Friday, June 28, 2019

Netflix Review: Trapped

It used to PBS that could reliably bring non-North American drama to Canada. The private channels had plenty of U.S. fare to choose from and where mandated, produced Canadian material that was sometimes indistinguishable from the American stuff. CBC, on the other hand, was mandated to produce Canadian drama so material from say, Europe, would have had to have been co-produced for unique reasons.

In recent years more work is done in partnerships and demand for unique voices is strong right around the world. Canadian material has reached such a high level of production in terms of story, acting and location that its audience is no longer limited to home geography.

In today's broadcast world, Canadians see some material from overseas on Canadian channels but it is still very limited. PBS continues to be a powerhouse but skews heavily British. Nothing wrong with that except there has been other exception material missed along the way.

Nordic Noir are the words to describe movies and series coming out of places like Sweden, Norway and now Iceland. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series out of Sweden is some of the best television you are going to find on Netflix. Occupied from Norway was amazing. And now from Iceland we have Trapped.

It is a series that can be found on Netflix and is now into its second season running 20 episodes. It is very binge-worthy. Each season revolves predominantly on one case and the complications that surround it. Agatha Christie being channeled through the beautiful lens of Iceland and story about a dogged police officer and his team.

The story takes place Seydisfjordur, an isolated port town in Eastern Iceland connected to other area by a single desolate road, airport and port. The Chief of Police Andri has left under a cloud from work in Reykjavik but still commands respect despite enemies. His family life is in turmoil. His wife has split up with him and is seeing someone new in the capital. His daughters, who remain with him, are school bullies. To make matters worse his wife is coming to town with the boyfriends to take the daughters away. All of this, of course, is happening under one roof as the weather worsens.

As a blizzard heads towards the town, a torso of a body is pulled from a fishing boat just as a ferry pulls into port arriving from the mainland bringing with it Icelander, assorted Europeans and others. The ship is held as Andri and his team of two officers try to figure out who the culprit is as the storms socks them in. No one can leave and no help can come in. And the murderer is most certainly in their midst.

The title Trapped certainly holds true over ten episodes. Haunting, suspenseful and full of twists, it is hard to stop watching. The writing, acting, production, music and beautiful scenery it makes it far from ordinary.

The second season of 10 episodes doesn't replicate the blizzard conditions but emphasizes how people and society themselves are trapped in patterns that are difficult to break. We catch up with Andri who is back in Reykjavik but who ends up heading back to Seydisfjordur because of an attempted assassination is linked to a militant group in the isolated town.

Once again murder drives the investigation but this time it is also right wing politics, international business, the environment, foreign workers and deep family secrets showing how people are trapped by the past, present and future. And poor Chief Andri has to deal with a daughter whose nose for trouble puts her in the path of a killer.

Old characters are re-visited and some are doing better than others. All of this again is shown amidst the beauty of Iceland and how it continues to try to pull itself up from the economic crisis of 2008. So much has been displaced and for many, such a the sheepherders clad in their Icelandic sweaters, it has brought out the worst in them. But there is more to it all and is rooted in the deep horrible secrets of one family in town.

The two seasons of this show are worth sitting through even with captions. As fine a production as you will find in the world.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

TableSpace to Open in Osborne Village

Osborne Village continues to transform as businesses and landlords who once shaped the street in 1970s begin to sell or close their shops and lease to new people to take us into the 2020s. It hasn't always been easy as retail on the street and within malls has been revolutionized by the Internet. Despite a dense population in the village business people have found it a challenge to draw traffic, pay high rent and keep up. In New York it is called Luxury Blight. It is when some posh shops come in that push up the rent and then leave when they fall out of fashion. Somehow the rent stays too high.

Restaurants and some retail have shied away from jumping back in to spaces that have high overheads. This has led to the opening of two fitness centers Shapes and Anytime that serve the growing residential population. Cannabis shops have also found that their business model allows multiple retail spots along the street. The types of shops that have left though are businesses such as Oxford at the corner of Gertrude.

So what do you do with what seem like amazing spaces in a world where street retail and restaurants have changed so much? Not everything can be a fitness center although it does seem like that lately with multiple openings. The answer it seems might be shared space, particularly work spaces. And who not? With so many people living in the area many have their own businesses alongside other professional endeavours. Working from home is an option but sometimes you just need space and the traditional options don't work.

At the site of where Oxford used to be at 196 Osborne, TableSpace is being setting up by the two female entrepreneurs with an opening targeted for August. However, with all the Canada day celebrations going on July 1st, the new owners, Rachel and Andrea will be showing off renderings and giving tours. From 10 till 4, they will explain how the 2015 Harvard Business Review inspired them with an article on the gig economy and how curated co-working business spaces were where entrepreneurs and freelancers were going. Such spaces have emerged in Winnipeg in the downtown and suburbs with a focus in some cases on manufacturing.

The Osborne Village though is not known offices although at one time in the 1980s there were several. In recent years though, the need for some kind of business center has grown. Moreover, ones that have amenities such as coffee, WIFI, printers, lockers and the like are just no where to be found. Having female friendly ones is like finding a unicorn. The opportunity to create a networking environment for work and a social setting was very compelling to the TableSpace owners.

"TableSpace will give entrepreneurs a place to get from distractions and focus on their goals, whatever they might be," explained Rachel.

"We want to touch on self-care needs as well. We want to help our members achieve the work-life balance that they are dreaming of," Andrea added.

With meeting and boards, podcasting studio and desk space and office amenities mixed in with future wellness programs and yoga, the space at 196 Osborne could be a wellspring of future business start-ups in the city and new network of female entrepreneurs.

Look for Andrea and Rachel from 10 AM till 4 PM Canada Day and we'll keep track of their official opening.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

F45 Fitness Center Coming to Seasons of Tuxedo

As if the fitness expansion in Winnipeg has not exploded enough, it appears that another huge gym group is looking to expand to the city at Seasons of Tuxedo. F45 is presently being constructed behind Frankie's restaurant. The program at F45 is built upon intensity training within 45 minutes covering 36 programs. A comparable gym comparison might be Orange or 9Round for the fitness level.

This will be the second fitness center to locate on the site. The other would be the recently completed Wheelhouse which centers on spin cycle training. Both F45 and Wheelhouse specialize in next level fitness.

In the coming months there is likely to be a surge of announcements at Seasons of Tuxedo to lock down new tenants as all the major malls compete to fill new or vacated space. Retail is not always what is being looked at to fill the gap. Services such as gyms that had never been considered for malls are now going up all over as a way to drive traffic.

If a workout is not what you need, it also appears that Modern Man barbers will also be setting up shop beside the newly opened Liquor Mart.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Red River Ex 2019 Crash Test Dummies Saturday Night

Scenes from Saturday at Red River Ex and Crash Test Dummies performing on the Main Stage.
Main Stage a few hours before show.
Canadian flag over Midway.
Intimate Crash Test Dummies
Performance on windy Saturday night.
Sun just setting on Main Stage.
That Crash Test Dummies voice recognizable anywhere.
Hmm, Pizza or Footlong?
Look how hard that wind is blowing. Almost everyone has a jacket just to make sure.
I see some cheese.
Everywhere I look it is mini-donuts.
Oh my. Fries.
Is that lemonade I see there?
And Skinners Hotdogs with a line-up.
Off to the Midway.
Roller coaster fun.
Merry go round is my speed.
Suns going now and I might not make fireworks.
Haunted Mansion is safe, right?
Yeah baby, let's swing!
Sun slowly sinking. It stays bright so late this time of year!
Often forgotten at the Ex is the amazing arts!
What the devil?
Amazing work.

Looked west from Ex. Yawn, I can't make it to the fireworks. Better pics next year when I remember to bring a better camera.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Fanquest Winnipeg 2019

This is the third year for Fanquest in Winnipeg and second at Red River College's downtown campus. It runs Friday and Saturday from 10 AM to 6. With the hiatus of Comic Con this year, a number of people will be looking for events where they can celebrate their interest in genre media and music. Fanquest fits in nicely with the remaining genre conventions of Keycon and Ai-Kon.

Costumes, gaming, panel discussions and special guests abound for the event which will inside Red River College's Exchange campus. It will be busy in the area with nearby Jazz Fest taking place so be sure to that into account when heading downtown.

Cosplay and costumes are one of the main reasons to come to Fanquest and it is quite the mix of sci-fi and fantasy inside. Attendance has grown and the convention looks to see a thousand people pass through the door versus last year's 750.

Weather forecast for Saturday looks a little wet so some Jazz Fest and Red River Ex attendees could have a place to go till the weather clears!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Popeye's Louisiana Chicken Coming to Portage Avenue West

Until recently, Hakim Optical called 3420 Portage Avenue home in the St. James area. Long before that it was a Wendy's. In fact, it still looks like a Wendy's in terms of the bricks and design and still has the drive-thru configuration.

Hakim went big when it entered the Winnipeg market and put locations in a variety of storefronts that seemed unlikely at first. In some cases they ended up being closed as the company opened better locations. In the case of Portage Avenue West, Hakim probably had interested buyers of their property, especially restaurants wanting drive-thrus.

Less than a year ago Popeye's Louisiana Chicken opened up in Seasons of Tuxedo courtesy of the group that owns Boston Pizza's in Manitoba. The crowds continue to be enormous there. At the time there was a promise that more franchises were coming.

It is very likely that this location will be quite successful for the restaurant operator as Portage Avenue remains one of the biggest commercial streets in the city. Look to see the restaurant open up in the summer sometime.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

2019 Red River Ex June 14 to June 23

The Red River Ex has been a tradition since 1952 for Manitoba and since 1997 has called the spot by Assiniboia Downs their home. The 90 acres of Red River Exhibition Park features a midway, concert stages and an exhibition hall and agricultural grounds. The non-profit has music groups from classic rock to country to pop to symphony.

Crash Test Dummies, Doc Walker, Bif Naked and Trooper are some of the headliners this year. The Dummies performed way back in 1992 and the old arena/stadium site and brought the house down. The Royal Canadian Air Force Band will opening on the first Friday night.

Other stages will be geared to kids and families and will feature some music, magic and other entertainment. There will be opportunities for those who attend to be part of the talent or just be able to dance and enjoy.

The midway is what lots of kids gravitate too. If it spins, drops or speeds, it is attractive to kids and families. I hit too many in a recent year and combined with a hot sunny day I was left a little spun out. Fair warning for parents with barfy kids or feel barfy themselves. I'm usually fairly hardy but park overload is a thing.

Sometimes it is good to just find the animals and stop spinning. Find the ag grounds and enjoy the events and farm animals encounters. Or go to exhibition hall and browse vendors and crafts. Dog agility shows and exotic creature shows are also featured.

And don't forget about food. Red River Ex has everything from mini-donuts to funnel cakes to hotdogs to Asian dishes. A time interval might be required to stop the world from spinning first.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Leopold's Coming to Academy Road

Leopold's Tavern opened last year next to the Park Theatre on Osborne. The July 2018 opening brought the total number of restaurant/bars to nine across the prairie provinces. The vibe the bar wants is for customers to feel the place is theirs and subsequently all sorts of stuff is tacked to the walls. They advertise themselves as a dive bar but it is probably more of a friendly neighbourhood clubhouse feel.

The Regina-based company has steered away from from some more obvious choices. The Osborne location was not in the Village but being beside the Park, there was a certain synergy the two businesses could create. And they have. Both places draw people.

Academy Road is tricky place. Homeowners routinely complain about businesses on the street. It is all about parking mostly or fear of noise. There are cars in an unbroken chain from Wellington Crescent all the way to Taylor. On EVERY street. Why? It isn't generally about the businesses. It is that River Heights residents have multiple cars and most homes have one car garages. Moreover the neighbourhood has people passing through it every day as quickly as they can to go elsewhere.

Some homeowners have gone so far as to seek zoning to create a permanent residential designation to avoid any commercial development. Bowling alley landlords complain about future restaurants making noise. A furniture retailer complains about a medical clinic going up. And so it goes. The real issue is now many cars each house has in Winnipeg including River Heights.

The location that Leopold's will open has recently gotten attention and has some real curb appeal as a building. It is possible to renovations and rent increases led to Inferno's Bistro closing there. They had occupied the building for six years. Prior to that it had been J Fox's Restaurant and Local. It is a phenomenon known as luxury blight. High rent chasing away one business after another. It could explain why some businesses have moved over the years to other places or simply shut down.

Leopold's could be a walkable favourite in the neighbourhood. With a relaxed "dive bar" atmosphere, it could make the area have a more livable feel. The best commercial streets will have something for locals in addition to posh shops and restaurants. It used to be that people would walk to their pharmacies or dentist office on Academy Road but that happens less now. We need more of that.

Leopold's plans more locations so that other neighbourhoods could have their places to hang out. It will be interesting to see what sort of impact it will have in River Heights or whether residents and landlords will chase away all the business and create a re-newed restaurant and shop desert with no street life.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The End of Space Channel

Space, the Imagination Station came into existence in 1997 primarily to block the entry of the American Sci-Fi Channel which started in 1992. The CHUM network was the original owner and where it might not have had a lot of original Canadian dramatic material produced in the beginning, it did produce innovative entertainment and news covering sci-fi and science in general.

The first movie aired was Forbidden Planet followed a commentary from Canadian author Robert Sawyer. Mars Attacks! came next. And so it was that a mix of old and new sci-fi became the staple of programming with zippy documentary style snippets in between. Canadian programming produced on other networks such as Relic Hunter would find a home on Space as did Stargate SG-1. In the past such programming might find it hard to land a spot as second run or syndicated programming. Not every program such as Star Trek was as lucky to be continually running in syndication. On Space, not only Star Trek but every American as well as Canadian program that had even an inkling of sci-fi in it would land on the network.

In some ways Space was able to land programming that even Sci-Fi Channel in the U.S. couldn't land as studios would direct their second run stuff to affiliated cable networks. In Canada, Space was almost always the central repository of sci-fi programming whatever country, network or studio originally aired it. CTVglobemedia acquired CHUM in 2007 and the formula continued of broadcasting sc-fi from around the world and from Canada. in 2011, Space went high definition. That same year Bell took 100% control of Space.

In 2013, Bell began its first re-branding of Space by changing the logo and the slogan to "It's all around you." This coincided with the Canadian co-production of Orphan Black and the network was concerned that the audience associated Space with Star Trek and the like and not on fantasy or speculative fiction.

This was untrue of course. The original slogan of the network was "The imagination station." It was an attempt to broaden Bell's programming restrictions which they chafed at constantly. They always wanted less Canadian in CRTC hearings and as it turned out, less sci-fi programming. Somehow the least sci-fi program Castle was broadcast non-stop on the station.

In the U.S., the Sci-Fi Channel was re-branded SyFy in the same year of 2013 to give Universal a trademark name. This spread all over the world or alternatively Universal channel which was owned by NBCUniversal. To the annoyance of sci-fi fans as early as 2006 the U.S. network was airing Law and Order spin-offs and well as other non-sci-fi entertainment.

Space remains Canadian owned and this will fall will be re-branded once more at CTV Sci-Fi. It will have sister stations CTV Drama, CTV Life and CTV Comedy. The CRTC remains steadfast on Canadian content and the success of some Canadian produced shows has encouraged networks not only to broadcast material but take ownership stakes in it.

Canada is a top producer of TV and film programming but it remains to be seen if the new CTV branding strategy is to help production or to package the entire company for an international sale under a new government.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Three New Goodlife Fitness Locations for Winnipeg 2019/2020

Safe to say that Winnipeg is experiencing a building boom when it comes to fitness center across the city. The reasons for this vary but in part it can be explained as community centers not having nearly enough space or resources for a mature market of people wanting exercise centers. After graduating from schools and universities the choices for the adult fitness market are more often than not private fitness places. Moreover, how people keep fit can change as we age out of school and community sports like hockey, football and basketball. It is difficult to keep active with team sports due to work, family commitments or wear and tear.

Fitness is a solo thing save for joining group exercises such as yoga, cycling or dance/weight classes. We can still do our regular stuff such as swimming and biking, gardening and golfing but Canada is a winter country and daylight hours wane away so have created an infrastructure of indoor recreation facilities nation-wide.

Until recently you would really only be able to point to the Y as being the one true national fitness center. However, the Y kind of gives away its mission statement. It skews young and always will. It is a family friendly place and make no apologies for it. And over the years many of their facilities and services have upgraded and they do their job very well.

Goodlife, on the other hand, is a genuine Canadian coast to coast fitness center with a large presence in Winnipeg. That presence is about to get bigger. Goodlife is going to spend $30 million on two new clubs, relocation of one club and renovations on the rest. And by big, that means big. As reported already here on this blog, a 60,000 square foot club is going up on Bishop Grandin between Pembina Highway and Waverley along the north side. It will be double the size of Grant Park and Kenaston locations.

The Bishop Grandin location above will have a women's only section, a pool, a hot yoga studio and meditation space. The fitness center is scheduled to open in December. It would appear to be that it is in a race with the Altea fitness center which looks to be complete about the same time in the Bridgwater area on far south Kenaston. The Altea will be even larger and feature its own exclusive amenities. The continuing residential development and density building along Kenaston and now Bishop Grandin might generate the population to sustain the large facilities. In the case of Bridgwater, this growing area seems to have an anemic public recreation area so Altea might be only place for several years to come. As far as Bishop Grandin, the new bus rapid transit and high rises are right along the route the new Goodlife will stand on.

The Kenaston Goodlife is likely to benefit from a huge residential component in Kapyong and along Sterling Lyon while the Grant Park location is surrounded by apartments and is also adjacent to bus rapid transit. A lot of thought has gone into these multi-million dollar developments. Winnipeg is growing and the competition to serve the city means we are seeing some top notch building taking place.

Goodlife has indicated clubs in existence will be getting renovations. In this heavy competition, fitness centers will have to look to upgrade faster lest people look elsewhere. As far as other fitness centers like Shapes, Planet Fitness, Snap or Anytime Fitness, they will have to compete on price, location and amenities. Big won't always win the race. For those not in a car, the presence of a gym in a place such as the Osborne Village will be the choice they often make.

It is obvious Winnipeg has seen a dramatic increase in fitness centers across every geographic area but one area has been sadly lacking: St. Vital. The rumours have been true all along and Goodlife will be building in St. Vital Mall likely in the old Sears location. The location will be 27,000 square feet and be ready in spring on 2020.

The third new club will be at 330 Main Street in what people still call the Trizec building. It will be part of the residential/commercial component being building above Winnipeg Square and will be ready in summer of 2020. Once it is complete, the old Goodlife in what was the TD/Canwest building will be shut down. The new club will be about 24,000 square feet.

Once complete the new clubs will add about 200 jobs to the market.

The growth of Winnipeg by the tens of thousands in recent years and a desire to get healthy will probably fuel this competition for the next few years. It is interesting to note that malls such as Winnipeg Square, Garden City, Grant Park and now St. Vital Mall are adding fitness centers to drive traffic. It is difficult to imagine it happening 10 years ago in the city.