22 May 2006

Over the Hedge (Dreamworks, 2006)

When RJ, a raccoon voiced by Bruce Willis, accidentally destroys the food stockpiled by a hungry bear, he needs to find help fast. He hooks up with a group of foragers who are unknowingly living in a tiny patch of forest surrounded by suburban sprawl and a great big hedge. The head forager is a turtle named Verne (Gary Shandling); his family includes a pair of possums, a skunk, five hedgehogs, and a manic squirrel named Hammy (Steve Carrell). Hammy steals almost every scene, though some of the other characters get to deliver the best one-liners.

Typical of other Dreamworks Animation productions (Shrek, Madagascar), Over the Hedge is a family film, short and engaging enough for toddlers to sit through and funny enough for adults to weather. The plot is paper thin, of course, and several of the funniest moments were included in ads and trailers, but there is still plenty of fun to be had between the time Verne first ventures into suburbia and the time the credits roll. The animation is solid but the voice actors do the heavy lifting for this movie.

The film is based on characters from Michael Fry and T. Lewis' cartoon strip which has been running since 1995 and has produced four book collections. Much of the fun comes from seeing suburbia through the animals' eyes which is the centre of the comic.

Bottom line, Over The Hedge is a fun family film, suitable for almost any age.


Buy Over The Hedge: Stuffed Animals
Buy Over The Hedge 3: Knights of the Picnic Table
Buy Over The Hedge 2
Buy Over The Hedge

Watch an interview with Over the Hedge creators at Comics.com

17 May 2006

Paint it Black: A Guide to Gothic Homemaking by Voltaire (Weiser Books, 2005)

If you've always wanted your own Book of the Dead or have been considering Pimping Your Ride, Dracula Style, or if you just really like black and red, this may be the book for you.

Voltaire is by trade a stop-motion animator, though he uses the techniques he learned for animation to make the props he uses in his gothic decor. Paint It Black is a how-to book. If you can wield a glue gun, aim a can of black spray-paint, and aren't afraid to modify other people's cast-offs, then you too can have a creepy, dark, romantic, Gothic hideaway. Taken further, Voltaire explains how to throw a Goth wedding and even, yes, pimping out that hearse or black K-car in your driveway.

While this book isn't supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, it's pretty hard to take it seriously. Voltaire has a sense of humour about it all, and admits that this look is certainly not for everyone. I am sure there are more than a few seventeen year olds would be happy to follow every instruction to the letter, but more likely it will come in handy just before October, when you are planning that wicked Halloween party.

Buy Paint it Black at Amazon.ca

03 May 2006

The Spaces In Between (NeWest Press, 2003)

In The Spaces In Between, you will find poems about pioneers, the expatriates who lived in Montparnasse, Bob Dylan, love and loss, paintings and photographs, mountains, landmarks, and more. The poems run freely across the pages, as varied in form and metre as in subject matter. Some are light and airy, others are dense and resemble prose, though their rhythm betrays them.

The Spaces In Between collects poems that span of Scobie's career from 1965 to 2001. Many of them reference songs, paintings and cities that Scobie knows intimately -- in fact intimate is possibly the best single word to describe this collection. Consider "My skin is made of stars," only two lines long, it conveys an intimacy that other authors spend chapters to describe:

My skin is made of stars

My skin is made of stars
I want you to be my astronomer

Scobie playfully considers how pioneers named mountains; where Picasso found inspiration; how vampires comb their hair; and what would happen if Oedipus met Freud at the fork in the road. On other pages he writes of past loves, family and the love of his life, even a love song for the city of Edmonton and CBC radio. Perhaps the truest words of all are in the poems that close the volume: "Maureen: poems for the weeks of her dying," a cycle of nine poems that document exactly that, the last weeks Scobie spent with his wife, Maureen. I cannot read them without a catch in my throat. Each of Scobie's books, including The Spaces In Between is dedicated "For Maureen, as always, as everything."

Stephen Scobie is a contemporary award-winning Canadian poet. He is also a traveller, a teacher and a scholar, currently living in Victoria, BC where he teaches at the University of Victoria.