Alison Gillmor

  • Tough to tell good guys from bad in tense, haunting drug-war thriller

    ‘Watch and learn,” Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) tells Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) in the middle of an ultra-violent anti-drug operation. He might be telling us, as well. Quebec director Denis Villeneuve’s new narco-thriller is remorselessly watchable. But tunnel under the grim, gripping, technically brilliant action sequences and there’s a lot to learn. Sicario — the title references a Latin American term for hit man — is an emotionally haunting, intellectually searching journey into the murky moral borderlands of the international drug war.
  • It's hardly a grind to spice up your life

    A few weeks ago, I put out a call for homemade spice mixes. Thanks very much to Jim Rodger from Argyle, who sent in several personal favourites. The first recipe is for Singapore seasoning mix, which Jim calls "curry-ish." It's not too hot and is packed with complex, subtle flavours.
  • Depp needs to face facts... with his real face

    About 12 minutes into Black Mass, a crime drama about the unholy alliance between a Boston gangster and an FBI agent, the woman sitting next to me turned to her companion and whispered, "Is that Johnny Depp?"  
  • Victorian's secret

    On Sept. 9, Sarah A. Chrisman posted a piece on Vox entitled, "I love the Victorian era. So I decided to live in it." As Chrisman goes on to explain, it's not just that she and her husband, Gabriel, exist without a cellphone or a car. They live in an 1888 house in Port Townsend, Wash., that is warmed with antique kerosene heaters and lit by oil lamps. To replicate daily life in their favoured era, the 1880s and '90s, Sarah bathes with a bowl and pitcher using Castile soap and dresses in corsets and home-stitched replicas of Victorian clothing. Gabriel gets around on an adorably ridiculous penny farthing bicycle.
  • Searching for clues to the real Christie

    The 125th birthday of mystery writer Agatha Christie will be marked next week with galas and garden parties. There will also be serious reconsiderations of her work, such as the recent trend to reframe the Queen of Crime as a feminist. This might seem like an unlikely plot development. A stout social conservative, Christie often wrote ghastly things about women, characterizing them as catty, competitive and frivolous. Her novels frequently feature silly schoolgirls, dim-witted housemaids and brittle, barren career women. The women's rights movement, like many aspects of the Swinging '60s, left Christie fuddled.
  • Doc a testament to power of the movies

    Myths and tales of the wild child run through our culture, from Romulus and Remus to Mowgli and Tarzan, along with true-life cases of "feral children" (most debunked). There is a persistent fascination with the idea of children living outside the bonds of ordinary human society. The Wolfpack, a strange and haunting documentary playing at Cinematheque until Sept. 24, offers a very 21st-century version of this story. Rather than being raised by wolves in a forest, the six Angulo brothers were raised by Quentin Tarantino movies in a cramped New York apartment.
  • Less sex, more bureaucracy: in praise of dull TV

    ‘Are council meetings always so boring?”

    This is one of the opening lines of Show Me a Hero, a six-part fact-based HBO drama about the push for public housing in Yonkers in the late 1980s. (The last two episodes will run this Sunday at 8 p.m.) Creator David Simon (The Wire) seems to be purposely putting the B-word on the table, since much of this series does, in fact, involve fantastically boring stuff like droning council meetings, protracted courthouse stalemates and bureaucratic shuffling.

  • Eight reasons look forward to Tarantino’s latest

    Eight reasons look forward to Tarantino’s latest

    FOR movie lovers, this time of year is like Christmas in August, as the studios start releasing trailers for the big films that will open between American Thanksgiving and Dec. 25. These glimpses aren’t Christmas presents, exactly. They’re more like hints about what our presents will be.

  • Belly up to the bars

    As many of us start shifting into back-to-school mode, it's handy to have some reliable go-to recipes on hand to help time-strapped parents and sweeten the transition for kids. Bars are easy and quick, faster to whip up than pans of individual cookies, and they work well as desserts, after-school snacks or lunch-box treats. They're easy to transport, and they freeze well.
  • Did we get the True Detective we deserve?

    True Detective finally bled out in the desert last Sunday, ending a second season that often felt inept, inert and gruelling. To put it in Frank Semyon terms -- and let's do that, because the character's accidentally hilarious dialogue was possibly the best thing about this mumbling, mopey show -- watching TD2 was like staring at a water stain on the ceiling and wondering whether "it's all papier m¢ché." HBO has pledged support for a third season, but before that happens, maybe creator Nic Pizzolatto should make "a full and searching moral inventory" (as Ani Bezzerides would say) of what went wrong in season 2.
  • Take home the flavours of Folklorama with Greek and Indian recipes

    Every year, Folklorama celebrates Manitoba’s multicultural heritage; what better way to honour this heritage than in the kitchen? In that spirit, Marcy Mazur sent in a recipe for pastitsio, a Greek baked pasta that is a family favourite. I also tried out a butter chicken recipe, a popular Indian dish that combines subtle spicing with cream and butter.
  • Shopping for value in celebrity marketing

    Some customers of The Honest Company -- Jessica Alba's line of eco-friendly personal-care products -- got scorching mad last week. They went onto social media to complain the company's all-natural sunscreen had left them burned. Meanwhile, Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle blog Goop was making news for its pearlescent evening purses emblazoned with the names "Biggie" on one side and "Pac" on the other. Detractors suggested turning the East Coast vs. West Coast hip-hop thing into a $1,695 clutch was a doubtful form of street cred.
  • Boys will be boys, but... man, oh man

    I saw two movies this week. Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation, the latest Tom Cruise action-adventure flick, and Irrational Man, the latest Woody Allen treatise on the meaninglessness of existence. Guess which one is an adolescent male fantasy? Trick question. They both are! Woody's form of filmic wish-fulfilment is just better disguised, because the characters are talking about Kierkegaard and quoting Simone de Beauvoir.
  • Recipes for custard cut the mustard

    This month we had a request from Jean Feliksiak, who had fond memories of the baked custard at The Bay cafeteria, a downtown meeting spot that has, sadly, closed down. This is a good old-fashioned dessert, not as rich as the crème brªlée that seemed to take over on restaurant menus. Thanks to Linda Snider from Glenboro for her contribution. I also adapted a chocolate variation. This week, in the spirit of Folklorama, Recipe Swap would love to see readers' best-loved food traditions from their families' homelands. Food is such a big part of this Winnipeg festival, and I know many people would like to be able to make versions of their Folklorama favourites at home.
  • Doc offers new narrative for singer Amy Winehouse

    Drugs, drink, sex and sudden, early death. In the music world, these are considered markers of emotional authenticity and creative genius. Unless you're a woman, in which case you're a tragicomic train wreck, unstable and out of control, your talent destined to be overshadowed by your pathetic private life.
  • Salad rolls, pickled shrimp chilly hot-weather eating

    This week, Betsy Burt has sent in some cool, (almost) no-cook hot-weather recipes using shrimp. Both the salad rolls and pickled shrimp could work as snacks, appetizers or a light summer lunch. I've always loved salad rolls but have never made them, partly out of a feeling that rice paper wrappers would be impossibly fiddly to work with. Once I got the hang of things though, this recipe was surprisingly easy. (I think there's a lesson there somewhere.)
  • True detective truly disappointing

    Remember last year, when we couldn’t get enough of True Detective? All that Internet theorizing about the show’s slow-drawlin’ nihilist philosophy. All that rabbit-holing over the Yellow King and Carcosa. All those Rust Cohle memes and GIFs and YouTube compilations. Poor, doomed True Detective season 2. There’s just as much brooding, just as much corruption, just as many hints about secret animal-masked sex rituals, just as many damaged, difficult men. (More, actually!) But people don’t seem to care.
  • He's back, but are we better for it?

    222You might think that the fifth Terminator movie would examine our collective anxiety about technology. (Skynet! The Singularity!) But with a story that centres on a slightly creaky 67-year-old cyborg, the movie might be more concerned with our collective anxiety about aging. The last few years have seen the rise of the "geriaction" genre. This includes The Expendables franchise, packed with veteran stars like Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren, and "Neesploitation" flicks, violent revenge movies starring the now 63-year-old Liam Neeson. These films are determined to prove that older action-men can still get the job done.
  • Hannibal's food styling scenes will be missed

    Last week NBC announced that Hannibal would not be renewed for a fourth season, although fervid Fannibals are holding out hope for renewal on premium cable or a streaming service. This is not a surprising turn, given that this ambitiously surreal serial-killer series has always looked like nothing else on network TV.

    Nowhere is this more clear than in its hilariously baroque food styling.

  • If the shoe fits, run from dinosaurs in it

    In an early scene in Jurassic World -- which opened last weekend, 22 years after Jurassic Park, the ground-shaking original -- one of the characters talks about dinosaur fatigue. This is partly a complaint -- I mean, what is wrong with you people that you could get tired of dinosaurs? -- and partly a strategic admission that any Jurassic movie sequel will need more dinosaurs, more spectacle, more action and more yummy, yummy park visitors to grab and keep our attention. We do get more dinos in this fourth outing, and those dinos are meaner, faster, smarter and bigger. Especially bigger.
  • Review: Primates of Park Avenue, a look at the habits and habitats of stay-at-home moms in NY

    Primates of Park Avenue, the controversial “pop anthropology” memoir from New York-based writer Wednesday Martin, is shamefully fascinating. Even more fascinating might be the responses to this book, which studies the habitats and habits of so-called “glam SAHMs” — the glamorous stay-at-home moms of New York’s Upper East Side. Whether commentators are hyping Martin’s work or tearing it down, they’re trading on the fact that our culture is transfixed by images of vain, vacuous, wealthy women.
  • Director's vision of the future isn't 20/20

    Tomorrowland, the new live-action family adventure from filmmaker Brad Bird, centres on an optimistic vision of a shiny, happy future. A deeply sincere Disney counter-argument to our culture's craze for post-apocalyptic disaster, the film suggests that belief in a better tomorrow isn't just a nice idea. It's actually necessary to the survival of humankind. Bird's message-heavy movie has been dividing audiences and critics, who consider it either wondrous and inventive or naØve and preachy. Basically, it comes down to this: Where you stand on Tomorrowland might depend on how you feel about jetpacks.
  • The marvellous, mysterious Ross Macdonald

    I’VE always wanted an excuse to write about Ross Macdonald, a man who crossed the modern crime story with the sorrow and pity of classical tragedy and the dark, deadpan humour of noir fiction. He’s one of my favourite novelists. This year marks his 100th birthday, but really, the whole birthday thing is kind of arbitrary. More compelling is the Winnipeg hook.
  • Android's A.I. offers lessons on humanity

    Ex Machina, a film that explores the ethics of artificial intelligence, has been snagging sensational reviews. But there's another response running under all that acclaim, with some critics suggesting the sci-fi flick has "a woman problem." Well, the movie does feature men who have "woman problems." But representing something is not the same as endorsing it. If you take the film as a whole, this strange, unsettling robot fable offers a complex and -- at the very least -- intriguingly conflicted take on gender politics. Ex Machina could be viewed as a film that uses men and women to say something about A.I. But it might be even better viewed as a film that uses A.I. to say something about men and women.
  • Technophiles love to hate new CSI's cyberphobia

    CSI: Cyber, the newest entry in the 15-year-old TV franchise, is bad. Really bad. Still, to talk about "hate-watching" this televisual mess feels unnecessarily snarky. The series, which follows Patricia Arquette as Special Agent Avery Ryan of the FBI's cybercrime unit, has inspired a bemused affection among some viewers. And the more tech-savvy they are, the more tenderly protective they seem to be.


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