paralysis when it comes time to place an order.

Okay, enough about the boring stuff, let’s get on to the taste! I’ll start with the worst of the day: the peach gelato. Granted, I had the world’s smallest sample, but the artificial peach flavour was noticeable nonetheless.  Perhaps since peaches are out of season, they are supplementing with artificial flavours…I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but something tells me I’m being overly optimistic on this one.

The cherry mania and coffee were both fine.  Flavour-wise, they were about what I was expecting.  The cherries were delightfully tart but the base was otherwise a fairly typical vanilla.  To me, coffee ice cream is coffee ice cream. I’ve yet to had one that blew my mind, so I’d say this one was perfectly fine. But I’m looking for perfect not perfectly fine with this gelato challenge.

The salted butter caramel, on the other hand, was a flavour explosion, so much so that I immediately regretted ordering only one flavour (seriously, why did I only order one flavour???). If you don’t like the flavour of butter, you will hate this gelato. If you’re like me, though, and have a mild butter addiction, this flavour is the only way to go. It is so rich and so over-the-top bold in its buttery-ness that you will be swooning. I may have eaten more of this flavour than my boyfriend. How he so willingly shares sweets is beyond me.

My biggest letdown at Maria’s wasn’t the flavour profiles, though. I need to talk texture and creaminess.  In the end, I would classify this gelato as more akin to ice cream.  It was still a bit airier than gelato, and lacked the rich creaminess that I was craving. For ice cream, it was good, but it didn’t have that velvety, easily-melting, supremely smooth quality for which I love, love, love gelato.

Overall, I’d say that I had a positive experience at Maria’s, but more as a destination for solid ice cream than gelato. I can’t wait to see whether the other Fort Langley gelato offerings blow my mind. But for that, you’ll have to wait until next week.

Real Talk Thursday: my new (and embarrassing) morning routine

It’s time for another confession. I’ve actually mentioned this once before, but only briefly and in passing when discussing some of my lazier unemployed moments, and at a time when I was doing it so infrequently that I couldn’t classify it as a routine. But now I’ve crossed the line. I do it every day. On purpose. And, even worse, I sort of look forward to it.

Every morning I tune in to Live with Kelly and Ryan.  I don’t understand my attraction to this show.  I used to despise Regis and Kathy Lee, and I couldn’t stand Kelly Ripa when she and Regis co-hosted. Now that I think of it, I may be having an epiphany as I write this that perhaps it was Regis that brought out the worst in everyone all along! As for Ryan, I didn’t watch American Idol, but I never understood how Ryan Seacrest became famous hosting it, nor how it parlayed into hosting a New Year’s Eve special.  And yet, somehow Kelly and Ryan together are enough to get me hooked.  Ryan Seacrest has somehow toned down Kelly’s manic level of enthusiasm to a more personally palatable level.

No matter what’s caused the shift, the horrifying part is that I now find myself organizing parts of my morning around the show. I’ll pause it when I go to check on laundry or refill my coffee mug.  If I’m watching another show on Netflix around the same time, my internal alarm clock goes off just shy of 9am, and I’ll pause what I’m watching–even when it’s good stuff like the new season of Master of None–to get to Kelly and Ryan. I scan the digital guide to see who the guests will be before the show starts, even though I’ll watch regardless of who’s on the show. I’ve even Googled the backstory of hosts and how Ryan and Kelly ended up as new(ish) and permanent co-hosts. Yikes.

It’s concerning for a number of reasons, the most alarming of which is that the show is just not good.  Despite both hosts being veterans in the business, there’s this sort of awkward and not-very-polished vibe to their conversation.  It’s sort of like watching a train wreck, but also sort of endearing like watching kids in a school play who are trying really hard even though they really suck.  Their guest interviews are so incredibly short and sometimes it’s like they haven’t done the legwork to prepare properly. They have flubbed the title of TV shows that their guests star in, and they’ve even said the wrong last name of one of their guests. They read questions from paper.  At times I’m horrified that I’m still watching, and I contemplate changing the channel, but I never pull the trigger to select another show.

Sure, you might say that 9am isn’t exactly prime time for other television viewing options, so maybe I’m just settling for the best of what’s available. The reality is that there are about a million other things I could be doing, like looking for work, writing, reading, watching Netflix, cleaning the house, going for a walk, researching prospective employers and clients. The list goes on and on. But no, instead I find myself truly engrossed in and hopelessly addicted to Live with Kelly and Ryan.

I hang my head in shame.

ps. Except you better be sure I’ll still be watching on Monday when their guest is our very own Prime Minister Trudeau…

Yes. This.

 

Mid-Week Tangent: An Ode to the Cadbury Creme Egg

I am essentially five years old when it comes to holidays and special events. I expect stockings at Christmas. I want a whole birthday week, not just one lone birthday. I want to eat my weight in bite-sized candy bars at Halloween. And damn it, when Easter rolls around, I want my Easter candy hunt. It’s not quite the same if the candy is just handed to me in a basket (though, of course, I’ll still gladly accept it).

Easter is truly one of my favourite candy holidays. I have many, many Easter candies that I love with all my heart, but there is one Easter treat that surpasses all others, that holds a special, nostalgic place in my heart, without which the Easter season is simply not complete: the Cadbury Creme Egg.  Today I pay homage to this saccharine wonder with a love letter. You may think it too much to write a love letter to a creme egg, but I am certain by its end you will see just how sizeable a portion of my heart it has seized.

Dear Cadbury Creme Egg,

You were my first Easter love and now, at the ripe, old age of 38, I continue to be hypnotized by your sugary goodness. Others tell me that you are too sweet for the adult palate, but their (unjust) criticisms fall only on deaf ears. For me, you are confectionary perfection.

One of my most excited moments occurred when, as a university student with a Costco membership, I discovered your 12-packs: a dozen creme eggs lovingly nestled in a plastic egg carton (this was prior to environmentalism being a primary product concern). Never had I seen an egg carton so alluring. I am not ashamed to admit that I purchased the 12-pack, consuming each and every one of them by myself and in far too short a time frame. In fact, I refuse to publicly admit how quickly.

I show greater restraint now. Despite the fact that Easter candy appears in stores before the Valentine’s Day candy flame has even been fully extinguished, and despite the addition of the Cadbury “Screme Egg” (such a clever moniker) at Halloween, I reserve any creme egg purchases and consumption to the days surrounding Easter itself. I am a purist and respect the sanctity of the Easter egg in all its forms.

Can I express what I love about you in words? As many other confections continue to whittle away at the thickness of their chocolate coating, I presume in efforts to charge more for less product, you have refused to pull the wool over consumer’s eyes. Your chocolate shell remains stubbornly think and impenetrable. There is no accidental crushing of your chocolate shell; it holds up to substantial pressure. I know, because I have dropped many on hard surfaces, and thrown them into the bottom of my purse, which can only be described as a black hole of crap, and from which few food items survive without being smashed beyond recognition.

Many criticize your interior for being nothing but liquid sugar.  To them I say: what more do you expect from a candy confection?  Though substantially thicker than a real egg, your filling is a wonder of chemistry. It is viscous enough to almost hold it’s form once the chocolate shell is broken, making you a feasible snack for people on the go. I believe your filling even has a distinct flavour and that flavour is “magic”.

So many brands have tried to replicate your deliciousness but none even come close. At times in my childhood, my parents misunderstood your uniqueness and fell prey to the lure of other cream eggs. I cannot describe the level of disappointment I would experience when my well-meaning parents would present me with Purdy’s creme eggs, as though they were a perfectly suitable replacement. My heart would sink. I’d eat them, of course, but the guilt I’d experience, knowing I was cheating on you, would render the experience decidedly less pleasurable.

Thank you, Cadbury Creme Egg, for being a steady constant in my life, and for creating a product that can only be loved by the ultimate sweet tooth (i.e. me). Never change. Ignore the haters. I cannot wait to be reunited with you again so very, very soon.*

*I am in no way affiliated with Cadbury’s nor is this post sponsored by them, though I’d be lying if I said I would turn down free Creme Eggs in exchange for my love letter.  I feel no shame at the thought of selling out for Cadbury Creme Eggs.

 

 

Mid-Week Tangent: WTF Walking Dead *Contains Spoilers!!!!*

In case you didn’t gather from the post title, this post contains spoilers (note the bold and coloured font to indicate that I’m serious about spoilers). If you’ve yet to watch the season 7 finale, you likely don’t want to read ahead although, quite frankly, I don’t think you’re missing much. With that out of the way, let’s get to the real heart of the matter.

Walking Dead, that season finale was absolute crap.

I feel it’s important to mention that I’m one of the few fans who’s given this season a fair shot, or at least this is how it feels to me.  It’s been widely criticized as a slow-moving and, well, crappy season, but I was like that loyal friend who sticks up for a bad friend long after everyone else has phased her out.  I defended the season premiere, believing it was important that Rick and crew finally be presented as something other than invincible. Sure it was violent, but it was getting pretty old watching Rick and crew outsmart all their enemies so easily.  I even defended the terminally slow plot development throughout the rest of the season. We needed to get familiar with all these other players, to see Rick’s crew in a different mode, trying to come to terms with their new reality while still attempting to forge alliances. I feel like my patience and loyalty should have been rewarded with a damn good season finale. But instead I got a slap in the face.  That friend I’d stuck up for long past everyone else up and phased me out. Uncool.

It didn’t even happen in slow and dramatic fashion. No, Walking Dead crushed my dreams for a good season finale all in one fell swoop. All I need are five words to tell you the straw that broke this camel’s back: the mother f’ing leaping tiger.

It’s exactly as bad as it looks.

Look, there were generally a lot of problems with this season finale, most notably:

–Supposedly dramatic Sasha suicide-in-a-coffin complete with ominous foreshadowing flashbacks: Yawn.

–Ridiculous and annoying way the trash people speak: Seriously, what about the zombie apocalypse made them abandon normal speech patterns!?!

–‘Bad guys’ who seem incapable of hitting a human target while every member of Rick’s crew is a dead eye: Even the most useless of Alexandria residents were transformed into killing machines, it seems.

–Rick gets shot but it doesn’t slow him down in the slightest: I suppose he’s used to it by now?

–Holy shit, amidst a literal sea of gunfire how does Negan not even get grazed by a bullet: I am left to assume he must be surrounded by an invisible force field.

And those are just a few of the things I struggled to comprehend. Yet I was willing to let go of all these things as a loyal fan. As I’ve written about before, I’m generally good with suspension of disbelief.

But that perfectly timed tiger leap was the final straw.  If you’re going to have a ridiculous plot device swoop in to save the day, can we not do better than a CGI tiger? Now I haven’t read the comics, so perhaps this is something they have to do to follow the storyline…but I really don’t care. After investing in seven seasons,  I expect more than a CGI tiger as a superhero.  And don’t even get me started on the improbability of this tiger’s impeccable timing nor his ability to discern good guys from bad. Carl was but seconds away from a deadly date with Lucille when this tiger seized hold of a dramatic pause. Now that is some serious animal instinct for opportune timing. And not once did he attack one of the good guys, not once. Ezekiel, though I can’t stand him, deserves to be recognized for his apparent phenom status as an animal trainer. Credit where credit is due.

In that ‘moment of the leaping tiger’, as I now call it, I felt as though the show stepped all over my loyal heart. My only response was to proclaim, out loud and largely to myself,  “Oh, come ON!!” That was the moment I feared me and Walking Dead might be done for good.  By the end of the episode, I no longer cared who lived or died, not even when it was unclear whether Michonne had survived her battle with the cryptic blonde trash lady.  By the time we got to Maggie’s melodramatic and protracted monologue homage to Glenn, all I wanted was for her to STFU. I’m sure that comment will anger Glenn lovers so let me emphasize that I loved Glenn and barely survived Glenn’s death fake-out  mid-season 6.  But I no longer care, not about Glenn and not about anyone (well, other than Daryl and Carol, who are now the only two characters for whom I have any emotional attachment). What I’m trying to say here is that this episode, especially as a cap to this crap-heap of a season, has left me immune even to Glenn’s emotional draw.

The only, and I mean only, redeeming quality of this entire season, as far as I’m concerned, is that the season finale brought Carol back to being a total badass hell-bent on slaying bad guys. I think we can all agree that the post-zombie-apocalypse world is far better with a bad-ass Carol in it. In my mind, a season 8 with Carol taking out the entire Saviour army is pretty much the only thing that can bring me back to true fan status.

Seriously, Walking Dead, that was terrible.