Friday 24 March 2017

she came knocking - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Canadian Film Fest 2017 - Short Chills Bigtime

The eyes have it. The eyes always have it.
she came knocking (2017)
Dir. John Ainslie
Scr. Ainslie and Kimberly-Sue Murray
Starring: Kimberly-Sue Murray, Christian McKenna, Janet Porter

Review By Greg Klymkiw

A pretty young Uber driver (Kimberly-Sue Murray) shows up to collect a fare in a quiet, leafy Toronto neighbourhood and comes face-to-face with something insidious and decidedly unexpected. She knocks on the door. It opens so violently, both she and the audience jump. On the other side of the divide, a tall, brawny, bearded, bulletheaded creep (Christian McKenna) with "prick" written all over his face greets our wide-eyed, hoodie-and-cut-off-shorts-adorned beauty with a mean-ass, "The fuck do you want?"

This is clearly not her fare. What is clear, is that bullethead is a mean, abusive sonofabitch and that his female companion (Janet Porter) is trapped in an altercation in which he's got the upper hand and keeping her against her will.
A shameless abuser answers his door.

This is all plenty disturbing, but even more alarming is the telephone call twixt our Uber Babe and a 911 dispatcher who claims a police car will not be sent out since no act of domestic violence, nor threats have been uttered. It's obvious to our leading lady and us, that all is not right in this household.

There are, unfortunately, laws - laws to protect perpetrators, to offer no solace to victims and to put the common sense of those who bear witness into question.

John Ainslie's grim, scary movie she came knocking is one of the best short dramatic films I've seen in years. His taut direction keeps us squirming in our seats from beginning to end and the screenplay (by Ainslie and star Murray) offers ultra-charged suspense, vital social commentary and perhaps most wisely, serves up the notion of two sides (and often many more) to all stories.

An act of violence that occurs in the film never comes as a surprise, but that's not what the picture boils down to. Though the denouement is hardly ambiguous, it's supremely, throat-catchingly infused with the kind of food-for-thought that is rooted, where it should be: emotionally, dramatically, incisively and effectively.
Watching: Creepy. Scary. Necessary.

Though it works perfectly as a short film, it leaves us wanting to spend far more time with its characters. One can imagine the whole situation playing out as a delectably layered cat-and-mouse suspense picture over a feature length. The only thing that doesn't quite work is that the film plays out with a mostly percussive musical score. There's nothing especially wrong with the music, but the movie cries out for no score. The film is so beautifully shot (compositions bordering on greatness), played so perfectly by its actors and edited with such precision that the picture's "musical" qualities might have been better served by the bolder choice of utilizing soundscape over score. (The film ends with a dazzling image, a hideous breath on the soundtrack and a knock-you-on-your-ass cut to black/title that the score not only feels redundant over picture, but even over the end title credits.)

Ainslie directed the Polanski-inspired feature The Sublet and contributed to writing the screenplay for the cult feature Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. He's clearly a force and talent to be reckoned with. Let's hope he makes a new film. And soon.

The Film Corner Rating: **** 4-Stars

she came knocking premieres at the Canadian Film Fest 2017 in Toronto.

Thursday 23 March 2017

THE HERETICS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Canadian Film Fest 2017 - Aesthetic Heresy 4 U

Who doesn't love lesbo action in horror movies?

The Heretics (2017)
Dir. Chad Archibald
Scr. Jayme Laforest
Starring: Nina Kiri, Jorja Cadence, Ry Barrett

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Who doesn't love human sacrifices and devil worship? I know I do. That said, I much prefer seeing these devilish shenanigans in movies that aren't as irredeemably dreadful as The Heretics. This latest low budget horror picture from Black Fawn Films and its chief creative cook and bottle washer Chad Archibald has the dubious distinction of being one of the worst horror films I've ever seen - and that takes some doing.

On the plus side, the movie is replete with babes. One cannot quarrel with horror movies starring babes - however, if they're not naked, as they are not in The Heretics, then one must not only quarrel, but declare all out war. There is one sex scene that has nudity, and while one cannot quarrel with this, the babe doing the bumping and grinding upon the pelvis of a happy fellow is so obviously a body double for the babe who should be naked, but isn't, that all one wants to do is throw in the towel. There is also, happily, some lesbo action. One can NEVER quarrel with lesbo action, but when there isn't enough of it and it's sans nudity, then all one can really do is relax one's sphincter muscles and let loose upon the sapphically-challenged gymnastics.

That's pretty much it for the movie on the plus side, and it comes with qualifiers, so really, there's nothing much good about the movie at all.

Who doesn't love human sacrifice and devil worship?

Well, there are two elements of some genuine merit. Director Chad Archibald is enough of a pro that the camera is usually where it's supposed to be. In a movie that is afflicted with a boneheaded, muddled screenplay, his professionalism is certainly a tender mercy. The other positive element are the costumes and masks for the demon worshipping denizens of the night - very nicely done, but in service to a moronic movie.

Most of the blame must be foisted upon the purported screenplay by Jayme LaForest. Though one must also blame the production company for approving such a dreadful property and a director for even bothering to helm it, the fact remains that someone had to write (or rather, not write) this thing.

In a nutshell, we've got a brunette babe suffering from nightmares. She lives with her Mom in some nondescript suburban dwelling and attends "group". What kind of "group" it actually is seems a bit difficult to ascertain (or maybe I just couldn't bother to figure it out), but it definitely seems to be some kind of self-help kaffeeklatsch in a community hall. Our brunette babe goes to "group" with a lanky carrot-topped babe and the two of them are lovers.

Great eyes almost make up for a lack of acting talent.

One night, our toothy brunette (yes, the leading lady has one nice set of choppers, a great smile and gorgeous ocular orbs) is kidnapped and shoved into a Winnebago. She's secreted away to a cabin in the woods by some geeky guy who secures her with chains. Meanwhile, lanky Red begins a search for her lover when the only policeman in town proves to be ineffectual.

Eventually, geek boy has sex with Toothy and she begins to grow wings.

In the meantime, Lanky Red murders Toothy's Mom and the town's only cop and hightails it to the Winnebago and cabin in the woods. It seems she's the sister of the Geek and there appears to be some strange conflict between the sibs. The Geek wants to save Toothy. Lanky Red Sis wants to sacrifice her.

And yes, there appear to be other "worshippers", but none of them are distinguishable as characters. Then again, not that there are any denizens of this underpopulated movie who can even remotely be considered as characters, but the movie seems unconcerned about this.

Not only is the movie lacking in even the most basic logic, but it's utterly humourless and worst of all, it is, in no way, shape or form, suspenseful. Why it exists is beyond me. Not that Archibald's The Drownsman was actually any good, but even it had a few decent frissons in spite of its pointlessness. His previous film, Bite, however, was not only skillfully directed, but grimly scary and yes, even well written by LaForest, scribe of this woeful demon-worship vehicle.

Not only is the narrative strictly dullsville, but the dialogue is pretty much incompetent. Unfortunately, it's the worst kind of "incompetent" - it's not even bad enough to be unintentionally funny.

This might be the greatest sin of aesthetic heresy.


For the full story behind this LOWEST Film Corner Rating Visit HERE

The Heretics had its world premiere at Canadian Film Fest 2017

Wednesday 22 March 2017

BROKEN MILE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Canadian Film Fest 2017 -Haunting mise-en-scene

Ugliest apartment in Toronto, maybe in all of Canada.

Broken Mile (2017)
Dir. Justin McConnell
Starring: Francesco Filice, Caleigh Le Grand, Patrick McFadden, Lea Lawrynowicz

Review By Greg Klymkiw

You know, ugly can be good. Toronto, for example, is plenty ugly. In fact, it might be one of the most monstrously, obscenely, hideously repulsive cities in Canada (and this takes some doing - especially since Calgary exists). Happily (for inveterate Toronto-haters like me), it's never looked more grim than it does in Broken Mile, a visually dazzling sophomore dramatic feature by Justin McConnell who directed, wrote, photographed and edited this oddly compulsive urban neo-noir thriller.

Shaun (Francesco Filice) wakes up in a puke-filled bathtub in an ugly apartment and discovers that his girlfriend Sarah (Lee Lawrynowicz) is bereft of life. There's clearly something shady about her stone-cold stiffness and he takes an immediate powder instead of calling the cops. In his mad dash to an awaiting Uber, he bumps into pal Kenny (Patrick McFadden) and hysterically, mysteriously apologizes to him. Shaun heads to an unbelievably ugly apartment complex and visits his ex-girlfriend Amy (Caleigh Le Grand) who, not surprisingly, lives in an ugly suite with grossly-patterned wallpaper and adorned with decidedly unstylish IDomo-like furniture. He enlists her help and the two of them spend a frantic night running from a (now-gun-toting) Kenny through one of Toronto's ugliest neighborhoods.

A showdown is inevitable as the mystery slowly unravels.

Ugliest apartment complex in Toronto, maybe all of Canada.

There is much to admire in McConnell's film. First of all, he's chosen to allow the drama to unveil as one long extended take with no cuts for the entire 82-minute running time. I'm normally not a fan of any trick pony cinematic shenanigans like this, especially when the "trick" is the only thing that makes the work palatable (the most egregious being dullard Christopher Nolan's backwards-play in his intolerable and overrated Memento). When there's good reason for such chicanery, I'm all for it.

Of course Rope, Timecode and Russian Ark are the most famous examples of the extended take approach and it can certainly be a worthy way to tell a story on film. The desperation of both the situation and characters in Broken Mile are ideal stomping grounds for its director's decision and so much of the film is compelling and suspenseful. Early on in the proceedings, there's an especially fine sequence in which McConnell trains his lens upon the main character as he sits in the back of an Uber vehicle whilst the unseen driver jabbers on to him. The sense of naturalism here is dramatically palpable and damn entertaining.

As the film progresses, the trick-pony stuff continues to infuse the work with all manner of delectably tantalizing properties. What's less successful is the narrative itself. We always feel like there's more here than what meets the eye, but as the movie careens forward, there are a few lapses in logic that feel like "flaws", but are in fact elements built into the narrative which most savvy viewers will recognize as being far less than what crosses our ocular gaze. I pretty much pegged exactly who was who, what was what and how/when we were going to get there. That the denouement is not fraught with darker and "bigger" elements which most noir-like pictures have going for them is a bit of a comedown - especially since we can see it coming.

This might be an unfair complaint since so much of the movie succeeds on a kind of neo-realist level. The world the characters inhabit is so dull, ugly and drained of life that it was a treat to see so many grim interior and exterior locales (many of which are so grotesque that this Toronto-hating critic has, over the years, gone out of his way to seek them out to keep things "interesting").

I also love how "uncool" everything in the movie is. The apartments that the characters live in are so gross - especially the aforementioned joint Amy resides in - and the car the "villain" drives is ridiculously uncool - a super-ugly normal minivan far better suited to someone's Dad rather than a young, purportedly hip denizen of downtown Toronto. There is also a scene in one of Toronto's dingiest Vietnamese Pho restaurants. I've been there many times and it warmed the cockles of my heart to see it in a movie. (The characters also walk by one of the strangest greasy spoons in the city, which is just around the corner from the Pho joint, but sadly, there are no scenes there. Probably because it closes at 4PM and doubles as an accountant's office and tailor shop.) Not only are the selection of locations a treat, but the garish natural lighting and first-rate compositions deliver some mighty juicy goods for us to slurp down with relish.

This is one solid picture and I'm certainly looking forward to seeing more from this do-it-all dude.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ Three-and-a-Half Stars

Broken Mile enjoys its Toronto Premiere at the Canadian Film Fest 2017

Tuesday 21 March 2017

AN AMERICAN DREAM: THE EDUCATION OF WILLIAM BOWMAN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Canadian Film Fest 2017 Opening Night - Finkleman Satire Worthy, But Misses Mark

Shooting ducks in a barrel not the aim of great satire.

An American Dream: The Education of William Bowman
Dir. Ken Finkleman
Starring: Jake Croker, Diana Bentley, Shiloh Blondel, Jan Caruana, Precious Chong

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Most Canadians with taste, intelligence and hailing from a far superior generation than afforded to the world via millennials, are well acquainted with the considerable gifts of writer-director-actor Ken Finkleman, the Winnipeg born-and-bred auteur. He, along with many stellar 'Peggers, warmed his ass on the University College radiators at the esteemed University of Manitoba before going on to a content creation career, and though most will not forgive his contributions to Grease 2, Airplane 2, Who's That Girl and Head Office, he holds the distinction of creating - bar-none - the very best piece of Canadian television (ever) with his original first 13 episodes of the CBC series The Newsroom in the 1996-1997 seasons and its limited followup More Tears in 1998 (with its deliciously savage satirical portrait of the ultra-conservative Canuck politician/golfer Mike Harris). Though many unimaginative pundits referred to Finkleman's TV work as a poor man's "Larry Sanders Show", they were, as per usual, wrong. The first 13 episodes of Finkleman's bold, brilliant satire, set behind the scenes of a national newsroom, and its sequel with Finkleman's character as a documentary film producer, still deliver the kind of on-the-edge laughs and observations most purveyors of comedy can only dream of.

I only wish An American Dream: The Education of William Bowman was a return to that form, but alas, as satire, it takes its aim at America with all the grace and subtlety of North Western Ontario hosers shooting ducks in a barrel.

In the tradition of such Candide-Gulliver-like satires, most notably Lindsay Anderson's O Lucky Man!, Finkleman delivers the episodic tale of William Bowman (Jake Croker), an all-American football star hopeful whose life is irrevocably altered by a horrific accident that sends him on a journey of equal parts sadness and madness. He becomes a media sensation, but his fame exacts a horrible toll upon him.

Taking potshots at politics is one thing, but Finkleman trains his aim upon America and frankly, the country is increasingly and alarmingly a place that has become a nation of self-parody. This is clearly the point of Finkleman's bold, brave film, but its satire often seems strangely pitched in ways that are closer to "spoof" rather than the kind of cutting edge one expects from this kind of picture. Things feel too rooted in sarcasm and there's a wonky blend of playing things "straight" and over the top. God knows one doesn't want Finkleman to try aping Lindsay Anderson, but O Lucky Man (and its precursor If) had a glorious consistency of tone that An American Dream desperately needs. In fact, the movie feels a lot closer to Anderson's scattershot Mick Travis finale Britannia Hospital. This is not a good thing.

What is a good thing is that Finkleman's film exists at all. It's often maddening for all the wrong reasons, but there is absolutely no denying there's anything currently out there like it. I wish it wasn't so self-conscious, so aware of itself. Yes, it's clever, but it's never very funny. Its savagery feels machine-tooled. This is, though, reason enough for celebration. Better machine-tooled satire than all the machine-tooled dross that passes for cinema in America today.


An American Dream: The Education of William Bowman is the opening night gala at Toronto's Canadian Film Fest 2017.

Friday 17 March 2017

BEING THERE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - I like to watch Peter Sellers on the Criterion Blu-Ray

Yes, even a half-wit can change the shape of a nation.
Hard to believe, huh?

Being There (1979)
Dir. Hal Ashby
Nvl. Jerzy Kosinski
Scr. Kosinski, Robert C. Jones (sadly uncredited)
Starring: Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas, David Clennon,
Fran Brill, Richard Dysart, Jack Warden, Richard Basehart, Ruth Attaway

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Chance (Peter Sellers) is a gardener. He's lived his entire life behind the walls of a rich old man's urban fortress, a beautiful townhouse in a once-tony but now blighted, decrepit Washington, D.C. neighbourhood.

Living one's life in the same place is one thing, literally living one's life in the same place is quite another. You see, Chance has never left the house. Ever! All he knows about the outside world comes from watching television.

"I like to watch," Chance says at one point in Hal Ashby's exquisitely perfect Being There. He says this to Eve (Shirley MacLaine), the young wife of an aging, ailing tycoon of business, Ben Rand (Melvyn Douglas). Eve thinks Chance "likes to watch" women masturbating, so she obliges him happily. But like everyone, she misunderstands the gentle, soft-spoken, simple-minded, middle-aged gardener. He "likes to watch" TV.

Well, of course he does. Who doesn't? (My poison of choice is "Judge Judy", but that's another story.) But the fact remains, Chance really knows very little about anything, except, that is, gardening. Oh, he does know all about that. He's a veritable Rhodes Scholar of tending to plants and could, no doubt, give many a botanist a run for their money. When the aforementioned benefactor in the townhouse dies, Chance is ordered to leave the home and for the first time in his life, he's forced to confront the real world. It's in this brave new universe that the slow-witted horticulturist gives everyone a run for their money.

Being There is a great film. It's as great a film as its source material, the book by Jerzy ("The Painted Bird") Kosinski, is a great novel. Both are satirical as all get-out. After all, Ashby and Kosinski and company have deliberately chosen to render the tale of a half-wit who becomes an overnight media sensation when a car accident lands him as a guest in the home of Ben Rand and his pretty wifey. Chance's elegant attire and exquisite manners, thanks to his mysterious late benefactor, certainly don't betray him. He's also, by virtue of his mild mental challenges, someone who speaks in slow, considered ways in order to communicate.

That he knows everything in the world about gardening also holds him in good stead. Whenever he responds to a question or comment, all he can usually do is respond in horticultural metaphors. For example, one of the most hilarious scenes in the movie has Chance being introduced to the President of the United States (Jack Warden) in Ben Rand's study. Chance sits quietly as Rand and the Prez yammer on about economic policy. At one point, the President asks Chance if he agrees with Rand's view on the state of the country.

"As long as the roots are not severed, all is well," says Chance. "And all will be well in the garden... in the garden, growth has its seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again." The President mulls this over, quite seriously. Rand chimes in with: "I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we're upset by the seasons of our economy." Chance excitedly responds: "Yes! There will be growth in the spring!"

This conversation with a half-wit inspires the President to formulate his economic policy and even quote Chance in a State of the Union address to the entire nation.

The simple gardener becomes the buzz and toast of Washington, D.C. One night he's invited on a TV talk show broadcast to millions of people. When Louise (Ruth Attaway), the former maid at the townhouse, watches Chance with a whole passel of fellow African-American septuagenarians in the common room of the old folks home she lives in, she delivers one of the greatest satirical monologues in movie history:

"It's for sure a white man's world in America. Look here: I raised that boy since he was the size of a pissant. And I'll say right now, he never learned to read and write. No, sir. Had no brains at all. Was stuffed with rice pudding between the ears. Shortchanged by the Lord, and dumb as a jackass. Look at him now! Yes, sir, all you've gotta be is white in America, to get whatever you want."

To say Being There is prescient might be an understatement. Even more astonishing is that this movie is almost 40-years-old and has not dated in any way, shape or form.

Yes, it's a satire, but it's a very gentle satire. Thanks to Ashby's direction and the deeply moving performance of Peter Sellers, the film is laced with melancholy and even touches of sentiment. As the film savagely exposes truths about America, Being There not only makes you laugh, but in several moments, especially during the profoundly heartbreaking conclusion, it's impossible not to shed a tear or two. Even more amazingly, the movie lifts you to heavenly heights. It makes you soar while you weep.

That's genuine greatness!


I NEVER watch added value items on home entertainment until after I see the movie and write about it. (So yeah, I'm writing this AFTER I finished watching the movie and writing the review above. What I can say, however, is that this is a great Blu-Ray and provides a wealth of material that truly enhance one's pleasure and appreciation of this movie. Most notable is the background on poor Robert C. Jones who was screwed out of a writing credit in an asshole move by Kosinski. So much of what's great about the picture comes from Jones's participation in the creative process. The other delightful feature is the unexpurgated blooper reel of a scene Peter Sellers was never able to properly complete because the absurdity of the lines and situation proved to be so hilarious that he couldn't help from breaking down in fits of laughter.

This truly has to be seen to be believed.

Being There on the Criterion Collection includes a new, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, a new documentary on the making of the film, excerpts from a 1980 American Film Institute seminar with director Hal Ashby, Jerzy Kosinski in a 1979 appearance on "The Dick Cavett Show", appearances from 1980 by Peter Sellers on "NBC’s Today" and "The Don Lane Show", a promo reel featuring Sellers and Ashby, the trailer and TV spots, a deleted scene, outtakes, and alternate ending and an essay by critic Mark Harris.

Thursday 16 March 2017

Yet Another Reason Why The Royal in Toronto is the BEST Indie Cinema, not just in Toronto, but Canada (and one of the best in the world). The fabulous first-run product is not matched by any screen in the country. Currently playing is the fine indie UK zombie picture THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS - on the big screen, where it's meant to be seen! The Royal has the best sound and picture in the city (by day, it's Theatre D Digital, a sound mixing studio for the movies). The seats are super-comfy too.!!! Review By Greg Klymkiw

Glenn Close is a mad scientist. Typecasting.

The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)
Dir. Colm McCarthy
Scr. M. R. Carey
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Glenn Close, Sennia Nanua

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Twelve-year-old Melanie (Sennia Nanua) wakes up in a dank cell, hops out of bed and places herself into a wheelchair. The door opens. Two heavily-armed soldiers train their guns upon her as she's muzzled and strapped securely - treated like a kind of pre-teen Hannibal Lecter and wheeled into a room full of other similarly-secured children.

It's time for school.

Melanie's high I.Q. and vivid imagination is more than enough to earn her the distinction of being teacher's pet to instructor Helen Justineau (babe-o-licious Gemma Arterton). The crusty head of security Sgt. Eddie Parks (still handsome and oddly rugged Paddy Considine) treats the child like a psycho monster and has no use for her. Mad scientist Dr. Caroline Caldwell (a very creepy - naturally - Glenn Close) has been performing a whole whack of grotesque experiments upon the kiddies, but has some very special plans for this child - a girl "with all the gifts".

It's no surprise that Melanie's favourite story is "Pandora's Box" since she clearly holds much in the way of "evil" that she wants to release in order to cling to the "hope" she most definitely can provide to the world.

There is, you see, a fungus. It has spread like wildfire and turned most of the world into "hungries" (as they're referred to by the mean-ass Sarge).

And what precisely are they hungry for?

Human flesh, of course.

She's perfectly normal, though she wants to eat people.

Melanie is a "hungry", but she's definitely not like the others and Doc Caldwell has her eye on the child to provide an eventual cure/antidote.

Every single time I hear about and/or see a new movie with zombies (or any crazed undead afflicted with a "virus/disease/fungus"), my heart begins to sink and my eyes start to glaze over, but when I see something like The Girl With All The Gifts I get all hap-hap-hap-hap-happy again. Yes, there's life left in old chestnuts and Colm McCarthy's film of writer M.R. Carey's screenplay (based upon his book) is proof positive of this.

As is my wont, I knew nothing about the movie before seeing it, and I'm especially grateful to have entered into the film's world in total ignorance. Once hell breaks loose, and oh, it does with horrifying abandon, we're plunged into a living Hell of ravenous, bloodthirsty zombies.

She's not interested in eating anyone at the moment.

The military base falls to thousands of carnivorous creatures and our protagonists - child, teacher, doctor and soldier - begin begin a terrifying danger-fraught odyssey across a topsy-turvy blood-soaked United Kingdom. Director McCarthy handles the proceedings with all the skill and style required to keep us on the edge of our seats. There's one sequence in particular where the "humans" must wend their way through hundreds of "sleeping" zombies which not only provided me with all the necessary bowel gurgles I enjoy during horror pictures, but also inspired the unloading of some heavy matter. (If you see the movie in public, please wear adult diapers.)

This is one scary-ass movie.

That the film eventually creeps into been-there-done-that territory during its final third is a wee bit disappointing, but the picture ultimately delivers on plenty of shocks, chills and thrills and yes, manages to infuse its occasional stock moments with the kind of humanity that finally raises things well beyond the "stock"-in-trade of such items.

An interesting side note is that half of the film's £4 million budget came from the BFI Film Fund (one of their largest investments - ever) and Creative England (the largest investment it's ever made). These are the kind of government-infused cultural initiatives I can support wholeheartedly. I'm assuming/hoping the bureaucrats left the filmmakers alone to make the movie they wanted to make. As a Canadian, I can sincerely hope we see similar government-funded cultural support from Telefilm and its ilk.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ Three-and-a-Half Stars

The Girl With All The Gifts premiered at the TIFF 2016 Midnight Madness series. It is a Saban Films release and is playing theatrically at The Royal Cinema in Toronto on the following dates:

2017-03-18 4:30 PM
2017-03-18 9:00 PM
2017-03-20 9:00 PM
2017-03-21 9:00 PM
2017-03-22 9:00 PM

Friday 10 March 2017

KONG: SKULL ISLAND - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Saved By Great Monsters, John C. Reilly

John C. Reilly: The only thing resembling a human being.

Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Dir. Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Scr. Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly
Sty: John Gatins
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson,
John Goodman, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Why it took four writers to come up with the lame, dull Kong: Skull Island screenplay is beyond me. Then again, given the sheer emptiness of most studio pictures these days, it shouldn't surprise anyone since it takes a whole lotta boneheads to generate a whole lotta stupid. An American President called Donald Trump is proof of that.

If truth be told, I can almost even forgive inept imbecility. What I can't forgive is tedium and this mostly horrendous reboot of the Kong franchise is nothing if not mind-numbingly boring for most of its interminable 118-minute length. Much of what makes the movie dull are the missed opportunities it took four writers to conjure up.

Things begin promisingly enough with the pre-credit sequence. It's WWII and two soldiers - one American, the other Japanese - crash on the remote Skull Island. Ah, tantalizing! Perhaps we will be afforded a lovely action-packed nod to John Boorman's Hell in the Pacific? But, no. We're handed two dull anonymous actors - no Lee Marvin or Toshiro Mifune here. Jesus, I'd have even settled for something resembling Peter Sellers/Burt Kwouk Pink Panther martial arts slap-schtick shenanigans. That, however, would be too politically incorrect by contemporary standards (and sadly, the movie's endlessly shoe-horned P.C. sensibilities are another big problem with the picture). So instead, we get a dull sprint up a mountain and our warring soldiers meet with a far more formidable enemy - Yup, you guessed it, King Kong, the big hairy ape. (But don't worry, ain't nothing too Eugene O'Neill about this hirsute monkey.)

Our movie launches into an annoyingly wham-bam credit sequence detailing American history from the last Great War and eventually leading up to the turbulence of the 1970s. Thank God it stops here - a real decade. Alas, the period detail, in virtually every respect, is woefully inadequate - most annoyingly with the contemporary-speak of the dialogue and the decidedly 2017 timbre of the delivery of said dialogue.

Of course, this being 2017, in spite of the movie being set in the 1970s, we don't get to meet a cool adventurer seeking passage to Skull Island, say along the lines of showman Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong in the 1933 version, Jack Black in Peter Jackson's 2005 entry) or even a delectably sleazy oilman like Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin in 1976). What we get is the supremely unimaginative, ineffectual government hack Bill Randa (John Goodman) and his earnestly plucky African-American geologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins). Randa is such a useless schmo that it takes his right-hand Houston to convince a Senator to bankroll the expedition.

Welcome to 2017. And not that I have a problem with this smooth young Black male weaselling dough out of the Senator instead of boss man Whitey, but it might have been far more interesting to have a character like Randa, written-for and played by someone with some balls, like Laurence Fishburne for example. The role of this character, or character-type, requires - Nay, demands someone in his august years (or at least in the case of 1976's Grodin, one of those 30-something guys who feels like he's in his 50s or 60s) and more importantly, someone who has the smarts to squeeze oil out of an empty drum.

But, I remind you - it took four writers to generate this screenplay.

Can't go too wrong with a cute prehistoric muskox.

So, off to Skull Island we go. Randa assembles a stock, boring team that includes former British Special-Ops mercenary James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston, a great actor in a nothing role), gung-ho army dude Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson, a great actor, but more boring than usual in this stock role), looking for more carnage now that the Vietnam War is over and perhaps most sickeningly, Mason Weaver (Brie Larson, a great actress with a completely idiotic role), a self-proclaimed "Anti-war photographer" (whatever that's supposed to mean). Of course the team is replete with other soldiers, scientists and bureaucrats in order to provide ample food for the monsters.

The movie plods through all of its uninspired machinations as our team essentially needs to get off the island as soon as they land on it - there are monsters, after all. Our leading lady is, of course, not the "beauty who killed the beast", but rather, the beauty that the beast thinks is kind of okay and not a danger to him. Our leading man is boring and does little more than argue with the gung-ho army guy and acquiesce to the madman's needs to kill monsters to avenge the deaths of his soldiers. Of course, the ineffectual adventurer Randa is so useless that we almost forget he's in the movie until he gets eaten. Then, we get to forget about him all over again.

Happily, the movie introduces us to Lieutenant Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly, playing the older version of the American soldier introduced at the beginning of the movie). Marlow has been living on the island since WWII in the protective custody of the island's indigenous Native population. Thank God! A real character with an irascible sense of humour. Reilly not only makes us laugh, but he's really the only person we care about. Stupidly, the writers have relegated Marlow's Japanese counterpart to that of a corpse - someone who is talked about fondly, but whom we don't get a chance to know. It would have been amazing to have a great veteran Asian actor quipping with Reilly and doing battle with the monsters, but you know, there were only four writers, so you can't expect creative miracles.

Even more boring than most of the film's non-characters are the island's tribesmen. What a ho-hum lot. They appear to be pseudo-Buddhist types who do little more than cast inscrutable glances every which way. This is strangely even more ethnocentric (and perhaps even downright racist) than the previous incarnations of "ignorant", "bloodthirsty" "savages" in the 1933 and 2005 versions. At least those people had something resembling "life" infused in their ooga-booga personae.

Kong looks forward to some yummy octopus tentacles.

Other than Reilly's delightful performance, the only thing else left are the monsters. I won't bother attributing any of the picture's "success" in this regard to the by-rote direction of Jordan Vogt-Roberts (his boring nods to Apocalypse Now notwithstanding), but rather, all the magnificent SFX geniuses who designed the myriad of creatures. Kong's battles with the other behemoths are pretty damn spectacular and perk things up ever-so thrillingly. There's a phenomenal aquatic cage match twixt Kong and a humungous octopus which culminates in a wonderful moment in which Kong slurps up a few tentacles. One can, I suppose, attribute this to one of the four writers. Kudos, dudes!

That said, all previous incarnations of the Kong story were a whole lot more than just the monsters. They had, uh, characters, a solid story arc and were chockfull of wonder. They were sheer magic. There's nothing like that here - just a whole lotta tedious expository (and stupid, 'natch) nonsense to setup the inevitable sequels and franchise "universe". I'm coming to hate that word. "Universe" should conjure up feelings of expanse and possibility - not more of the same.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: *½ One-and-a-Half Stars

Kong: Skull Island is in wide release via Warner Brothers

Thursday 9 March 2017

LOGAN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Dreadfully Directed Action Scenes Drag Picture Down

It sure would be nice to see this grizzled mug in a real movie.

Logan (2017)
Dir. James Mangold
Scr. Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant,
Richard E. Grant, Dafne Keen, Eriq La Salle, Elizabeth Rodriguez

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Logan is the best X-Men movie ever made, but that's not really saying much since all of them have been pretty unwatchable to date. This "final" installment in the long-running film series based upon the Marvel Comics adventures of crime-fighting mutants has one big thing going for it - star Hugh Jackman.

Living in hiding as an anonymous limousine driver in Texas, our title character is slowly dying from the adamantium coursing through his veins. His ability to heal from wounds is seriously affected by this. He's caring for the dementia-riddled telepath Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who lives secretly in a dusty, rusting old factory just across the border in Mexico. Logan reluctantly becomes the chief protector of little girl Laura (Dafne Keen), a "wolverine" mutant just like he is. Pursued by the evil cybergenetic mutant Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and scumbag Transigen Corporation mad scientist Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant) and the mutant-tracking Caliban (Stephen Merchant), our three heroes hit the highways and byways of America in search of a mutant paradise called Eden (existing across the northern border in Canada, no less).

It's a road movie punctuated by several ultra-violent set pieces.

Cute little girl a baby Wolverine with deadly moves.

The picture isn't really any good - the action scenes are all directed mostly in closeups and medium shots with far-too-much herky-jerky camera moves and ADHD-infused editing and the script defies the most basic logic of the premise it sets up. Since Logan is all too aware that they're being meticulously tracked, it seems especially dopey that he allows himself, the old man and little girl to hunker down with an innocent farming family for an evening on the road to Mutant Mecca.

Surely he knows deadly harm will come to the family - and, of course, it does.

There isn't a single unpredictable moment in the whole narrative. Given the overwhelming portent of co-writer and director James Mangold's mise-en-scene, it's also obvious that Logan and Xavier are doomed. Given that it's a superhero movie and that more sequels and/or a reboot are just around the corner, it's also obvious that the little girl and a whole whack of her mutant kidlet friends will beat the bad guys and make their way to asylum in Canada.

The predictability factor in movies like this goes without saying, so it seems silly to dump on Logan just for that. What can receive a nice smelly turd-release is that the movie fails as a decent rollercoaster ride since Mangold simply has no talent for staging action scenes - all of which are a total mess. Given the astonishing craft of action movies like John Wick and its sequel, when will the studios realize they need to hire directors who know how to direct action? The math on this is pretty simple - long shots, longer takes, first-rate stunt work, a solid sense of geography and edits that are "story" influenced, not merely kinetic.

Well, the math might be simple, but it takes the cinematic equivalent to Einstein to pull it off with aplomb (something Mangold is bereft of). Not that previous X-Men helmsman Bryan Singer is God's Gift to cinema, but even he has certain basic skills to carry this sort of thing off with a relative degree of competence. What Singer lacks is anything resembling a distinctive voice. Mangold, for better or worse, has one - his pictures all have a dreariness to them that borders on, interesting (not really a compliment), but which tends to have some effect in his chamber pieces like Cop Land, his 3:10 To Yuma remake and even his first foray into X-Men territory The Wolverine. He's kind of like Christopher Nolan, but with far less in the way of pretension (and unlike Nolan, he occasionally displays something resembling a sense of humour - a bit dry, but it's there at least).

Logan does, however, have the estimable Hugh Jackman at its core. Jackman has genuine star power. The camera loves him and he's a much better actor than most of his films allow him to be. And Good God, the man is aging beautifully. Clint Eastwood has thirty years on the guy, but Jackman is giving that delicious old coot a decent run for his money in the brawny decrepitude department.

Someday, Jackman will star in a real movie. Maybe he will even play Clint Eastwood's son or baby brother someday. I look forward to that movie.


Logan is in wide release via 20th Century Fox.

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Yet Another Reason Why The Royal in Toronto is the BEST Indie Cinema, not just in Toronto, but Canada (and one of the best in the world). The fabulous ongoing Royal series RETROPATH presents Leonard Kastle's brilliantly lurid THE HONEYMOON KILLERS - on the big screen, where it's meant to be seen! The Royal has the best sound and picture in the city (by day, it's Theatre D Digital, a sound mixing studio for the movies) and the Weegie-like monochrome of this great film is going to look more gorgeous than ever. The seats are super-comfy too.!!! Review By Greg Klymkiw

CELEBRATE the 66th Anniversary of the EXECUTION
of The Honeymoon Killers Ray and Martha
at the Royal Cinema on March 10, 2017
On March 8, 1951, the loving couple of Martha Beck and Ray Fernandez were electrocuted at Sing-Sing Prison. On March 10, 2017, you can CELEBRATE the 66th anniversary of their EXECUTION at Toronto's illustrious Royal Cinema during a RETROPATH screening of Leonard Kastle's THE HONEYMOON KILLERS. At 7:00 PM there will be a special pre-show featuring some of cinema's deadliest duos, and a pop-up in the lobby featuring local artists with incredible work for sale! Artists present are: ALEXANDRIA ANN WIDGERY GIAMOS is a part time witch, full time queer feminist who makes handmade magical goods, ALEXA TRILLI, an internationally collected glitter artist and Toronto illustrator TREVOR HENDERSON. And then, the lights will go down low for the screening of the movie proper at 8:00 PM. The Royal Cinema is located at 608 College Street, Toronto, Ontario.

The Honeymoon Killers (1969)
Dir. Leonard Kastle
Starring: Shirley Stoler, Tony Lo Bianco, Doris Roberts,
Dortha Duckworth, Marilyn Chris, Barbara Cason,
Mary Jane Higby, Kip McArdle, Mary Breen

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Though one wishes to imagine the movie Martin Scorsese might have made from Leonard Kastle's screenplay of The Honeymoon Killers, it's probably best left unimagined. Scorsese was quickly fired by the producer for being too pokey on the shoestring $150K budget, whereupon Kastle was selected to replace him.

What remains is still one of the most mouthwateringly lurid films of the 20th century. Not that Kastle's approach to this take on the true-crime drama of the "lonelyhearts killers" was exploitative, but it derives its layers of scum quite honestly due to the realistic, monochrome and almost documentary-like approach to the material. Yet, in spite of the neo-realist flavour infusing the picture, Kastle also bathes the material in a perverse romanticism and we get, first and foremost, a love story - albeit one in which its lovers are psychopaths.

Spring boarding from events which originally took place during the post-war years of the 40s and setting them in the 60s when the film was shot, we're told the tale of Martha Beck (Shirley Stoler), a morbidly obese nurse from Mobile, Alabama who meets the sexy, charming conman Ray Fernandez (Tony Lo Bianco) from a lonely hearts club correspondence. Long before internet dating sites, those in need of love would write good, old fashioned love letters to each other via clubs which advertised their services in sleazy "women's" magazines and tabloid newspapers.

The flowery correspondence twixt the two leads Ray to make a trip down to Mobile from New York. Martha lives with her dementia-addled mother (Dortha Duckworth) and has only one real friend, the libidinous Bunny. Ray has come to dupe Martha into emptying her bank account, but instead, he falls madly in love with her, and she with him.

Eventually he reveals his "business" to Martha and the two of them carry on as lovers, but pose as brother and sister, which makes them an ideal team to perpetrate fraud upon lonely spinsters. In no time, however, simple fraud turns to murder and the pair begin to kill their victims. Committing murder seems to spark their libidos even more. After Martha gruesomely, brutally and repeatedly smashes a seventy year old woman's head to a pulp with a hammer, the two retire to the boudoir as Ray, hard-on raging, orders Martha to keep the lights on. "I want to make love," he coos.

Their love knows no bounds, it seems. However, the scams they're perpetrating often place Ray in positions where the "lonely hearts" are demanding sex from him. Worse yet, Ray even seems attracted to some of the women which only causes Martha to become both jealous and even more brutally murderous.

It's only a matter of time until they're caught and as in the real-life case, both of them are put to death in Sing Sing Prison's electric chairs. Kastle, as writer and director, never lets up on the romantic connection between Ray and Martha. Sacrifices are made for love and in spite of the horrific nature of their crimes, the film actually moves us during its final moments. In fact, we're moved quite deeply.

One of the interesting aspects of creating a borderline melodrama of this love is the brilliant notion to use Gustav Mahler's alternately heart-wrenching and sweetly beautiful 6th Symphony as the only score. Written by Mahler during a period of considerable strife in his marriage to Alma Mahler, the work has often been referred to as "The Death of Love" symphony. What makes it work so beautifully is that it needs to convey deep love in order to detail the death of love and used as score in The Honeymoon Killers, it carries us along with as much joyous emotion as it does with its disturbing, dissonant riffs.

There isn't a performance in the film that ever seems out of place. but ultimately, it's Stoler (she played the concentration camp commandant in Lina Wertmuler's Seven Beauties) and Lo Bianco (oft cast as a gangster and cop who transcended the cliches he was forced to inhabit and delivered the brilliantly complex performance in Larry Cohen's God Told Me To) who both keep our eyes glued to the screen. In another time and place, these two render performances that would at least have garnered major nominations and possibly even awards, but in 1969, were relegated to a few decent critical notices and little else.

There have, of course, been a number of film versions of this story, but none of them have the power of Kastle's version to both horrify and move us. It's an extraordinary work and one which continues to live on as a genuine classic.


AFTER YOU SEE The Honeymoon Killers at the Retropath screening at Toronto's Royal Cinema, DON'T FORGET that it is available on a gorgeously transferred Criterion Collection Blu-Ray which comes complete with an all new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, a detailed interview with writer-director Leonard Kastle from 2003, interviews with actors Tony Lo Bianco and Marilyn Chris and editor Stan Warnow and a genuinely great new video essay, “Dear Martha . . . ,” by writer Scott Christianson, author of "Condemned: Inside the Sing Sing Death House". Feel free to order the film directly from the Amazon links below and contribute to the ongoing maintenance of The Film Corner: