Born a Crime (Trevor Noah)

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The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime New York Times bestseller about one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humour and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

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I recently listened to Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, which is read by the author, Trevor Noah. His narration is smooth and his accent enchanting.

I found this collection of essays to be thoroughly engrossing. They completely changed my perspective of who Noah is, which was formed by admittedly minimal viewing of The Daily Show, which he currently hosts. Noah isn’t uptight the way I imagined him to be. Nor is he the shining example of his neighbourhood, to have risen out of poverty and oppression in Apartheid South Africa and made it big in America. Or if he is, he isn’t ‘the golden child’.

Noah was one naughty kid and I bet he still is a bucket full of trouble (and laughs) as a grown man. I also had no idea that he has a comedy show and just recently learned that he was in the 2018 film Black Panther.

The description pretty much tells you everything you need to read about this book. It is a collection of stories from his childhood. It was not as heavily focused on oppression in a police state as I expected. The stories flow together so smoothly that I didn’t realize it was considered a collection of essays until I finished the audiobook and was reviewing the synopsis on Goodreads.

If you like memoirs, this is definitely one that I would recommend.

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The Rundown (2003)

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A tough aspiring chef is hired to bring home a mobster’s son from the Amazon but becomes involved in the fight against an oppressive town operator and the search for a legendary treasure.

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I haven’t written any film reviews in a while and I have been curled up watching some lately, so I thought I would share a few of my favourites.

The Rundown is an action film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Christopher Walken, Seann William Scott, and Rosario Dawson. Hard to believe that this film is already 15 years old!

The plot is pretty simple and pretty well spelled out from the above summary provided by IMDB.

I love action films – as long as they have a credible plot – and The Rundown is funny as well which makes it that much better! Definitely one I recommend.

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Bon Cop Bad Cop

Bon Cop, Bad Cop (the first and the sequel) are comedic Canadian bilingual movies. Yeah you heard me, bilingual movies. They feature an Ontario officer and a Quebec officer who have to work together to solve a series of murders.

There are English subtitles if you don’t speak French, and French subtitles for the English sections as well. Or if you’re real fancy, you could enjoy the movies sans subtitles if you speak both languages. Warning: they speak fast.

“Ontario” is a by the book, up-tight hardass who has trouble communicating with those be loves. “Quebec” is a rough and tumble, charming, good ol’ boy who pays little observance to the rules. Anyone who knows anything about Canadian politics knows that Ontario and Quebec don’t usually play too well with each other and this is personified in Colm Feore and Patrick Huard’s performances.

The first film is one of my favourite comedies and I would highly recommend it for anyone to watch. The sequel won’t really make sense unless you have seen the first one, but I guess it might be ok on it’s own. I thought that #2 was just as funny as the first, but there were a lot of plot holes in it which I felt brought down the entertainment value. This leads me to rate the first film five stars and the second film three stars.

At the end of the day, these movies are not meant to be taken too seriously. They provide funny caricatures of Ontarians and Quebeckers in the first film, and Canadians and Americans in the second.

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Amy Schumer’s The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo

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The Emmy Award-winning comedian, actress, writer, and star of Inside Amy Schumer and the acclaimed film Trainwreck has taken the entertainment world by storm with her winning blend of smart, satirical humor. Now, Amy Schumer has written a refreshingly candid and uproariously funny collection of (extremely) personal and observational essays.

In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy mines her past for stories about her teenage years, her family, relationships, and sex and shares the experiences that have shaped who she is – a woman with the courage to bare her soul to stand up for what she believes in, all while making us laugh.

Ranging from the raucous to the romantic, the heartfelt to the harrowing, this highly entertaining and universally appealing collection is the literary equivalent of a night out with your best friends – an unforgettable and fun adventure that you wish could last forever. Whether she’s experiencing lust-at-first-sight while in the airport security line, sharing her own views on love and marriage, admitting to being an introvert, or discovering her cross-fit instructor’s secret bad habit, Amy Schumer proves to be a bighearted, brave, and thoughtful storyteller that will leave you nodding your head in recognition, laughing out loud, and sobbing uncontrollably – but only because it’s over.

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Normally I don’t go for books like this – memoirs and anecdotal stories – but Amy Schumer’s book came highly recommended from a friend. She listened to the audiobook, which is read by Amy herself, and was laughing her head off beside me at work. Humour is communicated so much more honestly via conversation than as words on a page, so with books like this, I really feel that the only way to take it in is via an audiobook. Something funny sounded great after the emotional story ( The Light Between Oceans ) that I listened to last, and the decision-making process stopped there!

The girl with the lower back tattoo is at turns witty, insightful, educational and of course, laugh out loud funny. I wasn’t too sure what the book would be about. It’s about Amy and her life of course, but she clearly states at the beginning that this is not her autobiography because she has decades of life still to live. The woman is only in her 30s after all. I think that in the end it is a collection of stories about Amy but I agree that I wouldn’t call it an autobiography. The timeline jumps around, but you get a sense of her childhood and upbringing, her early years struggling to become a comedian who actually gets paid for her stand-up, and where she is today after the global success of Trainwreck.

My friend was correct in pointing out that this was one of those rare books that is actually funny. I work as a librarian and humourous books are the hardest type to help a person find because – in my opinion – humour doesn’t translate as well on page as it does in conversation. So, unsurprisingly, Schumer’s stories were less funny than I expected and more along the lines of heartfelt stories and sarcastic asides. That isn’t to say that this book isn’t funny though, it is and I particularly liked the story of her lower back tattoo. But you get to see who the real person is behind the pen and this was charming.

I didn’t not know very much about Amy before I started this book. I knew she was a comic, and she was that girl in Trainwreck. But I didn’t know that she had written the movie. I didn’t know that she was a successful comic before the movie was ever filmed, or that she had written for magazines.  I certainly did not know about her undying love affair for the island of Manhattan.

Some of the topics that Amy discusses throughout this novel are her very uncharitable reasons for volunteering at a camp for disabled children and adults one summer as a preteen, balancing a type one introvert personality with a career that demands you give everything to everyone. She also discusses how the future and ideology of an entire gender of our species been placed on her by journalists with questions such as how do you think the success of your movie shape the future of Hollywood for other women. As she points out “Um, hello?! I am just one woman. Not all women”. And women’s place in Hollywood won’t change until people stop asking questions like this.

Two of the most difficult portions to listen to are the ones surrounding her father’s MS and the two women who were shot and killed at a showing of her movie in Lafayette. When something like that happens I’ve always thought of course the actors and directors and producers, anyone associated with creating the attraction, must feel terrible to be attached to the tragedy, even though they are in no way responsible for it. But to hear how difficult it was for Amy, in the following weeks, her genuine desire to reach out to those families, and the fact that she carries the pictures of the two women who were killed makes her much more human. I also never knew that she was so involved in efforts across the United States to create legislation that would prevent mentally ill people with criminal records from accessing firearms.

The girl with the lower back tattoo is not a typical biography. It is funny and heartwarming and at times brought a couple tears to my eyes. It definitely challenged my preconceptions of who this woman was and is and I have a lot more respect for her now. I can also relate to Amy on a personal level. I definitely recommend this book, specifically the audiobook, because humour is just communicated so much more freely through this medium.

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a very late review

Guess who finally saw Guardians of the Galaxy II?! Yup, this girl. I’m sure there are a million and one reviews out there already breaking it down, but I want to talk about it so here is one more.

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Also, spoilers abound.

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Guardians II is FUNNY. Quite possibly even funnier than the first one which is saying something. Rocket and Baby Groot are hilarious and kinda steal the show in my opinion. There was one point where I seriously considered whether I would have to leave the theatre for a few minutes to calm down I was laughing so hard.

There are very few action movies that are also comedy but Guardians has that shit nailed down. It is also family-friendly and thoroughly entertaining for adults so its no wonder they rake in a billion + before the DVD is released.

Baby Groot is adorable and I loved that the animators took the opportunity to make him so much more expressive in personality and facial expressions. At times, this little guy almost broke my heart but he is the core of the film and my favourite character.

The only part of this movie that I didn’t like, was the part that I was looking most forward to. The big reveal of Peter’s lineage, aka The Celestial, Ego.

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Ego started out great and I think Kurt Russell did a pretty great job of it, but the idea of Ego is somewhat existential and I didn’t feel like that came across very clearly. I also hate how he was supposed to be so powerful and yet was defeated relatively easily. Certainly more easily than Ronin in the previous movie!

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Additionally, I was disappointed that Peter finally finds his dad, who is a super cool being, just for Ego to immediately portray his complete lunacy and evil intentions, and then be killed off. It was too “easy” and would have loved to see Peter have a contentious struggle with his father all his life … which is apparently a very long time … and develop his super-power.

It finally looked like we had met a human supe without any (obvious) physical enhancements, “just” the ability to manipulate energy and energy balls. Most of the Marvel cast are superhuman in a physical way, from Thor, to the Hulk and Spiderman and Captain America. Now Peter is a run-of-the-mill human.

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I detest that Marvel made Ego so evil. It doesn’t fit with my idea of a Celestial and made the character so pathetically one-dimensional when he could have been the most interesting new development in the MCU. I would have preferred him to go forward mostly impartial to the plight of humans, and all our “petty” concerns, and have an ongoing relationship with Peter and his family. Ultimately, this plot line dropped a star from my review of an otherwise fantastic movie.

I did love the plot development that went into this movie. Everyone involved brought more into the universe from the intricacies of ravager society, and the gold people to information about the creation of the universe itself.

I saw this movie with my Mum who isn’t a marvel fan and doesn’t like superhero movies in general. She hadn’t even seen the first movie which I didn’t quite realize before we arrived, but she was a good sport to go with me for my birthday and even she admitted it was great. I’m glad she enjoyed it and even ventured that the trailer for Spider-man (2017) looked good so maybe I can return the favour and take her to that for her birthday!

Trailer for this movie

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The Grand Seduction film review

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The Grand Seduction is a 2013 Canadian film set in the small harbour of Tickle Head, Newfoundland. Like many communities on the East Coast, Tickle Head’s economy collapsed with the fish stocks their livelihoods were based on, and now the once proud town is disintegrating. Buildings have fallen into disrepair, long-time residents increasingly leave for cities and those few who stubbornly remain in the harbour scrape by on welfare and the feelings of shame that it comes with.

Enter Murray French. He is one of these welfare-dependent Tickle Heads who was born and raised in the Harbour; he misses his fed-up wife who left for a job in the City. An oil company is considering building a petro-chemical recycling plant that will provide enough jobs for everyone, if the town can meet a set of conditions, including procuring a full-time doctor. So Murray spearheads a campaign to seduce a visiting doctor (Paul Lewis) over the course of a month, convincing him that Tickle Head is the perfect place to settle down and sign a long-term contract.

Enter the comedy.

From pretending that the entire community is in love with cricket to pre-catching fish and planting them on the good doctor’s hook, the entire town is in on the charade to charm Dr. Lewis.

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I love the charm and character of this film. It is very Canadian and many things in the film seemed familiar to me. It was filmed in New Foundland and the music and scenery are absolutely beautiful. I’ve thought about moving out that way for a long time and this film just increases that longing in me.

download The Grand Seduction isn’t a film that relies on flashy special effects or scantily-clad, movie-perfect Hollywood youth. The majority of actors are middle-aged or older. And while the scenery is gorgeous, it is the writing that keeps pushing the plot along, and charming the audience. No crudeness required.

Gordon Pinsent, then age 83, won the award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the 2014 Canadian Screen Awards. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival where Monica Bartyzel of The Week wrote of the film: “The Grand Seduction is a super-sweet community tale sparked by the inclusion of McKellar’s wry humor [sic]. It’s a film overflowing with charm from end to end.”The-Grand-Seduction-Movie

NFL is the only eastern province that I have yet to visit and this film has me cruising the travel websites and packing a bag!

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Kingsman- a film review

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Synopsis: A juvenile delinquent is recruited into a top secret British spy agency by a stylish mentor who trains him tin the skills of his craft.

Trailer (via Youtube)

Kingsman is a cross between James Bond and a B teen movie, but somehow it works. I remember laughing at the trailer for this when it was in theatres and declining an offer to go, but I was bored and it was on netflix …

I caught it last weekend and Kingsman was actually pretty entertaining! Parts were pretty fantastical, such the bullet-proof umbrella and the whole slicing a man in half bit. There is an incredible dearth of blood up until the end, despite all the violence. All in all, it was a completely unbelievable – yet amusing – story.

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I was very impressed with Colin Firth’s performance. I love actors who can play a wide variety of roles and this one is about as far from King George as you can get.

My favourite parts were the testing stages, from underwater escape rooms to Halo jumps.

I have a little bit of adrenaline junky in me and it would be cool to do this. Not saying I would do the first, because I don’t actually want to experience a likely-to-die scenario, but it would be an AWESOME story to tell, if you did survive.

There isn’t all that much story in Kingsman, but what is plentiful is the fun. It made me laugh. I said it above, but this movie is very James Bond with all the impossible situations and crazy tech, but I was more so reminded of Ethan Cross, from the Mission Impossible series. Firth’s motto “manners maketh the man” is a good one to live by, and something a lot of us could use the gentle reminder of.

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I didn’t understand the the “R” rating that the movie received. It felt very Disney because despite the violence, there was little blood, gore, or repercussion. I certainly feel that 14A would have sufficed.

Minor, minor spoiler:

The only questionable bit was at the end, where the Norwegian Princess offers the young hero anal sex in exchange for saving the world. If the movie was bumped up to an R rating for that one small line, and a quick glimpse of bare ass, it’s a little bizarre compared to some other movies out there that are 14A.

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