Friday, May 24, 2019

2019 Home Opener for Goldeyes Tonight

The usual long road trip to start the season for the Goldeyes has ended and they return to Winnipeg tonight, May 24, 7:00 PM to start their home opener weekend of three games against the Kansas City T-Bones. The 5-2 Goldeyes have been seeing some hot pitching and their bats are just getting warmed up when they face T-Bones who are 2-1 to start.

Might be some rain tonight so prepare accordingly but the weather improves as the weekend continues.

As with every year the Goldeyes return with fan favourites such as Reggie Abercrombie and perform in one of the more beautiful independent league ball fields in North America. Not to mention some of the tastiest food and off field ambiance. Who hasn't adored a train circling the grandstand?

The Goldeyes have consistent delivered the goods even though they were three-peat champions last year. But they are generally always play-off strong and regular season produces some of the best family entertainment on offer.

Look forward to a new season!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Movie Review: Avengers Endgame

In Hollywood history there is nothing really to compare to Marvel's 22 movies over a ten year period leading up to a crescendo finale with the stars of all the previous movies in it. The budgets generally were in the hundreds of millions and the box office would eventually grow to $21 billion. Actors, directors, writers and the best crews in the business collaborated on something called the Marvel Cinematic Universe on a story that originally was told in a comic book.

It could have all gone so wrong.

Marvel knew the only sure way for the business plan to work was to go back to their expansive cast of characters and work with material they exclusively held the rights to. This was no easy task as the company has already licensed Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four and others to Columbia, New Line and 20th Century Fox, It was unlikely any of those studios would want their own movie franchises hurt by a competing Marvel Studios.

It would all start in 2008 with Iron Man and the casting of Robert Downey Jr. in what was supported to be the start of a new self-financed series of movies. It might have seemed like a slam dunk at the time but there was nervousness about Downey and of the story itself connecting. There was no real telling if acceptance of the whole franchise would be forthcoming. In the end, Marvel's decision and the work of some key people and a whole lot of collaboration made the whole thing seem flawless.

To view Avengers Endgame as a stand alone movie would be like turning to a book and reading the last chapter and understanding all that came before. This became the fun in each movie over the last ten years. A thread of storylines, clues and previews were intertwined and some characters would appear in a number of movies whether it be Nick Fury or Black Widow or Hulk himself. To this end all of the characters would unite as the Avengers. This happened over four movies. The best way to think of Endgame is to think of it as part 2 of the previous Infinity Wars. Endgame takes place three weeks after the events of that movie.

Since the movie is entering just shy of a month in theatres, most of the spoilers are now out of the way but for those that have not seen it stop reading now.

Snap.

The Russo Brothers as directors and Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely as writers continue from Infinity Wars into Endgame. The two movies were shot back to back but the snap of Thano's fingers has cut the universe's population in half. It also means half the Avengers are gone and we have a defeated and demoralized group of superheroes left. Some of the questions of why some characters were missing from the last movie are answered. Captain Marvel played by Brie Larsen, Ant-Man played by Paul Rudd and Hawkeye played by Jeremy Renner have their absences accounted for. In the case of Hawkeye, choosing to be with his family instead of the Avengers cost Clint Barton his whole family and turned him to a man wracked with grief and anger.

Tony Stark/Iron Man played by Robert Downey's Jr. is nursing terrible physical and mental wounds while marooned on a ship with Nebula played by Ken Gillan. They are the only ones left after fighting Thanos and losing. Tony is full of regrets over his love with Pepper Potts and of losing teen Spider-Man to the snap that also took Dr. Strange and most of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Only Captain Marvel's rescue after three weeks of drifting brings Tony and Nebula back to Earth.

The rump of Avengers and left and Nebula include Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Rocket Racoon, War Machine, Captain America and Iron Man quickly locate Thanos and pursue him only to find he had destroyed the Infinity Stones. Nebula says Thanos would not lie on such a thing and his injuries indicate he was exposed to great energy, presumably when the stones were eliminated. Thor, knowing there is now no way to undo The Snap, kills Thanos in a rage.

Five years jump in the story and back on Earth, the devastation of losing half the population brings an relenting mourning for some. For others like Tony, he still has Pepper with who he retreats with and builds a life away from grief and guilt, particularly of Spider-Man who he was extremely fond of. The opposite side the coin in Clint Barton/Hawkeye who did not take part in the Infinity Wars yet loses his entire family to The Snap. His rage turn him into vigilante killer of all those deemed evil who remain alive.

The arrival of Scott Lang Ant-Man from the time realm changes the course of the Avengers. He too was not present during the Infinity Wars but his safe and successful trip through time shows a possible way to reverse what Thanos has done. This raises a lot of questions as well as resistance from the group. For Tony Stark who has carved out some happiness with Pepper as well as having a child, it could reverse all that. He only agrees with Pepper's blessing and the promise that restoration will only happen doesn't erase the past five years.

The last five years have been hard ones for others. Natasha Romanoff has basically been head of Avengers/Shield and doing what she can with Captain America, Rhodes and Rocket along with Captain Marvel. She is exhausted, especially since Hulk, Thor and Iron-Man have taken leave.

Avengers Endgame explore how grief has strained the team to the limits and who has stepped up, almost unexpectedly so. However, Ant-Man's return brings a new enthusiasm  as well as some humour to the prospect that the The Snap can be undone. Funny discussions related to time travel and pop culture were particularly noteworthy.

The explain the plot surrounding the actual time travel and retrieval of the Infinity Stones and the renewed battle with Thanos really defies description. But a Smart Hulk, an overweight and distracted Thor and too smart for his own good Iron Man make for a lot of fun, if confusing, action pieces. The Snap is reversed and Hulk wounded badly but the battle is not over as Thanos travels from the past into the future to stop the plan. This time though he faces a full restored Avengers and allies team that tips the balance. Captain Marvel is a difference maker in the fight but it is Tony Stark as Iron Man who makes the sacrifice for them all.

It is a satisfying ending to ten years of filmmaking. Even if a character is brought back (does anyone ever really die in comics?) it will probably not be the same actors we have grown to love. But this might not be a bad thing. How many actors have played Spider-Man, Hulk, Rhodes? Audiences have shown a willingness to go on. And so the series will. At the end of the movie was a trailer for the new Spider-Man that picks up right where Avengers leaves off.

Here's to the next 10 years.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Winnipeg's Valour FC Opening Night May 4, 2019

It was about 13 C for field conditions, some sun and fairly gusty when the game started at 5 PM on Saturday, May the Fourth. The fan club Red River Rising led a procession from a nearby bar to Investors Group Field and took their seats in The Trench even before the anthem was sung. A small fan group from FC Edmonton was present and was fairly focal too. However, the hometown crowd of 9,699 was in full and loud support of Winnipeg's Valour FC. After nearly three decades professional soccer has returned to Winnipeg.

We'll let photographer Matraisa Klippenstein tell the story of Winnipeg's season opener that ended in  2-1 loss. The score did not really tell the story of the team's on field dominance.

Matraisa's site: http://sundogphoto.ca/




Friday, May 3, 2019

Movie Review: Long Shot

Long Shot as a romantic comedy is definitely going to be different if Seth Rogen in it. No amount of personal humiliation limits him. Charlize Theron has a wide range of material which includes some romance stuff but in recent years her fare has leaned towards action and drama befitting an Oscar-winning performer. It is not surprising that the script by Dan Sterling (The Interview) and Liz Hannah (The Post) had them both come aboard as producers and stars since the roles play to each of their strengths. Directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50) the story is of a U.S. Secretary of State slowing falling for a lefty journalist who is brought on to write for her in the lead to a potential presidential run.

Charlize Theron channels her inner Veep, Clinton and Madam Secretary to make for a compelling single and earnest Secretary of State. The President played by Bob Odenkirk is a ridiculous Trump-like cutout of a man who gained office via acting in television and wants to leave the presidency after a single term to pursue an acting career in the movies. This opens the door to Theron's character making a run for the president.

There is some political satire in watching Theron playing Charlotte Field running for president but it is Shallow State versus Deep State. It is likely many women will recognize the standard for them is different than for a man. In a meeting looking at her strengths it is revealed none of it is related to her policy but on perceived likability. It is there that she finds that polls say her weakness is humour.
This information is related to her by a very funny Lisa Kudrow in all to short appearance.

Seth Rogen plays Fred Flarsky  a recently unemployed journalist who quit when a FOX-like owner played by Andy Serkis buys his publication. His best friend played by the very funny O'Shea Jackson Jr. drops everything to commiserate with Fred and take him to a swish part featuring Boyz II Men. Little does Fred know that his former babysitter and girl crush Charlotte will be there.

There is good chemistry between Rogen and Theron that comes from mostly good writing, acting that throw it all out there and good foils in supporting cast. In Theron's case, some of the funny moments to work off comes from her assistants June Dianne Raphael and Ravi Patel. When Charlotte sees Fred at the party as well as his encounter with the man who caused him to quit journalism, she is amused and intrigued. Despite strong misgivings of her staff she looks at his writing and sees in Fred a person that might be able to find a relateable and funny voice she can communicate policy.

Fred is not interested in the job unless it is full out policy change and not the typical politician program than means nothing. She agrees and soon it becomes clear that he is the right man for the job and helps her connect and make real progress on a world-wide tour the get an environmental agreement. The Canadian prime minister played by appears throughout as a genial, handsome empty suit with an unfortunate laugh. It is hilarious as a send up of Trudeau.

Theron is an exceptional actor who makes you believe that she is a real person trying to make it in a fake world. In the movie she swears, fills her face, wants to have rough sex and take drugs. With Fred she feels she can let her hair down although her and she knows that her image can't show this. Despite all this they fall in love.

This is a romantic comedy at its heart and while it is some politics, lots of raunch and quite a bit of satire, it has a sweetness about it that wins the audience over. The continued dominance of superheroes in the movies might just leave a window open for some funny entertainment mixed with a 90s nostalgia vibe. But this isn't your momma's rom-com unless she liked to be spanked. Also, there is one Seth Rogen moment right out of There's Something About Mary that had the audience laughing for several minutes afterwards. A sweet movie...yes, but be prepared for outrageous moments that are as crude as you might find on the screen anywhere.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Diversity Garden in Assiniboine Park

The Diversity Garden presently under construction at a cost of tens of million is looking more like roller coaster than glass encased garden. My brother actually took it to be a roller coaster under construction and was bitterly disappointed to hear it wasn't.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Saturday Morning Cartoons in Winnipeg

In 1970 my family moved from a rental property in River Heights to the home my parents continue to live in today. Our TV as I just began school was black and white had CBC and CJAY (later CKY). Cable had started in 1968 but reception was still an issue especially in summer and we had a black and white TV in a large cabinet to boot. Our first priority was a new colour TV but by fall of 1972 my father had broken down and got Videon cable that was priced at $10 to install and $5 a month. That was still pricey for a service that came in fuzzy with bad weather nearly every summer. By the way, the colour TV would have to wait another year.

My first sci-fi was comics and Saturday morning cartoons. It is funny that my first encounter with Star Trek and Planet of the Apes was through their animated shows of around 1973. The Jetsons was also one of the first animation shows totally set in the future. In fact, there were so many shows based on live action TV series such as Addams Family, Brady Kids and Jeannie (which featured the voice of Mark Hamill of Star Wars).

By 1973, all three kids in our family were up at the crack of dawn to watch cartoons before breakfast. Invariably, sports like hockey and soccer would take up chunks of time each weekend but with re-runs, we watched Fat Albert, Scooby-Doo and Bugs Bunny and its doubtful any episodes were missed over the years.

My passion for sci-fi came about in the 1970s via comics and television programming. Primetime series such as Wonder Woman, Six Million Dollar Man, Bionic Woman as well as Spider-Man were on in the evenings. Saturday morning cartoons introduced me to first space-based series which was Star Trek The Animated Series in 1973. I had never even the live action series as it had not reached syndication in Manitoba yet. I would also go on to see the Planet of the Apes both as a TV series in 1974 and an animated series in 1975 long before I saw the movies. Rounding out my early 1970s Saturday morning live and animated fare was Land of the Lost (1974), Shazam (1974), Isis (1975) and Ark II (1976).

I can honestly say that Space: 1999 was a game changer for me when it came on in 1975. For two years, it showed a near future story that was space-based and full of adventure. I was already sold like much of the population because of NASA, the Apollo missions and the moon landings. A story of a base on Earth's moon was amazing. Having the moon flung out of orbit and from place to place had me enraptured. This program didn't come from from the U.S. networks but on CBC via ITC, a British producer. It featured Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, a married acting couple famous from Mission Impossible. I never did see Mission Impossible till decades later so the two were new to me. Two full seasons of Space: 1999 would be broadcast and I'd see the show over and over which was a good thing since when it was gone, it would a very long time before it would become available on TV or DVD again. It was replaced by Star Trek which would run for year upon year after that. By the time the Star Trek movie came to the screen in 1979, pretty much every kid in Canada would have had seen or known about the show because of CBC.

Kids were only vaguely aware that the shows they were watching were re-packaged programs from prime time 1960s animated shows or Bugs Bunny and Road Runner clips from Warner Bros. for their theatrical releases. It was all new to kids. And even seeing them once, kids were prepared to watch them again and again. This, of course, set up a whole new marketing opportunity for companies producing Flintstones and Jetson's labelled products. Yogi Bear featured on Saturday mornings inspired campgrounds called Jellystone Park which exist to this day.


The 1970s Saturday morning cartoons were filled with superheroes, sci-fi, mystery and music. Bill Cosby, in the days when he was associated with family comedy, was there with Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids which was very popular in Canada. There was also a huge amount of programming related to prime time comedy such Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy. Even the Dukes of Hazzard had an animated TV series.

Old programming was still mainstay in the 1980s but Smurfs came to dominate in 1981. Star Wars animated shows also began to appear. However, it was clear that some 1980s programming was aimed at a much younger demographic other than young teens. There were many junior versions of animated characters. Hello Scrappy-Do.

It was safe to say that each generation of kids growing up decade by decade grew up and probably ended up working Saturday mornings, doing sports and activities or found new programming wasn't reaching them as it was aimed at very young kids. Federal rules on what could be broadcast and what commercials could be run began to change the Saturday morning landscape by the 1990s. Syndicated animated programs like G.I. Joe and He-Man, Thundercats, Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could appear more freely on TV television after 1984 and away from Saturday morning cartoons. This was both a good thing and bad thing as it gave older teens animated shows to watch but it gave pause to the networks to create material for Saturday that was increasingly held to a different standard for education. Moreover, specialty cable channels such Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network grew each year they were on till the dominated Saturday Morning Cartoons.

Add to the mix rental videos and game systems such as Atari, Nintendo and Sega, most networks gave up on doing anything Saturday and by 2002 in Canada, cartoons were dropped, In some cases live programming for young people like Saved by the Bell entered the picture but more and more U.S. networks extended news programming into their weekend shows. The power of the networks ended and with it nearly 40 years of Saturday programming.

Still, this programming today feeds several kids networks as well as adult networks and now gets play as feature films. So what once was old is new again. CBS in the U.S. seems to have re-discovered Star Trek animated material and there are announcements being made almost every week. In Canada the Adult Swim animated channel for older audiences now warrants its own channel.

Some might ask when the golden period of Saturday Morning Cartoons was and for many it will be the time when they were kids. It is safe to say though by the 1990 it was fading fast due to the aforementioned rules in broadcasting as well different entertainment options. The 1950s were still and content still limited. The 1960s were a huge deal with full blocks of programming. That only got bigger in the 1970s. By the 1980s cartoons a mix of old and new but neglected older teens. Syndication in the 1990s brought back the teens but those shows were not seen on early morning TV. By 2000s it was all over.

By virtue of a mix of old and new, the golden era was probably the 1970s.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Keycon 36 May 17 to 19

There are a number of long running pop cultural festivals in Manitoba but there are likely none that are closing in on near four decades of continuous operation. Science fiction and fantasy are among the biggest sellers in the multimedia world from books to television to movies to games. Keycon has always been the more literate of the festivals but just as fun loving. This year they have guests of honour representing both writers and authors. Carrie Vaughn, Tanya Huff and Lee Moyer will be present to discuss their work.
Traditionally the May long weekend has been marked by Manitobans heading to the cottage or camping for the first time of the new year. Some nip down to the States for a last shopping weekend before summer. However, the Victoria Day weekend in the city was often marked by a sleepy whole lot of nothing. 
No sci-fi festival wold be complete without costume masquerades and competitions, panels and discussions, gaming and fights as well as dinner and dancing with friends. The venue is the Radisson Hotel on Portage Avenue in the downtown area and is spread out through most of their ballrooms and guest suites. 
Attendance has ranged as high as 600 for a weekend pass but day passes are also available for those who have only a day to spare. There are lots of celebrations for sci-fi culture that Keycon will be tipping the hat to including vampire stories, Mad Max, Monty Python as well as Wizard of Oz.
Tickets in advance are the best course of action and reviewing the schedule and times for programming. Costumes are always welcome but check to see when cosplay and masquerades are happening. There are vendors selling a variety of goods and art so be sure to check that out as well.
Keycon is a more intimate look at sci-fi and fantasy than some of the biggest shows out there but then it is all about forming close relationships with the people and groups that share interests. And once again, not everyone goes out of town on the May long weekend.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Portage and Main 1913 Back in Parking

This 1913 pictures shows a number of things. It shows that back in parking which is in vogue now was common back in 1913 in Winnipeg. Horses were still used all over the city but it was streetcars that transported the bulk of people and simple walking. The city was far less spread out.

Also note that electric cables are everywhere. During the 1960s and 70s, Winnipeg Hydro began the process of burying all the cables. People talk about how good the good old days were but downtown looks better with them gone.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Osborne Village in 1957

This picture in 1957 of Osborne Village tells us a lot. The first is that there are no more streetcars. They came to an end in Winnipeg in 1955. Trolley buses continue to operate as we can see from electric lines away from the Assinniboine River. But what about headed towards the downtown?  The building under construction in the background is the Great-West Life building that was complete in 1957. The steam pipe in the middle is the Drewery Beer Plant (later Labatt's)

The Osborne Theater, a fixture in the Village since 1912, was soon to close. Killed off by television in 1957. It later became an Elk's Hall and today is Anytime Fitness. Stephen Paints, Margaret Rose restaurant are clearly seen as neighbours to the movie theatre. The beauty salon is Nugguit's? It is difficult to read the names on the other side but a Perth's Drycleaner can be see as well as a drugstore. The drugstore sits where Papa George's resided from 1972 to 2012. However, it was once White Drugs which was owned by the Ringer family that owned the famous pharmacy on Pembina Highway. The store obviously had a different name before that though.

Papa George's is now Cornerstone restaurant.

The Roslyn Apartments are seen on the right side of the street with its recognizable red brick. As with many street on major roads almost everything you wanted was within a walkable distance. The rapid expansion of the suburbs was just about to accelerate as cars and technology began to change urban settings.

Ironically, it was the harder time that Osborne Village was about to go through in the 1960s that set up what it was going to become from the 1970s and beyond. Even today the community continues to evolve.

Any help in filling in the blanks with the names of businesses on the street would be appreciated.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Netflix Review: Secret City

There are two seasons of Secret City on Netflix starring Anna Torv as an investigative reporter on one the Daily Ntion based out of Australia's capital Canberra. The term Secret City comes from John le Carre's The Honourable Schoolboy, the follow-up to the George Smiley epic Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. This should give viewers an idea that the series will have a strong espionage angle.

This series was based on the political novels of Chris Uhlmann and Steve Lewis and their books The Marmalade Files and the Mandarin Code. The main protagonist is journalist Harriet Dunkley working with the Daily Nation who stumbles upon a young man drowned during the course of her morning rowing. Immediately she sniffs a story and leads to a conspiracy that threatens her life as well as others.

A number of series in Australia have explored the feelings Australians have on the subject of big brother and the state. The China and United States dynamic plays a huge role on modern Australia who feel squeezed and vulnerable while their own state monitors its citizens for signs of protest. It is a level of paranoia we don't see on Canadian TV too much as we seem more focused on corporate control on our lives. This could be a reflection of how much corporations like HBC and Canadian Pacific Railway settled huge portions of Canada. Distrust runs deep.

Anna Torv as Harry the investigative political reporter hearkens back to an older journalism that is hard to find today. She is not a TV personality but a writer who is part of the press gallery in Canberra covering national politics. Shot on location in the capital, Secret City really shows off an area of Australia that has largely been unseen by many. The modern capital building has only been in existence since 1988. Netflix has a number of series courtesy of some of the film funding from Canberra government support and the result is seeing a different side of Australia.

Insights into Australia's intelligence organizations works and fear of both China and the United States plays a huge role as Harry investigates cabinet ministers and spies alike. Murder follows her around, some of it very close to her, that leaves her reeling and not sure who to trust. The first 2016 season of six episodes end climatically but with some unresolved issues which set up the premise of the next season.

The second season in 2018 has Harriet being released from prison for crimes related to her news reporting which violated the law. She remains convinced she knows who the traitor working for China bit wants to turn her back on Canberra and almost succeeds. The troubles of her friend from her prison and a job offer to act as an Independent MP's media adviser bring her back to center of action.

It is there that she stumbles upon information revealing a cover-up of a bomb attack in Australia. The deaths of one family is pinned on Pakistan but Harriet gets video showing it was a drone missile from Australia itself responsible for the attack.

One again the espionage and politics of China and the United States pushes Australia one way and the other. She finds that the conspiracy keeps even the new prime minister out of the loop. Uneasy alliances with some Australian intelligence people and side stories of arms dealing keep the story clipping along. Over two seasons the times that Anna Torv plays second fiddle is when Oscar winning Jacki Weaver is on screen first as Attorney-General and later Minister of Home Affairs Catriona Bailey.

A political thriller worth watching for those who like a spy story, action and great acting and writing performances. Hopefully, a season 3 is in the cards.