5 Lessons I Learned On An Alaskan Cruise

Despite recent stories of cruise ships turning into poop-encrusted floating nightmares, I hopped on one without a second thought. On the downside this isn’t a Caribbean adventure luxuriating in the sun surrounded by shirtless men and baking my uncooked-Pilsbury-dough body a perfect golden-brown. This boat is Alaska-bound. An Alaskan cruise is the modern-day equivalent of putting the elderly on an ice floe, so on the upside there’s unlimited food and shuffleboard.

There are things they don’t tell you going into a cruise, so here is a list of unbelievably first-world problems masquerading as observational humour:

  1. Second dinners aren’t just for hobbits
    As a human food-vacuum I’m no stranger to eating incomprehensibly disgusting quantities of food, but a cruise ship turns everyone into a glutton. This means collectively inhaling the annual food consumption of a small island nation on a daily basis. Something about unlimited food everywhere you turn transforms totally normal people into, well, me. In fact, I’m writing this between a cotton candy machine and a guy eating four hotdogs. It’s impossible not to sample everything including going to both the formal dinner and buffet back-to-back. The shame. But it’s not pure gluttony because…

  2. You become incredibly value-conscious
    I am determined to eke every bit of value out of this ticket as humanly possible. Cruise tickets aren’t cheap and when they include all your food you really want to get the most for your dollar. Then there are the things that aren’t included like drinks. I got the $7 a day unlimited soda pass because I drink enough aspartame to be one of those outliers that can actually get cancer from diet Coke, but a little part of me is acutely aware that I need to drink at least 4 sodas a day to make this worth it.

  3. If you can dream it, there’s a charge for it
    Part of a cruise’s appeal is in having someone cater to your every whim. This ship has everything you could want including someone gladly charging you every step of the way. Until you actually arrive on the boat you don’t realize how cleverly they’ve attached a cost to each activity, extra service, and item which can be—as pointed out by a friend of mine—easily charged to your SeaPass/Room Key/Lifeblood.

  4. Oh god, the stairs
    It’s one thing to live in a floating, 15-storey hotel. It’s another to realize the elevators are so painfully slow that you take the stairs each and every time, and you will rue the day you leave something in your room only to be 10 levels and the length of the deck away. On the plus side, underneath your newly fattened outer layer, your ass will be more toned than ever.

  5. The gym is a death trap
    If you do decide to work out and try minimizing the damage of eating everything, you’ll find working out on a moving ship is absolutely nothing like on solid ground. As waves rock the boat gently back and forth, every movement is a test to see if your stabilizer muscles are strong enough to keep that dumbbell from smashing into the face. 

There is absolutely nothing to complain about on a cruise that wouldn’t make someone roll their eyes at your exasperating privilege, but the ship is like an entirely different reality. Reading over this I think I’ve developed an obsession with food bordering on some kind of eating disorder, but you’ll have to excuse me, I need to see about my second lunch.

The To Do List Does The 90’s Right [Review]

It’s finally happened. Fellow kids of the 90’s, for years we’ve watched movies pay tribute to 80’s nostalgia, but it looks like we’ve hit the point where enough time has passed that pop culture can mine our fond memories of growing up into kitschy, remember-how-that-was-a-thing? moments. Goodbye Carrie Diaries, hello Girl Meets World. Prepare to feel old.

The To Do List (2013, dir. Maggie Carey) is pure, unadulterated 90’s joy. Aubrey Plaza and her famously deadpan face star as Brandi Klark, the awkwardly robotic ‘93 valedictorian virgin. After a fateful encounter with man-candy Rusty Waters (Scott Porter)—whose name is either that of a porn star or horrific sex act from Urban Dictionary—Brandi decides to run the full sexual gauntlet before heading off to college.

Brandi’s summer of sexual misadventure is supported by a pretty generic list of coming-of-age sexual comedy tropes: her best friends, the sweet guy she doesn’t see really likes her, her sexually adventurous older sister, the awkward parents (an over-sharing mother and repressed father), and the burn out boss. With the exception of a few twists, The To Do List isn’t exactly breaking the comedy mold, but is a far cry from boring. A steady pace and some true gems kept us laughing the whole way through—especially so for the confused-sounding, spectacularly drunk girl across the aisle.

But in two things the movie really does it right: raunch and the 90’s. The To Do List is raunch comedy in every sense of the term. It holds nothing back in using explicit sexual punchlines and visual gags, and there’s something innately hilarious watching the stone-faced Plaza give a movie theatre handjob or clinically examine semen between her fingers. If there’s anything that’s ground-breaking, it’s how thoroughly the movie dives into its subject matter, which is actually really in line with the whole 90’s raunch comedy genre—think American Pie or There’s Something About Mary.

And if there’s something about The To Do List, it’s that it pays homage to the 90’s in every way. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but like comedies playing to 80’s nostalgia, there’s something that resonates best with those who grew up in that time. It’s not just a laundry list of fashion and cultural icons that makes a movie capture the essence of a decade, even when poking fun, and this movie just gets it.

Will it be so endearing after an onslaught of 90’s nostalgia? Probably not, but The To Do List is one of the first of likely many so we might as well enjoy reliving our youth before it becomes as arduous as living through it was.

World War Z - I Wish I Died At The Beginning [Review]

The only thing World War Z (2013, dir. Marc Forster) successfully captures from the zombie genre is its cold, dead shuffle—which has nothing to do with its zombies.

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Loosely based—emphasis on loosely—on Max Brooks’s novel of the same name, World War Z follows UN investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) as he travels the world on a one-man mission to discover the origin of the zombie apocalypse he narrowly escapes in New York. Pitt’s character is the archetypical action hero reluctantly drawn back into the dangerous life he left for his family. Even with his background, gumption, and a forced obsession with protecting his family that would make Harrison Ford throw up, Pitt’s character manages to be as interesting and believable as a cardboard silhouette labelled “hero”.

Even with weak characters and rigid acting, the film’s most egregious failure is in its story. Filled with confusing plot holes as ridiculous as its zombies, the story never really comes together and remains a disjointed series of scenes designed solely to show off CG zombie hordes and surprisingly uninspiring destruction. And those zombies? They’re awful.

World War Z's zombies are a highlight of the film's many failures. Instantly transformed à la 28 Days Later, these rage monsters no longer even resemble people and are flowing rivers of limbs and confusion. They pile together to form ladders and rush through streets like an amorphous blob. The overall effect, although visually interesting, in no way brings zombies to mind and really detracts from the scenes.

Although it’s been a long time since I’ve read it, World War Z's original premise of an oral history of the zombie apocalypse is not fulfilled even in the slightest. I'm not usually a stickler for book to film adaptations being exact in details, but the only thing this film shares with the book is in name. The brilliance of Brooks's World War Z and its predecessor The Zombie Survival Guide is realism. In the first book, Brooks brings a wholly fantastical concept into reality with a practical guide to surviving the apocalypse. And this film’s source material is a collection of different voices and perspectives that captures its human element. World War Z, however, does neither.

One in a long line of movies and books capitalizing on the zombie explosion of the last couple years, World War Z brings nothing new or interesting to the table. At best derivative, and at worst a slap in the face of a popular genre, this is not a film particularly worth seeing. Just maybe it’s the final nail in the coffin while we put away the zombie trend until some new and innovative direction raises it from the dead once more. But, for now, just let it die already.