Wednesday 31 December 2014

CORNER GAS THE MOVIE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Canuck TV show on big screen, eh

Here be a real knee-slapper from CORNER GAS THE MOVIE
Nyuck. Nyuck. Nyuck. Are you be laughing yet?
It be real funny, eh? It be Canadian, eh.
Come on! Laugh, goddamn ye! LAUGH!
Ah, fuck you, gimme a beer, eh.

Corner Gas The Movie (2014)
Dir. David Storey
Scr. Brent Butt,
Andrew Carr, Andrew Wreggitt
Starring: Brent Butt, Gabrielle Miller, Fred Ewanuick, Eric Peterson, Janet Wright, Tara Spencer-Nairn, Lorne Cardinal, Nancy Robertson, Don Lake, Reagan Pasternak, Karen Holness, Cavan Cunningham, Graham Greene

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The Canadian TV series Corner Gas was an undeniable smash. For six seasons, its ratings kicked everything off the charts, including big American programs. Its worldwide sales have also been through the roof. The show could probably have gone on for a few more seasons, but its creator Brent Butt bravely decided to pull the plug on a high note. The final episode drew a staggering three-million-plus Canadian viewers.

Tuesday 30 December 2014

HANNAH MONTANA: THE MOVIE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Genuine Big Screen Version

Here's a terrific rendering of the immortal Hannah Montana Hoedown Throwdown for thine pleasure
Le ART film du Miley
Hannah Montana - Le Film
Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009)
Dir. Peter Chelsom
Starring: Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyrus, Emily Osment, Jason Earles, Peter Gunn

Review By Greg Klymkiw

When a middle-aged man wanders alone into a theatre full of 8-year-old girls and their Moms, then plops down front row centre, is it fair to automatically assume he is a child molester? What if this gentleman grew up in a simpler age when the likes of scrumptious childstar Hayley Mills delighted not only little girls and their mothers, but little boys as well? Though a lad couldn't admit he loved Hayley Mills, it was assumed his mates were equally enamoured with the sweet-faced star of Pollyanna.

Monday 29 December 2014

THE NIGHT PORTER - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Classic NAZI S&M on Criterion BD&DVD

The Criterion Collection's
BluRay Special Edition
is quite the treat!!!
The Night Porter (1974)
Dir. Liliana Cavani
Starring: Dirk Bogarde, Charlotte Rampling

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Liliana Cavani's 1974 depiction of the post-war resumption of a violent sadomasochistic relationship between a former S.S. officer (the prim, grim, perversely dashing Dirk Bogarde) and a concentration camp survivor (an icily sensual, waif-like Charlotte Rampling, alternating twixt childlike pleading and a grinning, thin-lipped malevolence), is one of a mere handful of pictures to inspire genuine revulsion amongst critics and audiences (both upon its initial release and even to this day).

Sunday 28 December 2014

THE FILM CORNER presents Greg Klymkiw's 10 Best Films of 2014, for thine edification - Many of these films were first unleashed at such film festivals and venues as TIFF 2014, TIFF Bell Lightbox, Hot Docs 2014, Toronto After Dark 2014, FantAsia 2014, FNC 2014, BITS 2014, NIFF 2014, The Royal Cinema and the Magic Lantern Carlton Cinemas

Greg Klymkiw's 10 Best Films of 2014 (in alphabetical order)

Each film is accompanied by an italicized excerpt from the original review. Feel free to click on the title to read the full review

COLD IN JULY Dir. Jim Mickle
Dane (Michael C. Hall) hasn't even had time to get out of his station wagon when he arrives at the cemetery. Then again, nobody would ever know he's been the lone witness to the tail-end of the burial. No one, that is, save for Russell (Sam Shepard), the lanky, grizzled and grimacing old man with a grey buzz-cut atop his dome and a pair of shades he's removed to reveal his piercing eyes. The old man, seemingly appearing from nowhere, towers above Dane, dwarfed only by the big, old Texas sky. He leans into the open window, burning holes into the killer of his only son. "Come to watch the shit go into the hole, huh?" quips Russell with a half smile. "Mighty Christian of you."

Saturday 27 December 2014

THE FILM CORNER presents THE 10 WORST MOVIES of 2014 as selected by Greg Klymkiw.

The Film Corner's
as selected by
Greg Klymkiw

2014 had its fair share of dreadful movies. A whopping four titles received my lowest rating: THE TURD DISCOVERED BEHIND HARRY'S CHAR BROIL AND DINING LOUNGE. Below you'll get a link to my original review (by clicking on the title of the movie) and a brief italicized quotation from said review.

In alphabetical order, The 10 Worst Movies of 2014:

Andrew Garfield is a woeful Peter Parker. Upchuck at this, web-slingers: An annoying hedgehog tuft of hair upon his oversized gourd-like cranium, a thin, misshapen long face that's seemingly being winched from his jaw to ground level, weasel-like eyes, crooked smirk and shrivelled proboscis with its perpetually upturned tip and an irremovable sneer. I won't even get started on his spindly Ichabod-Crane-like body. Oh, and it's 142 minutes long.

Friday 26 December 2014

MR. TURNER - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Opens TIFF BellLightbox via MongrelMedia

Mr. Turner
Dir. Mike Leigh
Starring: Timothy Spall, Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Bailey, Paul Jesson, Lesley Manville

Review By Greg Klymkiw

It seems fitting that the first film biography of the great Romantic landscape painter JMW Turner, oft-referred to as "the painter of light", is the product of one of the world's greatest living directors, Mike Leigh (Life is Sweet, Naked, Secrets & Lies, Vera Drake, Topsy-Turvy). The exquisite properties of light in cinema, the glorious dance of film through a projector, the astonishing grace, promise and amalgamation of so many mediums into one, all driven by exposing and rendering the luminosity which, Turner proclaimed on his deathbed as God itself, is what yields this astonishing, moving celebration of a supremely important visual artist.

Thursday 25 December 2014

THE INTERVIEW - Review By Greg Klymkiw - KimJong-un AssassinationComedy not funny

The cast of
has way more fun
than its audience will.

The Interview (2014)
Dir. Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Scr. Dan Sterling
Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Randall Park, Lizzy Caplan, Diana Bang, Eminem, Rob Lowe

Review By Greg Klymkiw

On paper, this must have sounded pretty good. The producer (Seth Rogen) and host (James Franco) of a highly rated sleaze-o-rama TV interview show specialize in outrageous shock-value exposes of American pop culture celebrities: for example, Eminem announces his homosexuality on the show, whilst Rob Lowe removes a toupee and there's talk of interviewing Matthew McConaughey about his sexual relations with a goat. When the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, a huge fan of the show agrees to an interview, our bro-mantic couple are not only going to be shipped all expenses paid to North Korea, but are approached and trained by the CIA to assassinate him.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Greg Klymkiw picks The Film Corner's Top 21 Documentaries of 2014 - Stellar Year 4 DOCS - Many of these films were first unleashed at such film festivals and venues as TIFF 2014, TIFF Bell Lightbox, Hot Docs 2014, Toronto After Dark 2014, FantAsia 2014, FNC 2014, BITS 2014, NIFF 2014, Planet Out 2014, The Royal Cinema and the Magic Lantern Carlton Cinemas

Documentary cinema in 2014 was so powerful that it seems almost ludicrous to even attempt a list honouring only 10 movies, so I've decided to include a few categories here that are comprised of a variety of films within them which I've chosen to bundle together and furthermore present my picks as the Top 21 Documentaries of 2014. The list will be in alphabetical order by category and title.

Documentaries on the Artistic Process:

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Greg Klymkiw's 10 BEST HORROR/SCI-FI/FANTASY/ACTION FILMS of 2014 - Many of these films were first unleashed at such film festivals and venues as TIFF 2014, TIFF Bell Lightbox, Hot Docs 2014, Toronto After Dark 2014, FantAsia 2014, FNC 2014, BITS 2014, NIFF 2014, The Royal Cinema and the Magic Lantern Carlton Cinemas

Berkshire County
Dir. Audrey Cummings, Scr. Chris Gamble, Prod. A71 Productions, High Star Entertainment, Narrow Edge Productions
Pigs, you see, are lurking in the woods. Not just any pigs, mind you, but a family of travelling serial killers adorned in horrifying pig masks. And these sick fuckers mean business.

Monday 22 December 2014

RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Grim Yuletide from Finland

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
dir. Jalmari Helander
Starring: Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila

Review By Greg Klymkiw

While it is an indisputable truth that Jesus is the reason for the season. the eventual commercialization of Christmas inevitably yielded the fantasy figure of Santa Claus, the jolly, porcine dispenser of toys to children. Living with his equally corpulent wife, Mrs. Claus, a passel of dwarves and a herd of reindeer at the North Pole, Santa purportedly toils away in his workshop for the one day of the year when he can distribute the fruits of his labour into the greedy palms of children the world over.

Is it any wonder we forget that Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Our Lord Baby Jesus H. Christ?

In the movies, however, we have had numerous dramatic renderings of the true spirit of Christmas - tales of redemption and forgiveness like the Alistair Sim version of A Christmas Carol, Frank Capra's immortal It's a Wonderful Life and Phillip Borsos's One Magic Christmas, but fewer and far between are the Christmas movies that address the malevolence of the season celebrating Christ's Birth. There's the brilliant Joan Collins segment in the Amicus production of Tales From the Crypt, the Silent Night Deadly Night franchise and, perhaps greatest of all, that magnificent Canadian movie Black Christmas from Bob (Porky's) Clark.

And now, add Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale to your perennial Baby-Jesus-Worship viewings! This creepy, terrifying, darkly hilarious and dazzlingly directed bauble of Yuletide perversity takes us on a myth-infused journey to the northern border between Finland and Lapland where a crazed archeologist and an evil corporation have discovered and unearthed the resting place of the REAL Santa Claus.

When Santa is finally freed from the purgatorial tomb, he runs amuck and indulges himself in a crazed killing spree - devouring all the local livestock before feeding upon both adults and children who do not subscribe to the basic tenet of Santa's philosophy of: "You better be Good!" A motley crew of local hunters and farmers, having lost their livelihood, embark upon an obsessive hunt for Santa. They capture him alive and hold him ransom to score a huge settlement from the Rare Exports corporation who, in turn, have nefarious plans of their own for world wide consumer domination. How can you go wrong if you control the REAL Santa?

There's always, however, a spanner in the works, and it soon appears that thousands of Claus-ian clones emerge from the icy pit in Lapland and embark upon a desperate hunt for their leader. These vicious creatures are powerful, ravenous and naked.

Yes, naked!

Thousands of old men with white beards traverse across the tundras of Finland with their saggy buttocks and floppy genitalia exposed to the bitter northern winds. For some, this might even be the ultimate wet dream, but I'll try not to think too hard about who they might be.

All cultures, of course, have their own indigenous versions of everyone's favourite gift-giver and this eventually led to the contemporary rendering of the Santa Claus we're all familiar with. Finland, however, absorbed in considerable wintery darkness for much of the year, insanely overflowing with rampant alcoholism and being the birthplace of the brilliant Kaurismäki filmmaking brothers, is one delightfully twisted country. It's no surprise, then, that the Finns' version of jolly old Saint Nick is utterly malevolent. As presented in this bizarre and supremely entertaining movie, Santa is one demonic mo-fo!!!

Directed with panache by the young Finnish director Jalmari Helander (and based on his truly insane short films), Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is one unique treat. It's a Christmas movie with scares, carnage and loads of laughs. Helander renders spectacular images in scene after scene and his filmmaking vocabulary is sophisticated as all get-out. In fact, some of his shots out-Spielberg Spielberg, and unlike the woeful, tin-eyed J.J. Abrams (he of the loathsome Super-8, the Star Trek reboots, the worst Mission Impossible of all time and now, God forbid, Star Wars), I'd put money on Helander eventually becoming the true heir apparent to the Steven Spielberg torch. Helander's imaginative mise-en-scène is especially brilliant as he stretches a modest budget (using stunning Norwegian locations) and renders a movie with all the glorious production value of a bonafide studio blockbuster. The difference here, is that it's not stupid, but blessed with intelligence and imagination.

While the movie is not suitable for most young children (except mine), it actually makes for superb family viewing if the kiddies are not whining sissy-pants. Anyone expecting a traditional splatter-fest will also be disappointed, but I suspect even they will find merit in the movie. Most of all, Moms, Dads and their brave progeny can all delight in this dazzling Christmas thriller filled with plenty of jolts, laughs, adventure and yes, even a sentimental streak that rivals that of the master of all things darkly wholesome, Steven Spielberg.

You have hereby been warned:

You better watch out,
you better not cry,
you better not pout,
I'm telling you why,
Santa Claus is coming to town,
with razor-sharp big gnarly teeth,
a taste for human flesh,
he knows if you've been bad or good,
and he likes to eat kids fresh.

Or in the words of Tiny Tim: "God Bless us, everyone."

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ 3 and-a-half stars

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is currently available in a superb Bluray and DVD from the Oscilloscope Pictures (and distributed in Canada via the visionary company VSC). I normally have little use for extra features, but this release is one of the few exceptions. It includes Helander's brilliant shorts and some truly informative and entertaining making-of docs. This is truly worth owning and cherishing - again and again!

Sunday 21 December 2014

SEE NO EVIL 2 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Soskas deliver goods w/gun-for-hire slasher pic

If this happy fellow was stalking you
in a morgue at night, it would probably NOT
be an ideal situation for you to be in.
Moments of Tenderness - Soska Style

See No Evil 2 (2014)
Dir. Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska
Scr. Nathan Brookes, Bobby Lee Darby
Starring: Glenn "Kane" Jacobs, Danielle Harris, Katharine Isabelle

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I couldn't get Alfred Hitchcock out of my head while watching the third feature film by the Soska Sisters. In particular I was forced to recall Hitch's espionage thriller Torn Curtain. His picture has one of the most brilliant, harrowing and excruciatingly violent set pieces in movie history which, I believe, should be every young filmmaker's guide to what makes a movie great (and not just those who are making genre films). At the very least, the scene provides an example of the sort of elements most naturally-gifted filmmakers should always be thinking about.

The scene involves a mathematician and a simple rural housewife forced to kill a deadly East German Stasi agent as silently as possible in a farmhouse kitchen. Neither man nor woman have experience in such heinous shenanigans. The odds of succeeding are stacked against them big time and as such, the hurdles they face are rife with conflict. Even more importantly, Hitch makes the fullest use of the setting for the foul deed to be carried out, thus begging the question: if they're not killers and don't even have the required implements to kill, what do they use? Anything and everything at their disposal in the kitchen. (Just thinking about this probably places any number of horrendous thoughts in your head and yet, none of them will come close to the sheer horror and brutality of what's actually used.) The bottom line is that the scene must naturally use what would be at these characters' fingertips and be the sorts of things they'd need to use with very little time to think it through (hence, the aforementioned notion of not automatically guessing what's used).

Fuelling the scene thematically is Hitchcock's desire to make it clear just how hard it is for a "normal" person to kill someone - taking a life is not an easy thing, even if it's the only thing to do to survive - especially on the levels of practicality and morality. The cherry Hitch places on the ice cream sundae is that the historical backdrop is post-war Communist Germany during the Cold War. The victim is a German. His last breath will occur within a household item that's sickeningly symbolic of what Germans did to their prisoners in concentration camps.

You might wonder why I'm spending so much time discussing this ONE scene in an old (and even quite flawed, save for a few great scenes) Hitchcock film. Well, it serves two purposes. One, it places the Soskas, as filmmakers, in that wonderful sphere of natural born killers - or rather, uh, directors.

Though See No Evil 2, a sequel to Gregory Dark's mediocre slasher film made eight years earlier for WWE is clearly a gun-for-hire picture for the identical twin auteurs, they seem to have been given a great deal of rope to assist in the development of a screenplay that not only includes many of their trademark touches and thematic concerns, but, in so doing, they've also been blessed to employ their natural gifts as genuine filmmakers and as if, by osmosis, have conjured Hitch's spirit in rendering a picture that is sickeningly brutal, but also darkly, grotesquely funny and most of all, employs the most important elements of setting in order to reflect upon character, theme and just plain old terror-inducement.

It's a quiet night night in the city morgue. Good thing, too. Wheelchair-bound boss-man Holden (Michael Eklund) seems happy enough to let his star employee Amy (Danielle Harris, the always gorgeous scream queen) book off early to join some pals at the bar to celebrate her birthday while he and her significant-sniffer-around-her beau Seth (Kaj-Erik Eriksen) preside over the dull goings-on. Ah, but as fate would have it, all three need to hang about since an emergency phone call informs them that the morgue is going to be soon flooded with corpses from a nearby mass-killing-spree. Gosh, golly, gee! They're also going to be blessed with the body of the killer himself, the seven-foot, 300-pound, Jacob Goodnight (former WWE wrasslin' champ Glenn "Kane" Jacobs).

That's a decent stacked deck. To begin with, that is.

Once Amy informs her pals she's gotta work, they decide to bring the party to the morgue. Armed with all manner of booze and hallucinogenic comestibles, Amy's goth-and-death-obsessed party animal bestie Tamara (Katharine Isabelle), babe-o-licious and hunk-o-licious pals (respectively), Kayla (Chelan Simmons) and Carter (Lee Majdoub), plus Amy's dour, obsessive (almost creepily Oedipal) brother Will (Greyston Holt). Needless to say, this clutch of new characters add a number of interesting elements to the mix, but also beef up what will, no doubt be added slasher fodder.

Good, another stacked deck. Oh, and might I remind you, we're in a morgue. Feel free to do the math on what implements (and inmates) this joint will be loaded with to add to the inevitable party games.

Now, we get to the pièce de résistance of stacked decks: all seven feet, 300-lbs of serial killer Jacob Goodnight are not dead at all. The lad's merely been resting. Now he's ready for more naughty horseplay. Let's put those thinking caps back on, folks. It doesn't take a Rhodes Scholar to figure out what this bloodthirsty, mightily-engorged-penis-on-two-legs will have at his disposal. He dons a mask used for burn victims. Those, I can assure you, are bowel-movement-inducingly scary. Ah, but what else will this throbbing gristle find? Duh, it's a morgue. All manner of blades are available here and Jacob's only too delighted to pack as many delectable items as possible. He's a crafty S.O.B. so he finds a way of sealing everyone in the morgue - all ways out are locked.

We have a morgue full of babes, hunks and one cripple and a killer on the rampage.

Need I say more?

Not really, save to inform you that screenwriters Nathan Brookes and Bobby Lee Darby have imbued the tale with a whack of clearly-Soska-inspired character-quirks including guilt, Oedipal obsession, promise unfulfilled, the same promise buried deep inside and aching to be implemented in surviving, mega-grrrrrllllll-power, unabashed sexual abandon and empowerment-galore.

Danielle Harris has always displayed promise as an actress, but the Soskas manage to coax a great performance out of her that's layered, sensitive and yeah, tough and sexy. Harris is always a welcome Scream Queen, but here, she displays acting chops heretofore only hinted at. I hope she never abandons genre cinema, but the Soskas have managed to create an atmosphere wherein her genuine talent shines in ways that a few intelligent producers (mostly an oxymoron, I admit) will be offering Harris a wide bevy of roles in a whole passel of different styles of pictures. (Hell, I'd LOVE to see a contemporary version of the great Greek tragedy The Trojan Women set in the war-torn east of Ukraine and featuring Harris in the haunting, harrowing role of Cassandra.) And let's not forget all the stuff Harris normally brings to the table. There will be kills in See No Evil 2, but there will also be mucho-ass-kicking, tear-assing around and narrow-escapes and rescues, a lot of it from the hot, shapely and physically fit Ms. Harris.

Hot Canuck thespian missy Katharine Isabelle (American Mary and Ginger Snaps) is allowed to go completely into the madcap stratosphere and delivers a performance that taps delightfully into her natural sense of humour, but luckily does not leave either her intensity, nor jaw-dropping-camera-loves-her sexiness behind. (Personally, I'd love to see a Soska remake/reboot/retelling of Lynne Stopkewich's Kissed with Isabelle in the Molly Parker role. If one does a careful analysis of such things, Americans have successfully remade a number of great genre films that wisely placed them within the context of varying political/historical contexts. If any Canadian picture was ripe for this, it'd be Kissed.)

See No Evil 2 is ultimately one scary-ass, intelligent and superbly crafted slasher film - gorgeously shot, cut and, of course, directed. In actual fact of matter, there aren't too slasher pictures even worth thinking about, let alone seeing. The Soskas have delivered one that's at the top of the heap.


See No Evil 2 is available on Blu-Ray. Sadly, it was not released theatrically save for selected festival showings. But it's out there and definitely worth owning. Avoid digital downloads and streaming, though. It doesn't do the picture justice. Screw DVD too. Same deal. The Blu-Ray is perfection.

Saturday 20 December 2014

Greg Klymkiw, presents the The Film Corner Awards (TFCA) in this the year of Our Lord 2014 - Many of these films were first unleashed at such film festivals and venues as TIFF 2014, TIFF Bell Lightbox, Hot Docs 2014, Toronto After Dark 2014, FantAsia 2014, FNC 2014, BITS 2014, NIFF 2014, The Royal Cinema and the Magic Lantern Carlton Cinemas


This will be the first in a series of year-end Film Corner round-ups of cinema in 2014. Below, you will find the citations of excellence from me, Greg Klymkiw, in the form of my annual The Film Corner Awards (TFCA) for 2014. The most interesting observation is that ALL of these films were first screened within the context of major international film festivals which is further proof of their importance in presenting audiences with the very best that cinema has to offer whilst most mainstream exhibition chains are more interested in presenting refuse on multi-screens of the most ephemeral kind. All the citations here came from films unleashed at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2014), the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TADFF 2014), Hot Docs 2014, Montreal's 2014 FantAsia International Film Festival and the 2014 Montreal Nouveau Cinema Festival (FNC 2014). In Canada, only two of the films cited have been released theatrically within the hardly-visionary, downright lazy mega-plex chain Cineplex Entertainment and even those films are being allowed to play on a limited number of screens in an even-more limited number of cities while ludicrous numbers of awful movies are draining screen time at the aforementioned chain's big boxes. It's not as if all the films the chain allows to hog screens are doing numbers to justify this combination of piggishness and laziness. Keep your eyes open, though. The films cited here are all astounding BIG-SCREEN experiences, which will hopefully find BIG-SCREEN exhibition before being relegated to less-than-ideal home entertainment venues. And now, here goes, The Film Corner Awards (TFCA 2014) as selected by your most Reverend Greg Klymkiw. Included are brief quotes from my original reviews  and links to the full-length reviews from the past year (just click on the title).

American cinema, more than anything, has always exemplified the American Dream. Almost in response to this, director David Zellner with his co-writer brother Nathan, have created Kumiko The Treasure Hunter, one of the most haunting, tragic and profoundly moving explorations of mental illness within the context of dashed hopes and dreams offered by the magic of movies and the wide-open expanse of a country teeming with opportunity and riches.

Best Feature Film
Kumiko The Treasure Hunter

Friday 19 December 2014

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON - Review By Greg Klymkiw - I refuse to see the sequel. Here's why.

How To Train Your Dragon (2010)
dir. Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Review By Greg Klymkiw

There's nothing especially bad about How To Train Your Dragon, but there's also nothing especially good about it. The sequel, imaginatively titled How to Train Your Dragon 2 was such a surprise hit and critics' darling this year that I'm compelled to revisit this one since I pretty much refuse to see the new film.

Each time I see a new animated feature on a big screen these days, the first question that courses through the rivulets of my brain is, "Haven't I seen this somewhere before?" The second is, "Uh, like, why did they make this?" The answer to the former is a quick and resounding "Yes!" The answer to the latter comes when I look away from the screen and/or up from a rousing game of "Bejeweled" on my iPhone and realize I'm sitting amongst several hundred little nippers and their surprisingly engaged parents. It's like what James Earl Jones says in Field of Dreams: "If you build it they will come."

Parents these days seem so starved for family entertainment that the studios just keep piling on one derivative 3-D digital delight after another. It's one of my familiar rants, actually. Why do today's parents keep dragging their kids to see this crap? There are so many other movies they could be taking them to.

When I was a kid, I saw every Disney release, to be sure, but most of them were classics from the Golden Age and re-released every seven or so years to capitalize on new generations of avid viewers. But these weren't the ONLY movies my parents took me to or that, when I hit the age of seven or eight, went to by myself. I saw the original Planet of the Apes and its multitude of sequels between the ages of 7 and 13. I went to all the Sinbad movies. I saw every John Wayne and Clint Eastwood western. Dad took me to see The Wild Bunch when I was 9. I remember making a deal with my Mom that if I had to sit through Mary Poppins, she had to promise to take me to see The Battle of the Bulge. Hell, I remember going to grindhouses as a kid and sitting through Hammer Horror films, motorcycle movies, war pictures and British Carry On sex comedies. And aside from Disney, I really don't remember there being that many animated movies being made, released or re-released. Going to the movies meant going to the movies - ANY MOVIES - so long as it wasn't pornography. (…and even then!)

It's not like there AREN'T movies today that are similar to the abovementioned titles. There's plenty of action, fantasy, comedies and even straight-up drama for families to see. Why then, must audiences keep encouraging the studios to grind out these mostly empty and derivative bowls of treacle?

How To Train Your Dragon, as uninteresting as it is, at least has dragons in it. But, God help me, the story is appallingly familiar. A young Viking lad wants to battle dragons like his Dad. Dad doesn't think his son is ready to do so. Boy Viking makes his mark by downing a dragon but not killing it. Then (barf!) he discovers dragons are nice and he turns his former quarry into a pet. And, guess what? I'm sure this will surprise you. I know it surprised me (though in fairness, my attention drifted between the movie and "Bejeweled", so anything would have surprised me). Viking boy teaches everybody that dragons are not what they seem. Aaawwww, isn't that nice?

And aside from the annoying digital 3-D animation that will never hold a candle to traditional animation and the equally maddening cutesy-pie voice work from an all-star cast, the biggest problem with this picture, and so many others of its ilk, is just how goddamn nice it is. Makes me want to sing "Everything is Beautiful (In Its Own Way)" or worse, "Cumbaya".

Critics who don't know any better (most of them these days) and even audiences, always have this moronic knee-jerk comment about classic Disney - that it's trite and treacly.

Uh, sorry to disillusion, you all - classic Disney often borders on straight-up horror. It's deliciously cruel and perverse. That whale in Pinocchio can still scare the shit out of me. Bambi still kicks me in the stomach when the kiddie deer's Mom is shot. Dumbo separated from his mother, teased mercilessly by everyone and drunkenly facing those "Pink Elephants on Parade" all continue to knock me on my ass and give me the willies. It was even more intense as a kid. And don't even get me started on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - are we talking unrequited freak love, or what?

And what do we get now? We get mediocrities like How To Train Your Dragon (and now a fucking sequel which I refuse to see), designed to make everyone feel all touchy-feely, but THAT, oh sensitive ones, is more falsely corrupt a message to shovel down our kids' throats. Classic Disney toughened the little buggers up AND entertained them, but all that this contemporary stuff does is teach lessons of conformity and understanding and getting along. And of course, that stuff is important, but it's also important for kids to know that prices are paid dearly on this Earth to even begin the process of understanding and healing, that evil and terror exists, that entertainment (and healing) should not always come easily.

When I think about the best work by Spielberg like E.T. or Joe Dante's deliciously nasty Gremlins movies, I think that THESE are the ultimate family movies. Spielberg rips your heart out and Dante microwaves gremlins until they explode. Now THAT'S entertainment! For the whole family, no less.

Look, at the end of the day, you'll see a lot worse than How To Train Your Dragon, but I'm picking on it precisely because it's so offensively inoffensive and middle of the road. It's hardly illuminating and leaves little room for any real discourse of substance with your child.

"Enough," I say. Enough with the touchy-feelie, already.


How To Drain Your Dragon is available on homevideo in a handy Blu-Ray/DVD combo from Dreamworks, but do your kids a favour - rent or buy something like Splice instead.

Thursday 18 December 2014

DRUM - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Delectably vile MANDINGO sequel on Kino Lorber BRD

"Papa? You put Drum with Elvira.
She's a purty l'il wench and everybody says she's in heat."

Wednesday 17 December 2014

ELMER GANTRY - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Lancaster Dazzles in KinoLorber Blu-Ray

"You think Jesus was some kind of a sissy, eh? Let me tell you, Jesus wouldn't be afraid to walk in here or any speakeasy to preach the gospel. Jesus had guts! He wasn't afraid of the whole Roman army." --Burt Lancaster as Elmer Gantry
And love is the morning and the evening star…
I know nothing of theosophy, philosophy,
psychology, ideology or any other ology.
But I DO know this:
With Christ, you're SAVED,
Without Christ, you're LOST.
And how do I know there's a merciful God?
Because I've seen the Devil plenty of times!

Elmer Gantry (1960)
Dir. Richard Brooks
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Jean Simmons, Arthur Kennedy, Dean Jagger, Shirley Jones, Patti Page, Edeard Andrews, John McIntire

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Slinking through one post-war-pre-depression tank town after another, with a smile wider than the midwestern prairie skies always above him, title character Elmer Gantry (Burt Lancaster) might be the best travelling salesman in America.

Driven by a thirst for cheap liquor, even cheaper women, the company of other back-slapping bagmen and blessed by the Lord on high with the alternately revered and reviled acoethes loquendi, Elmer's gift of gab knows no bounds. He's always got the latest and greatest ribald jokes on the tip of his tongue and splatters his brilliant, charming sales pitches with the expert blarney of a top-flight evangelist, peppering every second word, phrase or sentence with passionate dollops of scripture.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Restored on Kino Lorber Blu-Ray

In what manner will the creepy somnambulist
DEFILE this sleeping beauty?

Love? Or LUST?
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Dir. Robert Wiene
Starring: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt,
Friedrich Fehér, Lil Dagover, Hans Heinrich von Twardowski

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Like many great horror movies, it all begins innocently enough. In a gentle, pastoral setting, two distinguished gentlemen are seated on a bench along a well-manicured pathway flanked by tall, lush bushes. Their conversation is animated and cultured until the men are forced to pause when a stunningly beautiful woman passes by. She's clearly and deeply immersed in her own thoughts - so much so, one might even assume she's in a trance, or sleepwalking.

Whichever it might be, she is all woman and the ethereal countenance she bears is more than enough to have most men locking their gaze upon her with the same intense, almost somnambulistic state she's in herself.

The younger gentleman, Francis (Friedrich Fehér), informs his elderly male companion that this woman is, in fact, Jane (Lil Dagover), his fiancée. The older gent is, like anyone would be, burning with curiosity. Francis willingly obliges the fellow's thirst for added illumination.

So begins our tale proper, as Francis recounts what proves to be a strange and sinister narrative, one that chills to the very bone marrow.

Robert Wiene's great German expressionistic horror film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, set the bar mighty high for the unique approach to cinema which captured the hearts and minds of movie-goers in the post-WWI Weimar Republic of Germany. This rich artistic period yielded such classic and highly influential films as Nosferatu, still the greatest Dracula of them all, The Golem, the mythic Hebrew legend with shades of "Frankenstein", Waxworks, the truly bizarre anthology of famous creeps in history, Faust, still the ultimate selling-one's-soul-to-the-devil shocker, Dr. Mabuse The Gambler, the thrilling mad genius super-criminal epic, The Holy Mountain, the wacko mountaineering melodrama of jealousy and betrayal starring future notorious propagandist Leni Riefenstahl, Die Nibelungen the monster-and-magic-filled myth of German "superiority", Metropolis, the incredibly prescient science fiction masterpiece, Pandora's Box, a harrowing journey into the clutches of Jack the Ripper, The Blue Angel, the sickening nadir of a man's downfall, M, the horrifying child-molester-killer-thriller, Vampyr, an eerie adaptation of Le Fanu's terrifying short stories "In A Glass Darkly" and finally, just so many more masterworks of the supremely original kind that it's nigh impossible to catalogue the lot of them without several volumes of detailed study.

All were characterized by their use of high contrast, shadows, twisted and/or stunted architecture, madness of the most insidious kind and yes, on frequent occasions, the supernatural. Most were huge box-office hits, at first in Germany and then, the whole world.

In addition to Wiene, the period gave us the immeasurable talents of Fritz Lang, Paul Leni, F.W. Murnau. Josef von Sterberg, Arnold Fanck, Ernst Lubitsch, G.W. Pabst, Carl Dreyer, Leni Riefenstahl and a bevy of filmmakers who broke new ground and shaped cinema worldwide - not only during and just after this period, but astonishingly, forevermore.

The horror films of the 30s and 40s, plus film noir of post-WWII America were, in particular, motivated to pursue new and exciting directions by the expressionists. Even straight-up studio maestros like Clarence Brown, Mervyn LeRoy, John Cromwell and Sam Wood (in addition to so many others), brought dollops of expressionism into their work, no matter what the genre. (And Lord knows, legendary production designer/director William Cameron Menzies, himself so influential, was highly rooted in expressionistic creation.)

Certainly, trying to imagine a contemporary tapestry of cinema without Blade Runner, Sin City, The Crow and virtually any movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock and Tim Burton is impossible to imagine in a world without German expressionism. (Hitchcock's time observing the mighty machine of Germany's UFA studios is clear throughout his entire canon and he might be the clearest example of a bonafide expressionist working consistently during the first two-thirds of the 20th Century.)

Cinematic storytelling during the expressionist period was stuffed to the gills with new and exciting ways of exploring both narrative and thematic concerns. With The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Wiene not only smashed through walls already established in these early days of the art, but he essentially laid down a road map for the rest of the industry in both Germany and the world to follow and use as a springboard.

Using the aforementioned framing device, Wiene simply and elegantly presents us with a tale told through the perspective of its narrator and as such, we're plunged into a nightmare world which may, to varying degrees, feel tempered by the character of the storyteller, and yet, it's a thought that only occasionally skips across our respective cerebella like a neatly thrown stone upon still waters. We're ultimately forced to accept that this is a world that exists within the framework of fairytale and myth and not merely via the words of the tale's teller.


Plunged into his narrative, we're introduced to the wild-eyed, shock-haired, dusty-coated, top-hatted Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) in a sleazy carnival side-show where the mad showman presents Cesare (Conrad Veidt), a sinister, grimly thin, coffin-sleeping somnambulist. Under the hypnotic command of the not-so-good Doctor, Cesare steps out of his box, his constant state of sleep allowing him the uncanny ability to predict the future.

Our loving couple Francis and Jane have attended a performance with their friend Alan (Hans Heinrich von Twardowski). Creepily, Cesare predicts that Alan's death will arrive swiftly, within the next day. Alan, alas, as per the somnambulist's divination, becomes the first of many who are murdered in the sleepy German village of Holstenwall. Francis and Lily immediately begin to investigate Alan's death. The mostly useless local constabulary are barking up the wrong trees and it's up to our plucky lovebirds to get to the bottom of this grave mystery.

It doesn't, however, take a degree in rocket science to predict that some extremely nasty stuff, fraught (of course) with danger, will assuredly assail our adoring couple.

Given the political backdrop in Germany at this time: rising inflation, widespread disgust over the Government's acquiescence to the victors of WWI and an overwhelming desire for new leadership (who'd turn out to be Adolph Hitler), it's not surprising that much of the evil in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is shrouded in the duplicity of respected public figures who present a side of benevolence to the world, but under the cloak of night and/or disguise, plan to carry out their nefarious schemes involving deceit and treachery. In the case of Caligari himself, this rumpled psychopath is not what he appears to be on the surface and indeed has a dual identity from within which he's able to cloak his madness.

The film is overflowing with one creepy set-piece after another: nail-biting stalking sequences, murders most foul, shadow-enshrouded evil, edge-of-the-seat chases and shocking moments of jaw-dropping revelations. Most importantly is the point of view which not only yields a mediated world, but approaches a final third packed with icy, crazed horror and then delivers a shocking, surprise denouement - one which, if taken literally, offers one level of perfectly acceptable horror, but if taken on a deeper level, yields terror fraught with the monstrous repugnance which was already gripping Weimar Germany and would, in a few short years, transform into the abhorrent reality of The Final Solution.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was the progenitor of a new and exciting cinema that changed the shape of the medium, and did indeed lead the charge of a generation of films which foresaw the groundwork being laid for the most insidious madness and hatred of all. The film's importance artistically, culturally and socially makes it a motion picture to be experienced again and again, but also placed under the microscopic view of insanity incarnate.


The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is available on Blu-Ray via Kino-Lorber. This is easily one of the best home-entertainment acquisitions one could possibly make. The new 4K restoration of the film has rendered an image that's never looked better and on Blu-Ray, it's utterly eye-popping, especially the clarity of the colour tinting. Added features include: German intertitles with optional English Subtitles, a phenomenal score performed by the Studio For Film Music at the University of Music, Freiburg (and for those so inclined, which I'll admit I was not, a separate score-track presented by DJ Spooky), a fine essay in booklet form by Kristin Thompson, an extensive image gallery, a fascinating demonstration of the restoration and the pièce de résistance, the brilliant 52-minute documentary Caligari: How Horror Came to the Cinema. In Canada, the Kino Lorber edition is available via VSC (Video Services Corp.)

Monday 15 December 2014

THE CONFORMIST - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Bertolucci Dazzles: Deluxe KinoLorber BluRay

The Conformist (1970)
Dir. Bernardo Bertolucci
Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Stefania Sandrelli, Dominique Sanda

Review By Greg Klymkiw

You're never going to see a more gorgeous movie about fascism than Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist.

He was only in his late 20s when he made this 1970 adaptation of Alberto Moravia's novel and the picture still crackles with urgency, dread and horror. It's furthermore infused with a winning combination of political/historical smarts, deeply considered intellectual rigour and an eye for heart-aching, stunning and dazzling visual artistry.

Working with ace cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now), there isn't a single composition, lighting scheme or camera move in the entire photoplay that's anything less than gorgeous. The sheer physical beauty in interior decor, architecture and the natural world is an effective and complex juxtaposition within the story of a man driven by pure ambition.

Ambitious or not, though, the main character Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant) seems completely without a bone of real genuine passion in his body and is certainly bereft of such in his soul. His notions of passion seem rooted in a false construct of what he believes to be truly rapturous. He believes he must marry and "love" Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli) because she herself is a lovely, politically clueless member of his "class" and as such, is going to be an ideal appendage to him as he attempts to scale the heights within the government of Italian totalitarian leader Benito Mussolini.

Working as a secret field operative for the secret police, Marcello's ambition is the kind of petty, small-minded desire for advancement that would plague any loathsomely tweedy bureaucrat in public or private life and bravely, That said, Jean-Louis Trintignant is Jean-Louis Trintignant, and as such, is always cool, no matter how big a scumbag he's playing and Bertolucci's screenplay and direction, by way of Moravia's novel, works overtime to transform Trintignant into a character who is totally and pathetically bereft of an inner life. The first big job Marcello happily accepts is to ingratiate himself upon a former university philosophy professor, one whom he was especially fond of as a youth, and set the old anti-fascist up for a political assassination.

Adding insult to injury (in terms of presenting a character seemingly bereft of any positive warmth or humanity), we learn that Marcello is a young man who comes from considerable money and breeding, yet his impetus always seems to hover at the lowest rung of the ladder of the bourgeoisie. That both Bertolucci and Trintignant manage to create a character that we're always on the verge of wanting to admire and/or root for is a testament to both men's gifts as director and actor respectively since Marcello is a preeminent symbol of shallow desires.

Bertolucci structures the story so that timelines are often blended twixt flashbacks, flash forwards and a current perspective. None of this is flashy, trick-pony nonsense, nor even confusing, but is, in fact, a canny way to keep us on our toes in terms of both the advancement of narrative as well as the slow, almost creepy crawly dread that infiltrates our own perspective upon Marcello's gradual descent which, is the very thing that reaches a nadir even within Marcello so that he begins to question both his motives and the morality of his actions.

The trappings of class masking the horrors of Fascism

It is, in fact, love - real passion - which consumes Marcello. He doesn't even appear to have much passion for fascism, all that drives him is petty ambition, something he eventually realizes when he begins to fall madly in love with his old professor's wife, Anna (Dominique Sanda of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis fame), a stunningly ethereal beauty. Granted, it's her gossamer physical seductiveness that first attracts him rather than her intellect and inner life, which is virtually parallel to the aesthetically sumptuous trappings of upper class Italian society masking the evils of fascism.

Anna's beauty masks her inner life

Class, or at least the perceptions of class, clearly affect the carefully planted flashback of a much younger Marcello killing a family chauffeur who attempts to rape him. We even begin to doubt the perceived sexual exploitation between domestic "help" and the young man of means. It seems real enough, and perhaps even Marcello's murderous actions are justified, but Bertolucci plants enough doubt in our minds so that we respond to Marcello as someone swayed, if not exploited by class and perceptions of class, as opposed to any malevolence inherent in the chauffeur's attraction to him.

Even more powerful is the strange sense of redemption the film appears to work its way towards. When events converge to a point in the narrative when all seems dire, deeply sickening and outright horrific during the film's harrowing climax, it's finally not love which affects Marcello, but rather, recognizing a deep, real and eternal love within two other people. This is finally so profoundly moving that one can't help but shudder over a reality that could, given the circumstances, overtake any of us.

The Conformist finally leaves you completely winded. A film that presents a central figure who allows fascism to suck him dry of humanity is indeed the true horror Bertolucci lays bare for us to contemplate and feel. It's also what contributes to the picture's inherent qualities as a genuine masterpiece. Its exploration of fascism is ultimately as deeply felt and relevant today as it was when Bertolucci first made the film. We connect as individuals living in our own version of a totalitarian state masked as democracy and what finally moves us is following the inevitability of character who could well be any of us - No! Is us! Now and forever.


The Conformist is available on a gorgeously transferred Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber (Raro Video) which includes Adriano Aprá's illuminating one-hour documentary In the Shade of the Conformist. In Canada, VSC (Video Services Corp.) distributes this Kino Lorber/ Raro Video title.

Sunday 14 December 2014

COTTON COMES TO HARLEM - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Ossie-Davis does Blaxploitation like nobody ever did in this extremely entertaining adaptation of the Chester Himes novel with super dicks Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson, now on Kino Lorber Blu-Ray

Cotton Comes To Harlem (1970)
Dir. Ossie Davis
Starring: Godfrey Cambridge, Raymond St. Jacques, Calvin Lockhart, Redd Foxx, Judy Pace, Lou Jacobi, Eugene Roche, J.D. Cannon, Cleavon Little

Review By Greg Klymkiw

"We may have broken some heads,
but we've never broken any promises."
- Coffin Ed Johnson

Coffin Ed (Raymond St. Jacques) and Gravedigger Jones (Godfrey Cambridge) do what great cops do best; they always get their man and if THE MAN says, "Don't bust heads," they sure as hell make sure to bust all the heads that need busting to clean the scum off the streets of Harlem in glorious NYC.

And, they're cool.

Coffin Ed suavely serves up a sardonic wit, whilst Gravedigger Jones favours a more broad approach to inspiring yucks. As drawn by novelist Chester Himes, these cats have been immortalized in one of the ultimate Blaxploitation pictures of the 70s by none other than screenwriter-director Ossie Davis, one of the greatest African-American actors of all time (lovers of Spike Lee will never forget Davis as the philosophizing old man in Do The Right Thing and genre fans have long admired Davis as JFK - YES! - JFK in Don Coscarelli's immortal Bubba Ho-Tep).

Ed and Jones were perfect heroes for helmer Davis to march through their action-comedy paces. These two guys, as penned by Himes and immortalized onscreen by Davis, seem practically born with crime-fighting in their blood and they do the citizenry proud by never kowtowing to the rules imposed upon them by those uptight honkies running the NYPD and the city at large. No job is too big, small or untouchable. The People love 'em to death.

And, they're damn funny.

Call them an ebony Abbot and Costello if you must, but for whatever laughs they wrench consistently from us, they're mean buggers with lightning fists and sharp-shooting pistols, always ready for action.

Now, every good cop picture has a mystery to be solved, but the one which plagues Cotton Comes To Harlem is a doozy. The primary question that drives the picture is thus:

"Now what in the hell would a bale of cotton be doing in Harlem?"

Not just any cotton. We're talking raw, untreated and oh-so pure fluff, straight off the fields in the deep south. Buried within it is the quarry of Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones. A sleazy slime ball common criminal, the "good" Reverend Deke O'Malley (a deliciously ooze-dripping Calvin Lockhart) has been running what our boys know is a scam. The slick-talking man of the cloth has been running a major scam (or so our super dicks are convinced) to secure oodles of money from the good, poor, hard-working folks of Harlem in order to transplant them back to their roots in Africa and out of the mire of America which snatched up their forefathers in the first place.

Coffin and Gravedigger know better. They're convinced O'Malley, always adorned in fine clothes, jewels and living with a hot babe in a slinky pad, is going to take the money and run, run, run. Hunches, however, are not evidence and this is something our boys are going to have to beat out of a few heads. O'Malley, you see, has just collected a huge whack of dough during a rally which, has conveniently been hit by deadly, armed marauders in masks.

And the secret's in the cotton.

Damn, where's that cotton?

Davis generates a fun, slam-bang cops and robbers steam engine replete with a breakneck pace, plenty of babes, oodles of action and one of the best damn car chases on the streets old NYC - ever.

Replete with a great soundtrack, loads of laughs and sheer dogged detective work, Ossie Davis plunges us into a grand, two-fisted crime picture.

St. Jacques and Cambridge acquit themselves with aplomb and the rest of the cast is jam-packed with a who's who of African-American comic talent like Redd Foxx (Sanford and Son) and Cleavon Little (Blazing Saddles), plus a stalwart team of grizzled character actors including Lou Jacobi, Eugene Roche and J.D. Cannon.

And then, there are the babes, the most luscious being Judy Pace, as O'Malley's wily, sharp-tongued mistress.

This great working actress should have been a much bigger star than Hollywood let her be, though as Vicki Fletcher in the famous TV nighttime soap opera Peyton Place and the one of three beauties who "love" a philanderer to death in Three in the Attic, let her prove to be no slouch in the popularity and talent department.

Blaxploitation was a long and popular sub-genre in the movies, but Cotton Comes to Harlem manages to transcend that label by being one of the best cop pictures of the 70s - period. Sadly, Ossie Davis only directed five feature films and one TV movie. He clearly had a great command of the camera and could easily dance rings round most studio hacks of the period and certainly held his own with the period's better filmmakers.

Davis delivered a lovely, but little seen drama called Black Girl and Gordon's War, a magnificently nasty action film with Paul Winfield leading a charge of Vietnam Veterans against scumbag drug dealers, pimps and other assorted miscreants. Still, Davis left behind an amazing legacy of legendary performances and with Cotton Comes To Harlem, he delivered an absolute must-see.

And, of course, there's Judy Pace.

Damn, she is fine!


Cotton Comes To Harlem is available on a gorgeously Blu-Ray that captures all the grain, grit and colour of the 70s from Kino Lorber. In Canada, the title is distributed by VSC (Video Services Corp).