Saturday 31 May 2014

ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Original low-budget Horror-Fantasy Cult Film a real trip.

There are things that happen in WALT DISNEY WORLD
that you don't want to know about, but you MUST!
eating Emu Masquerading as Turkey
offers unexpected opportunities.
Escape From Tomorrow (2013) ****
Dir. Randy Moore
Starring: Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez, Jack Dalton,
Alison Lees-Taylor, Stass Klassen,
Danielle Safady, Annet Mahendru

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Much as I am wont to complain about contemporary movies, I still tend to see a fair number of good and even great pictures. A more rare event is discovering work that's unlike anything I've ever seen, or at the very least is imbued with such originality that I can safely remove my Mr. Grumpy Hat in homage to a picture that restores my faith in cinema.

Randy Moore's debut feature Escape From Tomorrow did just that. Made for well under a million smackers, this is a movie that shocked, awed, tantalized, disturbed and delighted me to no end.

I recently caught up with it on DVD, this being about a year and a half after its world premiere at Sundance. Knowing only about the movie's festival pedigree and that it had something to do with Walt Disney I was afforded my preferred semi-virginal mode of seeing movies. This is just the sort of unfurling that joyously allowed me a most revelatory experience of discovery.

As an extraordinarily creepy and absurdly funny head trip, shot secretly on location at both Disney Parks, it did indeed hold its own with any number of my favourite cult films like El Topo, Pink Flamingos, Eraserhead, Liquid Sky, Mixed Blood, Pi, Primer, God Bless America and American Mary. Indeed the picture certainly works on a purely experiential level. One can just sit back and let it all happen, with or without hallucinogenic stimulants.

On a deeper level, this avant-garde nightmare vision of a trip to Walt Disney World gone seriously wrong is a fascinating and disquieting exploration of the new America, providing a slice of the external and internal life of a consumerism-happy upper middle class family on the brink of crisis and ultimately, plunging free-fall into the chasm of loss and deep despair.

On yet another level altogether, the movie delivers a wrenching portrait of Jim White (Roy Abramsohn) a late-thirty-early-forty-something corporate executive's spiritual death during the last day of a vacation in the famed resort with his wife (Elena Schuber) and kids (Jack Dalton, Alison Lees-Taylor) after getting the unexpected news that he's been fired. Needless to say, this is a shocker and he keeps the news to himself as he and his dependents sally forth into the maw of the wonderful world of Disney.

We already know something is amiss as the family boards the above-ground rail transport from their resort hotel to the park when Jim notices a pair of gorgeous frolicking teenage girls from Paris (Danielle Safady, Annet Mahendru). His gaze is clearly inappropriate and he still has enough of his marbles to try and keep his attraction to the Gallic missies all to his lonesome.

Once at the park, though, the jabbering nubile lassies appear to be everywhere.

After Jim and his family enjoy a few activities together, it's decided to split up for awhile in order to make the most of this final day of the Disney experience. Mother and Daughter go off on their own while Father and Son are left to their own devices - namely, a ludicrously long wait at the Buzz Lightyear ride. Time halts as they move an inch or two towards the seemingly unreachable ride and during this hour, the ladies go on ride after ride while Father and Son eventually get to the head of the line only to be told that Buzz Lightyear is being shut down for the day due to maintenance issues.

Eventually Mom and Dad hook up to switch their spawn for more fun. Though, Jim's experience with his son has proven to be mostly frustrating, it was indeed dappled with more than a few mild forays into surrealism. Now that he's with his daughter, though, his point of view becomes more skewed than ever. The movie begins spiralling into sheer insanity as he encounters a weird, horny single mother (Alison Lees-Taylor) who begins her seduction by noting that the turkey leg he's gobbling is actually an emu leg. Later on, Jim may or may not have had sex with the woman while his daughter and Horny Mama's child sleep in another room. He also discovers that a prostitution ring exists on the premises involving Disney Princess Hostesses servicing Japanese businessmen. Most terrifyingly, Jim's hallucinations result in losing sight of his daughter.

The day seems to never end and if any of this sounds vaguely perverse, you ain't, in the immortal words of BTO, seen nothin' yet. You see, you, along with our protagonist will have not yet met with the mysterious Scientist de la Disney (Stass Klassen) who performs rather unpleasant experiments upon Jim within the Epcot Centre, nor will you experience the horrendous, yet equally magical transformation of the Horny Mama into the wicked witch sharing a poison apple with Daddy dearest's little girl and certainly, amongst an infinitesimal array of surreal twists and turns within a Floridian Disney park merging seamlessly with the Californian park you'll you'll have not been barraged with the truly terrifying rides aplenty, especially the malevolent (YES! MALEVOLENT!) "It's a Small World" ride merging with positively demonic transmogrifications of all that is seemingly good and lest we forget, those damned pesky Tinkerbell-like teenage sexpots from Gay Par-ee.

And then, under a night sky emblazoned by the most staggering display of fireworks, there will be the literally gut-wrenching effects of a feline flu raging throughout Disney's wonderful world, though more likely in Jim's Disney-fied diseased mind, driving Dad to the Holy Disney shrine to privacy, the all-devouring Throne of Uncle Walt, a Holy Disney Porcelain Receptacle waiting for all manner of vile, putrid expulsions of faecal poison and viscous globs needing to be expunged with undue levels of pain and hardship.

And, of course, there are those goddamned hairballs.

Indeed, I defy you to recall a motion picture in recent memory of such swirling audacity and wading neck-deep amidst the outright horror of a world crushed under the weight of that benevolent moustachioed gentleman who grew up on a farm in Marceline, Missouri which sprouted the mind and imagination which eventually captured the fancy and drained the pocketbooks of the whole world, the one, the only, Walter Elias Disney.

Escape from Tomorrow is not unlike gazing directly into the ghastly monochromatic truths revealed by the atrociously repellent, yet interminably revelatory mirror, mirror. You know, the mirror, mirror on the wall.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Escape from Tomorrow is a FilmsWeLike release and available on Blu-Ray and DVD via Amazon and at all fine video retailers. Feel free to purchase the film directly from the links below and thus contribute to the ongoing maintenance of The Film Corner.

Friday 30 May 2014

FILTH - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Alcoholic-drug addled-brutal-corrupt-cop trifle fails at being filthy enough.

"Och, look at me. Being a Scottish cop, I'm a naughty boy with the lassies."
Filth (2013) *1/2
Dir. Jon S. Baird
Starring: James McAvoy, Eddie Marsan, Jim Broadbent

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) is an Edinburgh detective bucking for a promotion and he'll do anything to get it, resorting to underhanded manipulation, gossip and outright lying. This won't be much of a stretch for him. He's such a bad boy, you see. Estranged from his lovely wife and little girl, he's an all-out violent thug, corrupt to the max, addicted to booze, drugs and sex, plus he's suitably hard boiled and rumpled to give everyone the feeling he's unorthodox, but effective. Well, he is unorthodox, but his effectiveness is going to be put to the test, but not before the film indulges us in plenty of naughtiness as well as his drug-addled hallucinations.

He's delightfully repugnant and James McAvoy plays him to the hilt, but the movie, being a bit of a lame duck, doesn't have the courage of its wanna-be Bad Lieutenant convictions. I haven't read the 1998 Irvine (Trainspotting) Welsh novel the film is based on, but surely he must have seen Abel Ferrara's 1992 descent into madness - so grotesquely etched by the brilliant Harvey Keitel - and decided he could outdo it on the mean streets of Edinburgh. This is certainly what Filth feels like, but as a movie, it's a mess.

Constantly pulling its punches, Robertson's nastiness is only intermittently funny and the movie is pitched to be over-the-top, but Baird doesn't quite have the style or vulgarity to pull it off successfully. God knows, I love watching scumbags do their thing, but after about half an hour, it started to become tiresome and in its last third it races to connect a whole mess of dots to show us why Robertson deserves redemption.

Oh, poor naughty policeman, he had a rotten childhood and a sonofabitch for a Daddy and he - really, really - no, I mean really wanted to be a good hubby and daddy, but he's had so much suffering that his only choice was to be a pig, but you know, he could change.


I'd have much preferred him to be an out and out slime bucket without the pathetic whining about his past and crying over the blood under the bridge of a marriage he himself flushed down the toilet. The whole film just feels false, especially a series of unfortunate fantasy sequences with Jim Broadbent ham-boning as a psychiatrist in a realm of psychedelia. In fact, most of the fantasy stuff seems half-baked.

In addition to McAvoy, who truly does work overtime here, it would be remiss not to mention Eddie Marsan. He comes close to stealing scenes as Robertson's cuckolded nebbish buddy from the Masons meetings our cop attends. For Marsan to come close to stealing scenes from McAvoy is truly worth a few hat-doffs. And there is, in all fairness to the film, a pretty funny sequence where the two go carousing in Germany.

Ultimately, it's a movie that wants to have its urinal cake and eat it too, though once it bites into the piss pot deodorizer, it coughs it up. Filth is finally the bad cop movie equivalent of a blow job involving the spitting rather than the swallowing of the motherlode. It's simply no dirty fun at all.

Filth is available on Premium iTunes and cable VOD across Canada and opens Theatrically May 30 via VSC at the following venues: Toronto – Carlton Cinema, Vancouver – Rio Theatre, Saskatoon – Roxy Theatre, Victoria – The Vic.

Thursday 29 May 2014

WE ARE THE BEST - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Video Services Corp. Theatrical Rollout Across Canada Now On

One of Greg Klymkiw's 10 Best of 2013 and Mira Barkhammar his pick for Best Actress of 2013. COOL!

We Are The Best (2013) *****
Dir. Lukas Moodysson

Starring: Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Three very special little girls on the cusp of puberty are horrifically surrounded by conformist girlie-girls and immature boys toying with societal expectations of machismo. Two of the young ladies are self-described punk rockers, while a third comes from a goody-two-shoes ultra-Christian background (but with punk desires roiling beneath her veneer).

Joyfully and with great satisfaction, the trio find each other in an otherwise antiseptic Sweden where most of their peers, teachers and family are still clinging to outmoded values, yet pathetically attempting to inject cliched tropes of modernism into their otherwise prissy protected worlds.

Our pre-teen rebels form a punk band which results in a happy hell breaking loose, which, however is threatened by a combination of their newfound overt expressions of non-conformity and all the normal conflicts of puberty (especially within the context of an antiseptic society that’s poised to become even more bereft of character). The journey these little girls take is fraught with all manner of conflicts that have a potentially disastrous effect upon their quest to prove, to themselves and the world, that, as the film’s title declares: We Are The Best!

I’ve read a lot of nonsense lately that claim this film is a “return to form”.

“Hogwash!” I say. “Harumph!”

As if one of the great contemporary filmmakers of our time needs to find his way back to his earlier roots when he has, in fact, never abandoned them. Moodysson is one of contemporary cinema’s great humanist filmmakers and all of his films have generated - at least for me - levels of emotion that are rooted ever-so deeply in the richness and breadth of humanity. We Are The Best is, however, Moodysson’s most joyous film and furthermore is an absolutely lovely celebration of a time long past and the virtues of non-conformity that - for better or worse - created a generation of really cool people.

The screenplay, co-written by Moodysson and his wife Coco Moodysson is based on the latter’s graphic novel “Never Goodnight” and though, I have yet to read it myself, the movie wisely feels like a top-drawer graphic novel on film - great characters, wry observations, keen wit , a perfect balance between visual and literary story beats and several entertaining layers of “Fuck You!”

On one hand, I feel like I might be reading far too much into the movie - that my take on it is based too closely upon my own experiences during the cultural cusp years of 1978-1982. You see, as fun and celebratory as the picture indeed is, I couldn’t help but feel while watching it - not just once, but twice on a big screen - a very gentle hint of melancholy running through the piece.

Ultimately, I do feel this melancholia is intentional since every aspect of the film’s setting is pulsating with the horrendous sort of conformity that needed to be challenged. Set in 1982, a period which for me felt very much like the beginning of the end - not just at the time, but certainly in retrospect (which must certainly be a place the Moodysson’s are coming from themselves), one felt like the world was entering an intense phase of conservatism to rival the 50s, but without the cool repressive iconography of the 50s. The 80s were all about stripping everything down, yet in a kind of tastelessly garish fashion. Film critic Pauline Kael titled her collection of reviews from this period “State of the Art” - a horrendous phrase that came to describe everything that was so appalling about the 80s.

In spite of it all, there was, during this cusp period, a blip of hope. While it lasted, it was beautiful. Moodysson’s protagonists, like so many of us during that period, needed to affirm our non-conformity by declaring that we were, indeed, the best. What’s special about the film, is that every generation of non-conformists discovers this and Moodysson has very delightfully and, I’d argue, importantly delivered a tale of considerable universality.

Video Services Corp. (VSC) is releasing We Are The Best theatrically across Canada. Theatrical rollout begins at TIFF Bell Lightbox May 30, 2014. For showtimes and tickets visit the TIFF website HERE. Full Canadian playmate schedule for theatrical release below:

Opens May 30
Toronto – TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W
Montreal – Cinema du Parc, 3575 Avenue du Parc
Vancouver – VanCity, 1181 Seymour St
Opens June 13
Ottawa – Bytowne Cinema, 325 Rideau St
London – Hyland Cinema, 240 Wharncliffe Road South

Here is a lovely selection of VSC (Video Service Corp.) titles you buy directly from the links below, and in so doing, contribute to the ongoing maintenance of The Film Corner:

Wednesday 28 May 2014

CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Jaw-Dropping Splatter4U from Canuck Kaare Andrews

Once again, Raven Banner's Sinister Cinema with Anchor Bay Canada present another delectable splatter-fest for the whole family - well, mostly Ed Gein's family, but family is family, mais non? CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO, directed by Canada's ace-comic-book-wunderkind/filmmaker Kaare Andrews.
I daresay this comely young lassie has acquired a slight infection.
I daresay this nice
doggie's bark is not
worse than his BITE.
Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (2014) ***1/2
Dir. Kaare Andrews, Scr. Jake Wade Wall, Cin. Norm Li, Ed. Michael P. Mason
Starring: Sean Astin, Currie Graham, Ryan Donowho, Brando Eaton, Jillian Murray, Solly Duran, Lydia Hearst, Claudette Lali, Mitch Ryan
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Years ago I discovered a lump on my chest. The Doc says, "It's just a cyst. Come back if it gets bigger or hurts. I'll lance it." A few days later I felt a tightness in my chest. The cyst was the size of a fucking golfball. I ignored it because I had a movie to go to. On the way, I stopped at the bank. The teller took one look at me and her pretty face scrunched up into the horrific visage of a gorgon sucking a lemon. I followed her gaze. My white shirt had become a huge Technicolor Rorschach Blot of gag-inducing crimson dappled with sickening streaks of yellow, accompanied by the putrescence of a cheesy aroma. Infections, you see, are like that. One second you think everything is fine, the next you've got viscous raspberry custard pudding with melted Limburger geysering out of you.

Thankfully the cyst was the result of a bacterial infection. Viral infections are a different beast altogether. Some of them can kill. And God help you if it causes flesh to rot and infests the brain, turning you into a psycho pus-bag on two legs.

These were the delectable sugar-plum-fairy thoughts that came to me whilst indulging in one of the most insanely audacious low budget indie horror films I've seen in awhile. Cabin Fever: Patient Zero is a gloriously whacked and mega-fun prequel to Eli Roth's 2002 directorial star-making feature debut called - you guessed it - Cabin Fever. If you haven't seen Roth's picture, wait and watch this first. If you have seen it, Kaare Andrews's sophomore outing after his impressive feature debut, the claustrophobic thriller Altitude, should not disappoint. This movie is a blast.

Jake Wade Wall's screenplay is a perfectly serviceable vehicle to take us back to who, what, when, where, why and how the virus in Roth's film began. What's nice about the script is that it has all the delightful tropes of the horror genre that, quite frankly, go a long way in terms of added value for our plaisirs d'exploitation. It's got a decent handful of locations that are perfectly picturesque so that in spite of the low budget, it's not one of those typical single set movies that can betray the budgetary restrictions. The locales as imagined on the page add variety and colour to the backdrop.

Most importantly, the screenplay makes sure (unlike too many recent genre items, especially those of the Canadian persuasion) that there are just as many babe roles as there are hunk roles. A horror movie without babes can be utterly unwatchable. So hats off to Mr. Wall for delivering the potential of babe-o-licious babe-ery on the page for the our edification (as well as the director and cinematographer's keen-o-niftus kino-eyes).

Wall's plot is perfunctory, but in a terrific way. It's a simple coat hanger for some lovely set pieces - and not just gore, we get some boink-o-rama action too.

In a nutshell, we've got a bachelor party full of nice young fellas boozing it up in the Dominican Republic. This allows for plenty of babes in the background, too. The gentlemen, of course, have a wild time planned. They charter a boat, head out to an extremely remote island - with a babe, no less - camp out on the beach and crack open more booze. Yee-haa!

And, we get some boink-action going too. Yee-Haa Bonii points!

Unbeknownst to our party-hearty crew there's a strange, hidden complex on the other side of the island which is essentially a mysterious centre for disease control. Here, some shady official scientist types are performing experiments on Sean Astin. Yes, THE Sean Astin! Mikey from The Goonies, 1993's beloved Rudy and Sam from Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy appears here and has suffered whilst watching those he once loved melt into heaps of viscera from a flesh-eating virus he's host to. Because he's the host, he's been nabbed by the official types, shoved into quarantine and poked and prodded by the Docs. Sean is mighty upset. In fact, he's goldurn angry and suspects he's being exploited as a guinea pig.

Now, you might notice I've mentioned scientists and doctors. This is a good thing. Where there are scientists and doctors, there are nurses.


Well, it doesn't take too long for our two clutches of characters to meet up and you can bet your sweet petunia that some bad shit's going to happen to release the virus, thus allowing hell to break loose.

Look, this movie's no masterpiece, but I loved it. It's got a delightfully morbid sense of humour, its last half hour actually had me on the edge of my seat wishing I had, as per usual, been wearing Depends and a lot of the stuff that works in the movie is extremely well wrought. Kaare Andrews directs with force and aplomb and keeps things chugging forward so we don't notice occasional holes and inanities in the plot, at least not while we're watching or at least not enough to bug us if we do notice. Most of all, he attacks the material with a really great eye and feel for the genre.

Working with the brilliant Canadian cinematographer Norm Li (the man who blew our minds with his eye-popping work in the stunning Panos Cosmatos retro-sci-fi head film Beyond the Black Rainbow), Cabin Fever: Patient Zero is shot mostly handheld, but it's not that horrible whiplash nonsense, nor is it shaky-cam unless it needs to be in moderation. It is, for the most part, really effective floaty-cam with smooth moves, solid compositions and terrific lighting in the night time exteriors and shadowy interiors. Michael P. Mason's cutting always moves things with skill and vigour in a delicious death-by-a-thousand cuts way and in the hairy roller coaster ride of the last third, his cutting delivers multi Les petit morts.

And indeed Andrews, Li and Mason dazzle our pants off during the last half hour. Even if you're a bit unsure of the movie for the first chunk, hang in there, because these guys deliver the climactic gold. The movie practically splooges terror and viscera all over our receptive faces AND if you think any of the aforementioned is hyperbolic, you ain't read nothing yet.

I declare, here and now - and we must doff our hats to screenwriter Wall for coming up with this - Cabin Fever: Patient Zero is blessed with the contextual Holy Water of one of the absolute best cat fights ever committed to the silver screen.

Seriously, who amongst you has a problem with cat fights? Who? I ask you, WHO in their right mind doesn't get hard or wet watching two babes slugging it out? Nobody. That's who! And if they say they don't, they're not only lying to me, to us, to the world, but themselves.

Cat fights are hot. Here, the cat fight is not only orgasm-and-vomit-inducing, it's thoroughly original. Everything comes into play here - direction, cinematography, cutting, stunt choreography, makeup effects and the jaw-dropping (in, uh, more ways than one) context for the cat fight. I guarantee you will have NEVER seen a cat fight like this in your life.

On the grave of my Granny.

Is it THE best cat fight? Well, no, because for the absolute best, nobody will ever top the estimable Russ Meyer in this department, BUT, it is way up there. So much so that I can imagine Mr. Faster Pussycat Kill Kill looking down upon this film from his lofty perch in big-boob-heaven turning broccoli-green with envy that he never thought of doing a cat fight like this one.

And you know, any movie that might instil envy in Russ Meyer, is one for the ages.

Raven Banner Entertainment's Sinister Cinema and Anchor Bay Canada present the **CANADIAN PREMIERE** of CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO, One Night Across Canada on Thurs May 29 at 7:30pm. The complete list of venues across the country are:

Scotiabank Theatre Chinook - Calgary, AB
Scotiabank Theatre Edmonton - Edmonton, AB
Cineplex Cinemas Saint John - Saint John, NB
Cineplex Cinemas Avalon Mall - St. John's, NL
Cineplex Odeon Victoria Cinemas - Victoria, BC
SilverCity Riverport Cinemas - Richmond, BC
Galaxy Cinemas Nanaimo - Nanaimo, BC
Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas - Vancouver, BC
Colossus Langley Cinemas - Langley, BC
SilverCity Polo Park Cinemas- Winnipeg, MB
SilverCity Sudbury Cinemas- Sudbury, ON
Galaxy Cinemas Regina - Regina, SK
Galaxy Cinemas Saskatoon - Saskatoon, SK
SilverCity Fairview Mall Cinemas - Toronto, ON
Cineplex Odeon Winston Churchill Cinemas - Oakville, ON
Cineplex Cinemas Yonge -Dundas Cinemas - Toronto, ON
Cineplex Odeon Eglinton Town Centre Cinemas - Scarborough, ON
Cineplex Cinemas Queensway and VIP - Etobicoke, ON
Colossus Vaughan Cinemas - Woodbridge, ON
Cineplex Cinemas Mississauga - Mississauga, ON
Coliseum Ottawa Cinemas - Ottawa, ON
SilverCity Gloucester Cinemas - Ottawa, ON
Cineplex Cinemas Bayers Lake - Halifax, NS
Cineplex Odeon Forum Cinemas - Montreal, QC
Cineplex Odeon Devonshire Mall Cinemas - Windsor, ON
Galaxy Cinemas Waterloo - Waterloo, ON
SilverCity Hamilton Cinemas - Hamilton, ON
SilverCity London Cinemas - London, ON

Additional screenings have been added to Cineplex Cinemas Yonge-Dundas:
May 30 through June 5. Check Toronto local listing for confirmed dates and times.

Director Kaare Andrews will be present at the Cineplex Cinemas Yonge-Dundas on May 29 to introduce the film and do a Q and A after it's over.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

CYBER-SENIORS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Old people learn about Skype, Facebook, YouTube and Email..

Imagine a world where Granny Clampett discovers YouTube.
Imagine no more. Your OWN Granny can become a rap star.
Sadly, Uncle Jed, Jethro & Ellie-Mae's Granny is SOL.
But, one can dream the impossible dream, can't one?
Cyber-Seniors (2014)
Dir. Saffron Cassaday

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Director Cassady's younger sisters founded a non-profit organization in Toronto to pair senior citizens with super-young mentors who teach the oldsters how to use computers, but mostly, to make use of online services like Facebook, Skype and YouTube. When one considers that there are people in their 30s-50s who are computer illiterate, tech-savvy amongst older generations is virtually nil. The power of computers and the internet should be available to those who could benefit from it. The training program is clearly a great opportunity - not just for the seniors, but the young mentors to acquire the skills of training, but also the wealth of experience and knowledge in other areas that they can gain from interacting with the seniors.

While Cassady was documenting the process, it was decided to turn it into into a real movie. Hence, Cyber-Seniors. What we get is a relatively painless, surface look at the aforementioned Toronto-based program. The first third is devoted mostly to the seniors plonking their gnarly fingers onto keyboards whilst the young'uns patiently guide them through cyber-land. They learn everything from basics like passwords, logging in, setting up Facebook accounts, engaging in the joys (so to speak) of email, watching videos on Youtube and enjoying Skype conversations with their families.

About halfway in for the middle third of the picture, a personal medical challenge rears its surprising and decidedly ugly head with one of the film's participants and we get a few dollops of that story while the rest of the film gives us more plonking on keyboards mixed with mildly entertaining footage of the seniors devising, shooting and then uploading videos to YouTube.

One of the seniors uploads a cooking segment that becomes quite a hit and this inspires the others to do likewise on a variety of topics (one happy Granny does her own rap video). It becomes a contest leading up to a grand premiere and the bestowing of prizes to three lucky winners. The aforementioned medical challenge thankfully resolves itself, but there's a bittersweet element introduced as another challenge to another of the film's participants comes up. We are, however, left on a very positive note of how computers and the internet can become an extremely important tool to bridge cultural gaps, but also the literal gaps of families separated by distance.

The movie is definitely assembled with competence and was never designed to go deeper than it does. It will probably make for pleasant enough viewing on television or in non-theatrical showings at senior care centres, community centres and anywhere else seniors and their families gather. I know my Mother would like it big-time.

If there are any disappointments to be had with the film it's that the feather-weighted investigation into this first-rate organization only barely touches on the young mentors. Part of me thought that a film about the mentors might have been a nice adjunct to this. Perhaps even a sequel is in the works.

The two other items that caused me a bit of disappointment is something the filmmaker clearly had no power over. Firstly, the interests of the seniors seemed to fall stereotypically along gender lines - the guys are into email, golf and banking while the ladies are interested in cooking and gardening. The only common thread between genders were the communication and social networking possibilities.

Secondly, everyone in this film is so darned normal. Would it have been that impossible to find one Bad Grandpa interested in accessing internet porn? Or is that asking too much?

The Toronto premiere of Cyber-Seniors occurs May 30 - June 5 at the Carlton Cinema, followed by one-off event screenings in cities across Canada and the United States. Q&As will follow the 7pm screenings on Friday & Saturday.

Monday 26 May 2014

Some Brief Thoughts On Atom Egoyan Upon Recent Reviews (especially Peter Bradshaw's in the Guardian) of His New Film THE CAPTIVE and an utterly moronic article in The Huffington Post that gave me the runs. Musings and Analysis on the Great Man Egoyan - By Greg Klymkiw, Esq.

The Many Faces of Atom Egoyan
& his Trademark Head-Tilt Poses
Including (at bottom) a rare Sans-a-Tilt

My Love Affair With Atom Egoyan

By Greg Klymkiw

A STUPID ARTICLE in the Huffington Post and some really cruddy reviews of The Captive by Peter Bradshaw and others of Petey-Boy's loathsome ilk were annoying enough to make me want to spew the following thoughts about Atom Egoyan.

With respect to the aforementioned Huff Post piece, some have suggested it's not worthy enough to dignify a response, but frankly, when a supposedly respectable journal chooses to print such nonsense, it seems ludicrous not to eject vomit upon it. We are, after all, and with thanks to The Huffington Post, treated to the anal drippings of yet another "film journalist" or, as he's described by the publication, a "Pop Culture Blogger".

He's ultimately full of shit and as he's chosen a public forum to dispose of his waste matter, this is surely an environmental concern as well as a cultural one.

The clown demonstrates, like so many of his ilk do, a lack of film history and appears to be infused with all the critical acumen of Ben Mulroney, a smarmy Canadian sycophant purporting to be a journalist specializing in entertainment. This is probably enough to dismiss the guy's loathsome jottings.

That said, though, I'm often the first to crap on Canadian Cinema. I do think many of the problems with our nation's film product, most notably in English Canada, are tied oh-so resolutely to the "powers that be" (including government financiers, distributors and the biggest exhibition chain in Canada) far more than the filmmakers who pinch their cinematic loaves into the bowl of rejection for nobody to see. One might argue against my point by asserting that taste, especially as it relates to opinion, is subjective. I can't necessarily disagree with this, but I prefer to follow the delectable credo of Science Fiction writer Harlan Ellison regarding opinion - that nobody is entitled to one, but those who register one that's informed, are most certainly allowed to do so.

From my informed perspective, then, I agree that Atom has ground out a few stinkers, but the man is prolific and all filmmakers are allowed to make crappy movies from time to time (John Ford, Frank Capra, Alfred Hitchcock anyone?) - even if they receive public funds. Most often it's an artist's failures that contribute to their canon in mysterious ways - allowing them to do work that might fail, but eventually leads them to work that soars high indeed. Their failures also provide a body of work that will prove, over time, to be all the richer for critical study and analysis. (I have no use for the ephemeral properties ascribed to the worth of things - what counts is a work's universality: commercially, critically, academically.)

Whether his critics want to believe this or not, Atom has made any number of fine films that WILL live on once the mediocrity of so many others will be forgotten. Next of Kin is as sweet and engaging a feature debut as any of our best have generated. Family Viewing and Speaking Parts are delectably and perversely funny. Yes, what many don't recognize is Egoyan's perverse sense of humour - it's intentional and pervasive. Hmmmm, I like that "Pervasively Perverse" notion. Perhaps an essay along those lines is in order.

I don't especially like The Adjuster, but find there is much to admire in it, especially Elias Koteas's performance and the notion of ascribing monetary value to that which is beyond mere shekels. Exotica feels like a major misfire and a lost opportunity for Egoyan to plunge himself and us into some dangerous territory, but he gets points for even flirting with "danger". Mostly, I have my North End Winnipeg Ukrainian Boy prejudice against films about lap dancers that don't have enough nudity in them.

Calendar, as even the loathsome Huffington Post writer acknowledges, is a wonderful film. I'd go so far as to suggest it might be Egoyan's masterpiece - so wryly humorous and deeply moving, it is layered with complexity beneath its seemingly simple structure. Ararat, is an odd patchwork quilt, but I was ultimately spewing tears on several occasions in his evocation of the Armenian Holocaust.

Felicia's Journey also falls into the potential masterpiece category for me - a daring attempt at finding humanity in a monster, infused with plenty of chillingly creepy moments, an astounding Bob Hoskins performance and overall, being imbued with such skill, craft and directorial aplomb that I will maintain and defend to the teeth my assessment that the film is Hitchcock's Frenzy on lithium. Now THAT is perverse.

The last clutch of films (Where The Truth Lies, Adoration, Chloe and Devil's Knot) have been, for me, out and out failures, but they do have the distinction of remaining true to Egoyan's "voice" and I also suspect they represent an important transition for him as an artist. Thanks to my colleague Alan Bacchus, however, I am now excited to dive into Where The Truth Lies again as I might well be wrong about that one. (As well, I have seen all four of the films I just dismissed at least twice each and will, no doubt revisit them all again. God knows, I recently had a fresh helping of Frank Capra's most reviled film Pocketful of Miracles and maintain it's not awful at all and has much in it to admire.)

You'll note I've thus far ignored talking about his Oscar-nominated The Sweet Hereafter. Strictly from a taste standpoint, I most certainly do not like the film - the whole Pied Piper thing is clever, but it's self-consciously clever in a way that detracts from the impact the material could have had. However, I cannot deny that it's a pretty damn great film. Does that sound dichotomous? Goddamn rights it is! That is also the hallmark of a genuine artist - to make work that some might not like, but that also bears the indelible trademarks of artistry that guarantee its importance and that its detractors cannot ignore - so much so that it has drawn me back to it on subsequent occasions to reassess and appreciate it.

As for Egoyan's new film, The Captive (produced by Jennifer Weiss, Simone Urdl, Stephen Traynor and co-written by David Fraser), I've yet to see it (no Cannes for this fella) and I'm not sure when I shall see it since the head (or in this case, decidedly wrong-headed head) of E-One's publicity unit has seen fit to ban me from their screenings for some mysterious reasons she'll not adequately reveal.

I suspect the banning has more to do with my crapping on a few of their releases (which, now that I garner a worldwide readership over half a million, might be egregious enough, though I've raved far more frequently about their more worthwhile films than the risible ones). I consider their banning a badge of honour no matter how much an inconvenience it is and maybe I'll need to catch up with The Captive at the Toronto International Film Festival (if it plays there) or wait until it opens theatrically (whereupon I can buy a ticket to a different movie and waltz into the Egoyan to avoid donating any dinero to E-One).

I do, however, look forward to seeing it.

You see, as my readers and those who know me are well aware of, I normally refuse to read reviews before seeing movies I have not seen and written about, but with The Captive, my eyeballs were drawn to a tweet about a pan from Peter Bradshaw at the Guardian. Bradshaw is, to my mind, one of the worst film critics in the world and I was chomping at the bit to see what inanities he might have spluttered about Egoyan's new film.

It was a fine review.

Every fucking crap he took on the film was a reason to suggest I'd love the film. I then did the unthinkable (for me) and read another review. It was from Jonathan Romney, a film critic who is one of the best in the world (I can count those on the fingers of one and one-half hands). Everything he admired about The Captive suggested that Egoyan's new film is something I'm going to love. I was also taken with one more review. Written by Robbie Collin of The Telegraph, the third paragraph was such excellent film writing, I decided to stop reading, bookmark it and take a full gander once I've seen The Captive and have had a chance to write about it. Of course, the reason I hate reading reviews in advance are the expectations they set up and that most critics fulfil little more than the needs of studio flacks, revealing far too much of the content of the films to appease their brain-bereft editors, publishers and readers.

So I HOPE I love it.

My fingers are crossed.

Sunday 25 May 2014

PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Peter Weir's Classic Australian Private Schoolgirl Mystery on deluxe Criterion Blu-Ray box set.

Schoolgirls frolic with their corsets.
I'm down with this. And you?
Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) *****
Dir. Peter Weir
Starring: Rachel Roberts, Vivean Gray, Helen Morse,
Kirsty Child, Anne Lambert, Karen Robson, Jane Vallis,
Christine Schuler, Margaret Nelson, Dominic Guard, John Jarrett

Review By Greg Klymkiw

If you've not seen Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock and know absolutely nothing about the contents of its final half hour, then you'll have the ideal conditions under which to see this extraordinary film for the first time. My own first blind helping of the picture upon its inaugural North American release during the late 1970s, proved to be so chill-inducing that subsequent viewings became even richer. In fact, I can still recall specific moments when the gooseflesh made its shivering creepy-crawl upon me. If I had known anything about the final third, I'd have still loved it to death, but that I didn't, made the love so much deeper, so truly, so madly, so deeply deeper.

Everyone Loves Miranada
Miranda Loves Everyone
What Weir doesn't hide from us is what we're about to see. The movie begins quite perfectly with the following statement in the de rigueur 70s white-on-black titles:
"On Saturday 14th February 1900 a party of schoolgirls from Appleyard College picnicked at Hanging Rock, near Mt. Macedon in the state of Victoria. During the afternoon several members of the party disappeared without trace . . ."
Well, that about sums everything up, at least everything we need to know for now. There will be mystery, no doubt some suspense and, uh, schoolgirls in uniform. So far. So good.

In terms of narrative, the above statement pretty much describes the key incident in the plot that will spiral everything into turmoil. Knowing this right up front heightens our anticipatory dread. From the opening frames, gauzy, happy, David Hamilton-styled shots (the clothed/semi-clothed ones, naturellement) of pretty teenage girls romping about in their frilly nightdresses, bloomers, stockings, corsets and eventually, long, billowy white frocks, sun hats, fine gloves and twirly, tasselled parasols, this is a film that almost always presents us with watchful, fly-on-the-wall and downright fetishistic perspectives.

"Siliceous lava, forced up from deep down below.
Soda trachytes extruded in a highly viscous state,
building the steep sided mamelons."
Knowing what we know further heightens the feverish extent to which the girls are obsessed with St. Valentine's Day and their own budding sexuality. Passing exquisite handmade Valentine cards to each other, reading the inscribed sentiments privately and aloud, they are too breathlessly giddy to even properly wolf down their breakfast.

Gaiety abounds, but so does propriety and portent, the former mostly embodied in the primly coiffed headmistress Mrs. Appleyard (Rachel Roberts, carrying herself with deliciously stern diesel-dyke comportment) and the latter via the lush pan pipe tones of Zamfir on the soundtrack, dappled with lines of dialogue from the young ladies, especially those emanating from the goddess-like Miranada (Anne Lambert), words that take on the added weight they might normally not have been imbued with if it had not been for the aforementioned terse statement of fact embedded in those opening titles.

The excursion then begins in earnest, our girls accompanied by the schoolmarmish science teacher Miss McCraw (Vivean Gray) and the gentle, open, young and romantic French teacher Mademoiselle de Poitier (Helen Morse). Once delivered to the picnic grounds by horse and buggy, Weir's sumptuous imagery allows us to almost smell the delicate, perfumed aromas of all these women mixed with the natural scent of the abundant and varied flora of the site. As the ladies lazily gambol about, they are watched by two strapping young men from opposite ends of Australia's Victorian Era social strata (the nephew of two old coots picnicking nearby and their carriage driver). The gents find common ground via a shared bottle of wine and of course, their respective eyeballs glued to the variety of shapely young lassies.

Always present, strangely ever-watchful is the rock itself - huge, knobby phallus-like structures towering over everyone - ages-old daggers, jettisoned up from the molten bowels of the earth as if to penetrate the moist, open glove of blue sky and wisps of cloud. As opined by Miss McCraw, this is "siliceous lava, forced up from deep down below. Soda trachytes extruded in a highly viscous state, building the steep sided mamelons we see in Hanging Rock."

Mamelons, indeed.

The atmosphere is thick with both innocence and looming disaster: wind-up watches stop mysteriously at the same time, insects buzz amongst the flowers, the most moderate of breezes wafts through the leaves, a glistening knife plunges into a fluffy white Valentine cake. Time stands truly still as books are quietly read and naps are taken. Some lassies, however, are looking for added adventure. Miranda appeals to the kindly, liberal Mademoiselle for permission to take measurements at the rock's base so she and some of her classmates can better adhere to Mrs. Appleyard's orders to compose essays about the locale's geological properties.

With the French teacher's blessings, four of the girls begin their trek into the woods. Miranda turns around to deliver a wave to Mademoiselle. We know something the film's characters don't and allows for Miranda's wave to be infused with all the properties of a farewell. As the film follows the four ladies higher and ever-higher up the rock, maze-like pathways and dark, cave-like openings feel as Pied-Piper-like as they are ever-watchful - POVs taking on even more intensely fetishistic interest in these sweet young things as they're sucked up by the vortex in the sky.

"Everything begins and ends at exactly the right time and place," says Miranda.

And so, they do.

A piercing scream, a mad rush through canted angles of foreboding - some manner of evil has overtaken the proceedings and Picnic at Hanging Rock soon reveals a mad, desperate attempt to clutch at the straws of clues that become even more obtuse as they're examined and followed. Repression begets hysteria and director Weir delivers frustration, sadness and a mystery so haunting that we know only one thing for sure - truth is in the details, but in life, details are virtually meaningless unless they have some genuinely logical connection.

This, though, is the power of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Truth, even if we know it as such, is ultimately elusive and if anything, we think that maybe the answers to the mystery are hidden in plain sight, but life, as in the movies, can't always be so simple. As Miranda says in the first spoken lines of the film: "What we see and what we seem are but a dream, a dream within a dream." With those words, Weir plunges us into a film that might well be the closest cinematic equivalent to an infinity mirror that's ever been created.

The view is exposed by recursive means. It recedes into a tunnel of mystery upon mystery upon mystery that feels like there's simply never going to be an end in sight.

How creepy, how disturbing and how terrifying is that?


GORGEOUS Criterion Box-Set
Picnic at Hanging Rock is available in an astounding dual format box set from The Criterion Collection. Like another recent Criterion release (Red River), its presentation is clearly a vanguard that few, if any, will be able to approximate. Personally supervised by director Peter Weir, the film has been remastered via a high-definition digital film transfer. The multi-disc box includes an interview with Weir, a brand new documentary on the making of the film, a 1975 on-set documentary, A Recollection . . . Hanging Rock 1900 and a lovely booklet featuring a superb essay by author Megan Abbott and an informative excerpt from Marek Haltof’s 1996 book "Peter Weir: When Cultures Collide". There's a new introduction by David Thomson, author of "The New Biographical Dictionary of Film" that many will find illuminating, but I suggest to those who've not seen the film to not watch it until afterwards. (This, obviously goes for all of the added value features.) As with their release of Red River, Criterion has again outdone themselves with the whole package. There are two extras that catapult the box into some kind of home entertainment immortality. The first is the inclusion of Homesdale, Peter Weir's hilariously vicious 1971 black comedy.

The second is a brand-new paperback, previously O.O.P. in North American, of Joan Lindsay’s classic of Australian literature that the film uses as its source. This is a truly great book which I'd never read before and after watching this version of the film a couple of times, I dove between the book's covers and thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, it's a magnificent supplement to the film and offers added illumination to the great mystery it and the film recount.