Tuesday 6 December 2016

THE ASPHALT JUNGLE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Classic Film Noir Heist Picture on Criterion

The palooka has a dream. Let's watch it crumble.

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
Dir. John Huston
Nvl. W.R. Burnett
Scr. Ben Maddow, Huston
Starring: Sterling Hayden, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe,
Marc Lawrence, Louis Calhern, Anthony Caruso, Marilyn Monroe,
Brad Dexter, John McIntire, Barry Kelley, John Maxwell

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Even a palooka has dreams. If we are to believe the movies - and frankly, why shouldn't we? - post-war America was full of palookas with dreams. Dix Handley (Sterling Hayden) is one of those mugs. He dreams of buying back the beautiful family horse farm in Kentucky that was lost during the Great Depression.

This is the fuel that drives him.

John Huston's film noir heist classic The Asphalt Jungle, adapted from the terrific crime novel by W.R. Burnett, is single-mindedly devoted to seeing a man's dream crumble before our very eyes. And why shouldn't it crumble? This is America - post-war America no less.

This was a place and time all about the dreams of sad men turning to dust.

There is so much to admire in this picture: Huston's tersely muscular direction, the gorgeous black and white palette of Harold (The Docks of New York, The Wizard of Oz, Singing' in the Rain) Robson's cinematography, the brash grind and heartache of Miklós (Double Indemnity, Spellbound, The Killers) Rózsa's score and the to-die-for cast, but if there's anything to acclaim above and beyond all this, it's the sheer portent-infused atmosphere, in both the Ben Maddow/Huston screenplay and the tightly-wound evocative mise-en-scene.

In a sense, there's never a moment we believe anyone's dreams are going to come true and this is what drives and dazzles us. God knows we want it all to work out, but how can it? Life is one big despair-ridden disappointment after another, no matter what occasional highs are tossed our way, and we watch The Asphalt Jungle with the perspective its chief palooka is cursed with.

So from the opening scenes of handsome strong-arm ex-con thug Dix dodging a prowling cop car under overcast skies in the empty, early morning Cincinnati warehouse district, though to his involvement in a jewel heist gone horribly wrong and the vicious double crosses guaranteed to gain nothing for nobody and finally, his desperate dash into the open Kentucky meadow with a bullet in his gut, there isn't anything that's going to save him. Not his loyal buddy Gus (James Whitmore), the hunchback owner of a diner and ace getaway driver, not the love of sweet desperate babe Doll Conovan (Jean Hagen) and most certainly not the shifty master criminal Erwin "Doc" Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe) who masterminds the whole affair.

All that awaits Dix, and everyone, are lies, desperation, suicide, incarceration and bullets. And those dreams. In post-war America, in the movies and life, those dreams are dangled like carrots in front of old horses. They're so close, but so far.

And we never get the carrot.


The Criterion Collection Blu-Ray and (if you must) DVD of The Asphalt Jungle is replete with the following added value of: a new 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, a 2004 audio commentary by film historian Drew Casper, featuring archival recordings of actor James Whitmore, Pharos of Chaos, a very strange and fascinating 1983 documentary about actor Sterling Hayden, new interviews with film noir historian Eddie Muller and cinematographer John Bailey, archival footage of writer-director John Huston, a 1979 episode of the TV program "City Lights" featuring Huston, audio excerpts of archival interviews with Huston, a trailer, an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and gorgeous new cover art by F. Ron Miller.

Friday 2 December 2016

PART FOUR: NETFLIX IS POO, SHUDDER IS GOLD - Shudder.com is the IDEALChristmas Present. Here are reviews by Greg Klymkiw of perfectChristmas fare, including the cannibalism of Jim Mickle's remake of WEARE WHAT WE ARE and the completely Bunyip Finnish Ode to Naked PsychoSantas in RARE EXPORTS.


Psycho Santas and Cannibals for XMAS on Shudder.com
I tried Netflix for the free one-month service. It took one day to realize I would never pay for it. Shudder launched October 20, 2016 (in Canada, the UK and Ireland). It took about one hour to decide it would stay with me forever. Netflix was stuffed with unimaginatively programmed product: bad television, (mostly) awful mainstream movies, a lame selection of classics, indie and foreign cinema, plus the most cumbersome browsing interface imaginable. Shudder, on the other hand, is overflowing with a magnificently curated selection of classics, indie, foreign and mainstream cinema, plus a first rate browsing and navigation interface which allows for simple alphabetical listings as well as a handful of very simple curated menus. Yes, Shudder is all horror, all the time, but a vast majority of the product is first rate and, depending upon your definition of horror, there is plenty to discover here that's just plain great cinema!

Why is Santa Claus in a cage?
Who are those men with guns?
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) ***1/2
dir. Jalmari Helander
Starring: Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila

Review By Greg Klymkiw

While it is an indisputable fact 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?

Naked Santas must always be scrubbed and tubbed.
I wonder, however, what Baby Jesus might have made of Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, a creepy, terrifying, darkly hilarious and dazzlingly directed bauble of Yuletide perversity that 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 his 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: "You better be Good!" Read my full Film Corner review HERE.

Can you pass me the napkins, please?
We Are What We Are (2013) ***
Dir. Jim Mickle
Starring: Bill Sage, Michael Parks, Julia Garner,
Ambyr Childers, Kassie DePaiva, Jack Gore, Kelly McGillis

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I'm not prone to knee-jerk negative reactions towards movie remakes, but sometimes, the originals are so damn good that the mere notion of a redo is enough to induce apoplexy (of the "nervosa" kind). Jim Mickle's well directed 2013 American version of the identically-titled 2010 Jorge Michel Grau shocker from Mexico is just such a film. That said, this creepy, slow-burning tale of cannibalism and madness is a taste-treat nonetheless. Read my full Film Corner review HERE.

NETFLIX is poo, SHUDDER is gold.
SHUDDER is the all-new streaming service devoted to horror. Available in Canada, UK and USA, SHUDDER is expertly CURATED by programmers who know their shit (and then some), including TIFF's magnificent Midnight Madness king of creepy (and head honcho of Toronto's Royal Cinema, the best goddamn repertory/art cinema in Canada), Colin Geddes. It's fucking cheap and notably, cheaper than that crapola Netflix. Get more info and order it RIGHT FUCKING NOW by clicking HERE!!!

Thursday 1 December 2016

Female Filmmakers Continue to Take Centre Stage in Canada: THE SUN AT MIDNIGHT - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Whistler Film Festival 2016

The Sun at Midnight (2016)
Scr/Prd/Dir. Kirsten Carthew
Pre. Amos Scott
Eprd. Anne–Marie Gélinas

Starring: Devery Jacobs, Duane Howard

Review By Greg Klymkiw

When Lia (Devery Jacobs) is forced to live with her grandmother in the subarctic town of Fort McPherson, she's ill-prepared for the sun which never seems to set. It's a world she doesn't know and as such, she's as caught between two worlds, not unlike the glistening orb that seems to hang, so strangely to her eyes, so ever-present in the sky. She'd prefer to stay in the city with her Dad, but alas he must go off to work the mines and she needs to be with the only family she has.

There's a price to be paid for returning to roots she never felt in the first place. She carries herself with the air of a stranger and is bullied for her big-city ways. Without giving the town a chance, she makes the unwise choice to flee.

The Sun at Midnight is a sensitive, poignant, beautifully acted portrait of a young woman trying to find herself. She feels like a stranger in a strange land and yet, as the film progresses, we see her blossom into her own person in a world she comes to know as her own.

It's a survival story, after all.

Lia jumps into a boat and attempts to find civilization. What she finds is a whole lotta trouble in the middle of nowhere. The elements and nature are formidable forces. So too are the less-than-friendly country-cousin hunters with an eye only on her youth and beauty.

Happily, she makes the acquaintance of Alfred (Duane Jones), a wise, old caribou hunter who takes her under his wing. They develop a deep friendship and through the course of their journey, that sun that hangs so ever-presently, becomes as natural to her as the world she rejected.

Of course, no survival tale would be complete without an ultimate challenge and when it comes, it's a lollapalooza!!! As is the film, of course.


The Sun at Midnight plays at the Whistler Film Festival 2016