Alison Gillmor

  • Katniss -- the can't-miss heroine

    Mockingjay, Part 2, the final instalment in the Hunger Games franchise, hit theatres this week, capping off everyone's favourite dystopian series about televised child-killing contests. I'm not going to miss the never-ending Young Adult body count, but I will miss Katniss Everdeen, for very good reasons. SHE'S A "STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER": This can be a dubious concept. (You should see the wacky "strong female lead" recommendations I get from Netflix.)
  • Final chapter of the Hunger Games succeeds thanks to Lawrence's star power

    Combining the dark pleasures of young-adult dystopian fiction with gut-punching levels of post-traumatic stress, the final instalment of the blockbuster Hunger Games franchise is stretched-out but satisfying. With grander goals than the earlier movies, Mockingjay Part 2 has some bigger flaws, but it’s grounded in a remarkable central performance. Thankfully, Jennifer Lawrence is as steel-willed and world-saving as her heroine, Katniss Everdeen.
  • Another humiliation for Charlie Brown

    "It's not often you get the opportunity to start over with a clean slate,” says Charlie Brown in his brand-new movie, which opened Friday in Winnipeg. “This time, things will be different.” Oh, that Charlie Brown, ever the optimist, despite all those disappearing footballs and tangled kites. Bringing the Peanuts gang to a younger generation is great. But using computer-generated 3D animation? Good grief!
  • Craig shines as storyline flounders in new James Bond movie

    It’s not easy being the postmodern Bond. The 53-year-old franchise is expected to hit the sweet spot between escapist fantasy and taut realism, Cold War nostalgia and 21st-century relevance, the pleasantly familiar and the thrillingly new. Sometimes it works, as with the crackerjack reboot that was Casino Royale. And sometimes it doesn’t, as with the slough of despond that was Quantum of Solace.
  • Make a date with these bran muffins

    A perennial Recipe Swap topic is the search for the perfect bran muffin. (That, and the world's best cinnamon bun.) Last month, Anne Kalyniuk wrote in hoping to find a recipe for Safeway's bran muffins. We weren't able to track down that particular version, but I do have two good options this week. Thanks to Linda Snider from Glenboro for her recipe for tasty bran muffins that are sweetened with date purée. I also experimented with a recipe that's quite healthy -- not too much added fat or sugar -- without tasting like horse mash.
  • She can leap the tallest glass ceiling in a single bound

    Kara Danvers (a.k.a. Kara Zor-El from the planet Krypton) knows she possesses superpowers on Earth, like her more famous cousin Superman. She just chooses not to use them, deciding that "the best thing (she) can do is fit in." That seems like an odd choice for someone who can fly. Still, considering the gender-freighted debate that's swirling round Kara's superhero cred, her reluctance is understandable. The new Supergirl television series (Global, Monday, 7 p.m.) may be an endearingly dorky show with a likeable heroine, but it's battling some hostile backlash. Let's hope one of Kara's superpowers is the ability to withstand sniping.
  • Hey, Hollywood, women like horror movies, too

    Crimson Peak, the gorgeous, gory new extravagance from Mexican director Guillermo del Toro, has underperformed at the box office, being out-spooked by Goosebumps. Critical reception has been mixed, with the repeated refrain the movie just isn't scary. For his part, del Toro has been adamant Crimson Peak isn't a horror movie at all but a gothic romance, in which case it's plenty scary -- and a whole lot more besides. Much of the backlash against Crimson Peak is due to the way its blood-soaked love story confounds and confuses Hollywood's either/or expectations about genre -- and gender.
  • Yes, we really mean zero stars: Rock the Kasbah is embarrassing, offensive

    I just want to start by saying I like Bill Murray. I do. The weary irony, the louche charm, the perfectly timed poker-faced delivery — I get it. There’s a reason why stencilling his magnificent mug on a T-shirt immediately conveys a certain brand of cool. Unfortunately, there are finite limits to Murray’s coolness, and this disastrous rock ’n’ roll road trip flick blows right past them. Rock the Kasbah is not only a catastrophic miscalculation of comic tone. It’s an all-around dismal display of cinematic incompetence by scripter Mitch Glazer (Scrooged) and director Barry Levinson (Diner, Avalon), who ought to know better.
  • Indian Summers is a darker, deeper Downton Abbey

    Downton Abbey has wrapped its final season, which will air in Canada this winter. Meanwhile, Indian Summers, BBC Channel 4's most expensive series ever, is just starting (PBS, Sundays, 9 p.m.). Looking at the high-living Brits who summered in the Himalayan hills in the 1930s, the show is predictably being billed as "Downton Abbey goes to India," or "Downton Abbey meets The Jewel in the Crown." Both broadcasters and audiences are desperate for a replacement Downton, and Indian Summers has all the hallmarks of a popular, prestige period piece: soapy drama, delicious scandal, fabulous frocks and furnishings.
  • Noodle casseroles bring back childhood memories

    I once attended a unique potluck supper. The host asked everyone to bring a favourite childhood comfort food. It wasn't a healthy spread -- there was barely a fruit, vegetable or lean protein in sight -- but it was a lot of fun. The tuna noodle casseroles -- there were two, or maybe even three -- were a hit.
  • 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.


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