Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Canadian Theatres

I often end up complaining about the low number of theatres in my city along with the lack of quality films playing in them. I have seen 6 very good theatres (in terms of location and accessibility) shut down in the last decade. Even though Calgary has had three gigantic multiplexes opened in that time period, thereby ensuring more cinema screens, I feel the city could do with more theatres. I decided to do a quick look across this country to see if my complaints were justified in terms of quantity and quality.

Note: I am not counting the number of screens as there are some multiplexes with more than 10 screens. I am more interested in the number of the physical theatres themselves.


1) Calgary – The city has just over a million people (1042892) with 12 theatres. There are 7 multiplexes, 3 art house theatres which show quality films regularly (and form the core of CIFF) and 2 cheap theatres which show older Hollywood films.

So dividing the population by # of theatres, the number comes out to 86907, or one cinema for 86907 people.

2) Toronto -- The greater Toronto area has about 5.5 million people. So it accordingly has 54 cinemas. In a way, the population is 5 times that of Calgary so they have 5 times more theatres in the greater Toronto area.

Ratio: 101851 or one cinema for 101851 people.

3) Vancouver -- Greater Vancouver area has between 2-3 million people. It has 28 theatres. Using an estimate of 2.6 million:

Ratio: 92857

4) Saskatoon -- around 225,000 people. 5 cinemas.

Ratio: 45000

5) Edmonton -- Million. 10 cinemas.

Ratio: 100000

6) Winnipeg -- 625,000 people. 10 cinemas (including a standalone IMAX). Not counting an art house space which is used to screen Winnipeg Cinematheque films as that is not a dedicated venue.

Ratio: 62500

7) Ottawa -- 1.1 million people have 9 cinemas.

Ratio: 122,222

8) Montreal -- 3.6 million in greater Montreal area. 36 cinemas

Ratio: 100,000

9) Halifax -- 360,000 people with 4 cinemas.

Note: In Halifax there are only 2 multiplexes but they have 17 & 8 screens respectively.

Ratio: 90,000

10) Yellowknife -- around 16,000 people. 1 cinema hall, with 3 screens

Ratio: 16000

Unfortunately, it turns out my complaints about the few number of cinemas in Calgary can't put up a fight in terms of population numbers. If we take a ratio of cinemas per person across this country, then Calgary's ratio is not bad. Winnipeg is a true surprize in that has almost as many theatres as Calgary but with 400,000 less people than Calgary. That is quite amazing.

A flaw in this count is that I didn’t take into account the distance of the theatres across each city. That would indicate the cities where cinemas are more accessible to a majority of the population. A project for later on, I suppose.


There is where my complaints are rightly justified. A quick look showed that the multiplexes in almost all the cities are playing the exact same Hollywood films with no variety whatsoever. My belief that Toronto and Vancouver would show better films was incorrect as well. It is true that the Cinematheques in both cities and the VanCity theatre in Vancouver ensures there are some world class films that play there regularly but the multiplexes in these cities are bogged down by the same run of the mill stuff. And I believe only 3 cinemas in this country are showing the almost 4 hour long film Che, with 2 showing it in Montreal and one in Toronto. And currently that is the only film I want to see :)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Vintage European Football in 16 flavours

The Champions league is back and there are some mouth-watering ties to look forward to it. Interestingly 6 match-ups stack up evenly given the opponents domestic league standings.

1) Arsenal vs Roma

Arsenal currently lie in 5th place in the EPL 17 points off the top. While Roma lie in 6th place in Serie A 16 points off the top. Both teams possess enough talent on their lineups but unfortunately both have been off key in their respective domestic league season. Roma had an awful start to the domestic season when they found themselves lingering near the relegation zone. The Roman club have recovered since then but still can be found putting in below par performances.

2) Inter Milan vs Manchester United

Inter are 9 points clear at the top of Serie A while Man Utd are 7 points clear at the top of the English league. Essentially both teams have the fate of their respective domestic titles in their hands. For Inter the European trophy represents that elusive holy grail as they seek to improve on the two titles they have won, with the last one coming back in 1965, and continue to live in the shadows of their rivals AC Milan who currently have 7 European titles. The tie promises to garner enough attention because of the Jose vs Fergie mind games but it also brings together the meeting of football’s highest paid player (Zlatan) vs the current world player of the year.

3) Chelsea vs Juventus

Chelsea are 3rd in the EPL 10 points off the top while Juventus trail Inter by 9 points and lie in second place. Both have produced some average performances throughout the season but Chelsea are now under a new manager and might be on their way up. Juventus got some good news recently with the return of Trezeguet after his long injury lay off and do still have Del Pierro who certainly turned it on against Madrid in the group stages.

4) Real Madrid vs Liverpool

Both Madrid and Liverpool lie in second place in their respective leagues 7 points off the top. But Madrid are on the way up and have won 9 straight liga games and gained 5 points against Barcelona in the last two weekends. Liverpool on the other hand have dropped key points in the league since January with 4 draws and have given up their lead.

5) Lyon vs Barcelona

Lyon have been the top team in France for almost an eternity now but this season they briefly slowed down a bit to let other teams believe they had a chance before pulling ahead with a 6 point lead. Barcelona were on an amazing run with 10 straight liga wins until their 2-2 draw with Betis 10 days ago. This weekend’s shock home derby loss to Espanyol certainly has shown Barca to be human. It will be interesting to see if Barca can put the loss behind and regroup.

6) Sporting vs Bayern

Both teams are 4 points off the top in their domestic league with Sporting in 3rd place in Portugal while Bayern are in 4th spot in Germany.

7) Atletico vs Porto

Despite having some very talented players on their squad Atletico Madrid’s domestic season has been a huge let down as they trail Barcelona by 24 points after 24 games. While Porto are where they normally find themselves in the Portuguese league, at the top.

8) Villarreal vs Panathinaikos

Even though Villarreal have been another let down in Spain they still manage to produce some decent results. Robert Pires has shown that he still has some flair left. Panathinaikos trail rivals Olympiakos by 9 points in the Greek league so they will be looking forward to their European tie. The tie also brings together some former Gunners in Cygan, Pires and Gilberto.

Even though all match-ups look promising, they also might end up producing some cautious results because each team has a unique reason to win the Champions league. Still hoping for some great games.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A global mess requires an international film..

One would think that the arrival of film where the villain is a bank would make for great timing. Surely the film would benefit from the public’s resentment? Right? Apparently not. The International made about $10 million in the opening weekend despite opening in more than 2,000 screens. On the other hand, the 100th edition of Jason’s slasher adventures (dice, cut, scream, blood) made 4 times as much (yes it did open in 1000 more screens). The metacritic rating for The International is only 52/100, so clearly the critics were not impressed. So their bad reviews must surely have made a difference as it turns out that on the particular time I chose to see the film I was the only person inside a giant multiplex theater. Imagine that, a giant screen, stadium seating and I was the only person there. Surely that indicated that the film was awful, right? NO.

Tom Tykwer’s The International is an entertaining film that has a gripping action sequence (the bullet ridden shoot-out) and moves at a nice pace ensuring that the audience gets a good look at each locale (no fast cuts or frantic camera moments). Plus it has a very believable story regarding the evils of a big bank. Sure there are some flaws but the same problems plague most Hollywood films. Interestingly, most critics ignored such flaws when it game to The Dark Knight. Anyway, here are some interesting points the film brings up:

Cut out the middle man

When governments engage in stirring a revolution in another country they need massive funding for weapons and training. In democratic countries this means getting funding approved via some cryptic hidden causes because the general public can’t know that their tax money is being used to kill innocent citizens in another country. And when the funding is approved, the banks get to work moving the money around. All this process does take some time. So what if the banks decided to ignore the governments and start moving their own funds to stir up civil violence in nations? And when the civil war is over and the bank’s chosen government comes into power, guess which bank they will turn to get mega loans for rebuilding their nation?

There is a great line in the film which indicates that the goal of banks is to control the debt. So if a bank can know where to cause a war and where to stop one, then it would control that nation's debt. Hmmm...

Follow the weapons..

While following the money is important, in this day and age it is also important to follow the flow of weapons. There are only a handful of nations that manufacture weapons yet their weapons are freely available in most African and Asian nations. How? Why? If ones understands who moves the weapons and how then one understands the true villains of a conflict. But why is there no attention placed on the weapon flow? Because that would implicate the good nations who don’t want to get their hands dirty.

Don’t trust the man with the clean suit

Clive Owen’s Louis Salinger character constantly wears crushed suits. That is because he has no time to get his suit cleaned up as he is constantly in pursuit of his enemies. Most of the time he is unshaven and wears his anger on his face. On the other hand, the bankers and lawyers he meets are perfectly dressed -- clean shaven and wearing perfectly cut suits. These bankers and their lawyers do have a lot of money, blood money as it turns out, to ensure their looks and respectable appearance helps them trap more clients. There is an Italian politician in the film who is honest yet well dressed so obviously he can’t last long because the film ensures that the only well dressed men are the evil ones.

Look, look a bit longer and now action..

The film travels through multiple cities such as Berlin, Lyon, Milan, New York and Istanbul. And in each city the film ensures we get a good nice look at each specific location. There is a moment when the camera descends from the sky to give us a perfect view of Istanbul’s beauty. But unlike most movies the camera does not quickly cut away and it hovers a few extra seconds to ensure we can make out the people walking on the bridge and the cars driving about. A simple point but this aspect allows us to soak up the atmosphere and know the surroundings where the next moments of action will take place.

Note: The opening sky shot of Istanbul reminded me of Heaven and that is not surprizing as both both Tykwer and DOP Frank Griebe worked on that film as well.

Point A to B, Action, Point C to Point D, Action...

As soon as the film’s angry hero Salinger arrives at a location, the action takes place. On one hand it appears that each location is existing in a state of suspended animation and only when Salinger arrives do things move along. But there is a reason for this. There is a strict deadline that the bank works on in trying to eliminate all the people who can implicate them. At the film’s start when a innocent person is on the trail towards the bank’s evils, he is eliminated. The bank then eliminates the other person who could expose them within 9 hours. When Salinger goes on the move, he hits the road on the trail of an assassin. Since the assassin travels multiple cities via commercial flights (no private jets as the bank is probably cutting back) there are only a few fixed time slots on which he would appear in a city. So all Salinger has to do is follow him and as a result, he tags along all the film’s action sequences. Is that script cheating? I have seen this complaint in a few reviews so clearly people who don’t like the film use this. But no such excuse was used for The Dark Knight when the film moved from one action sequence to another.


Overall, I enjoyed The International. But I might be just one of the few who not only bothered to see the film but actually relished spending time in an empty multiplex for this.

Rating: a subjective 9/10

Monday, February 16, 2009

Eduardo is back and the crowd goes wild......

pic: Getty Images,

What happens when one year of soccer related misery vanishes in a instant?

Joy..Immense Joy..Absolute, maddening joy

Despite being injured for almost a year, how did Eduardo manage to score two goals in his return game?

A) He is just that good. Pure Class.
B) He got lucky.
C) The opponents were not that good.
D) It is Written.


On Feb 23, 2008 Arsenal's Eduardo was hacked down by Birmingham City's Martin Taylor. Taylor broke Eduardo's leg and even smirked after the incident. The British Media rushed to Taylor's defense turning the villain into a victim saying such tackles are part of the game and that Taylor was "a nice guy." Uh-huh. I am willing to bet that if the tackle was made by a non-Englishman on an English player the media would not have been so understanding and would have asked for blood. But since Eduardo was a Croatian and Arsenal were not Manchester United, things were left as is. Arsenal never recovered from that incident and threw away the title that was theirs, allowing the average Man Utd and Chelsea teams to overtake them. To make matters worse lucky Liverpool edged past Arsenal in the Champions League. Arsenal lost key players in the summer of 2008 and have been awful for most of the 2008/09 season so far.

Present Day: Feb 16, 2009

Almost a year later, Eduardo makes his first team return for Arsenal, scoring two goals in a 4-0 win over Cardiff City in the F.A Cup. Will this game undo events and uplift Arsenal? Who Knows but for now all that matters is Eduardo is back!!!!

The Answer

The logical answer is A) but my heart says it is....



Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Beautiful game....

Cinema Verite, football style! And...errr..not coming to a cinema hall near you..

Underground football played on a Ship. A feature film version would surely feature Mickey Rourke, Jean Claude Van Damme, Stallone and Eric Cantona can play the same role as in the commerical, a la KingPin but only thinner.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bollywood Hype x 3

Billu Barber (2009, Priyadarshan)

So much for the controversy regarding the title. Even though the title has the word "barber" in it, the film actually utilizes barely ten minutes of the character’s profession. Sure there are scenes in a barber shop but it could easily have been set in a chai stall or a corner store. There is a warm hearted story hidden in this film but like most bollywood films the final product is ruined because of needless songs and producer intervention. In this case since the producer is Shah Rukh Khan, the film ends up being an ode to a best of SRK’s filmi moments. In Billu Barber SRK plays Sahir Khan, a mega Bollywood star. Even though SRK takes on a different first name, he still manages to insert clips and posters from most of his films in Billu Barber and uses his “King Khan”. When he is not busy promoting himself, SRK also uses the film to clarify his positions regarding the rivalries with Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar. It is hard to know if a different director would have had the strength to prevent SRK from hijacking the film and making it into a self-promotion tool. The only recent exception seems to be Shimit Amin whose Chak De India managed to prevent SRK from hogging the camera and gave the young actresses a chance to shine but there are plenty of other directors in Bollywood like Farah Khan, Aditya Chopra or Karan Johar who pander to SRK’s every need. It is unfortunate to see Priyadarshan’s name added to that list now.

Another disappointing aspect of the film is that Priyadarshan took the easy way out and borrowed elements from his Malamal Weekly film, another comedy set in a village and tried to implement a similar style of comedy with identical themed jokes. The only saving grace of the film is Irrfan Khan and a charming Lara Dutta. Even though all the songs are quite bad, Deepika Padukone looks stunning in the opening video. Ok, stunning does not do justice. She sizzles...while the rest of the film is stuck in averageness.

Rating: 5.5/10

Luck, by Chance (2009, Zoya Akhtar)

Over the last decade or so there have been quite a few films made about the cut throat and ruthless nature of the Bollywood film industry such as Rangeela, Main Bhi Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Houn, Om Shanti Om, Khoya Khoya Chand, Superstar, Bollywood Calling and King of Bollywood. These films were either in the form of a parody or even tried to show the serious side of things. Plus there were also two very good documentaries such as Bollywood Bound and Sunset Bollywood. Was there place for one more film to be added to this list? Zoya Akhtar thought so and decided to try her luck by setting her debut film about Bollywood’s film studio system. Unfortunately, her film has nothing new to add to the existing view of tinseltown. In fact, her film verifies all the cliches and images people have about Bollywood. There are some moments of genuine delight in the film but in the end Zoya takes the easy way out and reduces her film to a tabloid gossip tale of stardom and affairs. Sure there are some inside jokes and some real life Bollywood actors play a parody of themselves such as Sanjay Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia. But overall, the film is a run of the mill effort and not something one would expect from someone whose family has been involved with some memorable efforts in Indian cinema.

Rating: 7/10
Chandini Chowk to China (2009, Nikhil Advani)

Akshay Kumar’s Singh is Kinng was one of the most hyped Bollywood films of 2008 and it also turned out to be one of the worst films of 2008. And Akshay Kumar’s Chandini Chowk.. kicked off Bollywood’s 2009 calendar year with as much hype but thankfully the film is not as inept as Singh is Kinng was. Even though Chandini Chowk.. is B-grade film that brings back memories of the worst of Bollywood from the 1970’s and 80’s, the film does contain a few hilarious scenes where Akshay Kumar is able to show why he is the current comedic master in Bollywood.

Rating: 4/10

Monday, February 09, 2009

barber: must censor awful word...

I was looking forward to the Irrfan Khan starrer Billu Barber out this Friday. But it seems that the word "barber" won't be present in the title as producer Shah Rukh Khan was forced to yank the word out because of protests. This is what Uday Takke, president of a Maharashtran hair association, had to say: "We want Billu Barber to be called Billu Hairdresser as barber is a derogatory and insulting term. We choose hairdressing as a profession because it is an art. Also there are many women hairstylists if Billu Barber becomes a hit, women hairdressers will be called barbers too!"

Huh? Who cares about Mr.Uday Takke's profession? I don't. I am happy that Mr. Takke chose to be a hairdresser. But this movie is not about him nor is it about his friends or employees. It is about a character called Billu. And it is up to the writer, director and producers what they think the title of their film should be.

Although I think there is more to this story. As part of the film's promotions, posters were sent to about 500 barber shops. So this is just a stunt for some people to flex their muscles. Moreover, in India the term barber is not used anyway as it is in North America.

For the record, this is the definition of "barber"

a person whose occupation it is to cut and dress the hair of customers, esp. men, and to shave or trim the beard.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Aye...hip hopper...

I couldn't recall the first hearing but I did remember the beat.
On a second hearing, I was interested.
By the time I heard it a third time, I was hooked.