Paddleton

Michael and Andy are a couple of awkward, misfit bachelors living one on top of the other in an apartment complex. They moved there to be alone, but they found each other. They’re not lovers, they’re just two men coexisting in companionship and friendship. True, abiding friendship, the kind that exists in the space between frozen pizza and kung fu movies and thousand piece puzzles and a game they made up called paddleton.

But then Michael (Mark Duplass) gets diagnosed with cancer. The bad kind – the dead in a few weeks kind. Maybe a few months. In lots of pain. So Michael resolves to get his hands on a prescription for death with dignity, pills that will allow him to die at home, on his terms. That prescription isn’t available just anywhere, so Andy (Ray Romano) agrees on a road trip to procure the pills. As you can imagine, Andy has some conflicting feelings about this mission, and his best friend’s plan.

This is a quiet and unassuming movie that manages to say more about friendship MV5BYzg0YzJiNDAtY2JlZi00ODViLTkyYTAtYjg3NjQ3MjE3ZDFiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg2NjQwMDQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_between men than maybe any movie before it. With Duplass and Romano in leading roles, you may assume this is a comedy, and you’d be wrong. Not entirely wrong; it does have its moments of levity, but this slides more toward the melancholy end of the bitter-sweet scale. And it takes its time getting to where it’s going. Which is okay, really, since the terminal station is literally terminal.

How do two men who exist outside of social norms express their love to each other? What does a farewell tour look like for a single man with no family, no friends, no meaningful employment or significant other or passion or ambition. There’s no bucket list. There’s just pain, and a ticking clock. Goodbyes are hard.

In the end, it’s not a big movie moment. It’s not beautiful. It’s not redeeming. But its humanity will touch you.

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Disney’s Magic Kingdom

Don’t worry. Were you worried? Probably you weren’t even worried, but no, we didn’t go all the way to buttfuck Orlando, Florida and NOT go to Magic Kingdom. We went. Twice. Three times, really, if you count having dinner at Cinderella’s Castle, and there’s no reason in the world you shouldn’t.

Magic Kingdom is the first among the foursome, first among its peers, first in our hearts and minds when it comes to Disney World. Walt had this amazing vision for it, so he built it to be weirdly inaccessible, meaning the nearly 53 THOUSAND people visiting it DAILY have to bottleneck through one teeny tiny, wholly inadequate entrance that can only be reached via ferry or monorail.

Once you’re in, though, you’re golden. Main Street welcomes you with its sparkling stores, its roaming barbershop quartet known as the Dapper Dans, the balloon vendors 20190203_111814and the cotton candy vendors, the random characters milling about (we ran into Abby Mallard from Chicken Little fame, who grabbed my hand and skipped off with me toward the castle like we were the best of friends). Mickey and Minnie are known to hang out in Time Square. The Plaza ice cream parlour sells a sundae called the Kitchen Sink and it’s a LOT of ice cream sold literally in a kitchen sink. There’s a crystal palace where Winnie the Pooh and friends are known to brunch, and a nice green space where Mary Poppins strolls about underneath her parasol. And right in front of the castle is a large roundabout where all the parades do their thing, and man oh man are there parades. If you wanted to, you could park yourself in a shady central location and just be entertained by parades all day long. There’s the Festival of Fantasy parade,  a lovely thing where all your favourite princesses meander by on themed floats and the Move It! Shake It! Dance and Play It! parade where floats are parked for a good half hour and a high energy show is happening on each float – standard characters like Goofy, but also some fresh ones, like Zootopia‘s Judy Hopps. And then there’s Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire which happens 6 times a day right on the steps of the castle. Sir Mickey is joined by friends including Anna, Elsa, and Olaf in a musical spectacular. And those are just the ones we caught.

We rode Haunted Mansion, which the kids declared “not that scary” with some relief. Pirates of the Caribbean where we got a little wet. Dumbo the Flying Elephant, which now has a component under the big top where kids can play in a little circus-themed 20190203_103939playground while you wait. We avoided the spitting camel in front of the The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. We climbed the Swiss Family Treehouse which was stupid given the enormity of my bad ankle. It hasn’t spoken to me since. Barnstormer, a roller coaster friendly enough for even our anxious kiddos. The People Mover, a couple of times, because it oddly became one of Brady’s favourite “rides” and I have no idea why but didn’t object because despite its surprisingly long line, it is a 16 minute sit that my throbbing ankle (I swear it had its own heart beat) was always grateful for. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, which is a lot of good fun, even if my sister thought my steering was rubbish and took over half way through. Jungle Cruise, soon to be a Dwayne Johnson/Emily Blunt movie, a favourite of my brother-in-law who has a special appreciation for corny dad jokes.

And on our last day, when my ankle was a special shade of purple that communicates ENOUGH rather effectively, Sean and I did a secondary tour of the park called sit and eat (and drink). We went to Gaston’s pub and drank Lefou’s Brew. We went to the Cheshire Cat Cafe and had a cat tail pastry and a Wonderland slush, complete with candy-coated straw. That’s where I also enjoyed my favourite ride at Disney World: a clean women’s washroom with no line!

We were lucky enough to snag a reservation at the Beauty and the Beast castle restaurant, Be Our Guest. We ate in “Belle’s favourite room”, code for the paying guest’s least favourite, but it was still pretty cool, the walls crowded with majestic oil paintings featuring recognizable moments from the film, and a life-size music box feature of Belle and her Beast waltzing around. The main dining room is of course the ball room, where you could see it snowing outside despite the actual blistering Florida sun, and the last dining room is the forbidden west wing, very dark and atmospheric, with the enchanted rose under a glass dome and a portrait of the prince that morphs into the beast every 7 minutes. The menu has suitably french fare on hand (though accessible enough for all palates, gauging by my sister and her family who are very plain eaters) but the best part20190207_173826 is dessert, which proudly features the grey stuff (there’s a line in the song – “Try the grey stuff, it’s delicious. Don’t believe us? Ask the dishes!”) No need, you can just ask me, and: yeah, it’s very good. It came in a white chocolate tea cup, betwixt a truffle and a macaron, on edible stained glass. The kids got a white chocolate tea cup too, but they got edible paints and set to work creating their masterpieces, which, honestly looked like trash to me, but they were proud enough to insist that photos be taken. Before we left we got to meet the Beast, though he’d been by to take a bow during our meal (which is quite presumptuous of a host, if you think about it). This restaurant may seem unassuming but for me it was also the biggest thrill ride in the park, because at the end of the meal, when presented with a bill for $400, my card was declined. Or rather, the last $17 of it was declined. I shame-facedly handed over a $20 bill and made eyes at Sean that communicated basic human emotions such as ohmygodwhatdidido and howdidispendallthatmoney and canweevengethomenow? Your heart really seizes when you hear the words visa and declined in the same sentence, so I didn’t stop to think that never in the history of declined, overtaxed credit cards, does the machine ever spit out “well, she’s good for $383 but not that last $17.” That’s not how credit cards work. Luckily, between Sean and my sister, whose hearts were working normally, and the waitress, who was very bad at her job, it was determined that she hadn’t put through my card at all, and the $383 was from another table, and the whole thing was a huge misunderstanding which only shaved about 90 days off my lifespan, probably. Anyway, don’t you worry about that waitress; her 18% tip was worked into the bill already, no hard feelings allowed.

Anyway. We had a super fun time at Magic Kingdom. We had a super fun week at Disney. We spent 6 days between 4 parks and did not see everything. Not even close.

…think we should go back?

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Hereditary

Science tells us we should bring our dates to a scary movie because science is a cold, hard bitch and wants a second date at any cost. Basically, physiologically, our bodies respond to emotion via flushed skin, a pounding heart, increased blood pressure, dilated pupils. But our dumb, primitive minds can’t distinguish between a pounding heart due to a jump scare, and a pounding heart due to an impending, welcome kiss. So if your girl has a strong emotional response to the movie, it’s a confusable arousal where the next day she might be interpreting it as the first signs of love, and not the anxious dread that it really was. It’s a trick. A trick to scoring a second date on false premises. Thanks, science!

We were celebrating our anniversary, nothing marquee, but far enough along in the shuffle of life that Sean doesn’t need any tricks. I’m a sure thing. But Hereditary is the movie that has been looming in our lives for 11 months now. It played for a single night at SXSW last year, and despite my complete and unabashed love of Toni Collette, we skipped it. You already know I’m a chicken, and in my defense, we’d already seen A Quiet Place on opening night, and I was still recovering.

Anyway, I didn’t think I could outrun this movie forever, and I sort of didn’t want to. I MV5BMWVlNThkNTctMDU3My00Nzc5LThlZjItMzJmOGFjYTc3MWExXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjQ4ODE4MzQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1498,1000_AL_mean, it IS Toni Collette, and I’d heard good things from all of you. But every time the remote hovered over its selection, we’d managed to find a reason not to. This time, however, I was in my cups, and all loved up, and full of cheese, and I said yes.

Hereditary is not one of those horror movies that is content with merely scaring you. It lulls you with its family drama, pulls you in with its unanswerables. And then it turns on you. Sure, it uses some classic horror stuff to scare the bejesus out of you. I mean, when did we agree as a culture that the backwards crab walk was just not okay? One day it’s an exercise in elementary gym, and the next thing you know, you’re chilled to the bone when anybody does it in a dark, dank basement. But it’s legit. Director Ari Aster drills you and drills you, and you know something’s coming, in fact you’re practically asking for it because the dread is unbearable. So the minute someone slams their own face into a wall, it’s nearly a relief.

But I think the real scary thing about Hereditary is what it says about the family. Normally we think of family as our shield and our safety – and our homes as a cocoon that will protect us. No longer. Aster has the nerve to paint this family as self-menacing. Even a mother’s love is suspect. And that’s a sensation that will stick with you long after the credits roll.

Stan & Ollie

Better known to the world as Laurel & Hardy, two things are communicated with the title Stan & Ollie: 1. There’s another side to this comedy duo, a lesser known side, and we’re about to be privy; 2. This is a more intimate look at the team, an insider’s look as we are invited to know them by their first names.

In the 1930s, at the height of their career, Stanley Laurel (Steve Coogan) & Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) were like a 90s-era boy band and Hal Roach (Danny Huston) is their Lou Pearlman. Laurel and Hardy were as manufactured and packaged as any boy band; they started out as strangers, but when producers threw them together, their careers became inextricably combined. They became the most famous comedy duo on the planet, but the trouble was, they didn’t own any rights. Their movies weren’t their own. They drew salaries but never saw profits akin to their success. Producers and managers pocketed their millions.

When Stan’s contract was up (and Ollie’s was not), he saw it as an opportunity to 2negotiate – or leave. He got himself a better deal elsewhere, but the problem was, Ollie didn’t walk with him. Too afraid to risk his small piece of the pie for the whole damn dessert, Hardy stayed behind, and even allowed himself to be reteamed with someone else. Ultimately their careers tanked and that was the end, or nearly the end, of Laurel & Hardy.

Which, interestingly, is where the movie begins. It’s been 15 years since those unsuccessful contract negotiations, and the world has assumed that the pair have been retired.  Laurel & Hardy mount a comeback tour over in the UK, supposedly culminating in a movie deal. But the grueling tour is humbling, the small theatres not selling out, the world having moved on. Plus, Hardy’s health is no good. Can his body even do this anymore, even if the people showed up? Not to mention the resentments quietly roiling beneath the surface. Both are nursing hurt feelings.

This movie is a really interesting look at what it takes to forge a creative bond with someone. And what it takes to stay together! Though their job was to make the people laugh, it often came at a cost to them. This movie isn’t overly anxious to uncover dirt, it’s got a tread about as heavy as their soft-shoe routine. Small in scope, it’s actually better than the average biopic, focusing on the lows rather than the better-known highs experienced in the spotlight.

Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly are well-matched. They certainly make us believe in a shared history and an easy\uneasy rapport. They’re both a lot of fun to watch, despite this movie being more about their despair and their failings. Stan & Ollie is a peek behind the clown’s smile, and the truth is that grease paint is slippery and imperfect, but it makes a helluva compelling story.

Isn’t It Romantic

Natalie (Rebel Wilson) is no fan of the rom-com. She thinks romantic movies are not for her – perhaps love itself is not for her. She feels invisible most of the time. She’s timid at work. She doesn’t think that anything magical will ever touch her life.

And when she gets mugged on the way home from work one evening, it seems like an affirmation of all of the above – except when she wakes up, the bump on her head has her living in an alternate universe that resembles very closely the rom-coms that she so spurns. The rules and the irony are simple: she’s got to make someone fall in love with her to escape this fate, and suddenly the hunky billionaire who  never noticed her before is all over her.

The movie rolls its eyes at all the usual romance cliches, but then indulges in them in a riot of colour and open-armed enthusiasm, as if mocking the tropes gives permission to MV5BMjI4Mjg3OTk0Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTM3MzEzNzM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1485,1000_AL_be unabashedly embrace them. But whatever, it’s fun, or fun enough. Rebel Wilson makes it work just by virtue of her own irrepressible personality. Larger than life, she somehow sells both sides of Natalie’s persona, the wallflower and the cheeky peony she becomes. Reteamed with Adam Devine, her cocky love interest from Pitch Perfect, the two have an easy chemistry that’s fun to sing along with – and believe me, this movie has more sing-along opportunities than most. You’ve really got to be on board with the vibrant cheese in order to enjoy this movie. It pretends to be cynical but it’s really not. If your sense of Valentine’s is at all gothic or ironic, move on. Love is in the air, in a pretty conventional way. Isn’t It Romantic is a piece of fluff that will soon be forgotten in the rom-com canon, but it’s light and airy and a fairly entertaining 90 minutes. More or less.

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

As you might have guessed, we’ve been so busy at Disney World lately that our movie nights have been few and far between. But now that we’re back from Florida, we are trying to catch up as best we can!

The-LEGO-Movie-2-The-Second-Part-Official-Trailer-2The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part is a movie I’ve been looking forward to for a while. Picking up right where The LEGO Movie left off, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part follows Emmet (Chris Pratt), Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and the rest of the Bricksburg gang (Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Nick Offerman and Alison Brie) as they battle against the DUPLO invaders. After five years of war, Bricksburg has become an apocalyptic wasteland (and aptly renamed Apocalypseburg). When a new type of invader drops out of the sky and kidnaps Emmet’s friends, Emmet blasts off to the Systar system in hot pursuit.

Sequels are often hard to critique, and I assume even harder to create. Stay too close to the first film and you risk feeling stale. But stray too far from the original and you might lose the magic that drew your audience to you in the first place. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who wrote the original, both return for The LEGO Movie 2 (bonus points to Lord for also writing the outstanding Into the Spider-Verse).  Lord and Miller chose to stay close to the original, and the result is a comfortable ride through familiar territory with a (very) few new characters joining the existing gang. I think it’s the right choice.

The unique feeling of the first movie can’t be replicated, because this is now the 4th LEGO-ish movie, and because I had high expectations coming into the sequel (instead of my zero expectations heading into the original). But the charm, the wit, and the warmth remain. It’s nice to spend more time in the LEGO Movie world, because it’s the world I used to play in with my LEGO as a kid. Except way more professional looking, of course, but the feeling remains exactly right, where adventures are everywhere and where your own creations are more important than the original police station from which most of the blue pieces came.

That bottled nostalgia is the best thing about The LEGO Movie 2. And that’s saying a lot because it’s also smartly written, beautifully animated, and just a whole lot of fun. Sure, it’s not as “fresh” as the first time, but if that’s the only bad thing to be said about this movie, that says a lot.

Disney’s Epcot

Epcot is probably the weirdest of the Disney parks. It’s home to the World Showcase – basically, 11 countries have pavilions dotted around a large lake. You can pick a pearl in Japan, drink tequila in Mexico (and seem some wonderful Coco-inspired folk art), ride Frozen Ever After in Norway, and eat poutine in Canada. Belle is seen in France, Snow White in Germany, Mulan in China.

It also houses Future World, which will test your mettle with rides like Test Track (build a car for the future, and the whip around the track in it!), Soarin’ (actually feel like you’re flying – not for those with a fear of heights), and Mission: Space, which is a NASA shuttle simulator, and which once made me want to die.

But most of our time was spent in the other end of the park, home to Nemo and friends. The Seas with Nemo & Friends gives you a fun, musical recap of the movie and spits you 1615840530-100272980-20190206T153128-689587655-DSC_mediumout in real-life aquarium. Kids who have been kept within strict arm’s reach all week have a bit of room to run and explore as tunnels lead you through the waters of Disney’s many impressive tanks, filled with clown fish like Marlin and Nemo, and blue tangs like Dory, and an awful lot more. Brady loved to spot the turtles, and Jack was more entertained by the human diver who appeared to be doing some caulking. Their dad was happy to see some manatees while the rest of us played spot the shark and count the rays. There’s also Turtle Talk with Crush, which is a fun, interactive show, wherein the cool surfer dude talks directly to the kids in the audience. We had so much fun with the fish, we decided to go for lunch at the Coral Reef. That sounds a bit cruel, doesn’t it? Especially since Sean DID order the mahi mahi. Okay, and I had lobster mac and cheese. The restaurant features an entire glass wall that gives live views of a living coral reef. Each table gets a card (that looks suspiciously like a menu) so you can spot and identify the fish withing. I especially loved the unicorn fish, which are totally a thing!

Anyway, Epcot was fun and all, but we called it a day a bit early because Sean and I were taking the two boys to the Art of Animation hotel for a night, to give their parents a break and to have some extra special fun. The Art of Animation is a Disney hotel on the property that has themed rooms – The Little Mermaid for couples or small families, and suites in the style of The Lion King, Finding Nemo, or Cars. And the boys being Cars super fans, we of course chose that one. The room is extremely well-appointed; the couch looks like the backseat of a car, and it folds out into a bed (odd how much this impressed the kids); a table likewise hides a Murphy bed, and that was also so much fun they decided to sleep in BOTH – and did actually switch beds during the night. There’s a coffee table that looks like a map of Radiator Springs, and a chair made of tire rubber, with treads, and the lamps look like traffic cones, and the kitchenette looks like those heavy duty tool chests you’d normally see in a garage. But the real fun is outside: the property is dotted with friends: Mater, Doc, Sally, Luigi and Guido, Ramone, and of course Lightning McQueen. The pool is styled after the Cozy Cone Motel, and a giant orange pilon was our cabana. But further down, the Finding Nemo pool is even bigger, with a splash pad, and all the fish friends you’d expect to see. And even further are Timon & Pumba, Scar, Simba, and Rafiki, and an elephant graveyard to play in, and lastly, a whole bunch of Ariel’s collection, thingamabobs and dinglehoppers galore, plus Ursula, King Triton, and the Little Mermaid herself, all surrounding yet another pool. We swam, of course, in two of the pools and one of the splash pads. We even watched a bit of Up from the pool, which the boys thought was the bee’s knees.

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Oh and Sean and I went to eat at Cinderella’s Royal Table. You know that big ole castle that’s the iconic backdrop to the Magic Kingdom itself? Yeah, we ate there, no big deal. And we met Cinderella! And her friends: Snow White, Aurora, Ariel, and Jasmine, who asked me if Sean was my “diamond in the rough.” I must have looked skeptical because she then offered “…in the scruff?” and she nailed it because Sean never fails to ‘forget’ his razor when we travel. Not only did we feast on The Clock Strikes Midnight chocolate mousse, and a white chocolate glass slipper, and some Francis Ford Coppola merlot, we had a window seat for Disney’s famous fireworks show. #Spoiled.