Got back on the red eye yesterday morning after having the usual blast in Vegas. Unfortunately, no crazy stories involving 3 dwarves, 2 hookers, chocolate syrup, and a giraffe. Seriously, no crazy stories about that at all. Only the completely sane ones.
Stayed at TI, which turned out to be a solid choice. We got in around 1am, so they had no more non-smoking rooms with 2 queen beds. Instead, we got moved up to the penthouse floor! This worried me -- I figured we'd topped out at this point, and it was all downhill from there. I was wrong.
I guess I should talk up TI a bit. It's gradually moving away from "Arrr!! Look kiddies! Thar be pirates!" to "Hey! Check out the sexy pirate chicks we have... oh, you have kids?" Beds are plenty comfortable, the buffet is perfectly fine (it's not gourmet, it's buffet), the deli is solid, the games are reasonable... and the new poker room is perfect for me. The TI Poker room holds daily tournaments - at 4am, 11am, and 7pm - $60 buy-in gets you $2000 in chips, blinds starting at 25-50 and lasting 20min. At the first break, a $5 add-on gets you another $1000 chips (with blinds at 200-400 at that point). Compared to everywhere else we looked, this is the best buy-in:chips:blind structure I saw. The players are a mix, but pretty much all fall into the pretty good online player range. They also offer 1-3 NLHE, 2-4 Limit, and other levels on request.
Day 1, I played in the 11am, go crippled by the biggest LAG I've ever seen when my flopped set of Jacks ran into 4 clubs on the board, I folded to his big river bet when my full boat didn't come. However, I tightened up, stuck around, chipped up, and eventually knocked his ass out when he called my all-in (we were tied in chips at that point) with J7o against my rockets. I finished in 8th out of 80... when top 6 paid.
Day 2, no crippling moves, but no cards either. However, it got me to 11th of 67... I was incredibly short stacked and went all-in on the last hand before the 2nd break... and my ATo (SB) ran into AQs (BB), and I went out. I debated on the move, but figured with the chips I had, there was no point in waiting 10 min to last 5 more.
Day 3, I got cards... I didn't get boards. Out before the 2nd break when two decent hands (AQo calling a short-stacked all-in, and my AKs all-in when I was short) didn't get what I needed.
Hey, I had fun... and it cost me $195.
Craps - up on my first game, and down on all the others... with a walk away from my last when I dropped to what I started with. All-in-all - down about $450 on the dice. I know it's all stats and odds... but it always amazes me how a table can get soooo cold so fast, and when it gets hot, it smokes.
This leaves... slots. They were pretty cold to me at first. I was down around $120... then... a $110 win... a $130 win... a $480 win... and finally, not one, but TWO, count 'em TWO $1000+ jackpot hits ($1,116 and $1,062) on high-payout $1 progressives. There was much rejoicing. There was also much me paying for the rest of the cabs, and covering a fantastic dinner at Sensi in the Bellagio. Also, much me spending more on slots :). When all was said and done, the trip cost me about $170 CDN, including airfare, hotel, show tickets, drinks, food, gambling and other costs. I can't complain.
Enough with the gambling - I also saw Cirque Du Soleil's Love - aka The Beatles show. It was amazing. I need to see it about two more times to catch what I missed the first time through. Some solid and surprising choices in the music... and I was more surprised by what wasn't in it. As usual with Cirque, amazing acrobatics, flying trapezes, visuals like there's no tomorrow... it was awesome.
Also did the Star Trek Experience. I'd been there a few years ago, when it was just the Klingon Encounter. They've added the Borg. For any Trekker/ie - it's a must. It's cheesy, geeky fun. Heck, even the walk to the "expeirences" is fun, with the History of the Future Museum -- Trek props, costumes, and a comprehensive timeline.
Food - mostly nothing special - breakfast at the hotel restaurant, brunch buffet on Sunday, deli, snacks on the go... somehow always full. Then Sensi on Monday night, which involved American Kobe Beef, shrimp, tuna three-way, calamari, and some of the tastiest molten chocolate cake ever.
Nightlife - umm.. hrmm. Well, cheap drinks on Fremont street, cheap drinks on the strip, less cheap drinks at The Beach, drunk people stumbling all around... and no stories to tell.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Posted by Astin at 8:38 PM
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Wax On... Wax Off
Patience grasshopper donkey. Mookie last night. Went out in concert with Kat... me in 34th, her in 33rd (or maybe off by one there). I re-raised Kat's raise and Joanne's call all-in (M=8ish I think), when I found AKs in front of me. Kat called, Joanne called. Flop came down and Kat ended up all-in with Joanne still around. Well, well... Kat with ATc, Joanne with AQo... Gotta say I was a bit surprised by these hands, seemed quite out of character for both of them to call with 'em. Anyway, I believe the flop had both a T and a Q, and a spade... but alas, nothing more came to save me (be it J, running spades, or a K), and I was out. Obviously, I can't complain about my choice.
(Un)Fortunately, I was out before the 2nd chance started, so I bought into that... and went out in 11th I think. Wasn't really into it, so I don't even remember my final hand... but I think it involved a flush draw.
My problem, as is usual in these blogger things of late, was lack of patience and backbone. I'd get bored and limp or call with hands of mediocre worth, I'd pay to see one more card for my inside straight draw with face high. I'd fold to re-raises regularly, and crumple when the flop didn't hit me... instead of showing strength. Here's hoping I solidify again before I'm sitting at a real table this weekend. Otherwise, I'll be relying on the craps table and slots... not that I won't be anyway :).
That said, since my FT account had dropped to about $15 after those two, I decided to play some $0.10/$0.25 NLHE... and made a whopping $7 in not so long a time, I don't mind a 70% return.
Posted by Astin at 10:32 AM
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Multitasking and poker... one day I'll learn that this is like oil and the undead skull of a cursed monkey -- try as you might, they don't combine well. Also, you end up with a slippery mess that screams at you in latin all night.
WWdN last night. A buddy of mine with whom I play in home games was playing again. I brought him in a couple weeks ago, and he had fun, so now it's his Tuesday distraction as long as I'm playing... and he needs some distraction these days. The problem is, I end up on the phone with him the whole time, and watching his table. Why? Well, because although he plays fine with our friends, his style wouldn't work in the blogger tourneys. He's too loose, and while his aggressiveness would likely win him some hands, eventually it would catch up to him in a big way. So I'm constantly coaching him. However, I quickly become a crutch, and questions like "I have big slick, what should I do?" get asked (obviously, if we were at the same table, there'd be no talk re: hands). This obviously distracts from my game... that and the 3 tables I'm watching other people at... and the TV on in the background, and my cat, Spike, crying for attention, and my pasta that I threw together as the game started... and ... and... and..
So it showed that I wasn't giving my game my full attention. I was limping with questionable hands in an aggressive table. I was calling big post-flop raises with inside straight draws and middle pairs. When I actually tried to read cards, I was generally right... and even then I made one or two stupid calls because I didn't trust myself. Went out 44th, buddy didn't fare much better. Even my last hand I played wrong.
Had QJh in MP with an M around 5.. no action before me. For some reason I raised 3x the BB instead of going all-in. Two to my left puts me all-in and I think... he says "you're committed" and I say "yah." and call. AKo is shown and I'm pretty sure I'm toast. KxT on the flop, Q on the turn... and nothing on the river. Now, I know going all-in wouldn't have achieved anything different against AK... and I know I'd be completely crippled and have zero fold equity with a fold after the re-raise... but nothing about how I played that hand was me.
With the exception of a few hands, I felt like a complete noob with my play last night. So, I kindly informed my friend that in the future... no talking on the phone during play. He's on his own.
After I had disconnected my telecommunications device, I sat down to play again. Didn't have the time to commit, so it was another 18 player $6+0.50 Turbo SnG on Stars. Came in 4th, for a whopping $10.80 prize. Yup, I'm da man.
Two more sleeps 'til Vegas... then no more sleeps for 84 hours. I'm really curious about what all that neon looks like when you're hallucinating.
Posted by Astin at 9:55 AM
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Avast! All ye land lubbers best take notice. Today be Talk Like A Pirate Day! Those of ye who do refuse to partake in the most special of days shall be keeeeeelhauled, or perhaps forced to walk the plank! Either way, Davy Jones shall be awaitin' ye at his locker.
Posted by Astin at 10:39 AM
Monday, September 18, 2006
Like Falling of a Bike
Back to some poker on the weekend. Played me some cash games on Stars and FCP, the 20k on FT, and finished off with a $6+.50 Turbo SnG on Stars. All-in-all, I did alright.
I'm loving the cash games these days, playing the low-limits (either 0.25/0.50 or 1/2 NLHE) introduces all kinds of fun. My favourite moment was playing in a game on Stars while waiting for some laundry to be done. Played for 20 min, made about $80 in 1/2... looked back at the history and it was essentially my name in green over and over again, with the odd non-me breaking it up. I think I won something like 15 hands over that time, only 2 of them went to showdown. Amazing how the live mentality and online ones are different. In the live 1/2 cash I play in, a pre-flop initial raise to $10 isn't uncommon, and it'll get called... online, a raise to $6 scares off everyone. I did, however, donk off around $100 in a game late Friday night (ie.- early Saturday morning)... won most of it back by Sunday night though.
20k - first time I've played it. I bought in, figuring the $26 was worth a few hours. Wow, I can see why it's popular... donkeriffic. 994 entrants... my best place was 12th/596 or thereabouts. Playing just old-fashioned solid poker worked well, keeping me up in chips, with a deep M. I made one bad call later on... when I missed a 4-card straight draw on the board and realized he had the 8 he needed just as I hit the "call" button, beating my 2 pair. Oh for an extra .5 seconds to pull back the mouse. Anyway, recovered from that, and then lost a few big hands that I was ahead in, only to be outdrawn. Finished 112th, top 90 paid... not bad, and I regret almost nothing.
Then the final SnG. Been awhile since I've played in one, but needed to kill 50 minutes. 18 player, $6+0.50 Turbo. I decided that instead of going with the "play only premium hands at the beginning" mentality that seems to be popular among turbos (due to the luck factor involved) that I'd instead play it like a cash game. So I widened my range, called small raises with questionable hands, etc.. Didn't work so well at first, as I lost about 600 in chips before I won anything... but then I came back from dead last to finishing 3rd. Once the blinds got up and people's stacks got a lot more shallow in comparison, it was easy to take blinds, slow-play, and stay alive. The hand I went out I don't regret. 3-handed on the button with a rapidly dwindling M with A7o in front of me. I raised, SB folded, BB (chip leader) thought and said "hmmm..." I knew he had an A or a high pair... but I was committed. He re-raised and I called.. he fliped over AQs, Qx7 on the flop, and that was it for me. But, it killed exactly the amount of time I needed, and I walked away with a decent return on $6.
I think I'll likely miss the Hoy tonight though, which is a shame... but I'll endeavour to hit the WWdN tomorrow. Need to keep fresh fo' Vegas. Maybe I should re-install Hoyle's Casino and play a few other games while I'm at it.
Posted by Astin at 12:05 PM
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Saw my last movie last night - Princess. A touching tale about a priest who takes his 5 year-old neice under his wing after her porn star mother dies. Becoming enraged by the abuse of the child, and the world her mother lived in, he decides to take down the production company that is responsible for the films... violently. Oh... and it's animated.
A film with sex, porn, abuse, violent killings, explosions, swearing, and a morality play... needless to say it's had some controversy. To be honest though, it wasn't as twisted as I had hoped. There were definitely scenes that made the audience gasp/cringe, and I can see where the controversy is from... there are some very interesting takes on things. Overall, a decent film. Not great... but worth my time.
So... how do I rank the fest against previous years? Not bad. Not nearly as good as last year for me, where I saw films like Dear Wendy, Jesus is Magic, Banlieu 13, Souvenir of Canada, Bam Bam and Celeste, SPL, We Feed The World and even some great short films. That said, this year had its winners - Pan's Labyrinth, The Bothersome Man, Shortbus, and Renaissance stand out. For Your Consideration, Fido and Princess came close to that top tier. Red Road and Bugmaster had promise, but need some editing... and The Last Winter being the worst of the bunch is actually a pretty good thing considering some of the stinkers that are apparently out there. Seeing as I didn't get 4 of my first choice films, I'd say I made out pretty well.
We now return you to our regularly schedule poker blatherings.
Posted by Astin at 1:45 PM
Friday, September 15, 2006
Saw Red Road last night at the fest. Part one of a concept trilogy out of the UK. Filmed in Scotland, with mostly Scottish actors. The concept is this: 3 directors were given the same cast of characters, played by the same actors. They had to come up with films that used and connected all these characters. This was Andrea Arnold's debut feature and its North American premiere.
Her story is about a lonely CCTV operator in Glasgow (there are apparently something like 14 million CCTV cameras in Great Britain, watching the citizens in public places... and the places you can see from public places.) One day she sees a man she obviously recognizes and it shocks her. She tracks him down and things happen.
This film won the Jury Prize in Cannes this year... I'm not sure why. The film was fine. The only problem I had with it was that it was a bit drawn out and slow. I understand that this was in an effort to create tension, and draw the viewer into the backstory, but I think it could have done with a few small cuts. Other than that, there was nothing wrong with the film. I just didn't find it that jarring or revolutionary. The first 4/5ths of the film has you scratching your head, wondering "What is she doing??" and it creates some scenes of excellent tension. This feeling of bewilderment grows as the plot moves along, but the tension quickly decreases. When the destination is finally reached... it's met with an "ahhhh... now I get it." This, however, just seemed to lack the wallop I was expecting. Maybe I'm desensitized, or maybe some of the other films I've seen so far raised the bar. The denouement, however, was a nice wrap for the film, if perhaps somewhat trite. This could be a result of the restrictions of the trilogy concept though.
As an aside... the film had English subtitles. I'd like to point out that the film was IN ENGLISH. The fear of nobody being able to understand Scottish accents amazes me sometimes. Especially since the ones in the film weren't uber-thick. I found the subtitles (almost closed captions really... describing sounds as well) distracting as I kept reading them instead of listening to the dialogue (comes from seeing 3 foreign language films so far this past week). On top of that, they weren't accurate! Phrases, idioms, and word were often left out of sentences. Sometimes they were substititued. It didn't destroy the script, but it was annoying that they couldn't translate English into English. And it's not like they did it for the sake of non-Scottish people who wouldn't get the slang... they replaced a character saying "Cheers" with "Ta" in the subtitles for instance.
Anyway, enough with the subtitle rant. Good film... but Jury Prize worthy? Well, I'm not on the jury, so I guess I can't say.
Posted by Astin at 10:03 AM
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Okay, so got it all booked last night. My buddy and I are heading down to Vegas for some tomfoolery and shenanigans next weekend. I guess all the other bloggers out there will be at The Bash.
What a pain. I suggested Vegas a month ago, but buddy had plans to go to the UK instead with someone, I was invited along. Then those plans fell through last week when the someone couldn't go anymore. Back to Vegas! Contact a couple other friends, who debate a while. One decides no, the other stays firmly on the fence for legitimate reasons. Problem is, the more you wait when you're going to Vegas in two weeks, the more expensive it gets.
Plan A was to stay at the Palms... it sold out. Then the hunt for an alternative kicked in. I decided on The Mirage... it was still affordable at the time. But the fence-sitter delayed us... and by the time it was decided he could book his own flight if he decided, The Mirage was priced out of budget. Now came the mad scramble... Choices that could be afforded at the time were The Wynn, MGM Grand, Luxor, and Treasure Island. The Wynn was cheap for about 30 minutes, and then jumped in price by the time I'd figured it out. In the end, Treasure Island won, due to it's proximity to The Mirage, Wynn, etc... and my love of pirates :).
Total cost per person (2 of us at the moment) for airfare and hotel? about $810 Canadian. Not too shabby for non-stop flights, and staying on the strip over a weekend, and putting it all together 1.5 weeks before departure. Still leaves plenty of room in the budget for gambling/eating/drinking/cab/show money. Wish me luck!
Now I get to put together a trip to Banff for 6+ people for December. I should just be a travel agent.
Posted by Astin at 10:57 AM
Every year I see at least 10 films at the Toronto International Film Festival. And every year, I get worn out near the end. Yah, I know... "oooo.. it's sooooo hard sitting in a dark theatre watching movies for a week!" I also tip my hat to anyone who does 25-50 movies during that span... I'd go nuts. Trust me... trying to work films into a daily schedule every day takes some effort. A 7pm start time means a swing by McDonald's on my way to the film... hardly a nutrional bounty. A 9:30pm start time means I'm not home until midnight, with work the next day. Weekends are usually a day full of films, with me getting out of one just to wander over to the next theatre and get in line for the next. It's all somewhat mitigated by me doing this solo... so I can show up with 20-30 min left before showtime and still get a seat, as opposed to the hour before I'd have to show up if I was with someone else.
Last night was a perfect example... I've been scrambling trying to book this Vegas trip next week. The seat sale's last day was yesterday, and I had no idea what would happen to prices today (as it turns out, they stayed the same for a couple more days). Toss in hotels filling up and prices rising rapidly, and I wanted to get this done before I left for my 9:30 movie. Complications were run into, and long story short - I left my place at 9:18... giving me 12 minutes to get to the theatre. I ran some of the way, powerwalked some more, and then ran the last bit.. to get to my seat with 3 min to spare... wiped out from rushing.
So, panting and sweating, I got to watch Bugmaster. A Japanese production about a man who wanders turn-of-the-20th-century Japan curing people of "Bugs." Bugs being the essence of life found in all things living and dead. They cause ailments such as deafness, blindness, or worse. They tend to become solid when they settle somewhere, and are generally harmless when in "ghost" form.
The movie is long and drawn out with awkward jumps in telling backstory. There are also too many acts trying to be told. Now, this was the very first audience screening of this film, months before its official release date, so one can hope that some serious editing will be done. The core is there, with a likeable, sympathetic cast of characters, and some intertwining of stories that works to a degree. The idea of the Bugs actually works better than it sounds on paper.
Ultimately though, I feel the film is about balance. Balance in nature, balance in people, balance in life. Its also about seeking out what is important to you and then moving on from there. An example of this balance is seen in the first Bugs encountered -- the Wn and the Ah. The Wn consume sound, and when their forest becomes silent, they move to a village seeking more sound. Here they cause deafness in one ear as they nest there, devouring the sounds. The Ah are the counterpart of the Wn... releasing sounds, causing people to go mad as they implant themselves as horns that create an endless cacophony. These horns eventually become new Wn.
There's also subtle nods to environmentalism here as well, such as a comment about how many of the Bugs aren't heard of anymore, and new species are unreported. Seeing as Bugs are in essence, the lifestram of nature, this could be seen as the result of the encroachment of man. However, this isn't heavy-handed.
Oddly enough, watching this reminded me of The Last Winter, but with a more subtle tone to the messages, a more interesting story, and better execution.
As I stated, it's need of some serious editing... but it wasn't an unenjoyable experience.
Posted by Astin at 9:57 AM
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Shades of Grey
Saw Renaissance last night. Wow. Set in a futuristic Paris, this film is being compared to Blade Runner in terms of ideas. I suppose the dark, stylistic elements are similar... and the plot takes place in the future, with a hard-nosed cop looking for something... and it's film noir. Personally though, I don't think it's a great comparison.
The main selling point of this film is by far the visual style. Black-and-white rotoscoped animation over live actors. It took 7 years to make. The style was inspired by the Sin City graphic novels (when they started this film, the Sin City movie wasn't even on anybody's radar), along with early film cinematography. It looks great. The one time there's any colour, it's striking... and the rest of the film amazes you with how much texture and dimension can be found in literal black and white (with no shades of grey).
As for the plot and such? It's serviceable. The plot is a standard investigation, with red herrings and incomplete clues. The twists towards the end aren't Earth-shattering, but provide some interesting moments regardless. The fact that we don't know exactly what's at stake until there's around 20 min left is probably necessary.
It was made in France by a French director and crew... but the voices were all done in English originally (and French dubbed over for its French distribution)... so the dialogue isn't awkward or stilited... and much is said without a lot of words. The acting is solid, with Daniel Craig, Ian Holm, and others providing voices, but not the bodies.
In short, it was great to watch, and has a perfectly adequate story to go along with it. It was a bit slow at times, but overall I intend to add it to my DVD collection whenever it actually comes out.
Posted by Astin at 11:45 AM
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Amazing how a simple punctuation mark can change the meaning of two words. Anyway... I'm trying to throw together a last minute Vegas trip (doing next Friday->Monday). Obviously things just get more expensive the longer I take. Unfortunately, I can't kick my friends any harder than I have. So it might just be me and one buddy... I'm not worried, less people to keep track of that way.
Here's my quandry. Where to stay? I was aiming for The Palms, but they went from available to not over the weekend. That leaves me looking at the other options. I want to stay near the strip, since I figure most of my time will be spent there... so I have no desire to cab back and forth from downtown... plus, other than the Nugget, how're the downtown hotels anyway? Also, I'd like to keep it around or under $300 (Canadian) per person for the hotel for 3 nights. So that eliminates the Belaggio, Caesar's, etc.. It keeps the Mirage, Rio, MGM, Aladdin and others still in reach though.
I know the Aladdin is undergoing renovations to Planet Hollywood... what about the Mirage? Rio? Luxor?? What's decent for a young (25-35) demographic?
And of course, the big question - best places to play poker? I can pick up a game of craps anywhere... but where are the best places for a game of cheap hold'em?
Not that I'm really expecting any responses... I'll probably just railbird the WWdN tonight and ask there.
Posted by Astin at 3:22 PM
Monday, September 11, 2006
5 Quick Shots
Saw 4 movies this weekend at The Fest. All of them good. And 1 tonight.
The Bothersome Man
Andreas is dropped off at a service station in the middle of nowhere. From here he is driven to a city, and given an apartment and a job. He has no idea what's going on, but he dutifully goes into work, where he has a seemingly great boss, goes to a bar, and goes home. Everyone is friendly, he makes friends at work, moves in with an interior designer, has sex, etc, etc.. All of it is flat. There's no passion, nothing tastes like it should (a man in men's room stall rants on about how hot chocolate has no taste anymore), there are no children, no animals, and you can't even commit suicide to escape it.
The movie is about Andreas' search to feel... anything. It's a brilliant commentary on modern life and society. It's not fast-moving, and there's minimal emotion throughout, yet it resonates with its audience in a way few films do. The cinematography is stunning, and the subtle aural cues throughout add the dimension the rest of the film purposefully lacks. All this said, it's not a heavy film, there are many comedic scenes, and one scene of very dark humour that had the audience both cringing and laughing simultaneously.
Guillermo Del Toro's take on the time after the Spanish Civil War. Franco is in power, and his Captains are routing out the remaining guerrillas in the forests. We meet 12 year-old Ofelia and her mother Carmen on their way to join Carmen's new husband (and father of her unborn baby) - Captain Vidal. Vidal is stationed at an old mill, between a small village and rebel forces. Behind the mill lies an ancient stone labyrinth, which Ofelia finds her way to the centre of. Here, she find's a towering, ancient faun, who tells her she is the lost princess of the Underground Realm, but to prove herself, she must perform 3 tasks...
The film seamlessly moves between the fantastic (faun, fairies, and monsters) and the real (family, soldiers, and war), as Ofelia tries to balance the two. The creatures are visually stunning and original, and the characters are strong and rich. Captain Vidal is hard and merciless, yet his reasons for being so are made clear. Ofelia is smart and fearless; Carmen has obviously done what she feels is best for her family; Mercedes (Vidal's servant) is one of the strongest female characters you'll see, and received cheers and applause, during the film, for her later scenes. Overall, a beautiful fairy tale that speaks of various horrors and the way we deal with them.
The film, and Del Toro, received a long standing ovation and shouts of "Bravo!" at the Elgin Theater as the credits rolled. They were deserved.
For Your Consideration
Fans of Christopher Guest have been awaiting this film since A Might Wind. Leaving behind his trademark "mockumentary" style, Guest has once again assembled his favourite actors for a comedy that takes aim at a group that takes themselves a bit too seriously - this time it's the cast of a small film that gets hit by Oscar buzz. This is the 4th film that's been co-"written" (one can be assured that the majority of the dialogue and scenes are the result of improv) by Guest and Eugene Levy, and as usual, it delivers in spades.
Two fading stars are in a small, personal film named "Home For Purim". Marilyn Hack (Catherine O'Hara) hasn't had a major role in over twenty years, and Victor Allen Miller (Harry Shearer) has been in the business for40 years... but is best known as a weiner in a popular series of commercials for kosher hot dogs. An online movie critic suggests that Marilyn might be up for Oscar consideration based on the scene he watched when he snuck on set. This spec of buzz quickly grows and encompasses the cast, the producers, and the launches the film from small little nothing to media sensation. Guest skewers the hype machine of Hollywood in this one. From the clueless PR director and near-brainless Producer (a once again fantastically ridiculous Jennifer Coolidge) to the brilliantly-played Entertainment Tonight-esque hosts (Fred Willard and Jane Lynch), we see how much can be made of nothing.
The cast is great as always, and the small cameos throughout are amusing. That said, this isn't the strongest outing from this team. The film was by no means bad... but it failed to live up to the expectations I had for it. It was uneven, and seemed to run out of ideas after a strong first 2/3 of the film, rushing through the final act and epilogue. I'd put it below A Mighty Wind and Best in Show in the Guest library. It is definitely worth seeing, is full of laughs, and actually seems to have a message about the vapidness of hype in Hollywood... and those that get left in its wake.
Before all the noise about Death of a President started last week, THIS was the biggest controversy of the fest. John Cameron Mitchell's exploration into relationships, honesty, and sex has caused its own stir. To put it mildly... this film won't be at your local megaplex, and some people may want it relegated to the porn houses.
Let's get this out of the way first - there is a lot of sex in the film. It is hardcore, and it is authentic. The cast is actually having sex... full-on, hardcore sex. Turns out, it's not all that titillating. The sex, while central, isn't the point of the film. It simply serves as a means to revalations and epiphanies. It's used for different purposes by different people... but it's all portrayed as liberating, and ultimately, healing.
On top of that, the visuals are often stunning, especially the method used to move around New York. The finale is rousing, and the whole film makes you want to do exactly what John Cameron Mitchell wanted - start a band, make art, or do SOMETHING great. A great film that everyone involved should be proud of.
The Last Winter
Saw this tonight. It was my last choice as an alternate, almost entirely because it stars Ron Perlman. It came in at about expectations. There's a good movie in there... unfortunately, its climax and denouement is severely lacking. There's some interesting camera work, and some odd directorial choices. Ron Perlman plays the best Ron Perlman he can... and the acting is generally fine. The tension is built well, and the false shocks are also good. However the real shocks are lacking... oh, did I mention this was an ecological horror film?
It part The Thing, part The Abyss, and I guess part On Deadly Ground, only substitue Steven Segal and Martial Arts with a pissed off Inuit Nature Spirit... or something. It wasn't horrible... but it wasn't great. I hope it finds an audience.
Tomorrow is Renaissance, a film I'm really looking forward to. I expect great things.
Oh, and because I can't seem to keep these completely poker-free... I was out first in the Hoy tonight when my pocket Jacks ran into a blind-protectors pocket 6s.. which became quads.
Posted by Astin at 9:51 AM
Friday, September 08, 2006
That rarest of birds... the non-poker post. Expect more of them over filmfest week. Ok, one quick gambling-related mention first.... no.. two. First - in early stage planning for a Vegas trip at the end of the month (ie.- in two weeks). Gotta see if people are going to wuss out over the cost. Could be the first of possibly 3 trips there over the next 4 or 5 months. Or there could be none. Second - I called up a friend of mine to see if he wanted to get together and do something tonight. I figured getting away from the poker temptation would be good... his first suggestion? "Well, we could play poker at my place." Ha!
Ok, non-poker now... fo' reels (HA! PUNNY! I KILL ME!). The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) kicked off last night. This is often considered the #2 film fest in the world behind Cannes (although it looks like Venice is closing the gap... stupid Golden Lion). I've gone to it for the last few years. This isn't hard since all the theatres are within walking distance of me. This year I've got my usual 10 passes, and will be seeing these films (look up descriptions yourself at the official website):
The Bothersome Man
For Your Consideration (Gala)
The Last Winter
Most of these are World or North American premieres, which is just kinda cool. I'm not a celebrity hound... I think the last autograph I got was 15 years ago from Michael Burgess (Canadian tenor/musical actor)... but I still think it's cool to see the cast of a movie you love up on stage, answering questions from the audience, and generally trying to look comfortable :).
Anyway, last night I saw Fido. It's the touching story of a boy and his pet zombie. Note, not a zombie pet (a la Pet Cemetary), but a pet zombie. It stars Carrie-Anne Moss, Billy Connolly, Henry Czerny, Tim Blake Nelson, Dylan Baker, and introduce K'Sun Ray as Timmy.
Basic premise - 1950's-era perfect town, "radioactive space particles" have reanimated the dead, causing the Zombie War. Giant company ZombCon invents a collar that surpresses the urge for human flesh, making the zombies productive members of society - holding menial jobs, and being owned as servants by humans. Oh.. it's a comedy btw. So what happens when one zombie collar gets temporarily broken? Why, hilarity, and zombification, ensues.
It was an amusing film. Definitely had it's share of laugh-out-loud moments, and had a great look to it. It could have done with a bit of editing to tighten it up though. The cast and crew were there of course. Billy Connolly had the audience laughing with his answers to audience questions about being a zombie, and apologizing for his pants (what his wife would call "situational awareness"). The kids were adorable. It's a recommeded rental, especially if you liked Shaun of the Dead (although that was a bit better).
I walked out into a sea of humanity... seems Borat was premiering after the show I just walked out of. Red carpet, all them crazy interviewers (I could have pegged George Stroumboulopoulos with a penny if I so chose), and limos out front. Michael Moore was the first one to walk the carpet (why? I dunno... it's not his movie, guess just being a celeb going to see a film is enough.) I commenced my walk home, only to blocked by volunteers as maybe someone else associated with the movie was going to go in the back door.... they didn't. I was allowed to proceed on my merry way. I felt bad for the people in the rush line... it was stupidly long, and I doubt anybody in it was going to get in.
I purposely chose not to see it, since it'll be out in theatres soon enough. However, I wish I could have been there. Why? Well, Borat come down the red carpet on a peasant-drawn wagon, and midway through the screening, the projector broke. Luckily, Michael Moore was there to save the day. Being a former projectionist, he tried to fix it... to no avail. So as others tried to solve the problem, him, Larry Charles, and Sacha Baron Cohen (in character as Borat) held an impromptu Q&A on stage for the audience. I'm sure you can Google the news stories on it. In the end, the show didn't go on, and was rescheduled for midnight tonight at the Elgin.
No films tonight, but 4 this weekend, and 5 more next week.
Posted by Astin at 12:48 PM
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Walk This Way
"This Way" being away from the table.
Played in the Tanner Evers charity tourney last night. 66 players, over $1,300 raised. Way to go everyone! I finished in 43rd, but 'twas all for a good cause... and hey, now I can say I was knocked out of a tournament by Andy Bloch :). Ok, so it was RoccoBoxer who actually did the knocking out... but Andy had me beat too. I could check, but I believe I went all-in short-stacked with A9d, and didn't improve... I blame the fact Rocco had pocket 9s (Andy had pocket 8s... poor me).
Played in a cash game on Full Tilt beforehand, trying to keep my balance up. Lost my initial $20, then won it back... and finally walked away after the tourney had been going for a while, since playing a cash game and a tournament at the same time makes the brain work too hard.
Afterwards, back to the cash game. $20 lasted me a while... and I was actually up a bit after a couple big wins. Brain says, "hey, not bad... time for sleep." Then the phone rings, and I'm talking for an hour while I've still got the game going in the background. Eventually donked it all away, and then, instead of shutting down and going to sleep... I donated another $20 to the cause... and lost that in about and hour or so. At least I'm getting the FT points to clear my bonus quickly :).
Man, I have to learn to control the devil. He performs many nefarious deeds - keeping me in cash games longer than is healthy, making me lie back down and close my eyes instead of getting ready for work, having me play just "a few more minutes" of whatever video game I've got going instead of leaving for an appointment, etc, etc.. Maybe I should cover him with a jar and not poke any air holes in it.
On the plus side, my poker play should be severely curtailed over the next 1.5 weeks. Toronto International Film Festival is on, and I've got my 10 shows to go see... which will eat up a good portion of my evenings. Really looking forward to seeing For Your Consideration at its gala showing this Sunday.
Posted by Astin at 9:58 AM
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Yah.. no finish to that title. Played in the WWdN: Astin Invitational tonight. 52 entrants. One of them was a buddy of mine I bought in. Here's hoping I haven't started him on a road to destitution and gambling addicition. I finished 15th, which ain't too shabby. The old ugly beast of fear struck again towards the end. I raised a few hands short-stacked that I normally don't have a problem raising... and then got re-raised and ran away. Granted, the A9h was a good lay down into the Rockets... but after that, I got scared. Luckily, it didn't last long as I called an all-in with Jacks and ran into Kings. Yah, a dumbass move on my part, but I had an M of oh... I dunno... about 1.2.
I did like the hand that doubled me up earlier on though, when I had Bullets (for the 3rd time I think), and min-re-reaised MiamiDon's raise, inducing his all-in bet and my call. His Queens didn't hold up. A trap is always nice when it works.
So, out $22 between the two buy-ins (buddy finished in the high 20's... also not bad for a first time out and zero online poker experience). My Stars roll is sinking again (down about %49 from when I started keeping track from the reset). However, my overall roll is staying okay methinks. I went onto FCP to play a ring game there (0.25/0.50 NLHE), since I've got some bonus money to clear... left that game up around $101... so a + of $79 on the night. So a win for the night over all. I'd like to think my cash game is improving, but I could just be getting reeeeeeally lucky. So I'll ride this puppy as long as I can :).
Posted by Astin at 11:54 PM
2+2=3rd Ace on the River
Played in the Hoy/MATH/whatever-you-want-to-call-it last night. Went out 6th of 13... which actually isn't too bad considering the field these things attract and the level of play when the numbers are small. I think I played pretty well. Pretty standard beat for me, where I made the right read, and then got nailed by the river. K9o on the button, NewinNov (rapidly becoming my poker nemesis) in the SB. No action before me pre-flop, so I raise 3x the BB. NewinNov calls. Flop comes all clubs (I'm red), with a 9 and an A high. New checks... I think and do the same. Turn comes Kh, and I'm pretty sure I've got it. New asks "slowplaying?" I don't answer. He bets around 2/3 of the pot, I think, and I raise all-in. He calls as I type "nope" in the box. He flips over A6o for the pair of Aces vs my two pair. Sure enough, A comes on the river and out I am. To make matters worse? He bubbled! He takes all my chips and doesn't get any money for it... for shame. That said, he did seem to feel kinda bad for knocking me out that way.
Anyway, WWdN: Astin Invitational tonight. Guess I've got to show up for a tournament named after me. Let's see if I can improve on my 2nd place finish from last week.
Posted by Astin at 9:41 AM