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Wish I Was Here – Movie Review

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Wish I Was Here – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

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When an actor directs, writes and plays the leading role in a movie, there’s the possibility it could turn into a vanity project to stroke their own ego. With its questionable funding, Zach Braff’s latest directorial effort could have fallen down that path, but the final result is a sincere and funny story. While the marketing is selling Wish I Was Here as an niche indie project, it is actually a rather commercial film whose themes and messages will appeal to a larger audience than maybe the distributor seems aware. It’s a smart script that simply wants to tell about this family’s struggles in a way that’s lighthearted but not condescending or schmaltzy.

The biggest positive is the family dynamic. Even though the characters are far apart in some places, it is still evident that they’re a close-knit group and the screenplay, written by Braff and his brother Adam, features some great conversations between them. The funniest scenes typically involve Braff’s struggling actor Aidan Bloom dealing with his children. The contrast between his offspring is particularly humourous, with his son Tucker being bored by his religious private school and daughter Grace completely invested in her education. While it’s played for laughs, Braff does not shy away from the struggle he faces in wanting to help his children and their future. There is a genuine kinship between them and it does not take long to buy him as their father. His relationship with his wife is very sweet and it is refreshing to see Kate Hudson take on a role like this again, a far cry from the romantic comedies that have consumed her career for the past decade or so. Those who have been waiting anxiously to see Hudson give a performance worthy of the promise she showed in Almost Famous will happily find it here.

A lot of the emotion in Wish I Was Here is mostly seen in Mandy Patinkin’s role as Aidan’s father. Slowly dying of cancer, the heartbreak is nicely portrayed on the screen without hammering it in. The humourous remarks made by Patinkin elicit laughs, without getting in the way of the seriousness of the situation. Zach Braff’s direction is smart as it never crosses the line into either strangely inappropriate comedy or trite TV-movie-of-the-week. The same applies to Josh Gad’s role as Aidan’s smart but unmotivated brother. Gad has his usual comedic deliveries, but he also does a great job at showing the sadness and fear of potentially losing his father. This relationship between the brothers and their father really helps in making certain scenes hit the right emotional bulls-eye. Those who have watched somebody wither away will find plenty to relate to in Wish I Was Here.

Wish I Was Here has a surprisingly religious theme running through the film, but none of it is preachy or hammered in. Braff taps into his Jewish upbringing, both for humourous purposes and to explore the messages. How Grace and Tucker identify with their Judaism shows the choice of which path you may want to lead, but if you find something that connects with you, that’s fantastic. However, while religion can be helpful in guiding your life, you still need to make your own decisions that help you and your family. The first three letters of Aidan’s name are appropriate as he needs to “aid” his family through this troubled time before his own desires and sometimes life does not necessarily give you a handout. Charity (or “tzedakah”) will come when you most need it, not necessarily when you want it.

Through its humour and heartbreak, Wish I Was Here has a genuine sincerity to it. Zach Braff seems to put a lot of his own personal touch into his film, without making it into a vanity project. He has amassed an impressive cast who all deliver, even ones like Jim Parsons who find themselves in smaller but still worthwhile parts. Braff hasn’t directed a feature film since Garden State ten years ago, but if Wish I Was Here is any indication, he still has a very good future ahead of him directing personal stories that reflect his current place in life.

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Review By: Stefan Ellison

THE SCENE


FERNS & MAILLOUX FLEE THE COLONIES

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Goodbye Ferns & Mailloux

Katharine Ferns and Rob Mailloux are leaving the Americas. They’re sailing back to the old world, free from the Virginia tobacco fields, and the lethal hum of the tomahawk flying at wind speeds with expert precision. No more shall they spend their winters boiling wolves’ milk for sustenance, or rescuing human infants from the talons of the screaming Mole Eagle (hairless like their rodent cousin, but only 68% blind, they look something like a winged French Stewart with severe Alopecia, but made out of foreskins). It’s off to jolly old England with them!

Yes, that England! Land of meat pies & Pimm’s! The snaggle toothed “Maybe, After 6 Beers I Would” Cousin Marjorie to America’s rascal-bound, severely diabetic and kinda racist Fat Uncle Sam

(Canada is the distant cousin Dwayne with the bowl cut and the thick Alberta interior accent who gets home schooled and plays with knives) 

England has a long and proud tradition of comedy. From Falstaff to Fawlty Towers. From Laurie & Fry to Gervais and Merchant to Frost + Pegg. (Currently I’m partial to Coogan and Brydon, but to each thems ownselves!) They, like us, have a distinct tradition of comedy. Our own national flavor (even if we have a harder time nailing ours down, and our industry could always use a boost). But it’s in the blood. Maybe it’s a Commonwealth thing?

In the past decades, London’s standup scene has pulled in some serious North American talent searching for new & fertile fields of stages. Comics looking to break free from the same old cycles of club circuits, pilot seasons, and the L.A-N.Y-Chicago triangle (and for our purposes, Toronto). Let us not forget, standup comedy really did begin as a uniquely North American pursuit. Right up there with Jazz, Baseball, and taking paternity tests on daytime television

The late Patrice O’Neal had some of his most remarkable (and re-formative) years in the London underground of comedy, before coming back stateside and making has final mark (much too young for that to be past tense)

Some of Toronto’s finest crowd killers are already murdering all over London, like a bunch of White Chapel dandies they is. Yes, that was a Jack the Ripper joke. It was 120-something years ago, don’t give me that “too soon” malarkey. 

John Hastings and Bobby Mair to name a pair. And now, we bid a fond farewell to two more of our favorites. One of them is coming back, the other one… well, as she (mostly jokingly) puts it “I’m moving to England forever. Or I’ll be back in like 6 weeks, depending when my visa runs out”

Switching to Cockney now!

Freshen Your Drink

Old Kaffy Ferns ‘as become a right familiar Chevy Chase (face) to Canadian comedy c*nts audiences, she ‘as. Since moving to the big Smoky Woke in 2011, she’s ‘ad sev’rul appearances on the ichannel standup series “Na Kidding” and the inside-comedy show “The Inside Joke”. She’s become a Toronto favorite on the indie festival circuit, including NXNE, the Dark Comedy Festival, and opening for high-profile shows on the Empire Comedy label at Toronto’s famous Comedy stars ‘n bars (Comedy Bar)

“Fancy a drink, guv’ner?” indeed! 

Annnnnd, now let’s viddy this next portion in the Nadsat!

Rob Mailloux has been making a eemya for himself on the Canadian comedy scene since the mid 2000s. A standup purist, Mailloux is a relentless do-it-yourselfer, a trail blazer. His unstoppable rabbit ethic and raw talent have earned him spots on some of the biggest stages across North America and beyond. From the festival circuit to fringe shows, co-producing the Dark Comedy Festival and performing with such eemyas as Jim Jefferies, Dave Atell & Maria Bamford just to eemya a few!

Drunkorexia

 Ferns and Mailloux can be viddied with tearful goodbyes and waves of the silkmost scarves, this Friday 8 bells proper at Johnny Jackson (587 College Street).

Tickets are but a mere $15 with proceeds going to their sea voyage. And towards Mailloux’s solo “DRUNKOREXIA” show debuting at the Edinburgh Fringe (that’s probably not part of England per se, at least not at the time of publishing. BUT they are heading to London right after)

Katharine will be appearing on the Matt Henry & Friends show August 1-25, while Rob switch hits between his own Drunkorexia (see paragraph above, and sexy show art by Toronto artist Kurt Firla above that!) – and co-producing the Late Night Dark Comedy show with the afforementioned Bobby Mair.

And that, as they say – is that!

 


Vancouver Island Music Festival 2014 a success

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Vancouver Island Music Festival 2014 a success

view from crowd

What: Vancouver Island Music Festival
Where: Courtenay, B.C.
When: July 11-13, 2014
Who: Various

Performing under a brilliant supermoon, Saturday night headliner Bonnie Raitt praised MusicFest 2014 for its creative lineup.

Sounding utterly sincere, as she did throughout her set, Raitt also noted the three-day festival honours longtime bluesmen, naming fellow slide guitarist Roy Rogers as one.

After going overtime on her professionally paced, crowd-pleasing set, Raitt delighted about 10,000 people with a generous four-song encore.

Having sung John Prine’s poignant Angel From Montgomery earlier, Raitt opened her encore with I Can’t Make You Love Me before really opening the tear ducts with Dimming of the Day by brilliant songwriter Richard Thompson.

Punctuating an earlier remark about honouring veteran bluesmen, Raitt brought out Rogers for one upbeat number. A persistent festival rumour was realized when Colin James, who performed the night before in Victoria, joined her for one final tune.

Raitt still has some stamina. She and her veteran band, which includes keyboard player Mike Finnigan (who played on Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 Electric Ladyland album), didn’t finish until after 1 a.m.

Raitt was in the Comox Valley for her considerable artistic merit, but she was also the 20th annual festival’s big-name ticket-buying incentive.

With a reputation for consistently high levels of musicianship, diversity, camaraderie and sunshine, MusicFest refuses to be categorized as a festival for any specific genres.

If you strolled around the six performance stages, you would have heard blues (Rogers, for example), folk, country, gospel (Blind Boys of Alabama), lots of world music and rock.

Other exotic sounds and unlikely collaborations booked by artistic director defy stereotypes.

For instance, Leyla McCalla is a cellist of Haitian descent discovered playing on the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans. Her songs, many containing words by poet Langston Hughes, are unexpected and compelling.

Holger Peterson, host of CBC Radio’s Saturday night Blues, has been coming to MusicFest for nine years. He echoes what Raitt and many other visiting musicians have been saying about the festival for awhile.

“I’m a huge fan; I love coming here,” said Peterson, a former artistic director of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival.

“(MusicFest artistic director) Doug Cox does a remarkable job of putting together combinations of things that work and getting a lot of special guests.”

Peterson noted that Cox, an excellent dobro player who sometimes tours internationally, has connections to many high-level players.ughesGH

 

Performers come from as far away as the other side of the globe and as close as the host Comox Valley, a hotbed of creative talent even on arts-rich Vancouver Island.

This year’s international content included the sensational Mokoomba from Zimbabwe, drum-pounding Dulsori from Korea, Beppe Gambetta from Italy, Angelique Kidjo from the African nation of Benin and Tony McManus from Scotland.

For several days each year, the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds becomes a United Nations complete with unusual attire as well as various accents. Music is the common language spoken by all.

Age is another way the festival exemplifies diversity. Performers this year ranged from teens in Twisted String (founded by the late Toronto violinist Oliver Schroer) to 81-year-old bluesman Leo Bud Welch.

The many musical highlights began on opening night. After a sprightly set by Rogers, the Royal Southern Brotherhood made many new fans. They are led by Gregg Allman’s son Devon, who impresses with his guitar playing and singing, and singer-percussionist Cyril Neville from the famed New Orleans Neville family.

Friday night headliner Kidjo galvanized the audience, at one point getting fans on stage to dance during her high-energy show. The Mavericks did not disappoint when they closed the festival Sunday evening.

Other musical highlights too numerous to list included what Cox calls “workshops” (25 of them this year).

Although visiting musicians are sometimes flummoxed to learn they are expected to share a stage and interact with people they have never met, they almost always find common ground and make some magic.

The nearby Tsolum River and roving entertainers are just two other factors that help to make MusicFest a success.

The biggest reason, of course, is the music. Bonnie Raitt wouldn’t lie about that.

By: Mark Allan

giant guitarfamilyBirds of ChicagoangelTwisted String - Emily Clougher & Daniel LappRoy Rogers frethandLeo Bud WelchMusicFest finger

THE SCENe


Polaris Music Prize short list announced

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Polaris Music Prize short list announced

Starting in 2006, the Polaris Music Prize, is a $30,000 cash prize that is awarded to one Canadian album each year.    The organization is not for profit and the list of nominees is decided upon by an 190 independent music journalists.   An eleven person Grand Jury will determine the grand prize winner Sept. 22.
The runner up will receive a $2000 cash prize courtesy of Slaight Music.

Arcade Fire — Reflektor
Basia Bulat — Tall Tall Shadow
Mac DeMarco — Salad Days
Drake — Nothing Was The Same
Jessy Lanza — Pull My Hair Back
Owen Pallett — In Conflict
Shad — Flying Colours
Tanya Tagaq — Animism
Timber Timbre — Hot Dreams
YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN — UZU

 

THE SCENe


Ottawa Invasion @ KITCH

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Stephen Harper

 

Mmmm…. Just look at those pouty wet lips. Those fat, juicy lips just begging to SUCK the conversation right out of the room. SUCK that room dry, and then SUCK the air right out of the whole room. Mmmm yeah. Dean likes that. I just want to get lost in those empty, hollow steel blue eyes forever. I want to swim in those vacant pools of apathy, and let all my emotions and my sense of self wash away. I am so dry right now, it’s crazy. Just thinking about it is making me lukewarm!  

¨Who IS that baby-faced Adonis?¨ you might be thinking to yourselves, my sexy little Scenesters. ¨Did Mick Jagger f*ck the Shopsy’s logo, and then give birth to some sort of vaguely humanoid asexual robot??¨

Wrong, my friends! That man’s name is Steve, and he is in charge of Ottawa. And Ottawa is the capital city of Canada (remember Scenesters, there’s more Canada outside of Toronto! It might not matter to you or me, but it’s geographically true)

This Thursday at KITCH (229 Geary Ave) we’ve lined up another hot wet haymaker of top Toronto crowd killers for your Pro/Am comedy amusement. And we have 3 of Ottawa’s finest joining us on-stage

Let’s just call it O-Town, it’s more hip. ¨Ottawa¨ just sounds so… Steve Harper.

Fresh from the capital (well, two of them perform full time in Toronto now but let’s not split hairs. It works better for the theme if I blanket them all with their city of origin, they’ll be cool with it) – isn’t it time YOU checked the O.R!?

TOMMY FITZ (Comedy Lovers Pizza podcast)

TREVOR THOMPSON (Surly beer deliverist by day, Yuk Yuks comic + lovable comedy curmudgeon by night)

ALEX WOOD (Yuk Yuks, ichannel)

And of course, the best of the best every week from right here in Canada’s best (and some would say only) city!

With appearances by Camille Cote! Lucy Gervais! Andre Aruda! AND MORE!

+LOTTO!

And if that doesn’t get your nethers a-tinglin’, we gots one of the six devils of Chuckle Co (surprise Ninja Scroll reference there, my comedy isn’t about being accessible) Mr. Joel Buxton is joining us! Also, that guy teaches comedy to students. No shit, that’s a thing you can go to school for now! Why not, I went to community college film school and I STILL wound up here.

And last but not least (and usually not last in a lineup either, especially if this was a rib festival) Jeff Paul. This cold hard motherchuckler is going all Nucky Thompson on us, and starting up his own comedy empire down Niagara way!

Oh, let me clarify – Niagara on the Lake. Not the one with the waterfalls and the wax museums and the gambling addicts, the one in the middle of wine country, with more wasps nesting in it then Ann Coulter’s lady business

Yeah, I said it. What? She’s always so mean. Is it unreasonable to think she might have actual, literal hornets living in her cooter?

Any-hoohaw, that’s our lineup for this week! FREE live comedy by some of Canada’s best, every week at KITCH!

Home of the famous $5 menu.

 

 

KITCH photo 2 KITCH photo

 

 


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