Saturday 31 March 2012


Reviewed By Greg Klymkiw
The Canadian Film Fest 2012 at the Royal Theatre in Toronto is feature-heavy, but luckily, there are a number of shorts that will provide a nice glimpse into what several Canadian filmmakers can achieve with few dollars, tiny running times and scads of talent. Below are reviews of a few short films I had the opportunity to screen prior to the festival. Most of these will be screened in a short film program later today, Saturday, March 31 at 12:00pm. The following reviews are presented in alphabetical order. For tickets and further information visit the Festival website HERE.

Everybody Wing Chun Tonight (2011) dir. Karen Suzuki
Starring: Karen Suzuki, Mike Dufays, Kevin Robinson, Christopher Mott
By Greg Klymkiw
A group of sexist, misogynistic boneheads harass a woman verbally as she walks through the park. Little do they know she possesses the prowess of a highly skilled martial artist. It's one thing to fantasize about what she'd like to do to them, but is her true power in the knowledge that she could decimate them? Slight and didactic martial arts lesson makes its point - perhaps a bit too clearly.

Hangnail (2011) dir. Cavan Campbell
Starring: Tasha Lawrence, Dylan Scott Smith
By Greg Klymkiw
Shot completely in one take, this exquisitely written, acted and directed kitchen sink domestic drama examines a great divide between a couple in their bathroom. He's an immature video-game-and-porn-obsessed mall employee. She's a "dancer" in a "gentleman's club". He's taking a dump. She's taking a shower. Both of them are smoking cigarettes. The sniping is vicious, the pain is palpable. Love, however, finds itself in the strangest of places and in the most unusual circumstances. It's rare to find this level of maturity and dramatic resonance in short films these days when the emphasis in this medium is usually on one-note jokes and empty "calling card" endeavours. Hangnail takes us into the territory of despair among the disenfranchised. Though these characters live on the fringe and are often the types whose existence we'd prefer to repress, this evocative slice of their life is more universal than most will care to admit. Out of anguish can come incredible tenderness and compassion. This is a powerful work. It creates levels of complexity within a simple framework and I have to admit the film has continued to haunt me since first seeing it. I am especially eager to see more films from this clearly gifted filmmaker. He's the real thing.

Long Branch (2011) dir. Dane Clark, Linsey Stewart
Starring: Alex House, Jenny Raven, Al Maini
By Greg Klymkiw
She wants a one-night stand. He's into it - bigtime. Her place is not an option. Luckily, his is. The problem, as it turns out, is that he lives two hours away via public transit. Subway. Bus. Bike. All in the frigid, snowy climes of a Canadian winter. She wants simple, fun, no-strings-attached sex. Two hours, however, leaves many opportunities for conversation. The last thing she wants is to get to know him. He's too nice. Like Willard's journey into the heart of darkness neither is quite sure what will be waiting for them in deepest, darkest suburbia. Hopefully, it won't be Col. Kurtz. Long Branch is a bright, breezy and thoroughly delightful romantic comedy. The dialogue is crisp, gorgeously performed by the two attractive leads, shot with clear, simple and direct compositions to let the magic and movement work within the frame so that every cut counts as a truly resonant dramatic beat. Though the soundtrack is peppered with far too many whiny, upbeat indie-styled songs for this curmudgeon's liking, most normal people - especially those who are not curmudgeons - will love it as much as everything else in the picture that truly deserves - uh, love.

My Loss Your Gain (2011) dir. Elli Raynai
Starring Chris Handfield
By Greg Klymkiw
This Sci-fi-tinged one-hander is replete with cool retro-styled effects and an effectively odd obsessive quality. Take a lone scientist, a fly in a jar and imagination - the results can prove to be quite revelatory.

Onion Skin (2011) dir. Joseph Procopio
Starring: Zachary Peladeau, Vanessa Qualiara
By Greg Klymkiw
Gorgeously photographed, well written tale of a young man who has a major crush on a beautiful young lady who is new to his high school. Instead of utilizing the contemporary communication techniques of text messaging and cel phones, he takes the time to craft a series of hand-written love letters. In our age of technologically convenient approaches to getting a message across, the young lady is initially flummoxed by this "odd" approach. Infused with heartfelt sentiment and romance, Procopio demonstrates a natural gift for creating images that are as beautiful as they are dramatically resonant. There isn't a single performance in the film that rings any less than true. All this said, there is a gorgeously acted and directed scene in the middle of the film that, from a writing standpoint provides a too convenient impetus for the young lady to discover and accept the approach of this wildly romantic suitor. It's a minor quibble, but given how terrific the film is, it's one of those elements that sticks out prominently. In time, however, I have no doubt Procopio will discover any number of narrative shorthands that will allow him to craft many more fine films that avoid the sorts of pitfalls that are ascribed in a knee-jerk fashion to young filmmakers, but are, in fact, quite prominent in any number of mainstream works made by people with far more experience and who should ultimately know better.

The Perfect Vacuum (2011) dir. Alana Cymerman
Starring: Natalie Choquette, Carl Alacchi, Pierre Lenoir, Géraldine Doucet
By Greg Klymkiw
Mona lives for her vacuum cleaner. She's lost her true passion and this normally inanimate object takes on a life of its own. At first she shares her perverse love with neighbours and suitors. However, in order to regain her lost passion, she abandons human contact to keep the dirt-sucking phallic symbol all to herself. Will this achieve the desired result or will tragedy strike? This slender, mildly amusing comedic musical vignette is clearly rooted in operatic and melodramatic tradition. Its visual compositions and art direction are both lovingly rendered with aplomb - resembling a curious amalgam of Frank Tashlin, Douglas Sirk and Arthur Freed. One, however, wishes the approach to the material had been less over-the-top. The material itself is already imbued with a bigger-than-life quality. Straighter playing of it might have brought out its richly and potentially hilarious perversities much more pointedly.

Sonata For Christian (2010) Dir. Stéphane Oystryk
Starring: Benjamin Beauchemain, Onalee Ames, Claire Thomas
By Greg Klymkiw
A young lad in the leafy burbs of Winnipeg has the hots for his piano teacher. His Mom assumes he is lazily wanting to avoid going to his lessons. Nothing could be further from the truth. He fantasizes about a romantic tryst with the sexy neighbourhood keyboard instructor. This manifests itself in obsessive masturbatory shenanigans in his bedroom. If anything, he's terrified of acting on his amorous impulses. And what might be the result if she should respond? In spite of tentative performances and a script that doesn't quite deliver on its potential, there is clearly a strong talent here for visually rendering a narrative.





Friday 30 March 2012

MIRROR, MIRROR - Guest Review by 11-year-old Junior Cub Reporter Julia Klymkiw who takes her Dad's place to review this movie she enjoyed, but he hated.

Mirror Mirror (2012) dir. Tarsem Singh
Starring: Julia Roberts, Lily Collins

By Julia Klymkiw

When I was a little kid, I loved the Walt Disney cartoon Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I watched that movie so many times I can't even remember how many times I saw it. Walt Disney made the best movies and his cartoons were very beautiful. The colours were so nice and the pictures were as good as the paintings I see at the art gallery. Snow White had some funny parts in it, but it was not a comedy. Mirror Mirror is the same story, but it is really funny and I laughed a lot. It is also very exciting.

The story is about a bad Queen who is very greedy and wants everything for herself. Her step-daughter is Snow White and she will be the Queen when the King dies. Even though the bad Queen is very beautiful she is so mean that she is ugly. She is ugly not because of how should looks, but because of how mean she is and all the horrible things she does.

When Snow White's Dad goes away he disappears. The bad Queen tells her servant to take the young girl into the forest and kill her. This is because a handsome Prince from another city comes to visit and likes Snow White more than the Queen. The Queen has done something bad to her husband and wants the Prince to marry her. The servant does not think it is right to kill Snow White so he leaves her in the forest. She is rescued by the dwarfs and they try to help her to fight the bad Queen.

The dwarfs in the cartoon are like the dwarfs in this movie, but they are real. It is cool to see real little people. When I was a lot younger a real dwarf came to my school and he was a really great basketball player and he talked about how people would make fun of him, but he was such a good basketball player and was a better player than many people who are bigger. He told us how other kids and sometimes adults would make fun of him, but because he worked so hard to be such a good player it proved that he was like all of us. The dwarfs in the movie are like this real person too and they are very good rescuers and so nice because they take care of Snow White. She takes care of them too and treats them like they are just like her.

The bad Queen is played by Julia Roberts. I love Julia Roberts. She is very pretty and a really good actress. I have seen her in many movies and it is cool that she is related to my favourite actress Emma Roberts from the movies Wild Child and Nancy Drew.

Mirror Mirror is a good movie. I laughed so hard and I also thought the sets and costumes were so pretty. The special effects were cool too. Dad did not like the movie as much as I did. He says it is not as good as the Walt Disney cartoon, but I told him that they are both good and that even though they have the same story, they are different movies. My Dad is pretty good about showing me movies he likes that I like too, but sometimes we do not agree.

I think other kids like me will enjoy the movie. It might be better to see it with your Mom though because I am sure my Mom will like it too and way better than my Dad did.

Be sure to wait after the movie ends because there is a big scene like a Bollywood musical. Dad told me the movie is from an Indian director and that is why the scene is like all the Bollywood movies he has showed to me. This is pretty cool too. If you have not seen Bollywood movies you should because they are so happy and fun and have great music. Dad shows me lots of movies from other countries and they are very interesting because you get to see other cultures.

"Mirror Mirror" is now playing at the movie theatres. Dad says I need to mention it is from a company called Alliance Films. I saw it with Dad at the AMC and he says AMC is better than the Cineplex movie theatres because they play more Canadian movies. I like AMC because they give free popcorn and drinks when you finish what you already have.

Thursday 29 March 2012

A LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Closing Gala Canadian Film Fest

A Little Bit Zombie (2012) dir. Casey Walker
Starring: Kristopher Turner, Crystal Lowe, Shawn Roberts, Kristen Hager, Emilie Ullerup and Stephen McHattie, George Buza, Robert Maillet


By Greg Klymkiw

Mixing horror with comedy is a noble enough tradition. An American Werewolf in London, Shaun of the Dead and Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn have become modern classics of this winning hybrid, but what makes them great is that the emphasis is always on horror and the comedy elements stem naturally from the drama. Even Sam Raimi's sequel/remake to his decidedly serious The Evil Dead manages to adhere to this with several clever Looney Tunes homages doubling as whacko POVs whilst Bruce Campbell's Ash is increasingly infused with terror and paranoia.

A Little Bit Zombie breaks this rule, but not too successfully. It's first and foremost a comedy, but as such, seems to just miss the boat on the laughs. I think the problem is that for much of the film, director Casey Walker tries too hard to make it funny. A lot of the performances and comic set-pieces are played broadly to the point of annoyance and seem just plain juvenile. That said, I watched it with my 11-year-old daughter and she laughed all the way through it. Best of all, for her, she was never scared and enjoyed all the jokey violence.

She is, however, 11-years-old.

I ultimately think the movie would have genuinely been so much funnier and possibly even deliciously creepy if Walker had pitched things much straighter. There's frankly an overabundance of "Hey Ma, look at me, I'm funny" mugging amongst a few of the actors.

The movie, however, is paced like shit through a goose and the screenplay is full of so many clever ideas that it still manages to be entertaining enough for a die-hard horror and dark comedy fan like myself. I just wish I didn't have to groan all through the picture - lamenting how one great idea after another kept hitting the floor like lead balloons due to the overwrought pitch of the direction.

It's a great story, though.

Two couples drive to a remote cabin in cottage country to plan the upcoming nuptials of Steve (Kristopher Turner) and Tina (Crystal Lowe). Steve's sister Sarah (Kristin Hager) is a smart, unpretentious lassie and detests her soon-to-be-sister-in-law's prissy consumerist girlie-girl nattering and attitudes. Craig (Shawn Roberts) is both Steve's best friend and Sarah's husband. He's an amiable, dimwitted beefcake with a heart of gold.

When Steve is bitten by an especially aggressive mosquito, his body temperature starts to plummet and no matter what he eats, he immediately barfs it up. Once he starts getting an overwhelming craving for brains, we know trouble is just around the corner.

And yes, just around the corner in the same cottage country region, the grizzled, trigger-happy Max (Stephen McHattie) and the young, brilliant, babe-o-licious scientist Penelope (Emile Ullerup) are deep in the woods, tracking down zombies via some mysterious orb that detects the undead. Max just wants to splatter zombie brain with his shotgun. Penelope is searching for a cure to the zombie disease.

We follow the adventures of both parties until the inevitable showdown.

What's especially cool about the script by Trevor Martin and Christopher Bond is the unique take on Steve's turn to zombie-dom. Steve is still Steve. He just wants to eat brains. That's all. Oh, and he has no pulse. Some of the funniest ideas involve the trio of non-zombies trying to find ways of dealing with Steve's affliction. Even potentially funnier is how the prissy Tina is adamant that the wedding will go as planned.

I say "potentially" because everything that should elicit laughs pretty much doesn't. One is constantly amused with all the cleverly funny ideas, but most of the gags miss their mark.

McHattie is suitably over-the-top, overplaying within the context of the character he's rendering. Max is supposed to be bigger-than-life. Many of the other characters shouldn't be. I just wish someone had told this to Crystal Lowe, for example, who amongst the two beleaguered couples is so broad, that her shrill, nasty harping out-harridans even the most vile harridans we've come to know and love in the movies (notably many of the villainous harpies in the Whatever Happened to Baby Jane-styled thrillers of the early-to-mid-60s).

Even the likeable presence of Kristopher Turner as Steve gets sucked into the realm of the overwrought. When he underplays, he's terrific, but when he pushes the envelope, someone needed to keep him reined in. Shawn Roberts's bigger qualities suit his character and he's genuinely funny. Finally, it is up to Kristen Hagerman and Emile Ullerup to maintain the best balance and deliver consistently enjoyable performances by playing the crazy material straight and subsequently eliciting considerable laughs.

While there are numerous exigencies of production that can contribute to elements being less than perfect, there are so many elements that are right with the picture that I made a point of seeing it twice to pinpoint why it is that it falls short.

It has a clever script (that could have easily been interpreted closer in tone to the aforementioned classic horror pictures with comic elements), there are some genuinely on-the-money performances (and even those that fall short are not without some sporadic merit), the production value is genuinely high and we seldom see the seams of the picture's obvious low budget, the effects are skillfully and imaginatively cheesy in all the right ways, the film is well photographed and finally, the superb editing by Michael Mason addresses the elements of both pace and narrative thrust with occasional cuts of considerable aplomb.

At the end of the day, much of the success or lack thereof, finally must be attributed to the direction. Even on a first viewing, one of the things that bothered me was how so many of the dialogue scenes were shot with endless one-ers and most annoyingly the constant reliance on dirty-over shots. I longed for good master shots and solid two-shots.

There's an early scene where the couples are driving at night in their car. Much of the dialogue is between Steve and Tina in the front seat while Craig and Sarah sleep in the back. Given that this is a long dialogue scene, and especially given that much, if not all of it is rendered in the old reliable poor man's process to makes it seem like the car is actually moving, I simply had no idea why much of the conversation was not composed with a nice two shot of the couple so that their dialogue could play out in a series of longer takes and only when necessary would there be a punch-in on a oner, closeup or dirty-over.

Instead, we seemed to be cutting on virtually every line of dialogue and no nice master two-shot carrying the bulk of the scene. On a first viewing, I chose to be charitable and think that maybe the masters existed, but that the performances could not sustain that approach and it was up to the editor to save the scene and performances by using the remaining camera-jockeyed coverage.

But then, there occurred a lengthy dialogue scene on the shore of the lake and the entire conversation seemed comprised of an identical approach when clearly a much more interesting and effective way to shoot it would have been a complete reverse angle to allow for longer takes in two-shot and only occasional dirty overs, but from the front, which still could have include the lake and surrounding wilderness.

To keep the camera always behind the actors might have worked if there had been a simple wide master, followed by a few dirty overs from behind and then gradually working into the reverse angle so we could actually see the actors dead-on and let good chunks of the scene play in much longer takes.

This kind of dull, though vaguely competent TV-like approach to covering the dialogue, coupled with so much of the great script being pitched far too high suggested that direction was indeed the one primary aspect of what kept A Little Bit Zombie from being more than mildly engaging.

All this said, when I do the math on the picture, it still managed to provide enough entertainment value - even for jaded genre geeks.

So, without further delay, let's do the math:

A Zombie mosquito.

First-rate zombie head explosions and general zombie carnage.

Stephen (God) McHattie.

Some farting.

More vomiting and regurgitation than I've ever seen in one movie.

3 Babes (1 ultra babe, 1 mega babe, 1 nasty babe).

1 manly, good-humoured hunk.

1 fey, sensitive lad for those so inclined.

Good natured, though mild homophobic homo humour.

Biting into a bunny rabbit's head.

Bunny rabbit brain eating.

White Trash Butcher who is a brain gourmand (courtesy of George Buza).

"Clinking" squirrel brains together as "bottoms up" toast.

WWF wrestling maestro Robert Maillet.

A slam-bang CAT-FIGHT twixt Ultra Babe and Nasty Babe.

Ultra Babe and Nasty Babe dolling up like hookers to seduce Robert Maillet.

Slurping brains out of someone's head with a straw.

A final 10 minutes that's so good, it makes up for all the movie's flaws.

And yes, allow me to reiterate - babes.

The sum total: If the above appeals to you - GO FOR IT!

You can, ultimately, do a lot worse than a zombie comedy that's not as funny as it really should be.

"A Little Bit Zombie" is the Closing Night Gala of the Canadian Film Fest at the Royal Theatre in Toronto. For more information, visit the Festival website HERE.





Wednesday 28 March 2012

THE UNLEASHED - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Almost Unwatchable Save For Oujia Hijinx

The Unleashed (2011) dir. Manuel H. Da Silva
Starring: Trisha Echeverria, Jessica Salgueiro, Caroline Williams, Malcolm McDowell


By Greg Klymkiw

God knows, and those who know me as intimately as Our Lord, are well aware of the fact that I worship the horror genre with a fervour not unlike that of a fundamentalist Bible Thumper and/or dyed-in-the-wool Satanists. I especially enjoy tales of the paranormal and have been waiting patiently for a good movie that uses a Ouija board as more than a simple prop in a scene or two, but in fact, uses the board front and centre.

The Unleashed partially answered my prayers - the movie has mega-Ouija Board action. Alas, the picture is barely watchable. It's too bad. Buried deep within the endless 108-minute running time is the framework for a decent genre effort within the script itself. Unfortunately, someone needed to take an axe to much of the screenplay before the film was shot and most importantly, a decent script editor, or even someone with something resembling taste, might have been able to excise a lot of the dumb dialogue and the endless yapping that doesn't really serve the plot and feels like filler. Even if the script had been shot as written, a good producer and editor might have been able to rescue this plodding would-be thriller in post-production.

The movie begins in a so-far-so-good manner. With a tone of creepy portent over the opening titles, we hear the familiar voice of Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, O Lucky Man, Time After Time) as he narrates the following:

Along with the modern spiritual movement, there came a widespread interest in communications with the dead. The talking board is yet another tool to inspire hope that a world beyond our own can be reached. The question is this: Are the dead taunting the living or is the living taunting the dead?

Well, Malcolm, I've gotta say (after seeing the whole movie), the REAL question is this: Given that the above is the sum total of your involvement in this picture, were you paid by the hour, the day or the word? There are 52 words. If I had been your agent, I'd have negotiated the rate based on that, but I'm not, so it's a moot point.

In fairness to the producers of the film, McDowell's name does not appear on the film's poster, but much of the hype surrounding the premiere of The Unleashed at the Canadian Film Fest in Toronto was the appearance of everyone's favourite Droog at the red carpet screening.

Given that I personally try to know as little about a movie as possible before I see it, I was super-pumped. All I knew was that I'd be seeing a new low budget Canuck horror feature with a great poster AND the participation of Malcolm McDowell. What kept drifting through my mind as I watched the movie was this? When's Malcolm McDowell showing up? He doesn't. Now you know, so if you see the movie when it opens theatrically, don't bother giving his involvement a moment's thought - just let the picture work its magic.

That said, the movie has virtually no magic - certainly none of the cinematic kind. After Malcolm's narration, we get a decent seance scene set in the late 1800s involving an old crone using a Ouija Board. Decent carnage occurs and we flash forward to the present. We're clumsily introduced to the lead characters - a babe-o-licious woman who's been away from home for eight years and has returned after her Mother dies to deal with the estate, her babe-o-licious best friend from days gone by and a babe-o-licious professor of paranormal studies who is holding a series of lectures at the local secondary school. (Gee, I sure wish I had gone to a secondary school like that!)

So far, so good.

When the returning daughter's friend offers to stay with her in the family house (which, by the way, is haunted), I'm at this point thinking - "Good deal!" I did some quick math: Ouija Boards, carnage, ghosts, haunted house, babes and Sappho-action. Yee-haa! The latter, alas, does not occur (though there is one scene with the two babes in bed, but they're fully clothed and clearly have not been indulging in any forbidden nectar.)

Even worse is the fact that it took the picture 35 or so minutes to give me a tiny shiver of fright. As the film proceeds there were three or four minor jolts, many half-hearted (though nobly-intended) attempts at atmospheric horror, a few decent special effects, unexciting but certainly competent cinematography and a handful of good performances - all of which were elicited by the female actors. (The male actors in the movie are either dull and competent or just plain godawful.)

The movie throws out a couple of plot twists and surprises, but they're the sort that had me thinking early in the movie: "Oh God, I hope they're not going to , , ," And Yup, they do. I saw the ending coming far too early in the proceedings. (Even my 11-year-old daughter, who, by the way, really loved the movie, was bummed out by the ending.) Knowing where a picture will end up doesn't have to ruin it if the ride is worthwhile, but The Unleashed is not The Zipper, but rather, a merry-go-round that keeps stopping and starting.

"The Unleashed" is the Friday night red-carpet gala at this year's Canadian Film Fest running March 28-31 at the Royal Theatre in Toronto. For more information, visit the festival's website HERE.





Tuesday 27 March 2012

SERVITUDE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Vomit, Fart, Homo, White Trash, Nazi & other jokes

Servitude (2012) dir. Warren P. Sonoda
Starring: Joe Dinicol, Dave Foley, Margot Kidder, Jayne Eastwood, Wayne Robson, John Bregar, Rachel Skarsten, Kristin Hager, Linda Kash, Enrico Colantoni, Aaron Ashmore


By Greg Klymkiw

I am the world's biggest apologist for Adam Sandler and Tom Greene. While I won't dare declare that Jack and Jill or Road Trip were even remotely good, I will admit they both made me laugh several times. That said, I will proudly proclaim that You Don't Mess With The Zohan is genuinely terrific and that Freddy Got Fingered is a bonafide, utterly brilliant masterpiece.

Though perhaps questionable to a few pole-up-the-ass types, my taste in such matters is lofty enough that I believe it deserves a pedestal-like status. For example, while there is not a single Harold and Kumar movie I didn't like, I had the necessary acumen to declare The Hangover Part II as one of the most embarrassing, disgraceful, unfunny comedies I've ever seen.

If you go to see Servitude, you will be the judge of my critical reason.

You'll probably also have a good time.

So, let's do the math on Servitude.

Vomit jokes.

Fart jokes.

Homo jokes.

White Trash jokes.

Nazi jokes.

Babes (multiplied by three, though one of them is a mega-babe).

A goodly number of cute and/or hunky (and funny) stud-muffins.

A grotesquely hilarious Margot Kidder with (I hope) mega-Botox makeup.

Kids in the Hall's Dave (Always Funny) Foley.

Jeigh Madjus as the funniest mincingly delicious faggot in Canadian Cinema.

Jayne Eastwood (Canada's Phyllis Diller, but way better looking and funnier).

Wayne Robson (Canada's estimable answer to Wally Cox).

A fetish I've not seen extolled in a comedy of recent vintage - one that makes the attributes of Stifler's Mom in the American Pie franchise utterly old hat.

A variety of amusing non-vomit-fart-homo-WhiteTrash-Nazi-fetish jokes.

Oh, and babes.

Have I mentioned them yet?

The babes?

So, what do these figures all add up to?

Well okay, so we're not talking the most sophisticated comedy of the year, here, but we are talking about a decent low-brow, low-budget Canadian-made knee-slapper involving a rag-tag band of restaurant workers who find out that a Nazi - oops, I mean, German - corporation is taking over their place of employment and will probably fire the lot of them.

In retaliation they spend the rest of the night turning the tables on all their rude, obnoxious customers - the annoying old couple, the family of inbreds, the table of vile preppies - a veritable cornucopia of every jerk that every server has ever wanted to decimate.

Even when revenge does not involve a hobo with a shotgun, it proves to be decidedly sweet.

The leader of this revolt is Josh Stein (Joe Dinicol), a sweet, young lad who has been toiling for three years at The Ranch Steakhouse, part of a chain of family bistros where all the servers are referred to as "Ranchers" and the cowboy-hat-adorned manager Godfrey (Dave Foley) is as genial as he is perpetually harried. Josh has agreed to this life of servitude in deference to his Dad who wants sonny-boy to get some real-world experience before he pulls out the chequebook to put Josh through Law School.

Funny thing is, though - Josh kind of likes his job. His social climbing girlfriend (Kristin Hager), however, can hardly wait until he turns in his order pad to dive into the soul-sucking world of law. God knows, it's humiliating enough to have to explain to her equally success-oriented friends that her boyfriend is a waiter, but the thought that he actually enjoys what he does simply mortifies her.

On this good night, two people enter Josh's life that will change it forever.

The first is the Nazi - oops, I mean, German - auditor from the corporation. During his inspection, Franz (Enrico Colantoni) declares that changes will be in order. Passing around the corporation handbook (emblazoned with a prominent Swastika-like logo), Franz is especially eager to examine the ovens.

The second potential life-changing personage who waltzes into Josh's sphere is a new waitress trainee whom he is asked to coach. Alex (Rachel Skarsten) is a babe. No, let me re-phrase that - she is a MEGA-BABE. She's also funny, friendly, charming, smart and unpretentious - everything his emasculating girlfriend isn't.

Hell is just around the corner from breaking loose.

Servitude is just plain fun. Granted, it occasionally feels like a glorified feature length pilot for a sitcom (albeit a naughty one), but in spite of this, the proceedings are deftly directed by Warren P. Sonoda who wisely understands that the best comedy is played, Howard Hawks-like, in simple two-shots and mediums with a minimum of unnecessary cutting. He also understands when and how to move the camera and when he does, he dazzles us with a few Scorsese-inspired dipsy-doodle steadicam and dolly zingers (courtesy, no doubt, to cinematographer Samy Inayeh).

At times, some of the movie feels a trifle shrill in terms of performance and a handful of scenes tend to drag on a bit long, but for the most part, the picture delivers the goods required of its entertaining lowly station.

Another fun element of the film is its production design. Given that most of the picture is set in the steakhouse, there's always something cool to look at during the film's occasional longueurs. Art Director Diana Abbatangelo delivers a restaurant that looks real and lived-in; from the tacky dining room - blending every western-themed cliche known to the human race - the grotesque kitchen (with its filthy, blackened oven that the Nazi - oops, I mean, German - is obsessed with), the packed-to-the-rafters storage rooms and Godfrey's grungy office - all have the whiff of reality and imaginative touches of humour.

An element in the film that is of supreme importance to the art of cinema is its emphasis upon several actions involving Josh's best buddy, fellow server Tommy (John Bregar). Few low-brow comedies would take the opportunity to examine elements of contemporary anthropological significance as is done here. The filmmakers have truly put themselves on the line to go the extra distance required to not simply deliver laughs, but plunge us, almost Robert Bresson-like into a semi-neo-realist exploration of the human condition.

Tommy is, first of all, a master of the "cuppie" - a unique physical action involving the cupping of one's hand over one's anus, releasing a rank fart and immediately cupping said cupped hand over the nostrils of an unsuspecting recipient of the delectable aroma. Secondly, we are witness (a la Bresson) to Tommy's obsessive fetish involving MILFS with rounded, squeezable bellies that have not been liposuction-ed of all their glorious fat content.

This, of course is where Margot Kidder comes in. Hubba-Hubba!!!

Fetishists take note!!!

Servitude is a fun, good-natured youth comedy. It doesn't quite ascend (or descend, depending upon how you look at these things) to the heights/depths of American gross-out comedies - it's a wee bit too Canadian to go there - but when the completely nutzoid gags come, the movie inspires more than its fair share of belly laughs.

God knows, Margot Kidder's belly inspires some of the film's most aggressive yuk-yuk-grabbers. (Damn, she's a good sport in this one! Hats off to her!) Lois Lane with Botox and a Belly is a sight to behold.

Speaking of sights to behold, Servitude might also be of considerable interest to Canadian filmmakers. The first credit that blasts upon the silver screen when the movie ends is that it was developed with the assistance of the esteemed Telefilm Canada Features Comedy Lab. An official Telefilm Canada release on their website dated 2010/11/03 tub-thumps this program from the esteemed Canadian Film Centre (founded by Norman Jewison) in collaboration with the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal. Projects accepted to the program become eligible for up to $75,000 in development funding through the Canada Feature Film Fund. According to Telefilm's "what's new" bumph:

Successful inaugural year

As a result of last year’s program, Servitude will go into production later this month.

Through last year’s program, the workplace-revenge comedy from Buck Productions and Victory Man Productions (participants in 2009) received assistance by such Hollywood heavyweights as producer Ivan Reitman, director Donald Petrie, screenwriter Etan Cohen and Gloria Fan of Mosaic Media.

It appears that the applications are closed for the program, but keep your eyes and ears peeled. If and when the next application deadline rolls around, anyone who has a feature screenplay with vomit-fart-homo-WhiteTrash-Nazi-fetish jokes and/or non-vomit-fart-homo-WhiteTrash-Nazi-fetish jokes, the Gouvernement du Canada via Telefilm Canada and the Canadian Film Centre are clearly your go-to guys.

Comedian Yakov Smirnoff was often astounded with the freedoms in America with his oft-repeated line, "What a country!" Perhaps the Gouvernement du Canada needs to enlist Smirnoff's services to promote its liberal support of films featuring vomit-fart-homo-WhiteTrash-Nazi-fetish jokes and/or non-vomit-fart-homo-WhiteTrash-Nazi-fetish jokes.

In the meantime, anyone in Canada who enjoys solid laughs should probably hightail it down to their multiplex and see Servitude.

Oh, and full disclosure is necessary: I was kicking around the Canadian Film Centre for 13 years in a number of capacities (as you can plainly read on my biography pasted onto this site), but I had had absolutely nothing to do with the aforementioned Comedy program. Though a blood relative at the Canadian Film Centre had quite a bit to do with the program, he started at that esteemed joint long after I was there and never talked to me about what he was doing behind the scenes.

All we ever really discussed were the best places to get kishka and garlic sausage.

"Servitude" opens March 30 in Toronto and Vancouver via Alliance Films.





Monday 26 March 2012

Z.P.G. - ZERO POPULATION GROWTH - Review By Greg Klymkiw - 70s Dystopian Sci-Fi

Geraldin Chaplin & Oliver Reed will CONCEIVE!!!
Why give birth? Get one of these!
Zero Population Growth
(1971) ***
dir. Michael Campus
Starring: Oliver Reed, Geraldine Chaplin, Diane Cilento, Don Borden

Review By Greg Klymkiw

There is a special brand of bleakness that no decade before or since the 70s managed to bring to the big screen in the genre of dystopian science fiction. Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men (2006) comes close and it’s perhaps the best contemporary example of a film that creates a world so mired in hopelessness that simple acts of humanity, while seeming to be extraordinarily noble, also feel utterly and resolutely futile.

Cuaron’s picture also feels like a perfect companion piece to Michael Campus’s Z.P.G., a forgotten (albeit flawed) minor gem from 1971 that has managed to sneak its way onto the DVD shelves via Legend Films ongoing series of neglected Paramount Pictures releases.

The major difference between the two (aside from obvious production value and budget) is that the central issue of population control in one is by decree whereas in the other, it is due to the forces of nature. In Z.P.G., a world as polluted and ruled by martial law as in Cuaron’s film, people do want to have children, but are outlawed by Big Brother against doing so to keep the ever-increasing world numbers down.

The central characters Russ and Carol McNeil (Oliver Reed and Geraldine Chaplin respectively) are a childless couple working as performers in a live museum installation piece devoted to presenting typical domestic situations from the past. They work opposite another couple, George and Edna Borden (Don Gordon and Diane Cilento). The scenarios these two couples engage in for the edification of museum goers reflect a past that was the swinging late-60s and as such, they present a tale of wife swapping which is meant to be as titillating as it is a morality play.

Both couples are childless, but within the world of Z.P.G., all couples are allowed to “adopt” cyber children. These are not the almost-human Haley Joel Osments of Spielberg’s A.I., but are creepy, mannequin-like dolls. The Bordens are perfectly content with their doll-child, but the McNeils are unable to succumb to the status quo and are not only childless, but sans the aforementioned creepy doll-child. When the McNeils decide to have a real baby in secret, they risk their lives. Eerie scenes of pod-like citizens ratting out families with real babies have a strange power to disturb, but nothing is more disturbing in this movie than when the McNeils inadvertently let the Bordens in on their secret and the childless couple demands private face time with the real child.

Critics who dismiss it on the basis of the picture’s obvious script contrivances and the low budget production value have unfairly maligned Z.P.G.. It’s not a perfect picture by any means, but it also has a strange, obsessive quality. The stolid performances of both Oliver Reed and Geraldine Chaplin are just the right pitch for their characters and Diane Cilento’s truly insane performance as the “Mrs. Perfect” side of the equation gets weirder and creepier as the movie progresses.

Director Michael Campus is an odd duck. His output has been almost non-existent since this film was made in 1972, yet he did direct two of the coolest blaxpoitation pictures of the 70s, The Mack and The Education of Sonny Carson. He’s no hack and obviously has both talent and taste.

The screenplay for Z.P.G. is often annoyingly full of convenient devices to keep the story moving, but for every one of these devices, the writing reveals an equal number of twists, turns and plot points of downright kick-ass sci-fi cleverness and creepiness. Co-writers Frank DeFelita and Max Ehrlich were certainly no slouches as genre hacks. Separately and together they are responsible for such solid genre material as Audrey Rose and The Entity and the totally oddball George C. Scott directed incest potboiler The Savage is Loose.

At the end of the day, this feels like a movie that was made with compromises – not the sorts that are studio imposed, but rather, the kinds that are forced by an incredibly low budget. In spite of this, there is both a charm and effectiveness to the use of retro models and glass paintings and cold interiors to reflect the world of the movie.

Z.P.G. is a movie I have always wanted to see. It eluded me back in 1972 as it played for only one week at a strange little independent grindhouse on the opposite side of the city I grew up in. I’m glad I finally got the chance. It’s not great sci-fi, but it’s certainly both solid and thought provoking and like a lot of retro sci-fi it has a lot more similarities to our modern world than differences. This is especially cool.

Z.P.G. is available on the Legend Films DVD label devoted to a variety of Paramount Pictures releases that Paramount had no interest in distributing themselves.





Sunday 25 March 2012

THE GUANTANAMO TRAP - Review By Greg Klymkiw - The REAL America is DEAD!

The Guantanamo Trap (2011) dir. Thomas Sellim Wallner
Starring: Murat Kurnaz, Diane Beaver, Matthew Diaz, Gonzalo Boye


By Greg Klymkiw

“Inverted totalitarianism, unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader. It finds expression in the anonymity of the Corporate State. It purports to cherish democracy, patriotism, and the Constitution while manipulating internal levers.” - Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

America - the real America as promised in its constitution, as exemplified in its (mostly) great people and in the vision of Abraham Lincoln to build an economically powerful empire within its borders (thus rejecting the insane expansionism of Manifest Destiny) and to tirelessly serve the world as a genuine defender of the tenets of democratic human rights - that America is dead.

Currently operating as one of the most corrupt oligarchies in the world, insanely going to war under the guise of Lincoln's great dream but in reality enhancing the economic power of the rich, America has duped millions of its own citizens and both foreign and domestic lenders out of billions of dollars - sending the world into a major economic crisis. The America that now exists has reduced the majority of its populace to an existence of poverty and near-Third World conditions while spending billions on a false war on terrorism.

The cherry on the American Empire's ice cream sundae of Decline is the illegal kidnapping of (mostly) innocent people all over the world. Their subsequent incarceration on Guantanamo includes being held without formal charges, hearings or trials for years and being tortured in order to spill their guts about spurious accusations of terrorist activities.

Yes, tortured.

We all know it. The powers-that-be know it. The victims certainly know it. Alas, the paid pawns of the mainstream media, who also know it, continue to go out of their way to defend the actions of this democratic dictatorship which is ruled by the Christian Right Wing in tandem with the corporate powers who really run America.

Even those on the left betrayed their ideals, reverting, when the going got too tough to the self-preservation and/or nest-feathering their right-wing foes engaged in. A perfect example of this is noted human rights lawyer Barbara Olshansky. She was working for the nonprofit Centre For Constitutional Rights (CFCR) who were suing the government of the United States to acquire the list of all the prisoners (America calls them "detainees") at Guantanamo. Though the U.S. Supreme Court officially ruled that Guantanamo's prisoners were legally allowed to challenge their imprisonment, their potential chief advocates needed to know who they actually were. The military refused to divulge this information; hence, the lawsuit.

At one point, Olshansky met one Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Diaz, a Navy lawyer at Guantanamo. He was quite moved by her pleas for the list of prisoners. He finally made the personal decision to furnish these names. He sent them to her in an envelope, the list tucked inside a Valentine card to avoid detection. Receiving this package, she immediately suspected it was a hoax at best, and at worst, a classified document that might potentially compromise American security and safety.

Hello, babe! This is what you were whining for.

Even more horrendous is that Diaz extracted the information from his Guantanamo computer and was himself shocked to find that the documents were not marked classified. Olshansky herself testified that these documents were not marked as classified, so to this day it makes no sense why she suspected they might be.

Instead of using the lists to further her worthy cause, she decided to inform the trial judge that she had them in her possession and then boneheaded-ly allowed a minion from Homeland Security to pick them up. It didn't take long for the FBI and the Justice Department to track the list back to Diaz. Olshansky betrayed her ally - she refused to acknowledge she had ever met or spoken with Diaz and other than her relatively inconsequential testimony at Diaz's trial, she has avoided addressing the matter publicly.

Diaz, of course, was branded a traitor, stripped of his military credentials, his law credentials and served a surprisingly lenient 6-months in prison.

Matthew Diaz is one of four subjects examined in The Guantanamo Trap. Thomas Sellim Wallner's feature length documentary presents a tragic portrait of people caught in the web of Guantanamo's literal and symbolic evil. Diaz's story is especially affecting. This is a young man who lived for the military. It was his way out of a world of uncertainty and where he used his time there to make a living, gain an education and eventually a law degree.

We follow his story, including the aforementioned Olshansky Valentine betrayal, right up to the present where he has no qualifications to do any other work than which he's no longer allowed to pursue. He has no benefits, no pension, a criminal record and a military dismissal which, in spite of his intelligence and experience, presents a formidable hurdle in acquiring the most basic employment. Adding insult to injury, his family home in which his daughter lives has a foreclosure order against it.

Olshansky, on the other hand, continues quite comfortably with her life - writing books, accepting speaking engagements wherein she crows on about human rights abuses and, of course, holds numerous prestigious academic positions.

Diaz tried to do the right thing. He lost his whole life. Olshansky, on the other hand, maintained her nicely feathered nest. She also repeatedly ignored requests from the filmmakers of The Guantanamo Trap to present her side of the story in the film.

No need, one supposes, to tarnish one's comfy position as an - ahem - well-heeled lefty.

What finally makes The Guantanamo Trap both infuriating and almost unbearably sad is that it's ultimately a story of betrayal. The other individuals whose stories we follow were as screwed over by getting caught in Guantanamo's net as poor Diaz.

Murat Kurnaz, a German of Turkish descent was arrested by police in Pakistan and sold to the Americans for a healthy bounty.

A bounty!!!

He was imprisoned in both Afghanistan and eventually in an outdoor cage in Guantanamo - where he was physically and psychologically tortured for five years.

Diane Beaver served as a military lawyer at Guantanamo and wrote a legal memo which supported the use of "enhanced" interrogation techniques. When you see the film, you can be your own judge, but they sure sound like torture to me - in spite of her protestations to the contrary. Though there's no question that she was an integral part of Guantanamo's evil, her orders were to generate a legal opinion on what forms of interrogation could be used.

Beaver, of course, was betrayed by her own government. Not a single entity in authority - all of whom had to provide approvals - did not actually have their names linked to said approvals. Beaver's name is the only official name attached to any document advocating physical and psychological torture. Beaver was hung out to dry as a patsy by the government she continues to declare her loyalty to.

Now a civilian, Beaver is haunted by her legacy and tries to carve out a new life.

Gonzalo Boye is a criminal prosecution lawyer in Spain who is spearheading charges against the Bush administration for illegal incarceration and various war crimes (that include torture). Boye himself was a victim of wrongful incarceration and torture in his home country. During his harrowing fourteen years in prison, he studied to become a lawyer. And now, one of his chief targets is Diane Beaver and his star witness is Murat Kurnaz.

Director Wallner presents these stories with a considerable degree of detachment - he lets the individuals guide their own narratives, and in so doing, the dramatic thrust of the film. As such, the most fascinating revelation - at least for me - is how organized, man-made religion is a driving force for both Kurnaz and Beaver. Kurnaz continually displays his devout Muslim beliefs by refusing to shake hands with women or making a point of avoiding certain foods and/or libations. Beaver mentions, not just once, but twice (and emphatically to boot) that everything happening to her is part of "God's plan".

In "War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning", Chris Hedges notes that the “moral certitude of the state in wartime is a kind of fundamentalism. And this dangerous messianic brand of religion, one where self-doubt is minimal, has come increasingly to color the modern world of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.” Beaver has no self doubt at all with respect to her place in America's "War on Terror" and her own "fundamentalism" is rooted in "God's Plan" - not her own self-will, nor that employed by those who betrayed her. Kurnaz, too, uses his religion to justify his own sexism, potential misogyny and veiled racism.

It's like we're amidst the Crusades - Christians fighting the infidel (and vice-versa) for goals that are lofty and inextricably linked to God or as Hedges notes in "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America" that those who are "numbed by isolation and despair, now seek meaning in a mythical world of intuition, a world that is no longer reality-based, a world of magic.”

Fairy tales, it seems, are at the root of this insanity.

And much as Beaver and others justify what they must do to protect America, Hedges simply and astutely points out that war makes no sense - certainly not in a Christian context since "Jesus was a pacifist."

Wallner has crafted an eminently fascinating and moving film. He was inspired to make it when he was placed on America's terror watch list for five years when he refused to take part in a retinal scan. His shock and anger was so considerable that the impetus was initially vengeance. As he proceeded, he realized he needed to strip away his voice as much as he could in order to present the effects of war upon humanity.

Much as I respect and admire this decision and as terrific as his film is because of it, there is a part of me that wonders about the same film within the context of its maker's art becoming an act of revenge. I try to imagine that film and when I do, I think it might have been equally worthy and certainly just as powerful.

That said, Wallner delivers a picture that stands powerfully on its own two feet as one of the great humanist documentaries of the new millennium.

"The Guantanamo Trap" is now playing in Toronto at the Hot Docs Bloor Cinema via Kinomith. For tickets and showtimes, visit HERE.





Saturday 24 March 2012

FOR THE LOVE OF MOVIES: THE STORY OF AMERICAN FILM CRITICISM - Review by Greg Klymkiw - Veteran Boston film critic Gerald Peary has generated a fun, fascinating, breezy, well-made and superbly structured history of film criticism in America that will not only inform, but entertain.

For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism (2009)
dir. Gerald Peary
Starring: Patricia Clarkson (Narrator), Roger Ebert, Jim Hoberman, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Jami Bernard, Rex Reed, Elvis Mitchell, Harlan Jacobson, Pauline Kael, Bosley Crowther, David D'Arcy, Molly Haskell, Leonard Maltin, Janet Maslin, John Powers, Richard Schickel, Michael Wilmington Lisa Schwarzbaum, David Sterrit, Mike Szymanski, Lisa Nesselson, B Ruby Rich, A.O, Scott, Kenneth Turan, Karina Longworth, Harry Knowles


By Greg Klymkiw

In a day and age when an alternative weekly like The Village Voice fires Jim Hoberman, one of the world's greatest living film critics and, like so many other publications, replaces him with young, underpaid, know-nothing-to-know-little scribes straight out of journalism school and/or publications of dubious merit and/or their basements in a pathetic attempt to woo young readers to bolster their demographics and dwindling readership, it's clear that one of the noblest literary traditions is, like most everything in this world, under attack.

Given that corporate bottom lines are destroying the very fabric of civilization, it's especially disheartening to see publications of supposed repute, like The Voice, once a bastion of quality, playing by the same rules as institutions they built their foundations on decimating as a matter of course. It's especially disingenuous of The Voice to remove all vestiges of serious discourse from their pages when the company's fortunes are, these days, rooted in ancillary enterprises like which earns its huge profits by providing an easy outlet to exploit women who, in many cases, are victims of sexual slavery.

Canada is certainly not immune from this horrendous move to strip away serious film criticism from its pages, but as per usual, it's just taking longer up here in the Great White North since it's a country that's almost never properly aligned behind the eight-ball. It's not long coming, though. In recent years, Canada's largest daily newspaper, The Toronto Star, relegated another of the world's great film critics, Geoff Pevere, to a subordinate beat in the entertainment department and now, his writing appears not to grace the pages at all. We're left there with the mediocre meanderings of a genial, readable, but ineffectual veteran, a passel of utterly bland know-nothings and worst of all, ever-shrinking column inches/word-counts.

Even film criticism in the United Kingdom, that bastion of all things cultural, has not been spared from this new trend. Recently, The Guardian had one of the best film sections in the world, but internal restructuring led to the loss of regular columns from such brilliant film writers as David Thomson and Anne Billson. (Well, they do have Peter Bradshaw first-stringing, but that's hardly what one would call a win-win situation for readers seeking top drawer film writing.)

I suppose my near-insane love of film - right from early childhood, is part of why these recent changes in the landscape so alarm and depress me. Yes, I was clearly out of my mind. When most kids - especially of the Canadian variety - were hip-checking each other on skating rinks and slap-shotting their hockey pucks into the teeth of goal tenders, I sat in dark movie theatres, in front of the TV and in my bedroom with my nose burrowed into all manner of reading material (everything from comics to classic literature and yes, film criticism.

I started to read film criticism at about the age of eight (give or take a year). In Winnipeg, there was a great store that carried almost every English language periodical known to man and it was there that I spent long hours perusing every movie magazine I could, including the once-great, but now-dreadful trade publication Variety (which, incidentally, is now on the chopping block and, like many other publications, turfed one of its best critics).

I also fondly remember the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) had a local movie review program every Saturday morning on their AM service and during a phone-in trivia quiz at age 12, I won a copy of V.F. Perkins's great book Film as Film which was probably my first real taste of "serious" approaches to watching movies. It was also around this time I discovered the inimitable Pauline Kael and scoured the pages of the New Yorker weekly for her insightful and, often downright hilarious film reviews.

It is, based upon the aforementioned geek memories, probably no surprise that I wondered when someone was ever going to make a documentary film that examined the art and history of film criticism. I am pleased to report that this prayer, if you will, has been answered.

The veteran Boston-based film critic Gerald Peary took the plunge and has generated a fun and fascinating feature documentary focusing on this very subject. For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism takes us from about ten years after the dawn of cinema when scribes began writing about cinema through to the aforementioned contemporary sad state of the medium of film reportage and reviewing.

For the Love of Movies is an apt title. Sure, everyone loves the movies, but who REALLY, REALLY, REALLY loves the movies? Nine times out of ten, it's the best filmmakers and the best film critics. What's great about Peary's movie, first and foremost, is that it DOES manage to have its cake and eat it too. Anyone who is passionate and pathetically geek-like about the movies - in particular, the scope and breadth of movie history - will be fascinated, delighted, tantalized and instilled with enough gooseflesh to last a lifetime. For the rest of the plebes, it's a breezy, well-made, superbly structured history of film criticism in America that will not only inform, but entertain.

One of the reasons this picture works so well is Peary's superb writing. People often forget that documentaries are more than just getting the right footage, the best interviews and choosing a good topic - someone actually has to WRITE the film. In this case, Peary is ideal. Even as a film critic, he's endowed with a punchy, humorous and knowledgable writing style which he puts to great use here.

Blending skilful research with clear writing, the narration he's created for the great actress Patricia Clarkson to intone over the film is always first-rate - guiding us in all the right directions, gently delivering subtle slanting to always place us in the right time and delivering the necessary perspective to move us from section to section.

This is another superb part of the writing - the various title cards and arrangement/progression of the sections. What Peary's script finally achieves is an extremely strong narrative arc with all the necessary twists, turns and connective tissue to keep an audience firmly gripped with the subject matter, the subjects themselves and the genuine story of American Film Criticism. Working with a fine team of editors is also part of the "writing" process and the cutting of the film is one of its major attributes.

As a director, Peary has lined up interviews with a who's who of America's finest critics. We hear about their beginnings, their process as writers, their loves and inspirations. All of this is woven into a historical narrative and we get various critics' perspectives on the art, the history and even many of the greats who have long since passed on. Peary's film includes some utterly amazing footage of Pauline Kael and my only regret is that it was so cool to see that I almost wish someone could eventually just cobble together every existing piece of Kael on camera and just let it play, unexpurgated.

For me, the current state of film criticism (and media in general) is a sad one, but Peary spins a wonderful, positive, forward-looking perspective that managed to temper even my normal curmudgeonly dismissal of some of those youngsters who are taking up the torches of the tried and true. A good part of this actually unfolds in Peary's film at an earlier juncture when we learn about the new voices of film criticism in the 60s, 70s and early 80s that challenged the status quo of traditional mainstream criticism and, in a sense, mirrored the excitement of the very movies the writers were covering during that special time in film history.

My only minor quibble with the film is the lack of attention paid to American critics-turned-filmmakers like Peter Bogdanovich and Paul Schrader. I'll charitably assume those two just decided - for whatever reasons - to not be involved. That said, a documentary connecting film criticism with filmmaking and perhaps covering the entire history of those who both wrote about film and made them - world wide (the Russian theorists, the nouvelle vague guys and, of course the Americans) - is a documentary waiting to unleash itself upon the world.

For those living in Toronto, the gorgeous, new Hot Docs Bloor Cinema will be hosting two screenings March 25 and March 26. On March 25, Director Gerald Peary will be in attendance to introduce his film and participate in a post-screening panel discussion moderated by film journalist Jason Anderson. The panel includes local film critics Liam Lacey (The Globe and Mail), Adam Nayman (The Grid, Cinema Scope Magazine, Metro News), Norm Wilner (NOW Magazine), and Kiva Reardon (Torontoist, Diegetic Sound).On March 26, Peary will be present to introduce and do a Q and A. The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema is located at 506 Bloor Street West. Tickets are $11 ($8 with discount card; $6 with membership) and are available in advance at the box office or online HERE. Copies of the film on DVD can be purchased directly from the film's website HERE.

Here's a clip:





Friday 23 March 2012

SPIRITED AWAY - BY JULIA KLYMKIW - TIFF Bell Lightbox presents a great series entitled "Spirited Away: The Films of Studio Ghibli" until April 13. Junior Cub Reporter, 11-year-old Julia Klymkiw, fills in for Dad today and reviews Miyazaki's masterpiece.

The Toronto International Film Festival TIFF Bell Lightbox is presenting a wonderful series entitled "Spirited Away: The Films of Studio Ghibli" until April 13. Junior Cub Reporter, 11-year-old Julia Klymkiw is filling in for her Dad today with a review of the Academy Award winning animated feature film, "Spirited Away".

"Spirited Away" is showing at Sunday March 25 at 7:00 PM, Sunday April 1 at 7:00 PM and Saturday April 7 at 1:00 PM. Tickets can be purchased online HERE.

Spirited Away***** (2001)
dir. Hayao Miyazaki

Review By Julia Klymkiw
The Film Corner's
Junior Cub Reporter

When I was lots younger I saw Spirited Away on DVD and I loved it. I loved it so much I watched it again and again.

Now that I’m older I had a chance to see it on film. I was amazed when I saw one of the most magical and beautiful movies I’ve ever seen on a big screen in a theatre. An actual real film, not a DVD. My Dad took me to see the movie at the Lightbox Theatre.

We sat in the back row and before the movie started. Dad showed me the projectors through the windows and I saw the big rolls of film. Dad says there are separate pictures called frames that move very quickly in front of the light bulb. The frames go so fast they make a picture that moves and it shows on the big screen down at the bottom of the room through the projector lens, which is kind of like a magnifying glass.

Spirited Away is an animated cartoon fairytale about a family moving to a new home. They drive onto the wrong road and find a tunnel that leads to a small strange town instead of their house. When the father smells food, he and his family walk towards it. The mother and father find the food, There is a whole bunch of it, like the Mandarin buffet, but nobody is around. The mother and father stuff their faces into the food like pigs, but the little girl is not so sure this is a good idea. After wandering around the town she comes back and is shocked to see that her parents are transformed into animals.

Running in fear she meets a boy, a very nice boy who will help her. Curled up and hiding near a bush, she realizes something very strange is happening to her, something just as scary as what happened to her Mom and Dad, but worse. That mysterious boy gives her a magic berry and she goes back to normal. Pulling her up, they run through the town and she sees spirits and ghosts wandering around and eating the same food her parents were eating. The boy sneaks her into a big building and gives her instructions where to go and what to do to survive in this weird world and to be able to save her Mom and Dad.

She goes to the place the boy told her about. She stares in terror at the steep stairs. She doesn’t want to go down, but soon she starts creeping down slowly, one more step at a time until she slips and tumbles so far down we think she will die. Luckily, she slams into a wall and is okay.

As great as all this sounds, this is just the beginning, the beginning of a great adventure, the beginning of Spirited Away.

Things get crazier and scarier. There are huge ghosts and slimy monsters and a nasty old lady who looks like a witch. To save her parents is going to be very difficult and dangerous.

Will the little girl succeed? You have to see the movie to find out.

It sure is cool seeing the movie for real in a theatre. The colours are way nicer than at home and this is the first time I watched the movie in Japanese. When I saw it on DVD, it was in English. I didn't know the movie was made in Japan the first time. Later on I did because my Dad told me that it was a movie made from this guy in Japan who is like Walt Disney. Even when I was little the movie wasn't like a lot of the other movies I watched. Seeing it in Japanese, now I know why.

It's okay if you can't speak Japanese. There are titles at the bottom to tell you what the people are saying. Even if you have seen this movie like I did on DVD, it is way cooler to see it in a real movie theatre in the language of the country it is from.