Greg Klymkiw’s 35+ years in the movie business include journalism, screenwriting, script editing, producing iconoclastic work by Guy Maddin, Bruno Lazaro Pacheco, Alan Zweig, etc, 14 years as senior creative consultant and producer-in-residence @ Norman Jewison's Canadian Film Centre, nurturing international recognition for prairie post-modernist films with his guerrilla campaigns as the Winnipeg Film Group’s Marketing Director, writing for Film Corner, Daily Film Dose, POV, Phantom of the Movies' VIDEOSCOPE, Electric Sheep UK - a deviant view of cinema, Take One Magazine, Cinema Canada & he's currently completing 3 new books about cinema. He's the subject of Ryan McKenna’s 2013 documentary "Survival Lessons: The Greg Klymkiw Story". At last count Klymkiw had seen over 30,000 feature films. GUIDE TO RATINGS: ***** Masterpiece **** Excellent ***1/2 Very Good *** Good **1/2 Not Bad ** Whatever *½ Poor

* Raw Sewage - If a film is not up to earning 1 star, it will earn at least: 1 Pubic Hair. If, God forbid, the movie is worse than 1 Pubic Hair, the absolute lowest rating will be: The Turd found behind Harry's Charbroil and Dining Lounge

Friday, April 18, 2014

WHITEY: THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA V. JAMES J. BULGER, Review By Greg Klymkiw, HotDocs2014: MustSee#1

Alcatraz Mugshot of Boston Mob Boss Whitey Bulger

Whitey: The United States of America V. James J. Bulger
Dir. Joe Berlinger (2014) *****

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Movies seldom open with the kind of chilling first few minutes that Joe Berlinger's new picture delivers. Stephen Rakes, a gentle white haired teddy bear of a man speaks with a born and bred South Boston accent - the tail-end "r" becomes the telltale "ah", "ing" is always the contraction "'in" and the letter "o", a slightly elongated "aahh". His first few words are an immediately identifiable amalgam of long-ago-lost hope and sadness:
"30 years ago my wife and I purchased a liquor licence and we had the liquor store up and runnin' by Christmas. We poured our heart and soul into it."
A young couple's dream come true becomes a nightmare.
Then lo and behold I gets a knock on my door one night. I'm at the house and my wife is down at the liquor store workin'. And there's Kevin Weeks and Whitey Bulger at the door. . . what the hell did they want? He [Whitey] says 'Ya gotta problem.' I says, 'What problem?' He says, 'Listen, we were hired to kill you. . . you gotta understand, the other liquor stores, they hired us to kill you. . . but what we're gonna do instead of that is we're gonna become your partners.'
Deadly tools of the trade
I says, 'No, you're not becomin' my partners.' And Bulger's just starin' at me and he's grindin' his teeth: 'You don't understand, we're takin' the fuckin' liquor store.' I says, 'It's not for sale.' [Then he says] 'I'll fuckin' kill you. I'll stab you and then I'll kill you.' And then they pulled out a gun and I was like, 'Holy Fuck'. They picked up my kid, my daughter's only a year old. He says, 'It'd be terrible for this kid to grow up without a Father.'"
Stephen Rakes Imitates Whitey Bulger
From here, we're slam-bang even deeper into one of the most harrowing crime pictures ever made. This is no drama, however, but it's certainly imbued with a compulsive narrative expertly unfurled by ace documentary filmmaker Berlinger, co-director with Bruce Sinofsky of the classic West Memphis Three trilogy: Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996) Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000) Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (2011) and his powerful solo effort Crude (that exposed Chevron and its part in destroying the health and lives of tens of thousands of Ecuadorians when a huge chunk of the Rain Forest was irretrievably polluted by oil drilling).

Focusing on the extraordinary trial of Whitey Bulger, Berlinger's new film film works on several levels. First and foremost, it's a savage indictment of the extent to which the F.B.I.'s involvement in Bulger's crime kingdom went far over the line and, in fact, assisted with his reign of terror. Secondly, Berlinger has seemingly unfettered access to archival footage, F.B.I. surveillance film, the prosecution and defence teams, key witnesses (including Bulger's trusty right hand, killer Kevin Weeks) and the myriad of Bulger's victims. Finally, the picture superbly, nerve-shreddingly yields the shocking rags-to-riches rise of Bulger - an epic, Scorsese-like crime thriller presented with the rat-a-tat-tat of a 30s Warner Bros' Slavko Vorkapitch/Robert Wise-edited Gangster movie montages and a kind of jack-hammering "News On The March" coldcock to the face.

Now this is filmmaking!

The picture leaves you breathlessly agog at the utter brutality and sordid corruption of a system that allowed a monster like Bulger to get away with his crimes for so long. The human factor, as represented by Bulger's victims, is often heartbreaking to the point where one is moved to tears. Even more stunning is that Berlinger followed the convoluted trial for so long and with such dogged persistence, that we, the filmmaker and a friend of a key witness are actually present for the sickening on-camera revelation that a victim of Bulger's evil is rubbed out before he gets a chance to testify.

Bulger's kingdom of crime lasted 30 years without a single indictment thanks to the corruption of America's Federal Bureau of Investigation. It's a blight upon the institutional crime fighting apparatus of a government long notorious for looking the other way when it served the most nefarious needs for both individuals to feather their own nests and to shield a country fraught with pure evil in its highest echelons of power and supposed enforcement.

Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity, indeed.

Whitey: The United States of America V. James J. Bulger, already has masterpiece status affixed to it and will, no doubt remain a classic of great American cinema long after all of us have gone from this Earth. It's what cinema should be - it's for the ages.

On the heels of its world premiere at Sundance, the visionary Canadian company VSC (Video Services Corp.) presents the film's international premiere at Hot Docs 2014. For further information about playmates, showtimes and tickets, please contact the Hot Docs website HERE.

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

STRESS POSITION - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Creepy Canuck Avant-Garde Thriller with Guantanamo overtones serves up visceral shocks and astounding, imaginative visuals in its claustrophobic space. An interesting bourgeois perspective that isn't wholly exploited keeps the pic from being a solid grand slam.

Just a little higher & this fella's getting an unwanted penile implant
or a very uncomfortable butt-plug.
This is a very sick man.
VERY, VERY sick.
Stress Position (2013) ***
Dir. A.J. Bond, Scr. A.J. Bond
Starring: A.J. Bond, David Amito, Margeurite Moreau

Review By Greg Klymkiw

At first you think you're possibly watching an Ulrich Seidl-inspired documentary with delightfully youthful pretensions as two young gentlemen face each other in gorgeously lit and composed profile shots. They engage in a casual conversation about who they are, how they met, what they do and how they've been inspired to engage in a perverse psychological experiment. Their inspiration to plunge into this experiential enterprise was borne out of previous conversations about enhanced torture methods in the notorious Guantanamo Bay and how they might be able to conduct and survive such inhuman and immoral torments. A.J. (writer-director Bond) happily wins a rock, paper, scissors toss and his pal David (David Amito) must be the first to succumb to the torture. There is a substantial cash prize at stake, but also the strength of character victory achieved by the person who doesn't crack first. When we enter an elaborately designed movie set with a bizarre metallic (and delectably phallic) structure in the middle of a blazing white room, adorned with a huge two-way mirror and populated with hooded figures manning a variety of cameras, we pretty much abandon the notion of this being a twee mock-doc and feel we're entering the world of a nasty thriller - a kind of Michael Haneke on crack, if you will. And then, the torture begins.

It's harrowingly vicious and personal. From simple spitting in the face, through to denial of washroom privileges to bondage and demands of self-inflicted pain to generate self portraits upon the white floor with bodily parts and, uh, fluids. As the torture intensifies, the friendship between the men appears to have a lot left unsaid until now.

Entering the mix is a chilly babe-o-licious ice goddess (Margeurite Moreau) behind the scenes. She's A.J.'s partner in torture and she's the arbiter of what's real and what isn't. She pushes A.J. to not fake it, so that David will, in turn, not be faking it. She demands that she has to believe what she's seeing. A.J. comes to his senses (if one wishes to call them that) and begins to push the torture to such extremes that even our Valkyrie-like babe is taken aback.

Eventually, the tables turn.

And it ain't pretty.

This man is a sick-fuck!
Stress Position is, for the most part an effective and entertaining thriller. It's unfortunate that the tale doesn't push the political implications of the two male characters and their actions within the bourgeois context they're both clearly derived from. There's a sense of a wasted opportunity to take this so much further. As well, it sometimes feel like the film is actually holding back on really going the distance in terms of the sick-o-meter.

Given that it's a low budget affair with little of the usual nonsense that plagues even indies, one keeps waiting for us to travel along the paths of true demented nastiness like, for example, the brilliant Carré blanc by Jean-Baptiste Léonetti or the Soska Sisters' astonishing American Mary. By hammering home both their respective political bents with utter extremities of depravity, both of those movies take us to genuinely shocking places that eventually yield surprising cores of humanity. Stress Position never goes there and yet it feels like a movie that wants to go there. In the end, the movie feels a lot colder and clinical than I think it needed to be.

In spite of this, though, the movie is dazzlingly shot and designed and the performances, especially by Bond (this guy could surely moonlight as a character actor in roles of total scumbaggery), are always engaging. Even more happily, the film is bereft of that horrendous Canadian tweeness that plagues so much of the country's output and importantly, one feels like we're watching the work of a filmmaker with a voice as opposed to that annoying tendency of too many Canadian directors looking to generate their "Look Ma, I can use a dolly and direct series television" calling card nonsense.

Watching the film, you at least feel you're on the ground floor of a filmmaker who's new and exciting, rather than some competent loser-hack looking for a gig.

Stress Position opens theatrically at the Magic Lantern Carlton Cinema in Toronto on April 18, 2014 and will hopefully roll out across the rest of the country soon.

Monday, April 14, 2014

THE BATTERY - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Clearly talented director offers somewhat constipated zombie movie. Flawed, but worth seeing on a big screen at Raven Banner's Sinister Cinema series on April 17, 2014.

The Battery (2013) **1/2
Dir. Jeremy Gardner
Starring: Jeremy Gardner, Adam Cronheim, Niels Bolle, Alana O'Brien

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Before the New England zombie apocalypse, Ben (Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim) were pro baseball players, but these days they're moving surreptitiously through the woods and backroads, their only contact with anything resembling a human being is the occasional zombie which, of course, will need to be dispatched. Predictably, the guys are polar opposites. Ben's no-nonsense "gotta-keep-moving-like-a-shark" attitude is what keeps them alive and his insistence that they always make time for games of pitch-and-catch is what keeps them human. For Ben, baseball, or at least the vestiges of the once great unifying force of America is the only thing as important as staying alive. The sheer relaxing physicality of it offers a kind of Zen to their seemingly pointless lives.

Ben is also a killer - of zombies, that is. This contrasts wildly with Mickey. He can't bring himself to kill and constantly dons headphones to pipe dreadful angst-ridden contemporary indie rock into his oh-so sensitive consciousness. If Ben's goal is to keep moving to stay alive, Mickey's involves searching for all the things that once made life worth living - home, family, a woman - or, quite simply, stability. The two men are at odds (surprise, surprise), yet they develop a special bond (surprise, surprise) as they move ever-closer to each other (surprise, surprise) and, as they are slackers in a post apocalyptic world, they head ever-closer to nowhere.

Upon hearing a woman's voice over a walkie talkie, Mickey is determined to find her. Ben insists they heed the woman's dire warning about staying away - no use going where they're not wanted. Besides, Ben is concerned that if they were ever separated or if he needed Mickey's help, that his tender-footed companion will be too inexperienced and/or weak-willed to do what needs to be done. Like baseball, practise makes perfect, especially when one must kill or be killed.

There's much to admire in the picture - in theory, anyway. To my mind, artistic ambition is always to be welcomed and certainly The Battery has ambition to burn. Alas, it's just not always an engaging movie. For one, we know it's yet another no-budget horror movie - a zombie movie to boot - and that for damn sure we're going to spend plenty of time in the middle of nowhere having to listen to these guys arguing until they inevitably find their common ground (if, in fact they ever do find it). The movie veers far too dangerously into the dreaded mumblecore territory that far too many untalented indie directors use as an excuse (consciously or unconsciously) to mask their inherent ineptitude as filmmakers. Gardner is not in this category. Though the jury is still out, one feels he's going to eventually emerge supreme with his next picture or two.

However, he needs to do more than tried and true variations of genre. For example, we are well aware that the woman's voice over the two-way signal is coming from a survivalist compound, but because the picture is so obviously made on the cheap, we know we're never going to get there because that's going to cost money that this movie simply doesn't have. I hate to say it, but when I think about the myriad of truly great no-to-low-budget cult films over the decades, the recent preponderance of shooting in one room or the middle of nowhere with story choices that are obviously rooted to budget issues is becoming increasingly and frustratingly boring and/or annoying.

The only thing that can battle this are elements the movie flirts with, but never goes the distance with. For example, the overall atmosphere of the picture is so bleak - capturing zombies, killing practice, jerking off to hot zombie chicks in wet t-shirts, plenty of staring into space and the aforementioned indie soundtrack that drips ever-so horrifically with ennui - we feel we're in for the de rigueur bleak ending. It's inevitable, really, and given this certitude, plus all the arty wheel-spinning going on, I wished the filmmaker might have found other instances to match the cool brilliance of the killing practice sessions and the masturbation scene.

I can imagine it now - a tagline that reads: "I pull my schwance to dead people." Where that movie?

The potential for Gardner's picture to have moved even deeper into a chasm of sickness and despair is the very thing that could have put it over the top and would have had audiences so charged they'd be clamouring for more. The movie could well have upped the ante on this front without losing its compellingly slow pace.

The predictable element that really disappoints in all this is the inevitability that one of the two is going to get bitten by a zombie and will need to be dispatched before he "turns". Chances are that it's going to be the soulful young man who survives as he appears to have the surface elements of humanity. Or would that be too obvious and lazy? This is, after all, a movie with ambition, or, to put it another way, a whole lotta pretentiousness goin' on.

The screenplay by director and star Gardner isn't especially egregious - the familiar tale takes a few interesting turns, much of the dialogue has a feeling of authenticity and the occasionally perverse frissons add a bit of cache to the now-cliched tropes of the zero budgeted zombie movie. The real question, though, is - do we really need another one of these things? Frankly, I think not - unless, like first-time filmmakers before them - burgeoning directors like Gardner tear a page from the likes of Maestro Roger Corman, Peter Bogdanovich, David Lynch, George Romero (of course), John Waters, Sam Raimi, Kevin Smith, Darren Aronofsky - the list goes on. All the aforementioned generated debut and/or follow-up features that truly pushed envelopes. The Battery, merely nudges said envelopes. Movies, especially those with no money, need a lot more than mere nudging.

And now, allow me to veer into broken record territory - I've said this before and I'm going to say it again. I'm especially getting sick and bloody tired of no-budget zombie movies (and other no-budget genre pictures) that force us to watch 90 minutes of hairy, smelly guys. Even Lynch's Eraserhead gave us the hot hooker babe living across from Henry, Mary and their deformed baby and, lest we forget, the super-cute Lady in the Radiator with testicle cheeks and a winning smile as she squashed the huge, milky, pus-filled spermatozoa dropping from the ceiling. Have any of these filmmakers ever heard of writing roles to populate with babes?

Women are finally so much more interesting and challenging to write for - especially considering that nobody is much interested in more movies solely about slacker guys. Yes, The Battery delivers the previously mentioned sexy zombie chick in a wet T-shirt pressing her shapely boobies against the car window and I give Gardner mega-salutes for that, but the only living babe we get is over a walkie-talkie and when we finally do meet her, she becomes the very thing we suspect she'll become - not to mention that her presence is ultimately too little, too late.

Gardner clearly has talent, though, and I'm really looking forward to what he can do with either more money and/or if he really lets himself cut loose. He needs a good dose of creative Ex-Lax, because The Battery, for all it has going for it, has way too much material that's bunging him up.

Let 'er rip, dear boy, let 'er rip

The Battery screens Thursday, April 17, 2014 | 7:30pm during the visionary Raven Banner's fantastic Sinister Cinema series which brings a series of independent horror films to 28 theatres across Canada. The films will include unique content, and in some cases, special appearances, including live question and answer sessions with directors, pre-recorded interviews and more. Tickets are available at participating theatre box offices. You can see The Battery in the following venues:

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

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Here's a treat for Torontonians. See the Oscar-Winning thriller on a big screen from the 4K digital restoration used for the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray. SEE IT ON A BIG SCREEN @TIFF CINEMATHEQUE SPECIAL SCREENINGS SPRING 2014 - 1 SHOW ONLY, APRIL 17, 9:30pm, TIFF BELL LIGHTBOX. THEN BUY THE MOVIE ON BRD WITH ALL THE DELECTABLE CRITERION COLLECTION TRIMMINGS TO ENJOY FOREVER.

Fetishes Galore! Sex, Murder and Vinyl. Always, Vinyl.
Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970) ****
Dir. Elio Petri
Starring: Gian Maria Volonté, Florinda Bolkan

Review By
Greg Klymkiw

A homicide detective on the eve of his promotion to head the department of domestic terrorism plays one final fetishistic sex-and-death-game with the sexy mistress who gets off on the morbid rituals as intensely as he does. Things go according to his perverse plan, but when part of the thrill is to commit a ghastly crime and load up as many clues as possible pointing in his own direction, nobody will presume he's guilty. Class will ALWAYS shield the sinful and he is, after all, a citizen of distinction and hence, above much of what occurs in this film - just a few years shy of being half a century old - has the kind of resonance so many cinematic post-9/11 indictments approach with mere kid gloves in comparison...In any age, this would have proven to be a deeply disturbing film, but now, somehow, it's beyond that which is merely unsettling. We could well be watching a movie set in the here and now and realize that what we're watching is not far at all from the terrible truth of the world we live in.


For further info and tickets, visit the TIFF website HERE.

Here's some info on the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray. You can order it directly from the links below and in so doing, contribute to the ongoing maintenance of The Film Corner.

"Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion" is currently available in a first-rate dual format (Blu-Ray and DVD) edition from the Criterion Collection. The film not only looks and sounds great, but the added value extra features are so bountiful and illuminating that this is definitely a must-own title for all true aficionados and collectors of fine cinema. The package is replete with all the bells and whistles including a 4K digital film restoration, with uncompressed monaural sound, a revealing archival interview with director Elio Petri, a tremendous feature length documentary entitled "Elio Petri: Notes About a Filmmaker", an interview with scholar Camilla Zamboni, a fifty-minute doc on the star of Petri's film "Investigation of a Citizen Named Volonté" and a superb interview with composer Ennio Morricone. Add to this the requisite trailers, new English subtitle translation, a lovely booklet packed with great written material and one Blu-ray and two DVDs all in attractive packaging.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

TARANTULA - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Food, Glorious Food, Turns Tables and Seeks Food

Tarantula (1955) ***½
dir. Jack Arnold
Starring: John Agar, Mara Corday, Leo G. Carroll,
Raymond Bailey, Clint Eastwood

Review By Greg Klymkiw

They say the best science fiction is rooted in “good science”, a view with some merit, but I'd assert that the science should at least seem credible or, at the very least, reveal some sort of truth about the world and/or humanity as we know it. Such is the case with Jack Arnold’s Tarantula, the classic Universal Pictures big-bug picture.

Like his other legendary sci-fi thrillers: The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Creature From The Black Lagoon and, among others, It Came From Outer Space, the science is dubious, but the exploration of issues and themes which touch (or plague, if you will) all of us, even today, Tarantula is as much ahead of its time as it is a product of its time.

The theme of world hunger and the need to find ways to successfully address it is something that hangs over the picture with significant heft. The fact that this issue is something that plagued the world in the 50s, especially during America's post-war/cold-war prosperity within the McCarthy witch hunt hysteria, is what places Tarantula firmly in the pantheon of pictures that truly deserve their classic status. Set in a sleepy Arizona desert town, the resident doctor (played with characteristic stalwartness by the ex-Mr. Shirley Temple, John Agar) investigates the mysterious death of someone who was working as a researcher on the outskirts of this hot and definitely dusty Southwestern hamlet. The Doc suspects there’s more to this death than meets the eye, but his suspicions are ignored.

As these things go in 50s thrillers, the town’s sheriff prefers to believe the bogus diagnosis proposed by the head of the research lab, a respected local scientist (played with delectable aplomb by the venerable ham Leo G. Carroll). You see, the estimable old coot is trying to solve world hunger by making animals bigger - much, much bigger, actually - so that more flesh can be rendered from slaughtered beasts to fill the empty bellies of those without. He takes on a new assistant, a fetching, young female scientist (the drool-inciting Mara Corday) who not only provides him with ample support (in, uh, more ways than one), but is also an amorous target for Doc Agar.

When Doc Leo is exposed to the formula he’s been using on tarantulas, guinea pigs, bunnies and other assorted small animals, he himself slowly transforms into a crazed, deformed monstrosity whilst the increasingly mysterious deaths and disappearances in the vicinity are attributed to a tarantula who’s been chowing down a wee bit too much growth juice.

On the surface, Leo G. Carroll’s character is from a long line of mad scientists, but his obsession is not in any way tinged with self-interest. He's not seeking wealth or power. Doc Leo's goals are honourably altruistic. His suffering is all the more poignant because his desire to bestow good upon the world is a life’s work that ends his life and the lives of others. His failure – given that his experiments result in something destructive – is especially frustrating and finally, very moving – tragic, even.

The movie is replete with admirable qualities. The performances are all superb (within the framework and context of the genre) and the writing is more than serviceable. Though the screenplay doesn’t quite reach the transcendent heights of Richard Matheson’s work on The Incredible Shrinking Man, it does feature more than a few great lines of dialogue that are genuinely campy – genuine because they are INTENTIONALLY cheesy and NOT a result of being dated.

Most impressive are the optical effects involving the enlargement of actual tarantula footage. Clifford Stine’s work on the special effects is as effective as some of today’s best digital work. Sure, the effects occasionally fall short, but then, so do many digital effects these days. At least optical effects are infused with a warmth that's decidedly lacking in digital. Yup, even in the movies, it boils down to the grand old vinyl vs. CD debate. At the end of the day, we let the picture work its considerable magic.

One fun note of trivia is that Clint Eastwood appears in a tiny, but important role during the climax of the picture. It seems thoroughly appropriate that it is Eastwood who commands all his bombers to let rip and decimate the brick-shithouse that is the Tarantula. And, even more interesting, is that Tarantula’s fetching leading lady Mara Corday was cast years later by Eastwood as the wise-acre waitress who signals Harry Callahan that danger is afoot in her café in the now-almost-classic Sudden Impact.

Tarantula is an absolute must-see. It holds up admirably and will also provide great entertainment for the kiddies (of ALL ages). Most importantly, like all great sci-fi thrillers, it provides big emotions, food for thought AND one hell of a rollercoaster ride.

Tarantula is available in a superb box set of ten 50s classics entitled "The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection Volumes 1 and 2" from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Friday, April 11, 2014

SORCERER (New Digital Restoration of the 1977 Classic, Supervised By Director William Friedkin) - Reviewed By Greg Klymkiw in his Colonial Report on Cinema from the Dominion of Canada in the super-cool movie mag in the UK, "Electric Sheep - a deviant view of cinema".

Dir. William Friedkin

Roy Scheider
Francisco Rabal
Bruno Cremer

Reviewed By Greg Klymkiw
In 1977, my virginal plunge into the sweaty, nerve-wracking maw of this insane jungle thriller about four desperate men transporting nitroglycerine across the most treacherous topography imaginable, was, for me, an epiphany. During a myriad of subsequent viewings, and now, with this brand new digital restoration overseen by director William Friedkin, Sorcerer was always, still remains and always will be a movie that repeatedly whacks you with a two-by-four across the teeth.

My review of this new restoration can be found in my column "The Colonial Report on Cinema from the Dominion of Canada" in the ever-so-cool UK-based movie mag "Electric Sheep - a deviant view of cinema".

My full review of SORCERER can be read HERE.

The Toronto International Film Festival’s TIFF Bell Lightbox will be screening the all-new digital restoration (supervised by director William Friedkin) of the 1977 remake of The Wages of Fear, Sorcerer on 12, 15 and 18 April 2014 as a TIFF Cinematheque Special Screening. This is part of a grand spring series that includes a new 35mm restoration of Joseph Losey’s The Servant, new 35mm prints of Robert Bresson’s A Man Escaped, Nagisa Ôshima’s Boy, Alain Resnais’s Je t’aime, je t’aime, Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura, a new digital restoration of the 248 minute ‘roadshow’ version of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra, new 4K digital restorations of Roberto Rossellini’s Voyage to Italy, Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House/Hausu, John Sturges’s The Great Escape, Elio Petri’s Investigation of a Citizen above Suspicion, and 35mm Archival prints of Humberto Solas’s Lucia and most excitingly, H.G. Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear.

Anyone planning to be in Toronto for these screenings is well advised to order seats in advance. For dates, tickets and further information, please visit the TIFF website HERE.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

OCULUS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - "ABSENTIA" Director delivers more creepy crawly and jolts of terror.

Oculus (2014) ****
Dir. Mike Flanagan
Starring: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane, Annalise Basso, Garrett Ryan

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Okay, so it's official. I have yet another terrific independent American director to add to my list of supremely talented artists who are making really cool shit in genres of the fantastical. I passionately loved Mike Flanagan's 2011 shocker Absentia (in spite of a few niggling drops of the ball on a narrative level). It fuelled my need for first-rate direction that exceeded mere craft and displayed an original voice and it mostly did what I love horror movies to do by mining the creepy crawly in normal everyday life and deliver jolts of terror in ways first developed by the Master and Father of Horror, RKO's legendary Val Lewton.

Oculus is a cinematic equivalent to the paralyzing effects of batrachotoxin in those pesky South American dart frogs. It doesn't take long for you to be infected with the movie's power to shut down all the neurons, rendering you immobile and susceptible to its power to induce cardiac arrest. Worst of all, or rather, BEST of all, is that the picture is so riveting you'll feel like Alex in A Clockwork Orange during his "treatment". Appropriately, given the picture's title, your oculi are pretty much Krazy-glued to the screen and once you're sitting there, means of escape simply don't exist.

On one hand, the movie is rooted in one of the oldest horror story tropes in the book - the mirror that forces its characters to indulge in the most insidious, malevolent behaviour. On the other hand, Flanagan orchestrates the proceedings with such aplomb that you'll feel like you're watching a horror movie of incredibly rich originality which, of course, it is. Flanagan takes all the tropes and turns them on their head, forcing the blood to rush to the top of your cranium whilst marvelling at how fresh and vital the picture feels.

Set mostly over the course of one supremely disquieting evening, Oculus tells the spooky story of Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and her younger brother Tim (Brenton Thwaites) as they square off against an antique mirror which, during their childhood, turned Daddy (Rory Cochrane) into a hot-headed abuser and their Hot Mama (Katee Sackhoff) into a victim who is beaten and tortured by hubbles. In retaliation. young Tim (Garrett Ryan) commits a brutal, merciless crime of passion which sends him to the nuthouse and forces his young Sis (Annalise Basso) into foster care. It's years later and upon Bro's release from the booby hatch, Lil Sis sets things up to destroy the evil once and for all, but also capture the events on multiple cameras to prove, first to Bro' that he was not responsible for the tragedy and to also convince the world he was innocent.

Once Hunky Brother and Babe-o-licious Sister are locked in that house with the mirror, the movie is so consistently hair-raising that you'll be wishing you'd thought to wear a pair of Depends during the screening. Reality is never what it seems and the picture veers from flashback to flash forward and back again whilst straddling real and imagined assaults on the senses of the characters (and us).

I especially love how Big Sis rigs the whole house up with audio visual aids and temperature sensors. It's a nice nod to the first Paranormal Activity (a genuinely terrific picture in spite of the sequels and the endless, mostly awful rip-offs it inspired), but it's also fun getting the added perspectives of screens in plain view during the proceedings. Sometimes, we get to see shit, the characters DON'T see when they're not looking when WE are.

Flanagan also edits the film himself which I'm always happy to see when genuine filmmakers, as opposed to the usual camera jockeys recruited to helm so many contemporary genre films. He clearly and efficiently has a great eye for what he needs to builds slow creepy scares as well as the de rigueur shock cuts. The latter are especially well handled in terms of knowing when to utilize sound, often a few frames before actual picture cuts for maximum impact. His compositions are also first rate. Flanagan and cinematographer Michael Fimognari obviously had a great rapport since the frame is always the way it needs to be for maximum narrative impact and I especially loved the appropriately evocative lighting.

The cast, right across the board, is first rate also. Not only are the performances right on the money, I'm going to be a pig here and say how wonderful it is that he casts a trio of actors who are not only first-rate thespians, but frankly, it's always a bonus when the female leads are major drool-inducers and even better, when the picture delivers the cherry on the sundae of a super cute young fella as the male lead.

Try to see Oculus on a big screen while you can. Though I often hate sitting with real people, this movie is a genuine crowd pleaser and it was fun sitting in a massive cinema with a whack of folks screaming, jumping and shuddering with utter delight. In fact, it's probably a great idea to see the movie during the first or second week before it's moved into smaller-screened venues. The picture really looks gorgeous and on a humungous screen, you'll get mega-bang for the buck.

Oculus is in wide release and in Canada it's being distributed by VVS Films.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

DOWNTIME - Review By Greg Klymkiw - The forgotten, neglected 1985 Prairie Post-Modernist Classic of Canadian Cinema, sprung from the same asbestos-tainted waters of Winnipeg that yielded the legendary John Paizs and Guy Maddin has been lovingly restored and remastered for Home Viewing on DVD.

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Downtime (1985) *****
Dir. Greg Hanec, Scr. Mitchell Brown
Starring: Maureen Gammelseter, Padraic O'Beirn, Debbie Williamson, Ray Impey

Review By Greg Klymkiw

It always seemed perversely appropriate that Greg Hanec and Mitchell Brown's extraordinary 1985 film Downtime should be so unjustly neglected, forgotten and lost to the windy vagaries of imagined memories of time and place. Not that great art deserves to neglected, but cream, no matter how long it takes, always rises to the top. The richness of the picture is how it is a product of its time and reflective of the period it actually represented from conception through to its completion. If the movie was met with the sort of indifference that eventually blots work out, obliterating its very being from a collective consciousness of great regional DIY independent cinema, then Downtime is, I think, on the verge of having the last laugh (so to speak) since now, more than ever, almost thirty years after it was born, it's due for rediscovery and serious consideration.

DOWNTIME - In Winnipeg,
people can be seen on the street.
This is not just because it's an important film, but because, like a lot of great art, it was so ahead of its time. A vivid, haunting portrait of twenty-something ennui, crafted and sprouted right from the bitter depths, the very bowels if you will, of that horrendous period first coined by the legendary photographer Robert Capa and later popularized in contemporary parlance by Canadian author Douglas Coupland in his iconic book "Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture", Downtime is, perhaps the first genuine Gen-X picture from the North American consciousness so iconically represented in that monumental international bestseller. (*NOTE* In 1987, the Canadian prairies yielded the second genuine Gen-X feature Wheat Soup by Brian Stockton and Gerald Saul of Regina.)

That Hanec and Brown's picture was made and set in Winnipeg during the heyday of the Prairie Post-Modernist phase, coined and identified by film critic Geoff Pevere in "Cinema Canada", is what makes the movie even more ripe for rediscovery. Made the same year Guy Maddin directed his first film, the hauntingly grotesque short The Dead Father and as legendary Winnipeg Film Group auteur John Paizs was embarking upon his emblematic first feature Crime Wave, Hanec as a filmmaker was also forging his own unique style - a kind of deadpan neo-realistic portrait shot in gloriously grainy black and white, presented in lovely standard frame tableaux, complete with blackouts between shots from a mostly fixed camera position.

DOWNTIME - Winnipeg provides nice views through windows.
Timing, they say, is everything, but for those living in Winnipeg during those weirdly lithium-infused days, the rest of the world just didn't matter. It DID, however, matter in the case of this particular film. Once it was complete and about to enter the world, the Zeitgeist of the mid-80s delivered another film in black and white, shot tableau style and equipped with blackouts between scenes, Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise. Though there are stylistic similarities, they're ultimately very different films. The world, however, can be extremely short-sighted.

DOWNTIME - Young Winnipeg Women are Vibrant.
Jarmusch's film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, then platformed and eventually widened out theatrically as Hanec was in the process of sending his film out to be considered for festival play. Talk about having the rug pulled out from under your film.

That said, Hanec and Brown's movie was invited to participate in the 1986 Berlin International Film Festival's prestigious Forum of New Cinema section. The Berlinale was a perfect place for Downtime to greet the world with its own special howdy-doody from Winnipeg. Hanec journeyed to the festival and found himself surrounded by some of the best in World Cinema: Derek Jarman's Caravaggio, James Foley's At Close Range and Alan Rudolph's Trouble in Mind were amongst the Official Competition entries.

The Panorama section was unveiling Clint Eastwood's Honkytonk Man, Gus Van Sant's Mala Noche and Lasse Hallstrom's My Life As a Dog. In the Forum of New Cinema, Hanec's Downtime unspooled alongside the likes of Peter Greenaway's A Zed & Two Noughts, Jouis Malle's God's Country and Claude Lanzmann's Shoah.

Not bad company for a 65-minute mid-length feature film by a nice, young Ukrainian Boy from Winnipeg.

Downtime was, however, swallowed to a good extent in the shadow of Stranger Than Paradise and as surprisingly as its original take on contemporary youth culture was, Hanec's picture promptly and summarily disappeared.

Until now, that is.

Recently and lovingly restored for home consumption on DVD, Downtime is out in the world now and appropriately, it's not too long after the major "Forgotten Winnipeg" music and film retrospective presented by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's Festival of New Music in collaboration with SPUR. The film might have been forgotten for nearly three decades, but it only makes sense since Winnipeg, named from the Cree words "muddy" and "water" is a city hidden beneath fluffy snowflakes of forgetfulness, swirling about under dark waters of time, the city's amnesiac qualities emanating throughout the world and oft-inspiring repression of that which should not be repressed. Repression is Winnipeg and it rubs off in the strangest places.

And so it is, that Winnipeg is indeed featured front and centre in this graceful ode to slacking when slacking was actually happening big time and no more big time than in Winnipeg, the North American Centre of slacking. Focusing on a quartet of lonely young Winnipeggers, Hanec renders Mitchell Brown's evocative and superbly constructed screenplay using each individual scene as a single shot in tableau. Much of the film plays like a still life, each frame teeming with a kind of laconic intensity as Brown's script deftly confounds all expectations.

DOWNTIME - In Winnipeg, people like to party, eh.
We meet a young woman (Maureen Gammelseter) working day shift in a depressingly claustrophobic variety store, its windows thick with dust on the inside and outdoors, filmy grime clinging to the same windows - the result of Winnipeg winds pelting springtime dirt from poorly-cleaned streets, piled high with sand laid down in winter to temper the almost sub-actic ice on the roads. Though it seems like the sun is shining outside, it's filtered through the store's glass windows of misery and neglect.

The young woman manning the cash register doesn't even have a name.

Why should she? It's Winnipeg.

As one of the city's sleepwalking denizens, she's pretty much as inconsequential as humanity gets, though she is alive and appears to have some manner of survival instinct within her.

DOWNTIME - In Winnipeg, there is plenty to think about.
A young man (Padraic O'Beirn), also bereft of a name, enters the store to buy a carton of milk. Though his face bears a kind of Buster Keaton countenance, his eyes have the slightest light in them, which suggest he might not only be a nice guy, but a well-humoured one as well. The film puts this to the test immediately as it leads up to the promise of the kind of classic moments one experiences in the movies, especially those in which lonely young people find each other in the unlikeliest circumstances. He dawdles about the store until nerving-up enough to ask the young woman out. Will she accept? Really? Truly? Madly? Deeply? Why not? Her countenance of blankness suggests she probably has little else to do in her downtime from work.

Alas, she declines and our young man leaves. When she finally gets off work, she retires to her spartan, greyish-walled apartment and sits on a chesterfield. She's been on her feet all day. It must surely be a relief to sit. And sit. And sit.

And - wait for it - sit.

DOWNTIME - Winnipeg Fine Dining at Salisbury House

As twilight fills the big prairie skies over the drabness that is Winnipeg, we follow our young man as he begins his challenging night shift as a janitor in a school: mopping, draining, mopping, draining and, when it seems like something else awaits, he attentively mops, then skillfully drains, emptying grey water into the properly chosen receptacle within a dank, dark hovel identified on its door as the "Sink Room".

Yup, it's a barn-burner of a night in Winnipeg.

The young woman does what all single young women in Winnipeg do. She saunters down the street and, with not-so baited breath, enters the Coin Laundromat. The plot thickens. Here, under the pulsating fluorescent lights, a kooky elfin waif with a NAME, Debbie (Debbie Williamson), strikes up a friendly, but almost painfully inconsequential conversation with our heroine. Eventually, the young woman accepts Debbie's invitation to go to a party later in the week.

And what a week doth unfurl. The young woman goes to work. The young man spends his days wandering aimlessly or staring from behind his blankets at the blank walls of his apartment. The young woman stands rigidly at her post behind the counter of the variety store as an occasional customer graces it with their presence. Her conversations with these customers are automaton-like and perhaps even more blankly-stock than those uttered by McDonald's counter servers. At night, she goes home. She boils up the contents from within whatever tin can is handiest to reach within her cupboard.

Meanwhile, the young man is, of course, mopping - mopping floors in the dead of a Winnipeg night.

It doesn't take too long to assume he really needs to go out on a date or something. He'll try to charm the young woman again and one of his attempts truly confounds expectations. (To my knowledge, the wooing attempt employed is perhaps the first time it's ever been unveiled in movie history.) You'll want to give the young man points for this one, but he carries it off so pathetically, you'll be forced to dock a whole whack o' points from his highly original, but utterly botched approach.

On the night of the party, Debbie brings along a friendly, laconic young man who - lo and behold - has a name. Ray (Ray Impey) seems like he's perhaps got the stuff to sweep our heroine off her feet, but she really seems to have eyes for nobody and the plot, as always, must thicken.

And I assure you, it does.

Though this is, ultimately, a movie about slacking, the slacking is completely without aim of any kind. I fondly recall my own slacking period during the mid-80s when goals included randomly stalking young women or going to flea markets in search of Zippo lighters. Not so with the Downtime Winnipeggers. They are truly aimless. Boredom is what ultimately rules the day and even when a male-female coupling eventually occurs, it seems rife with the kind of bliss that can only be derived when propelled to Mount Olympus heights of boredom. If you're looking for a sound-barrier-breaking level of dull inactivity, you ain't seen nothing until you've seen Downtime.

To say Hanec and Brown's film is titled appropriately is probably the understatement of the New Millennium. Our good friends at Oxford Dictionaries, for example, define the word/phrase "downtime" thusly:

1. Time during which a machine, especially a computer, is out of action or unavailable for use.

1.1 A time of reduced activity or inactivity.

Oxford defines, with the aforementioned, the central dramatic action that fuels Greg Hanec's exquisite film - a $15,000 feature that's stood the test of time and that now, seems a perfect movie, for today.

POSTSCRIPT: Greg Hanec finally met Jim Jarmusch during the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's New Music Festival in January 2014. In fact, Hanec, an accomplished musician and composer in addition to his filmmaking talents joined up with Jarmusch as part of his backup band when he performed a special gig at Winnipeg's Union Sound Hall with Lea (Sonic Youth) Ranaldo. Jarmusch now owns a DVD of Downtime.

DOWNTIME has been remastered from original elements to DVD, it can now be purchased directly online.

Order DOWNTIME directly from the film's new website by clicking HERE

OCC presents "Downtime"
Tues. April 21 - Doors at 8:30 - Show at 9pm
Dir. Greg Hanec | Canada 1985 | 66min.
$5 suggested donation
Fundraiser for WUFF 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR: SATAN CAME TO EDEN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Trouble in Nietzschean Paradise

The Galapagos Affair:
Satan Came To Eden

Dir. Daniel Geller, Dayna Goldfine (2013) ***
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Diane Kruger, Connie Nielsen, Sebastian Koch, Thomas Kretschmann, Gustaf Skarsgard, Josh Radnor

Review By Greg Klymkiw

"...I looked and saw the sand. Alive, all alive, as the new hatched sea turtles made their dash to the sea, the birds hovered and swooped to attack, and hovered and swooped to attack, they were diving down on the sea turtles, turning them over to expose their soft undersides, tearing their undersides open, and rending and eating their flesh." - Mrs. Venable from the Tennessee Williams play Suddenly Last Summer

When the negative to Alfred Hitchcock's The Empress of Floreana was lost to a fire in a shed on the backlot of Paramount Pictures, the Master of Suspense would rue the day he had his trusty camera assistant dispatch the precious materials to this secret location. Hitch feared that the studio's already cold feet about the daring film would become even more frigid and he simply did not trust leaving any of it to the care of the climate controlled vaults. He even ordered all still negatives be stored there too, along with screen tests, all the requisite costume and lighting tests and even the storyboards. With only two-thirds of the film in the can, Paramount ordered the production to wrap and instead, cashed-in on the insurance policy to cover the losses.

Able to apportion company overhead to the policy, Paramount actually profited on the claim. The studio's gain, so to speak, was cinema's loss. Brimming with sex, sadomasochism, adultery, violence and, of course, murder most foul, the film was based upon the true story of Dr. Friedrich Ritter (Cary Grant in a dyed blonde flattop haircut), an obsessive Nietzschean philosopher and scientist who fled German society in the 1920s with his devoted, subservient mistress Dore Strauch (Joan Fontaine) and settled on the uninhabited Galapagos island paradise of Floreana. Here the couple's once passionate love dwindles as Ritter transforms into a controlling, mean-spirited introvert and Dore is forced to seek companionship with the only living thing on the island that will pay attention to her - a donkey.

Unfortunately, word of the couple's flight made it back to the Fatherland and soon, another German family, the Wittmers (Joseph Cotten and Claudette Colbert), decide to follow in their footsteps. Ritter sees this is as the ultimate intrusion upon his desire to be free of all human interaction - so much so, that when the pregnant Mrs. Wittmer experiences a painful, dangerous labour in the cavern Ritter has set them up in as a home, he only grudgingly, and at the last minute, agrees to help - in spite of the fact that he's a skilled physician who swore to the Hippocratic Oath.

Adding insult to injury, a third party invades the island, the Baroness Von Wagner (Grace Kelly) and her two boy-toys (Tab Hunter and Martin Landau). The Baroness has plans to erect a massive tourist hotel on the island, though as the tale progresses, it's suspected that she's a fraud, a con artist on the lam. Tension intensifies as the Baroness begins to make eyes at Ritter and Mr. Wittmer. This infuriates their significant other and wife, as well as the boy toys. All are plunged into the roiling, seething waters of jealousy and betrayal.

Floreana also becomes host to Captain Alan Hancock (Thomas Mitchell), a well-heeled commander of a shipping vessel who fancies himself a filmmaker of exotic locales in the Schoedsack and Cooper tradition (both of whom were amalgamated into the Carl Denham character in the legendary RKO production of King Kong). Hancock decides to make a movie about the Baroness in which she stars as herself. Neither Strauch nor Mrs. Wittmer will participate in the other female role, so the Baroness convinces one of her boy toys (the one played by Martin Landau) to take the other female role in drag. Hancock's film, The Empress of Floreana is shot, much to everyone else's consternation.

The tropical vat of illicit couplings and envy boils over and soon, the horizon is clearly pointing to murder.

That this is a true story is all the more phenomenal. What would have been even more phenomenal is if the events described above actually were the contents of a lost Hitchcock film (or even one that was truly made). No, dear reader, that bit is a flight of Key To Reserva fancy on my part. (Reserva is Martin Scorsese's 2007 extended promotional film for Freixenet Cava champagne that presented a "lost" Hitchcock film and so superbly done, it fooled even the biggest movie geeks - myself included.)

All that said, everything described, save for my imaginary dream cast (and director, 'natch), is the compelling mystery thriller of a documentary that's been expertly crafted by directors Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine. Using the writings of the principal participants in this genuine adventure in the Encantatas (and voiced superbly by a fine cast including Cate Blanchett), a wealth of archival materials, still photos, newspaper/magazine clippings, actual home movie footage (including that shot by the real Captain Hancock), The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden is a documentary feature that has you sliding off the edge of your seat as you follow this astonishing, riveting tale (with your jaw occasionally hitting the floor).

The movie incorporates newly shot footage of life in the Gslapagos now, including interviews with current residents and even several living descendants of the aforementioned parties. Though there's some great stuff in these sequences, the lurid narrative employing the archival materials and narration almost seems like it would have been enough to render a terrific picture. Alas, the modern stuff, more often than not, just seems to put occasional stops to the otherwise gorgeous flow of the proceedings.

This, however, is not enough to drag the movie down irreparably and you'll be treated to a very strange, creepy and often suspenseful picture. And yes, there is a movie buried in here that Hitch himself would have done wonders with, but Geller and Goldfine acquit themselves admirably enough in presenting a torrid real-life melodrama that keeps you fascinated and guessing to the end.

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden is a Kinosmith Release which opens at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema on April 11-18, 2014 and throughout the rest of Canada on a platform release. For further info, visit the Hot Docs website HERE.

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