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Music Blog

Sounds and beats from the Indigo playlist
Josh Fehrens

Josh Fehrens

Friday, 23 December 2011 16:31

Christmas Eve: Traditions and Activities

My family celebrates Christmas in a very European way (my Daddy-o was born in Germany). Christmas Eve is the main event for us, and I actually really like it that way. As children, my siblings and I would get all of our presents that were from our parents on Christmas Eve, and then we would receive our “Santa” gifts on Christmas morning. Now that we’re all grown up, everything takes place Christmas Eve, and the following morning is all about breakfast and relaxing.

I will be spending Christmas this year with just my siblings as my parents will be in Germany visiting my grandmother (or Oma as she would be referred to in Deutschland). I come to you all with a quandary: What should three young, unmarried, childless siblings do on Christmas Eve?? I would love to hear suggestions from anyone and everyone! What are your favourite holiday activities? Does your family love board games like me? How about playing cards, or watching Christmas movies?

Below are my ideas so far… needless to say, everything I’ve listing here will be accompanied by a healthy dose of red wine, tons of cheese, fresh fruit and bread, and some delicious chocolates.

  1. Board Games
    I actually really love board games and would relish in the opportunity to break out my brand new Muppets Yahtzee! You probably think I’m a really big dork right now, and I’m completely comfortable with that assessment. Others games that could conceivably keep us all equally entertained are Apples to Apples, Bananagrams, or Boggle.
  2. Card Games
    I am not a poker player. I played once at my grandparents home (the ones that live on this side of the pond), and I won! So obviously I’m extremely talented and should play again. However, if for some reason I’m not playing as well as that first shot many moons ago, I’ll push to play something I truly love like ‘President’ or ‘Rummy’.
  3. Christmas Movie Marathon
    There actually aren’t that many essential Christmas movies on my list (I know, I’m such a Grinch!). However, I do have a top 5:
    The Muppet Christmas Carol
    Home Alone
    The Ref
    Die Hard
    National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
    LOVE these movies – they always put me in the holiday spirit!
  4. Tobogganing
    Of course it will have to snow for this to work, but one can hold out hope, right?! We would also have to abstain from the wine until after, but that’s ok. Never drink and sled! Like, actually. Don’t.  You know what you should do? Use a toboggan by Mountain Boy Sledworks. They’re absolutely beautiful.
  5. Video Games
    Nothing says Christmas like virtual play! Mario, Donkey Kong, maybe some Just Dance 3? My older brother is a pretty intense gamer, so I might leave the game choice up to him. Although that will most likely lead to him playing nothing but Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 all night while my younger sister and I go watch old episodes of Gilmore Girls or Dawson’s Creek. Yep, we’re that awesome.

Please sound off in the comments below and fill my head with all kinds of ideas for this weekend! I need to hear about your most beloved Holiday traditions and favourite memories. The more inspiration the better!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!
Tuesday, 15 November 2011 18:06

Album Review: Kelly Clarkson's Stronger

With her fifth studio album, Kelly Clarkson has created a stellar collection of pop music with clear country, rhythm and blues and dance influences. Exploring themes of heartbreak, forgiveness and strength, Clarkson’s signature soul is always present and Stronger is a deeply satisfying album. It is no secret that I am a super-fan. Everyone who knows me personally is aware of my obsessive fandom. I recently declared my passion for all things Kelly professionally with my Top 10 Reasons to Worship the Ultimate Pop-Goddess blog. Naturally, I felt compelled to take some time to review her latest offering and thought it best to really break it down with a track-by-track review.

Mr. Know It All
This mid-tempo number blasts the media and public en masse who continuously presume to know what Clarkson is all about. This was an interesting choice to release as a lead single, and I give her credit for putting something different out there. The music video released for this song shows that you don’t have to be provocative or suggestive to be effective. Instead, Clarkson has opted for newspaper articles with bogus headlines plastering the walls behind her while she vents her frustrations with a wink and a smile. 

What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)
For those eager for more “Since U Been Gone” or “My Life Would Suck Without You” type anthems, this is it my friends. If Clarkson is looking for a smash-hit, she needs to get this track to radio, stat! Its thumping, electro-pop beat and Kelly’s impeccable voice, makes this an irresistible dance hit. I challenge anyone to not feel empowered by a chorus that includes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger/Stand a little taller/Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone.” Just one listen and you’ll be hooked – and, if you’re anything like me, also completely unable to stop bouncing around and bopping your head.   

Dark Side
This track is reminiscent of her My December-days. Clarkson comes across as beautifully vulnerable, pleading with a lover to accept her fully, flaws and all. She implores, “Everybody’s got a dark side/Do you love me/Can you love mine/Nobody’s picture perfect/But we’re worth it/You know that we’re worth it/Will you love me/Even with my dark side?” Kelly has mentioned that this song almost didn’t make the final track list for the album (she finds the material depressing and thinks her catalogue already has enough songs with a similar tone), and I’m so happy she didn’t go with her gut instinct on this one. The outcome is lovely.

Honestly
Girl knows how to kill it when it comes to ballads, and this track is a shining example. The song’s soaring chorus sent shivers down my spine upon my first listen (and second, third, fourth…). The tone is a little solemn, but it’s a solid track.

You Love Me
My favourite track on the album! “You didn’t let me down/You didn’t tear me apart/You just opened my eyes while breaking my heart/You didn’t do it for me/I’m not as dumb as you think/You just made me cry by claiming that you love me.” Pair these lyrics with an 80’s-esque dance rhythm and roaring guitars, and you’ve got pop perfection. The version included on The Smoakstack Sessions EP (available through her official website) is also pretty spectacular. If this track isn’t a single, her management team needs to be fired (and replaced by ME).

Einstein
The best thing I can say is this song is super-fun and catchy. Critics have given her a really hard time over the (admittedly silly) lyrics. But really, who cares? She sounds great (and it’s fun to shake your rear to)! I’m cool with it. Although I understand that many can’t get beyond, “I may not be Einstein/But I know dumb plus dumb equals you.” If this is the weakest link, I don’t think you can ask for much more out of an album.  

Standing In Front of You
Stronger’s
most mild track so far, Standing In Front of You is the kind of song that fans of her ballad-heavy beginnings will eat up. Soft, pretty and melodic, she brings it.   

I Forgive You
Another song that could be an instant-hit if released because I Forgive You plays out like a follow-up to one of her past breakup songs. The track is all about purging the remnants of heartbreak after the healing is complete. Anyone who has known the pain of a broken heart and the clarity that eventually follows will appreciate this.   

Hello
Another personal favourite of mine, Hello makes me want to jump up and down and never stop clapping my hands together! A foot-tapper with a super-upbeat rhythm, this is going to RULE when she sings it live in concert! There are definite moments of Sheryl Crow/Dixie Chicks influenced inflections, but overall this is classic Clarkson and I'm loving it!

The War Is Over
This ditty tells the story of retreating from the post-breakup battlefield to assess the damage and pick up the pieces. It’s at once reflective and powerful, and her fierce vocals make it an instant delight. It can potentially have many lyrical meanings, be it an ex-boyfriend or someone who has wronged her professionally – or personally. Whichever way you interpret it doesn’t matter – her passion shines through and her strength prevails.

Let Me Down
This is a distinct highlight on the album. If released (which it should be because radio is where this song belongs), there will undoubtedly be comparisons to Pink (who hasn’t released any new material since 2008). But that doesn’t mean Kelly doesn’t kill it with this one. She’s candid and not embarrassed to admit that sometimes her judgement isn’t the best: “I am too smart to let you in here/But I’m just dumb enough to linger.” Ohh girrrrl, we’ve all been there!

You Can’t Win
Confession: I like to blast music while I shower. I’m actually afraid of getting hurt while listening to this one because much like Hello, it makes me want to jump up and down and I don't have one of those anti-slip rubber mats. I think the time has come to invest in one. This will be a huge hit on the road – a true crowd pleaser. Sample lyrics: “If you're thin/Poor little walking disease/If you're not/They're all screaming obese/If you're straight/Why aren't you married yet?/If you're gay/Why aren't you waving a flag?” We hear ya, Kelly – living up to the expectation of others is often a losing battle. 

Breaking Your Own Heart
I’m not a betting man, but I would wager that if this song were released to country radio today, Clarkson would have a number one hit on those charts by the New Year. I think this song is proof-positive that Clarkson is destined to release a country album. Her voice is so versatile she can sing whatever she wants, and she’s already proven these chops via duets with some of the best country artists in the business (Reba McEntire & Jason Aldean, the latter of whom she just won a CMA Award with for their smash hit, Don’t You Wanna Stay). Let’s make this happen, Kelly.

Kelly has also released a Deluxe Edition of this album with four additional tracks, the aformentioned Don't You Wanna Stay being one of them.

Top 10 Reasons to Worship the Ultimate Pop-Goddess, Kelly Clarkson 

Her name alone is enough to spark a strong instinctual reaction in almost everyone (for me it’s always squealing like a pre-teen). There are those of us who will eagerly drink the Kool-Aid she offers without hesitation (If Kelly were a cult leader, I would be her star disciple). There are those on the opposite spectrum who refuse to see beyond her reality show foundation, and these people tend to say “pop music” as if it were a four letter word. If you’re planted firmly in this camp, I don’t expect anything I say here to change your mind. That being said, Kelly Clarkson is not your average pop star, I promise. Girl’s got soul, and an incredibly eclectic taste in music. And with that, here is my Top 10 list of reasons to love Kelly Clarkson:

THAT VOICE
Clarkson has the most lush, powerful, gorgeously layered voice in the business today. Period. Blender (remember Blender?!) magazine said it best back in 2007:
“The Texas native has one of the great voices in pop music, a powerful and versatile instrument that's steeped in the rhythm and blues and country music she grew up with in the South. If Mariah Carey's five-octave voice is the equivalent of an expensively bred poodle, then Clarkson's is a bloodhound: friendly, earthy, but fierce just the same.”
AMEN!

EVERYONE LOVES THE GIRL NEXT DOOR
Everybody has someone like Kelly in their life. She’s a down-home girl. Just watch any interview with her – there are no pretentions, and she puts on no airs. She’s the meaning of that expression, “what you see is what you get”. She’s naturally gorgeous, with a killer smile. She doesn’t care about conforming to Hollywood’s emaciated standard of “beauty”. She’s got my wholehearted respect and admiration.

AMAZING COVERS
One of the most exciting moments during a Kelly Clarkson concert is when she busts out a few covers because she always knocks them out of the park. Some all-time favourites are Patsy Cline’s Walking After Midnight, The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army, and The Black Keys’ Lies. Clarkson performed a free concert last week for her fans at Troubadour (a legendary club in West Hollywood), and I now have a new favourite to add to my list! Check out Kelly singing the absolute heck out of Carrie Underwood’s I Know You Won’t. I actually thought I was going to faint somewhere between 2:27 & 2:37. File under pwn. That voice is from another planet (one that I would gladly relocate to). 

SHE’S FINALLY GOING ‘UNPLUGGED’
I have been waiting nearly a decade with bated-breath for a live album… could the wait be over? It was first reported by Entertainment Weekly that Kelly is set for an ‘Unplugged’ special to air on VH1 November 18th. If this doesn’t at least end up on iTunes as a digital download I’ll be crushed. I love her studio albums, but I’m obsessed with all her live performances!

SHE’S NOT DOWN WITH AUTO-TUNE
Kelly readily admits that some of her older hits songs have been altered with Auto-Tune – and she’s not happy about it. As originally reported by the Metro in the UK, Clarkson stated:
"When I hear “Since U Been Gone” or “My Life Would Suck Without You”, I love the songs but the vocal is so compressed it kills me."… "Sometimes people get hold of us pop girl singers and compress the hell out of our vocals. Even voices that don't need Auto-Tune get it, so you have all these robotic vocals."
She insists that her new album Stronger is completely free of Auto-Tune, and that every song sounds the way she does live… I’ve been listening to the album all day. She’s not lying.

MASHUPS!
I am absolutely in love with the mashups she performs on tour. The best!? A stunning marriage of Alanis Morissette’s “That I Would Be Good” and Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody”. Listen to it here and marvel at her vocal beauty.

THIS PHOTOGRAPH:


I went to Casino Rama to see Kelly in concert with a few friends back in October 2009. While we were checking into the casino hotel we saw her walk through the lobby and out the front door, entourage-free. This is her waiting for a van to pick her up and whisk her away to get ready for the show. She looks so comfy!

THIS PHOTOGRAPH:


Ohhhh yeahhhhhh, that’s totally me with her! HOLLA!!! She was an absolute DOLL. Super sweet and friendly. I was so nervous that I just started babbling and she quickly interjected with, “Wait wait wait! What’s your name??”… How many celebrities out there actually ask their fans what their names are when they meet them?! She’s a gem. She’s also a good hugger and she smells nice.

SHE LOVES KARAOKE
Clarkson has revealed that going out to a karaoke bar is one of her favourite things to do with friends. I love this. Imagine being in a karaoke bar and being serenaded by KELLY CLARKSON??? It’s almost too much for me to handle. A tip for all super-fans like me: Kelly has said that she wants to hit up a karaoke bar in every city she stops in on her next tour, and that she’ll tweet where she’s going beforehand. If that’s not a reason to get Twitter, I don’t know what is! To follow Kelly on Twitter, click here.

SHE LIVES IN NASHVILLE, TN
I think it’s fantastic that she doesn’t have roots planted in L.A. or New York like the majority of her peers – not that there is anything wrong with living in either of those places. I just think it shows how little she cares about the limelight. She keeps it real and surrounds herself with family, friends, and lots of animals (Goats, horses, dogs, cats – the list is long!). She’s a real animal lover! Check out her facebook page for all kinds of photos! I think her goat is my favourite. Super cute!

Alright, I would say that sufficiently proves my point. We need more public figures like her to look up to. Kelly Clarkson is phenomenally talented and anyone who isn’t onboard as a fan doesn’t know what they’re missing! Trust me. Just drink the Kool-Aid – you’ll be glad you did! KELLY FOR THE WIN!

BONUS REASON TO LOVE KELLY CLARKSON:
She loves Bananagrams! Ohhh Kelly. Let’s be best friends. XoXo

Tuesday, 06 September 2011 21:07

Redakai: Conquer the Kairu at Fan Expo Canada

I was fortunate enough to attend Canada’s Fan Expo at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and it was an education to say the least! I consider myself a huge nerd and media slave who’s seen it all, but I was proven tremendously ignorant in my own self-assessment. Now that’s not to say that I fancy myself cooler than anyone in attendance (nobody can overshadow my über dork status!), but I have never been surrounded by such a passionate group of people, all gathering together to celebrate their love of gaming, horror, science fiction, anime, and comic books. I was in HEAVEN.

The Storm Trooper wearing a white Adidas tracksuit with a boom box dancing up a… storm (Yep, I went there) was more than enough to make my day complete. He was amazing. Plus whoever built that LEGO Hagrid (!) deserves an award for outstanding patience and artistry… seriously impressive.

I got everything I wanted out of Fan Expo: a sneak peek into what’s coming up in the world of gaming and toys, and a crash course in what’s new and hot, here and now! First up:

Redakai is the fast-paced game of Kairu battles! What’s that, you’re asking? Don’t worry, I didn’t know either. At first glance I thought it looked like any other trading card fad I’ve seen come and go since I was an adolescent. It’s not. I was actually really impressed with the value associated with this game. Redakai: Conquer the Kairu is a product of the animated TV series that began airing on YTA back in July. It seems to be perfectly poised to become the next big thing with kids (particularly in the 6-8 age range), partly because of the neat concept, but also because of the collectability factor. I managed to get a great breakdown of the game at the Expo and I’ll try my best to break it down for you as simply as possible.

In the game world of Redakai, the cards are called X-Drives and each features a character or monster. These cards are made using Blast 3D™ technology which means that the images on the cards move as the player moves them. There are also Attack X-Drives complete with 3D imagery of an attack on your character when you layer the cards. The design of the X-Drives and layering allow for what is referred to as a “Stack to Battle” format of the game. The cards and their 3D technology track the “damage” to your character when monsters and attacks are layered on top.

Below is a breakdown of the game play:

  • Before battle, pick out one character and place it on a table.
  • Your character card is the Kairu warrior you control in the game. Characters have two key features:  Damage zones show how much health a character has left, and Defence zones show how well you can defend against attacks.
  • Each player also shuffles a deck of at least 10 Attack cards and Monster cards.
  • Decide who goes first. On your turn, draw a card from your deck, and then play that card right away.
  • You always play Attack cards on your opponent. Every attack has a colour: red, green, or blue.
  • To see if an attack hits, you compare its power to the opposing character’s defence in that colour.

Zane (character) has a 300 red defence, but Ice Spikes (attack) has a 650 red power, so it hits. Stack it right on top of him! Ice Spikes covers one bar of Zane’s health. He is damaged. When all three damage zones are covered, he’ll be defeated!

Now it’s Zane’s turn to fight back:
Your opponent draws Ear Splitter. Ky has no blue defence, so it hits! Now Ky is damaged. The same rules apply: once all of Ky’s damage zones are covered, he’ll be defeated!

There is a lot more to the game than what I have just described (I didn’t even touch on the monsters!), so I suggest going to the official Redakai site or check out the TV spot to fill in some blanks! This is a really awesome game that I hope catches on. If anyone remembers Magic Cards from way back when, let me just say I had major flashbacks!

Check back soon for more Fan Expo coverage!

 
Wednesday, 27 July 2011 21:20

Get Outside!

The best thing about summer is all the great outdoor activities that we’re barred from during the long, cold winter months. Seize the moment, get outside and enjoy the glorious weather while it lasts! There are plenty of awesome things for kids to fill their time with during their summer break, whether at the park or in their own backyard.  Visit our Outdoor Toy Shop for some playtime inspiration…playspiration? YEAHHHH. Ok, moving on…if you’re looking for some suggestions from a toy professional, look no further! Here are my top picks for outdoor summer fun:

I wouldn’t recommend having your kids play baseball in your backyard unless you love broken windows (my parents did not), but any park is ideal! It’s also an awesome way for kids to get all their friends together and play as a team. The Frankin Sports' MLB® licensed Foam Bat & Ball is perfect for the beginner player, so if you have small children who are ready to learn, this is a fantastic option! The bat is covered in foam, and the ball is actually made of high density foam (safety first!). Little Tykes makes an excellent alternative for all baseball lovin’ kiddies with the TotSports™ T-Ball Set. Check ‘em out and your kids will have a ball (whomp whomp)!

I can’t imagine a day at the park without Radio Flyer—it’s just the epitome of classic outdoor fun. This is where I have a really hard time narrowing choices down because everything is awesome, but I’ll do my best! The Voyager Canopy Wagon is like the Rolls Royce of wagons—I mean, c’mon—that’s luxury! I wish I could have been pulled around in that thing when I was a kid. I also really love the Classic Red Dual Deck Tricycle… actually, scratch that—ALL tricycles! I wish that I could ride a tricycle as an adult and not have people throw garbage at me… perhaps one day. This doesn’t really count as a tricycle, but how intensely awesome would I look on The Inchworm? Total cuteness, right? Creepy, you say? Yeahhh, I was just testing you to make sure that you weren’t creepy! I don’t want to ride that… *sob* 

Set up the Adjust ‘n Jam in your driveway or backyard and let the kids embark on a little game of 21, or one-on-one basketball! The set adjusts to five different heights between four and six feet, so it will grow with your kids. It’s also 50% off! Doesn’t get any better than that, my friends.

Bubbles and fancy boomerangs are really all you need to enjoy a day at the park. ALL YOU NEED. I promise. Sometimes I like to blow bubbles off my balcony just for kicks (I long to do it with a Gazillion Bubble Cyclone), and it’s always a good time. Now throwing a Helirang off the balcony… that’s something I have yet to try (and likely won’t for legal reasons), but it’s a gas to play with in the park! Check out other Gazillion Bubble contraptions along with anything by Zing Toys, and your outdoor adventures will never be dull again!

This is like the Holy Grail of outdoor summer fun: The Nerf Supersoaker Scatter Blast is perfect for inspiring a good ol’ fashion water fight, an activity I like to think of as the anti-heatstroke. Cool down and have fun out there this summer! Just don’t shoot water at strangers. I hear they get really mad.

Monday, 11 July 2011 18:25

Video Game VS. Movie Throwdown

Video games gone Hollywood...let the great debate begin! In some cases, the movies turn out alright and become a nice companion to the game. Other times…well, let’s just say there are some movies based on games that are pretty atrocious. Below are my insights on some great video games that have been turned into feature films and how I think they stack up against their source material.

Super Mario Bros.

The game has been a favourite of mine since I was an unusually small child with an enormous head. I remember spending hours sitting on the floor playing the various versions of this game over and over again… I have to say I also LOVE the updated version for Wii (maybe even more than the original). Old-school Mario will always hold a special place in my heart (nostalgia is my kryptonite), but the graphics on the New Super Mario Bros. are such a huge improvement that it makes all the difference in the world in terms of the experience. I don’t want to oversell how much fun Mario is to those of you who have never played, but the first night I got my mitts on the new version, I played it with my roommate until about 5:00AM and neither of us noticed the time whatsoever. So if you don’t mind losing precious sleep over a video game, have at it!

The movie is pretty much unwatchable. Two directors, three screenwriters = too many cooks in the kitchen and it shows. Although Dennis Hopper is in this movie, I’ll give them that.

Winner: GAME

Resident Evil 

 

I will start off by saying that zombies are awesome, and they need to be incorporated into as many video games and movies as possible (if only to help prepare us for a potential zombie apocalypse). The Resident Evil Games are scary, which to some may be a reason to steer clear, but I say bring it on! I say YES to any game that really gets your blood pumping, especially one that’s preferably played in the dark and elicits constant screams. Yep, I’m a big screamer when I play these games, and I feel no shame in admitting it. I also love that Resident Evil has become a big series, so there are lots of options. The latest edition, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries, comes to us via Nintendo 3DS and it looks AWESOME (click here to watch a trailer).

The Resident Evil movies are a guilty pleasure of mine. I know they’re silly, but I really enjoy them (in fact I think the silliness is a large part of the appeal). Milla Jovovich is awesome as Alice, the movie’s heroine, and Michelle Rodriguez does a great job playing Michelle Rodriguez Rain Ocampo. The fact that Toronto stands in as Raccoon City is the cherry on top for me—I love watching movies that have been filmed in my hood—although I think the zombie dogs are the coolest ingredient in this mix.

Winner: TIE      

Street Fighter

 

This is one of my all time favourite game series! Street Fighter II is the one I feel the most affection towards since I spent SO much time playing that game with my older brother. We would battle for hours… I was always Chun Li (Spinning Bird Kick!), and he was usually Ryu (Shoryuken!). I’m pretty certain that a lot of other people suffer from the inability to try new characters when playing games like this, but I’m the worst! I was playing Super Street Fighter on Super Nintendo recently, and I found myself unable to play as anyone other than Chun Li. Like, I actually couldn’t do it. I tried to be a different character twice and after one round I was like, “NOPE, back to Chun Li”. Anyways, I’m digressing… Super Street Fighter IV is available for Nintendo 3DS, and if you’re a Street Fighter fan you owe it to yourself. Get yours.

I have one thing to say about the movie: Jean Claude Van Damme.

Winner: GAME

Mortal Kombat


My love for Mortal Kombat runs deep and is echoed by some kid in Billy Madison who says, “Mortal Kombat on Sega Genesis is the best video game ever”.  PREACH! Every time I hear this I get giddy. The game is similar to Street Fighter, which means nothin’ but one-on-one combat. The ninth (!) instalment in the series came out this year for XBOX 360 and PS3, and it looks really REALLY violent… I would classify this as mature for sure. Watch the trailer here.

The Mortal Kombat movie is bad, but I love(d) it. I feel very conflicted over this… I can’t in good conscience publicly declare this a good movie. It’s not. However, it came out when I was 13 years old, and I was obsessed with it. I’m actually pretty certain that without 13 year old boys, movies like this wouldn’t exist. I remember going back to the theatre multiple times to see it, and I grew more attached with each viewing. I watched this again last week and was SO EXCITED because I hadn’t seen it in about a decade… ummmm, it was brutal. Fun (I guess), but SO poor in every way. I laughed out loud more than I should have (never when they were actually going for a laugh), and the graphics were HILARIOUS compared to what we’re all accustomed to today. However, I ‘m embarrassed to admit a part of me still has some love for it. Actually, this movie could have been A LOT better if the writing wasn’t so cheesy and the acting wasn’t so cringe-inducing. But it is what it is. It definitely has some entertainment value to it, but never view this expecting quality if you want to enjoy yourself—expect only camp.

Winner: GAME

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider is another game that has gone through multiple versions and is still a viable brand 15 years later. This is a game that I haven’t played a lot but I have played enough to say that I do enjoy it. I like the action adventure aspect and the fact that she’s British—major bonus points for that. Ultimately, what’s not to like about Lara Croft? She’s intelligent, beautiful, athletic, adventurous, and she can take you in a fight. Available exclusively for PS3 is the Tomb Raider Trilogy which features Legend, Anniversary, and Underworld re-released in high definition. It’s also a pretty awesome price for three games.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was panned by critics, but I feel the way about it that I do with Resident Evil. It’s totally silly, yet I take pleasure in its outrageously over-the-top nature. I actually think this is the best that anyone can hope for going into a movie based on a video game—it should be silly fun! But there’s a difference between silly fun, and outright bad. It’s a fine line that is almost always crossed with these types of movies, but sometimes you get one like this that manages to create some of the sparkle that makes popcorn-movies so enjoyable.

Winner: TIE


Clearly the games rule, at least with these choices. I think it’s definitely possible to make a movie that outdoes its video game origin; I just have yet to see one. Post your comments below and let me know what you think—are there any movies out there that outshine their video game source material? Head on over to the Movies & TV Blog page to check out Rachel West’s thoughts on video games that have been based on movies—let the great debate continue!

Saturday, 25 June 2011 21:27

Summer Camp!

I remember going to day camp as a kid, which really wasn’t a genuine “camp” experience. As far as I’m concerned it was nothing more than elaborate day care with some pretty questionable young adults lording over us. This one day it was raining and the counsellors weren’t prepared for indoor activities, so they decided to screen some movies for us: Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja. Super appropriate for a bunch of kids under the age of 10, right? Riiiight. The only true camp experience I had growing up (which to me means packing a bag and staying in a cabin with a dozen other kids) was at a winter camp which is so not the same thing.

So to all you parents sending your kiddies off to camp during this glorious season, well, your children are more fortunate than I was…on that note, here are my top toy and game picks for summer camp!  

Lego Minifigures are beyond essential…they’re like currency to kids. Half the fun will come from trading with each other and trying like mad to get their hands on that one obscure minifigure that they so desperately want. Actually, anything Lego is a safe bet because it’s all incredibly awesome. Especially this Lego Darth Vader Watch. I’m not sure what this says about me (probably not anything good), but I really do tend to love the villains!   

BFF Flower Bracelets are a genius camp activity. Kids can build lasting, life-enriching friendships while away at summer camp, and what better way to solidify that bond than giving them the tools to make friendship bracelets with their new buddies? Friendship bracelets are cute and classic. To me they recall a simpler time, which is what I really love about them. A throw-back to the unplugged days!

My Sweet Diary and a Groovy Scrapbook are fantastic ways for kids to keep a record of their camp experiences. This is the kind of thing that they can look back on one day and even share with their own kids. I’m a sucker for nostalgia, and a written record in their own words accompanied by photos and keepsakes is the best vehicle I can think of for kids to one day transport themselves back to those carefree and exciting days of childhood.  

Tie dying t-shirts is something that all kids need to participate in at least once in their life, so I’m really pumped about The Complete Tie Dye Kit. It’s a fun, creative activity that’s unique because their creation will turn out differently each time.

For the more active campers out there, the Ogo Sport Mini Super Sports Disk Pack is a great choice because it’s incredibly versatile. Kids can use them as Frisbees, or adapt them for a tennis match, volley ball, baseball, a simple game of catch…it truly is a multi-faceted toy that they’ll continue to find new uses for time and time again.  

For those rainy days when the little campers are cooped up inside, Bananagrams, Pairs in Pears, or Boggle are all far better activities than the highly inappropriate alternative I was subjected to. These word games are all super fun and great for sharpening young minds. No disrespect to the former Governor of California, but I would rather play a rousing game of Yahtzee than watch him decapitate people in a sword and sorcery adventure. Although, I must admit to owning that movie on DVD and viewing it multiple times... I blame my day camp experience. I’ve been hardwired to enjoy bad movies for the rest of my life. Don’t let this happen to your kids!
Saturday, 25 June 2011 21:16

Road Trip!

If I had supremacy over the English language, I would officially make road trip synonymous with summer. They go together like Bert and ErnieBuzz and WoodyMario and Luigi…you get my drift. Summer road trips with the family are awesome; however, keeping your kids entertained during your journey can be slightly…challenging. I like to believe that I was a well-behaved kid who was pretty low maintenance (no matter what my parents say to the contrary). This thinking requires that I ignore the fact that “Are we there yet??” flew out of my mouth on road trips so frequently and with such urgency you’d think I had some kind of real schedule to keep…like I was late to an important legislative meeting at Queen’s Park or something. Of course, I was not. I was a child. A bored child. That is, until my parents became road trip-savvy and started providing me and my siblings with all kinds of keep-busy-and-PLEASE-give-us-ONE-moment-of-peace things to play with. I’m sure all you parents know exactly what I’m talking about. So without digressing any further, here is my list of Top Ten Road Trip Essentials:

Nintendo 3DS
This is my personal favourite, so it gets top billing. Play in 3D without the glasses! ‘Nuff said.

V.Reader
This is a trendy electronic reader for kids! The story cartridges are graded for 3-5 and 5-7 year olds, and will not only keep them occupied, but it will assist in their reading development—what more could you ask for? I mean besides superpowers. That would be great. If I could choose any superpower, it would be the ability to get dressed really really fast in the morning. See, I’m easy to please (e.g. LOW MAINTENANCE). Take that, Mom and Dad!

Travel Guess Who?

Guess Who? is one of those games that takes me back to childhood instantaneously. Kids have a blast playing this simple guessing game, and will keep them occupied for hours. This was one of my all-time favourites as a kid! History lesson: Guess Who? originated in Great Britain in 1979 and was then brought to North America is 1982. You know what else appeared in North America in 1982? ME. Thanks for sharing, right? You’re welcome.

Travel Trouble
Popomatic dice roller is all I should have to say, but I’ll go further…it weighs 0.46 lbs. That’s insanely light.

Travel Battleship
This is a classic that needs to be passed along to younger generations (great for kids ages 3-8) if only to hear small children shouting, “You sunk my battleship!!!”   

Travel Monopoly
There’s a reason Parker Brothers has sold nearly 275 million copies of Monopoly worldwide—it brings out everyone’s greedy, hyper-competitive side in everyone, and who doesn’t have fun with that?! Just remember one thing…Boardwalk may seem like a great idea (especially if you can gets some Hotels on that property), but no one ever lands on it! Challenge me on this one, I dare you…

Travel Clue
Murder Mystery at its finest! Was it Colonel Mustard in the study with a candle stick, or Mrs. Peacock in the library with a revolver? Well, quite possibly none of the above! With ten rooms, six weapons, and six shady characters all seemingly capable of murder, you’ll have a ball piecing together this exciting puzzle!

Hangman
This Melissa & Doug Flip to Win Hangman game is perfect for long trips in the car (or on trains and planes!). This is a game that’s fun for kids of all ages, and adults usually have a great time with it too! I know that I do, but I’m a pretty poor example of an “adult”.

Memory Game
Simple and easy are two words we all want to associate road trip games with, and the Memory Game is exactly that. Everybody loves a good matching game (find me someone who doesn’t), and it’s great for kids’ cognitive development to boot!

Bingo
B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O, and Bingo was his name-o! If the only reason you bring this game on a road trip is because you want to inspire the singing of this song, I approve. I also wish life was a musical, hence the joy I feel when people break out into song!
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