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Amazing stuff in week's pop culture

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The first episode of Amazing Race Canada airs on CTV tomorrow.


The first episode of Amazing Race Canada airs on CTV tomorrow.


Big release: R.I.P.D. (July 19)

Big picture: This one's Lethal Weapon meets Men in Black meets Ghostbusters. The title is almost self-explanatory. R.I.P.D. is a mash-up of the supernatural and buddy-cop genres (I assume some Hollywood executive's 12-year-old son wished for this movie for Christmas). Ryan Reynolds plays a brave officer killed in the line of duty. But instead of earning his divine right to play a harp on a sleepy cloud, Ryan suddenly finds himself working for the Rest in Peace Department, a force of undead cops assigned to Earth to protect the living from the "bad souls who've escaped judgment." (If St. Peter is a film snob, I can think of a couple actors in this film whose souls might one day be in peril.) Based on the comic by Peter M. Lenkov, Reynolds clearly isn't afraid to tempt fate after the debacle that was Green Lantern. Then again, how can anyone resist working with Jeff Bridges, who plays his scene-stealing partner? Bridges looks like he's having the time if his life playing a monster-hunting maverick with a southern drawl and cowboy hat. He looks and sounds like the inexplicable love-child of The Dude from The Big Lebowski and Colonel Sanders. Bridges plays the "cool, eccentric" partner -- the Will Smith character from MIB -- to Reynolds' straight man. Together, the pair hunt down wicked spirits disguised as mortals (If I were Oprah, Kristen Stewart or Shia LaBeouf, I'd watch myself... I'm just saying).

Forecast: If you're going to embrace a lightweight popcorn flick, you might as well do it for The Dude.

Honourable Mention: The Conjuring: Based on a true story, real-life "ghostbusters" Ed and Lorraine Warren investigated thousands of haunted house cases. This film is based on the one case that "got away" from them. The psychically-gifted Lorraine is played by Vera Farmiga (who deserves an Emmy for her work on TV's Bates Motel). She gives this creepfest instant credibility. Too bad she wasn't in R.I.P.D.


Big Event: Amazing Race Canada (July 15, CTV, 9 p.m. ET/PT)

Big picture: Nine brave Canadian pairs are poised to race around Canada in this new series. They have my deepest respect given I can barely make it to the mailbox without wheezing. Contestants include actress Vanessa Morgan (My Babysitter's a Vampire, Degrassi: The Next Generation) and her "bikini-model sister" Celina, and hippy couple Darren and Kristen (she lists her strengths as "making people smile, handling reptiles, identifying plants and basketball" and her good luck charm as a "pine cone"). No, I'm not making this up. Their opponents include a doctor duo, Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod (the married fitness gurus from Body Break), as well as teams that feature a police officer, a police sergeant "highly trained in firearms" and a "retired army sniper." It could be lambs to the Amazing Race slaughter. These daring duos beat out thousands of applicants in order to race more than 9,000 kilometres in locations across Canada, from Alberta's Badlands to the Rockies, from Maritimes oceanfront to B.C rainforest. (The real lesson I've taken from all this is put "bikini model" on your resum© when applying for reality shows. I've already added it to my LinkedIn page).

Forecast: Hosted by Canadian Olympic champion Jon Montgomery, this is a must-watch of the summer. Enjoy the spectacle of seeing these eclectic groups navigate our vast, diverse country. Most of them will see more of Canada in the course of this game than any of us do in our lifetimes. I'd like to see the next federal election settled on Amazing Race Canada. Imagine Stephen Harper and John Baird trying to hail a cab with a $90,000 cheque in the middle of a snowstorm on the Trans-Canada Highway in Saskatchewan, or locked in a two-legged snowshoe race in Nunavut against Justin Trudeau and Marc Garneau.


Big release on July 16: Pet Shop Boys (Electric)

Big picture: The Pet Shop Boys aim to get us moving with their 12th studio album. Band members Chris Lowe (53) and Neil Tennant (59) are no spring chickens, but they remain English pop princes. Their latest effort proves they still belong on the dance floor -- or at least their music does. Sadly, Chris Brown's new album, X, which I presume is largely about pirate treasure, was due out this week but has been delayed yet again. Treasure hunters and parrot enthusiasts everywhere will be extremely disappointed.

Forecast: The boys are back in town. With witty track titles such as Love is a Bourgeois Construct and a promising cover of Bruce Springsteen's Last to Die, this album could be electric.

On a side note, if our future government is ever decided by Amazing Race Canada, I'd like to see the Pet Shop Boys enter (we can fast-track them to citizenship). I'm game for co-prime ministers. And imagine the speech from the throne written in the form of a hazy club track (I'm not sure Governor General David Johnston could pull it off, but I know I'd pay good money to see him try.)


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 14, 2013 A11

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