Wading With Blake Lively in “The Shallows”

Film, Rave!

First things first – Blake Lively is gorgeous. The camera loves every unconventional angle of her face. Her long, fairy-tale blonde hair flaps as though in sync with wind patterns. She really is Barbie Goes Surfing. But, that is as shallow as “The Shallows” gets. It’s a clever way for the director to subvert the viewers’ expectations that the film they are about to see is a story of a pretty girl in distress. Once all pretences have been plucked away, “The Shallows” becomes a bona fide thriller.

The plot of “The Shallows” isn’t all that original or unique. In this genre of filmmaking, originality isn’t necessarily as pivotal to a film’s success as the actor’s willingness to survive throughout the following 90 minutes or so. Blake Lively plays Nancy Adams, a recent medical school dropout due to the emotional duress of her mother’s death. She decides to visit the same beach her mother visited years ago around the time she found out she was pregnant with Nancy. Therefore, the visit to this beach is setting up the film to be an exercise in healing and closure. The imagery here becomes integral to the plot’s development. The clear, blue waters represent the confrontation of one’s past, and the beaches’ absence of people can only set up our protagonist on a journey to confront her emotions and feelings without any distractions.

When Nancy leaves her cell phone in her backpack on the beach before embarking on what is to be a very terrible surfing adventure, she’s saying goodbye to the life she lived and immerses herself into a baptism of sorts. A symbolic rebirth, if you will. I don’t know if this is what the director envisioned, but as someone who has seen many, many films, I feel like this subtext is too coincidental to let slide by.


Aside from meeting two local surfers, Nancy is solo on this journey. After speaking with her father and sister (represented by some smart visual methods by the director) on the cell phone she leaves back on the beach, she gets in the water. After taking in some waves, she sees an enormous whale carcass floating in the water. Clearly noticing it’s a sign of danger, she decides to take the next rolling waves back to the beach. This is where the action starts.

A big, menacing shark decides to bump Nancy’s surfboard and take a big chunk out of her leg. Running on adrenaline, she takes refuge on a nearby reef, where she devises a makeshift tourniquet for her profusely bleeding wound. Spending the night in intense pain, she has a glimmer of hope the next morning where she sees a local man on the beach. Trying to signal him to get help, she only succeeds in having him get in the water (after stealing her cell phone) and getting eaten by the shark. This shark is ruthless…and hungry. And clearly only frequents this particular beach.


There’s more waiting for help, and there’s plenty more blood. Instead of becoming the stereotype victim in thrillers, Nancy is resourceful and resilient. She seems to understand that there might be a way to safety, and with the comic device of an injured seagull by her side, she tries to outsmart the shark and get to a nearby buoy which has flare guns.

What follows is a little bit of cat and mouse between Nancy and Shark. They’re both great swimmers, and begin to mirror one another in terms of motion and behaviours. The film is relatively short and clocks in under 90 minutes, thus the tension is not drawn out. This short running time also prevents the viewer from screaming out “Bad Idea!” or tsk-tsking aplenty at the screen.

In films such as “The Shallows” where a lone popular star is in peril for two hours, (see Gravity or Cast Away), the story is often just a way to showcase a certain actor’s acting abilities. There’s no really getting way from bad acting in a film where there is only one actor on-screen (minus a CGI shark, of course). Blake Lively certainly does not disappoint in this respect. She commands the screen, her likeability radiating in every scene. I don’t quite get why there’s so much ambivalence regarding Lively’s screen presence. It’s actually sort of hypocritical in that when Lively is being criticized for her acting, critics usually comment on her beauty. The two can be mutually exclusive but not in Hollywood, apparently. It’s like some big revelation that a pretty actor can act.

Pleasantly surprised by “The Shallows,” I recommend it to those who like fun, and thrilling, summer blockbusters. It won’t change your life, but it will certainly entertain you for a good 86 minutes.



A Conjecture on “The Conjuring 2”

Best of 2016, Film, Rave!

As a film scholar and enthusiast, I am often asked why do I like horror films so much. What is it about the genre where bloodshed, psychological warfare, and disturbing images intrigues me? To this question, I do not have an answer. Like with traditional art and sculpture, describing the feelings that accompany a particular piece is impossible. Same goes with film, in my humble opinion. The film going experience is less about the representation of a series of images used to form a narrative but about the visceral, more emotional responses the audience has to it. It is often these feelings that can make a film extremely successful or a major flop.

Before I begin to wane philosophically on the nature of cinema, I am bringing my focus back onto my most recent cinematic experience with the film The Conjuring 2. A sequel to 2013’s The Conjuring, the aptly titled The Conjuring 2 acts more as a partner piece to its predecessor rather than relying upon the conventions that so often mire sequels today. As opposed to a continuance of a particular story, The Conjuring 2 extends the world of Ed and Lorraine Warren, “Paranormal Investigators”,  into another time and place. This installment finds the two charismatic and spiritually complicated characters in 1977 London, England, where muted greens and plush carpets adorn every depicted scene. It’s all so 70’s. The Warren’s task this time is to assist a family who is experiencing strange, paranormal phenomenon in their City-subsidized house. Reports of levitation, unexplained sounds and the demonic possession of Janet, one of the four Hodgson children being plagued by these nightmarish incidents.

Instead of resorting to a plot play-by-play, I instead want to center more on the tangential elements of the film. The narrative is interesting in many ways. It develops enough back story of the Warren’s to support their intentions throughout the film without becoming iterative of the first film. There are also many unique questions asked throughout the movie, whether intentional or not by the director I do not know. These questions prompt the viewer to take each and every depicted character’s motivations with a literal grain of salt, giving the film an air of  incredulity. This incredulity compliments the skepticism that accompanies the Hodgson’s families attempts with convincing the authorities of their supernatural situation. The dialogue and cinematography, like the apparent ambiguity of the verity of the films’ events, are subtle and provocative, leaving the viewer with the dilemma of whether to believe what they are seeing, or to laugh off the incidents being presented as though it was one big elaborate hoax.


The plagued Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe)

I mention the idea of a hoax because The Conjuring 2 is based on actual events reported by the Hodgson Family in 1977 London. What makes it so unique is that some the events depicted in the film are, in a way, re-enactments of the real life events that were recorded audibly and visually. Known as the Enfield Haunting, I ask you to Wikipedia it to see how the film successfully relayed the real Hodgson’s family experience into film as a piece of art.

I propose that aside from the traditional horror/thriller film tropes at play in The Conjuring 2, there’s also a whole lot of subversion going on. Yes, this film has components often associated with ‘popcorn flicks’ or mindless entertainment, but there’s also various concepts lurking below the surface, below what you as the viewer and the Warren’s as characters, cannot see. It’s a feeling that’s invoked. This feeling lies somewhere between skepticism and sympathy.


Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren

Acted the hell out of, The Conjuring 2 is a solid, welcome addition to the horror genre canon. As Lorraine Warren, Vera Farmiga shines with tenacity and inherent conflict. Her scenes with that terrifying nun are a sight to behold. The younger actors, particularly the revelatory Madison Wolfe who portrays the possessed (?) Janet Hodgson, is stellar. Instead of pulling a Linda Blair-esque performance, her role is subtle and quite sad. But this film is less about the acting and more about the feelings.  Is The Conjuring 2 scary? Yes. Is it a classic horror film? Maybe. Is it an exercise in the power of cinema? Most definitely.



Do you like Pinatas?

Random Musings, Rave!

Reading Other People does.

But you know what’s better than a Pinata? A custom-made one. Made by a woman with impossibly long nails and charisma up the wazoo.

An interview with the woman behind the magic of Your Pinata  is coming exclusively to Reading Other People later this week. But until then, we’ll be posting some of the artist’s works to get you excited. Trust us when we say that whatever you thought you knew about pinatas can be thrown out the window, because this lady is changing the classic Pinata perception, one piece of paper mache at a time.


Just Divine.

A Pinata Party with the Spirited Meaghan Kennedy of Your Pinata

Best of 2016, Random Musings, Rave!

I just love it when someone who is kind, generous, and good finds success in not only what they do, but who they are. Art and life can sometimes be incongruous, but when the fusion of creating something coalesces with true talent, anything can be possible. Just ask the raven-haired beauty with the crazy nails behind Your Pinata, the tremendously unique entity that can make a likeness of anything into a pinata. And I mean anything.

So, without further adue, here is my exclusive interview with Meaghan Kennedy, pinata savant and radiant beauty. And no, she didn’t pay me to say that. It’s just the truth.


Meaghan Kennedy, the Genius Behind All That Pinata-ness.

Reading Other People (ROP): I’ve known you a long time, and I know you’ve always been creative. Why pinatas? Why now?

Meaghan Kennedy (MK): We have known each other for ages! So rad! Pinatas started as a joke. I wanted to enter in a talent show and so I made a pinata of a pink poodle… it became an obsession quickly! So fun to smash all my hard work!

ROP: Your free spirit is something that makes you so memorable. How have you harnessed that openness to your art?

MK: That’s lovely, thank you:)

ROP: You’ve met some pretty famous people and gotten some pretty major exposure to Your Pinata. Who would you just love creating a Pinata for?

MK: The list is huge. So many people are inspiring to me. I made one for Trudeau during his election campaign, and I had always wanted to make one for John Waters and that happened last year.. I would love to make one for Mariah Carey, Britney, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are way rad. Anyone from daytime television. SO many crazy characters to smash (who wouldn’t want to hit Victor Newman?)!


The Artist at Work.

ROP: How would you describe your design aesthetic? Do you do a lot of pre-planning or do you like for the creation phase to be as organic as possible?

MK: I always try to connect with each client and give them a pinata that will really leave an impression. I think the big heads/small bodies are hilarious, they look like the person but not too much that you would get creeped out. I don’t do well with drawing so I tend to reference images and just get creative!

ROP: You’ve modelled, you’ve acted, you’ve DJ’ed..and now with your piñata, you are becoming an artistic tsunami. Do you have a favorite?

MK: Hehe, pinatas for sure! It’s the first time I feel like I am really great at something. Like I am making something special happen.

ROP: How do you decide who you’re going to design a Pinata for?

MK: Almost all my work is commission based, so the client decides what/who I am making. That being said, I make a lot of pinatas on my downtime, and I pick people who inspire me. I had the opportunity to see my idol John Waters last year, so I made him a pinata and showed up with it. He loved it and brought it up on stage with him to thank me. Pinch me!


Cry Baby Pinata from the John Waters Film

ROP: When you finally make that piñata for Britney Spears, can I come with you to Las Vegas to deliver it to her?

MK: YES!!! I still remember the big poster on your bedroom door at your mum’s place:)

ROP: Is there a time of day that you feel the most creative? What inspires you? Music? People? Feelings?

MK: Having worked retail for 15 years I have a big love for pop music and top 40 for when I need to keep energy up. I love me some Supertramp, Neil Young, Charles Bradley, Smashing Pumpkins.. I could listen to Britney/Mariah all day and be a happy girl! Wide range!

ROP: Have you ever declined a piñata order?



MK: Yes. Many times. I am not interested in making people you hate. Go smash a bottle against a wall. I declined several Stephen Harper pinatas, Trump, Rob Ford (I made one and it made me feel horrible looking at his ugly face for 3 days while making him.) I would so much rather make your mum or your boss! Life should be fun! Don’t waste your time on bullshit!

ROP: Amen to that, sister. Amen to that.

Read more about Your Pinata at http://www.yourpinata.com, including instructions on how to get your own custom pinata.

Smash on.


Enchanting “Grey Gardens” in Toronto

Best of 2016, Live Events, Rave!, Toronto Events

I had no idea what to expect when checking out the Acting Up Stage production of the stage musical version of the classic documentary “Grey Gardens”. Was it going to be a farce? Would it be a veritable humorous look at Edith Bouvier Beale, and her daughter, Edie, the two stars of 1976’s “Grey Gardens”? I just didn’t know. I did know there was a Broadway production of this musical retelling starring the incomparable Christine Ebersole, and I happened to catch her performance of the showstopper “The Revolutonary Costume for Today”, but that was the extent of my familiarity with the musical.

The documentary film, on the other hand, is vital part of my film canon of favorites. Revisiting the film every few years brings me a different perspective on the documentation of these two women with big dreams, big souls, and, most sadly of all, empty pockets. I just don’t think the world was ready for them. I think you’ll feel the same way too if you haven’t seen the film already.


Back to last night’s spectacle on modern society and the plight of maniacal hope. The musical was breathtaking and refreshing. It not only didn’t poke fun at the situations that had befallen this mother/daughter duo, but it shed some light on a relationship that was at once both stifling yet interdependent beyond words. The two women were shadows of one another, not whole without the other. Little Edie, played ferociously by the amazing actress Lisa Horner of stage fame and success. It was a tour-de-force performance, and I was clearly not the only audience member riveted by every mannerism, every movement that Horner made on the stage. With eloquent stage production that was subtle but effective, “Grey Gardens” as a musical is a commentary on modern society’s insatiable need to build someone up and watch them fall.

You can read more about the show online at your own leisure because I can’t and don’t want to summarize this beautiful production for you. It’s intimate and claustrophobic, but also emotionally and mentally open. I really, really, really liked it. All my Torontonian readers, please, please go see it. It’s only here for a short time at the Berkeley Street Theatre (https://goo.gl/LkpnAM).


Checking out “Celluloid” By Holly Curtis

Book Reviews, Rave!

We all know a Jimmy Clifford. In “Celluloid” by Holly Curtis, Jimmy Clifford is a film enthusiast with a strong moral compass. When you pair a tale of justice with the medium of movies, you can not help but get a strong story of emotion, investment, and nostalgia.


Holly Curtis handles this tale of one man’s personal mission to save his local indie cinema from a condo takeover with ease and precision. Jimmy Clifford is like an older kid, something most common among the coveted 18-49 demographic. He owns a shop chock full of film memorabilia, and is supported by characters such as his best friend and a drug dealer who specializes in the hot drug du jour.

Jimmy is personally affected by the news of a condo to be built in place of his revered “Crypt” – said movie theatre. He takes it upon himself to stage a cabaret night to raise awareness of the situation, and to raise money to stop the takeover.

What ensues is a hilarious story of pop culture, a certain coming of age, and a quest to find entertainment to make the cabaret a bonafide hit. It’s a rather unique and interesting tale of the little things that can trigger the resolution in a person long thought dormant, and a pleasure to read.


Effortlessly Cool: Profiling Men’s Clothing Shop Surmesur


With The Gentlemen’s Expo fast approaching, the team here at Reading Other People thought it would be fun to highlight some of the local stylish, innovative purveyors of cool. The Quebec-born Surmesur instantly came to mind. After communicating with their social media team in Quebec, an in-store interview with one of the shop’s co-founders was arranged and Reading Other People was granted an in-depth, personalized visit to one of the coolest stores to grace Toronto streets in a very long time.

One of the many uniquely styled blazers available at Surmesur.

One of the many uniquely styled blazers available at Surmesur.

Falling within the Bespoke style of clothes making (the store name gives it away), Surmesur is so much more than a made to order enterprise. It’s a style experience without all of the typical pretense that usually accompanies visits to a tailor. Replacing the fakery of some of Toronto’s other Bespoke tailors, Surmesur’s practice of providing an open, honest, and comfortable shopping experience makes it one of Toronto’s best kept style secrets, but a secret it shall not remain for much longer.

Greeting us with the charm of a gentlemen and the savvy of a business owner, co-founder Francois Thériault took us throughout the store, from the extremely well-organized and minimalist street level to the labyrinthine, staff-only floors. While the availability of options to make that perfect suit or blazer was a tad overwhelming, Thériault and the other Surmesur  staff ensure that a visit to the store is so highly personalized that feeling distressed is quickly replaced with excitement of  customizing a jacket to one’s own style.

“The Toronto shopper is a bit more conservative than we’ve noticed in our other locations,” Thériault says as we sit upon the sofas in the lounge area used for larger wedding parties and corporate events whilst perusing the availability of suit options and fabrics. “Our Quebec City customer will focus on the details of a suit, and our Montreal shoppers are loud in their style choices. But in Toronto, we usually see a tendency to more solid colors.”

Some of the many available fabrics available.

Some of the many available fabrics available.

And this is what makes Surmesur so incessantly cool and refreshing. Whatever the customer likes, the customer can get, without judgement of any kind. While the highly trained and experience staff, replete with on-site tailors for those pesky last-minute hem jobs, will recommend what type of style or color might work best for you, it’s the customer’s final choice to order what they want. And that’s perfectly fine with Surmesur staff.

Francois at work.

Francois at work.

When asked what can best describe the must-haves for the formal wardrobe of an inexperienced or shy shopper, Thériault, without hesitation, mentions “blues and grays are the best choices to make. They’re timeless colours.” Showing us the myriad of blues and grays available, Theirault pointed out the various styles and shades that can be incorporated into any bespoke pieces, brilliantly demonstrating his vast knowledge of not only materials, but of style.

We were amazed at the prices that Surmesur charges for its services. Astonished, really. The wide selection of some 5000 fabrics allow men to personalize their shirt or suit at truly affordable prices. You can get a customized shirt starting at $55, and suit prices start at $375. And, to satisfy the most discerning customers, the folks at SurMesur carry recognized collections such as Dormeuil, Scabal, Holland & Sherry and Vitale Barberis. With a 4-6 week turnaround on ordered pieces, we at Reading Other People don’t know why any Toronto man would go anywhere else to order their next shirt and tie.

“We don’t really publicize the shop all that much,” Theirault continues as he shows us the multitude of orders pending pick up, a veritable rainbow of colors and patterns. “Word-of-mouth is spreading, and we feel that’s the best way to build our customer base. We want to make our shopper feel comfortable in our stores.” It is this penchant for a highly personalized, simple and fun experience that sets the ethos of Surmesur miles away from its closest competitors.

Glimpses into Tie-heaven.

Glimpses into Tie-heaven.

This ease of communication Theirault allowed our interview to be both organic and efficient. When speaking about how Surmesur was born from brothers Vincent and François Thériault from Québec City, the genuineness of the stores values are on clear display. Theriault’s obvious goal is to make the Surmesur shopper know what’s available, and with that knowledge, accessible by the various, highly cataloged booklets sorted by color,  acknowledges that finding that perfect suit can indeed be an arduous task.

“Surmesur can get you that cool suit for the kid going to his prom, and for the Bay Street banker who needs to go to yet another function”, says Thériault. “And we do it an affordable cost. We also take all of your measurements and keep it on record so upon your next visit, we’re not taking our the measuring tape.” Hallelujah for simplicity.

Coming soon is also an online tool for prospective shoppers to visualize how certain colors and patterns would look as a blazer or tie. Giving us a demo, it’s clear this will change the shoppers experience in many ways. Sometimes you just need to see that a paisley pattern won’t look good as a pair of pants, but great as a blazer’s lining. That’s the beauty of Surmesur – it’s got effortless style that incorporates the shopper as a person, with their own ideas and preferences, as opposed to an object who must be sold the most expensive pieces.


Check out Surmesur’s booth @ The Gentlemen’s Expo September 25 to 27th at the Metro Convention Centre in Toronto…and say hi to   Thériault who will be there at some point. We bet you will be able to spot his authenticity from across the venue.

Visit Surmesur online at http://www.surmesur.com