Pardon My French: Reviews

The James Street North Art Crawl is a monthly institution here in downtown Hamilton, Ontario, where art, music and creativity are celebrated on the second Friday of every month. Last week I had the opportunity to spend both Friday and Saturday at the Supercrawl, which occurs once a year, usually in September, where artists, performers, musicians and gourmands unite in one big  2-day street festival. The streets are shut down and filled with massive stages, a multitude of food trucks and vendors, and all forms of artistic expression are on display.

One of my favourite highlights of this year’s Supercrawl was briefly meeting a couple of the guys from Montreal-based art collective En Masse, and watching them work over the course of both days. Friday, they had an installation in progress at the Design Annex, and Saturday they  were busy all day creating a giant mural on the side of our popular record shop Dr. Disc. I managed to catch a few shots of them hard at work and was so entranced I kept coming back to see the progress over the course of the day.

I love the idea of having a diverse group of like-minded individuals, all collaborating on one big installation, off the top of their heads. The creativity unleashed is astounding – not to mention the technical prowess involved is top-notch. The group works entirely in black and white, and fluctuates in it’s membership, picking up illustrators here and there, so you never get the same atmospheric quality twice. The eye wanders throughout each piece for hours and continually finds awesome and interesting elements, so random, full of life and unique personality, which all tie in together to form a colossal achievement in unity.  It’s the collective individualities meshing so well that you’d think it was all created by one person that make this form of art so magic. I am both in awe of their talent, and in dire need to jump in and take part. Maybe I need a little more drawing practice first…

Regardless, these guys have transformed part of our downtown and I would love for them to come back and cover some more terrain. If it’s one thing Hamilton’s got – it’s lots of wall space in need of creative expression!

To find out more about En Masse, check out their website (which is currently under construction, so please be patient!).

Join them on facebook and follow them on Twitter to see where they’ll pop up next!

To see more awesome works by En Masse, check out Kirsten McCrea’s article. Great photos!

Life's Too Short

Ever wonder what it’s like to live the life of a showbiz dwarf? Life’s Too Short is the observational sitcom series crafted by the infamously talented comedy duo Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant from a concept that Warwick Davis was playing around with – and not suprisingly, it’s an instant smash hit. As a short person (I’m 4′ 11″), I’m overjoyed to see the little things that make us small-statured people crazy (like not being able to reach simple things people who are average in height take for granted), get shown in a whole new comedic light.

Better known for his roles in Return of the Jedi and Willow, Davis originally co-starred with Daniel Radcliffe in Gervais and Merchant’s series Extras, where he shared his real-life stories with the show’s creators in between setups. Gervais and Merchant were so amused by his trials and tribulations that they decided to create a series together based on them, which combined influences from Extras, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and One Foot in the Grave, “but with a dwarf”. From that, comedy genius was born.

Davis plays a slightly off-kilter fictional version of himself – he’s a talent agent for other dwarves (which he actually is in real life), and is quite full of himself due to the illustrious films he’s been in and he arrogantly shows off his memorabilia and tells stories about working with George Lucas, and tries to manipulate situations to fall into his favour. But it’s the awkward moments that he runs into continuously that are flat-out hilarious. When he meets with Gervais and Merchant and asks them to throw a little work his way, they try to avoid committing to anything and are quick to try and push him out the door. Strangers don’t recognize him when he asks for help with something out of his reach and conceitedly name-drops. His wife is annoyed with him and wants a divorce – she changes the locks and he tries to get in through the dog door. It’s beyond fantastic – it’s magical.

The cameos in this show are also what makes it wonderful – Johnny Depp, Liam Neeson, Helena Bonham Carter, Steve Carell, Right Said Fred (yes!), and Sting are a few among those who thread themselves in and out of Davis’ life in the show. I wonder who they’ll cast for the next season…

The show first aired on November 10th of 2011 on BBC Two. HBO picked it up shortly after and recently began to air the first series on the 19th of February, 2012. Gervais has recently tweeted that they’ve also been picked up for a second series so that will be in the works in the near future – aiming for Spring 2013. The only thing too short about this show in my opinion, is it’s running time.

Still mourning the loss of “The Chappelle Show”? Comedy Central has a solution to  ease your woes – MadTV’s Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have a great new sketch-com show called “Key & Peele” and it’s already making headlines. Their no-holds-barred approach to shtick comedy is a real delight floating atop the drivel that’s been shoveled down our throats in the past few years.

What makes this show stand apart from the rest is that it’s got a true sense of fearlessness and stark naked humanity. Full of biting satire, bold social commentary, and political critique – no topic is safe from their sharp wit and side-splitting delivery, and what’s best is that they can appeal to most audiences, offering a variety of subjects in their short sketches, stand up, and impressions that never disappoint (a few of which can be viewed already on YouTube). All of this is set in a format similar to “The Chappelle Show”, using a combination of stand up and videos set in front of a live audience, with each segway flowing seamlessly into the next, humor expanding in the process.

It’s rare that I can find a sketch-com show that can actually consistently make me laugh throughout (IFC’s “Portlandia” is also one of those), but Key & Peele have really been able to shake up our perceptions of society and have really done an awesomely adept job with the writing. They’re off to a really great start, and proving themselves as a wonderful breath of fresh air – I’m anticipating more great things from these two in the near future. Finally! A reason to look forward to Tuesdays.

To find out more, check out Key & Peele on The Comedy Network on Tuesdays at 10:30 pm ET or visit Comedy Central’s website in the U.S. or The Comedy Network in Canada.

Last night was the premiere of National Geographic Channel’s “Doomsday Preppers”, a new reality show about people who are preparing themselves for the eventuality of cataclysmic disaster. The stories revolve around average American families that are spending most of their spare time worrying about the collapse of society as we know it and how they will cope, and what their survival strategies are.

Should we hole up and barricade ourselves with weapons and stockpiles of shelf-stable food, water and seeds? Should we pack a “bug out” pack and take to the streets on foot and forage along the way? Will it be necessary to forge bonds with our communities so that we have a support system to draw upon in the darkest hours? For all of these people, training for the worst is a daily routine. They store items for barter, exercise intensely, and fill every nook and cranny of their dwellings. They have exit strategies, alternate plans, and above all, “lots and lots of bullets”. After all, Mike tells us, “If the grocery shelves are empty, you’re only nine meals away from anarchy.”

What’s interesting is that each family has their own belief of what is about to befall humanity and how they train themselves to be ready when “the shit hits the fan” and their worst fears become reality.  Whether it be a megaquake, total economic collapse, an extreme oil crisis, solar flares that bring on widespread power failures, these people think they have it covered. If society begins to unravel itself, they are willing to fight tooth and nail to survive.  At the end of each segment, an expert from NatGeo makes an assessment of what their chances would be ultimately, and what they are lacking and need to focus on, then revisit each family to update us on how they have improved their strategies.

So what are we really in for? Are these people crazy? Are they wasting their lives worrying about something that may not happen in our lifetime? What’s going to do us in, in the end? NatGeo has created a “Doomsday Dashboard” that follows Twitter trends to show us what is the worst possible catastrophe that everyone is worried about. To see what the current catastrophe that is impending, visit the Dashboard here.

At very least, “Doomsday Preppers” is an interesting watch. And if it all goes down, at least we’ll have a good understanding of what it will take to survive. I’m not holding my breath though – I’d rather enjoy life as we know it and deal with things as they come. To find out more about the show and how you can brace yourself for impending societal collapse, check out National Geographic Channel’s website. “Doomsday Preppers” airs Tuesday at 9pm on NatGeo.

Ughhh…REALLY? I mean – was there a major need for this one? Has the American animated sitcom community really run out of ideas that badly? Don’t get me wrong – the original film released in 2004 was pretty awesome, and quickly gained cult status – but what made it so great was that it stood apart from all the drivel that they’ve been shoveling down our throats these days. Beating the subject to death through animation seems to take away from all that pithy original content and dilutes it to the point where I think they’ve lost the point. Fox, you’ve really blown it this time, and managed to drag the talented Jared Hess and Mike Scully down with you. Bravo, douchebags.

The plot generally continues along the same lines as the original film, set in rural Preston, Idaho, with characters continuing to go about their daily lives, with additional outlandish deviations from reality forcing them into some sort of dramatic action for each episode. This is a cartoon version, after all – you didn’t expect it to be as realistic as the movie in any way did you? Regardless, Napoleon still strives to acquire “sweet skills”, Deb is still running after him, Pedro and Kip continues to seek love on the internet, so not all is lost.

Fortunately, they were able to reprise the entire cast (it would have sucked even harder if they hadn’t), so Jon Heder, Aaron Ruell, Efren Ramirez, Tina Majorino, Sandy Martin, Jon Gries and Diedrich Bader return with a couple of guest voices thrown in here and there. The debut season includes  Amy Poehler, Jennifer Coolidge, Sam Rockwell and Jermaine Clement.

The only saving grace of this new show is that it replaces the atrocity that was “Allen Gregory”, which was merely a half-assed vehicle for Jonah Hill that allowed him to befoul our homes with his uber-narcissistic attitude and self-absorbed smugness. And thank fuck for that – the world is now a better place for it. So I guess we’re going to have to stick this “Napoleon” one out for at least 6 episodes while its airs as a mid-season replacement, and if that weren’t enough, word is that they’ve expanded to thirteen. Alongside the impending demise of “The Simpsons”, Sunday nights will never be the same.

Once a bit-part actor, known for his hilarious rollerskating crackhead prostitute character Terry on Reno 911!, and super gay brother in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, amongst others, comedian Nick Swardson is now on a serious roll. His new comedy show Nick Swardson’s Pretend Time premiered last month on Comedy Central and holy shit – why have they been hiding this guy in cameo roles? First of all, he’s a riot as a comedian – he’ll throw anything at you, so why wouldn’t he prove himself to be an amazing writer? Pretend Time is basically a bunch of super funny little skits, all thrown together in a seamless fashion, to encompass a variety of ridiculous scenarios straight from the horse’s mouth. When I sat down to watch the first episode, within ten minutes I was asking myself how long they would let this guy rule the airwaves – he has a knack for toeing the line in such a way that makes you wonder how sick you are as a viewer – fan-fucking-tastic! Some of my favorite bits include Wheelchair Cat: Trust Fund Kitty, and Garry Gaga, policeman, and brother of the infamous Lady Gaga. And it’s just the beginning. 

I hope they give this guy a major contract so he sticks around for a long time. Not since The Chappelle Show have I laughed this hard, and still find myself quoting from the very first episode; “what can I say – I’m a Gaga.”

Look for the show on Comedy Central on Tuesday nights at 10pm. 

I was a really huge fan of Arrested Development and was incredibly upset when it was cancelled, but creator Mitch Hurwitz is back with a new series called Running Wilde on FOX, starring Will Arnett as a wealthy oil tycoon’s son named Steven Wilde. It’s a lighthearted comedy about how money can’t buy him the one thing he wants – tree-hugger Emmy Kadubic (played by Keri Russell). After spending a few years trying to save a tribe in the rainforest, alongside her activist fiance Andy (played by David Cross), and her daughter Puddle (Stefania Owen), Wilde’s father’s oil company poses a threat to the ecosystem, so Emmy takes her daughter to visit him to see if he can put an end to it and save the tribe. 
Upon viewing the first episode, the show doesn’t seem to draw as much hysterical laughter as it’s predecessor, but leaves a lot of room for growth. It’s written in the same vein as Arrested Development so if you weren’t a fan of that kind of humour, you might not find this show interesting. I found that the contrast between egotism and eco-activism is refreshing, since most other programs on television lately all centre around an increasingly materialistic world. The cast seems promising, and the use of Puddle’s voice as a perspective in narration is a nice touch – since she drives her mother to want to live in civilization again. 
I’m hoping for great things with this show. It’s still early, and it can only get better. With all the drivel that they’ve been touting on television lately, this is a welcome change. 
To view more about the show, click here

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