GREG KLYMKIW - THE CURMUDGEON OF CINEMA

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/MasterpiecePotential **** 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.


PLEASE NOTE: AS OF JULY, 2014, THE FILM CORNER'S STAR RATING IS LOCATED AT THE END OF THE REVIEW.

Monday, 1 September 2014

IN HER PLACE - TIFF 2014 (TIFF Discovery) - Review By Greg Klymkiw

A daughter, whose child can never be hers.
A mother, whose daughter is everything.
A woman who has come between them.
A baby that binds all three for eternity.
In Her Place (2014)
Dir. Albert Shin
Script: Shin & Pearl Ball-Harding
Prods. Igor Drljaca, Yoon Hyun Chan & Shin
Starring: Yoon Da Kyung, Ahn Ji Hye, Kil Hae Yeon, Kim Sung Cheol, Kim Chang Hwan, Kim Kyung Ik

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Now and again, I find myself seeing a movie that feels so perfect, so lacking in anything resembling a single false note and so affecting on every level that I'm compelled to constantly pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming. In Her Place, enjoying its World Premiere at the 2014 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival is a dream, but most decidedly of the dream-come-true variety. This is exactly the sort of film that restores my faith in the poetic properties of cinema and how the simplest of tales, at their surface, allow its artists to dig deep and yield the treasures inherent in the picture's soul. When a film is imbued with an inner spirit as this one is, you know you're watching something that hasn't been machine-tooled strictly for ephemeral needs. In Her Place is a film about yearning, love and the extraordinary tears and magic that are borne out of the company and shared experience of women. And, it is exquisite.

A childless couple nearing the early stages of middle-age, cut a private deal to adopt outside the purview of an official agency, which, they're convinced, will be the ideal no-muss-no-fuss arrangement. The Wife (Yoon Da-kyung), having been previously afflicted with serious health issues, especially wants the world to think she's the biological birth-mother of the adopted newborn. She and her Husband (Kim Kyung Ik) concoct a cover for friends and family that she's waiting out her pregnancy in America instead of Seoul. In reality, she's not left South Korea at all and is staying on an isolated farm. Her hosts are The Mother (Kil Hae-yeon), widowed and forced to run the sprawling acreage on her own and her daughter, a shy, pregnant teenage Girl (Ahn Ji-hye). For a substantial sum, this financially needy rural family agrees to give up the baby to the well-to-do couple from the big city. The Wife stays in modest digs originally meant for onsite farmhands while her Husband returns to Seoul to work. From here, she can maintain the optics of being away from home during pregnancy but also take an active role in nurturing the young lady carrying "her" child. The arrangement seems too good to be true and sure enough, complications slowly surface and threaten to scuttle an otherwise perfect plan.

In Her Place is director Albert Shin's stunning sophomore feature-length outing. Working with co-writer Pearl Ball-Harding and co-producer Igor Drljaca (director of 2012's dazzling Krivina and Shin's old York University film school pal and partner in their company TimeLapse Pictures), Shin and Drljaca seem to have pulled off another miracle in the relatively short life of their seemingly perfect partnership. Evocatively photographed by Moon Myoung Hwan, wrenchingly and beautifully scored by Alexandre Klinke, featuring a cast as perfect as any director (or audience) would want and edited by Shin himself with the pace and deep sensitivity that's reminiscent of a Robert Bresson film, you'll experience as haunting and touching a film as any of the very best that have been wrought. This is great filmmaking, pure and simple.

What I love about this movie, aside from its emotional content, is just how Shin trusts in the beautiful writing and employs a mise-en-scène that allows his actors to inhabit the frame (always perfectly composed) for the kind of maximum impact that can come from holding steady on narrative action and only cutting when absolutely necessary to spin things forward in subtle ways - parcelling out information so that we are allowed to take in both information and the affecting layers of very palpable impression and subtext.

A perfect example of Shin's assured direction occurs right off the top. The film opens with a fade up from black into a perfectly composed fixed shot of a well-worn gravel road. Flanked by lush, green trees, an unassuming, slightly worn farmhouse sits deep in the centre background, while a car makes its way into the frame and moves with purpose onto the property. All is swathed in a strange grey light from the overcast sky and as the car reaches a halfway point on the road, Shin cuts to place us in a reverse as the vehicle comes even closer to the house. It's as if the point of view was not so much from that of a character, or even from the inanimate house as if it were personified, but rather taking the perspective of an omnipresent observer. This won't be the first time Shin delivers such a POV. From this point and onwards, he allows us, the audience to participate with a kind of fly-on-the-wall scrutiny.

This second shot of the film is masterful on several important fronts.

In both the writing and staging, the camera lets action play out in the time it takes and in so doing, always keeps us guessing (in all the right ways) as to who is in the car, who the people are once we meet them as they exit the vehicle, get an immediate sense of character from how the two people are positioned in the frame and also by their actions and finally, a very subtle dolly back as the two characters move forward and encounter a sweet, friendly, but sad-eyed dog, chained next to an empty food bowl as it observes the visitors.

This image of a chained dog resonates incalculably as the film progresses.

Another important element here is that these two people become identifiable as a married couple because the shot takes its time and is so perfectly blocked. Even more extraordinarily, the shot allows enough time for one of the people to notice something in the distance and move towards it before the next cut.

This entire shot is a brave and bold stroke so early in the proceedings. The shot lasts for two minutes of screen time, setting the mood, tone and pace of how the tale will unfold, but also establishing how we, as viewers, are observers. And we are not passive viewers. It's as if we were actually in the frame, unseen by the characters, but participants in the narrative nevertheless, almost complicit in the actions of the story. Complicity is indeed a key thematic element at play in the film and Shin does not let us off the hook.

Finally, though, the shot also gives us the sense that this will be the story of The Husband. He is, after all, the most active half of the couple. This is essential at this point, especially since we soon find ourselves within an interior shot set back from a table where the Husband, his back to us, continues to be the most active character in terms of his domination of the conversation and by his declarative statements regarding the heat and stuffiness of the interior.

The notion of being able to breathe, to feel the sort of freedom this natural, rural environment should inspire, to not be hemmed in by circumstance, a lack of communication and/or connection to the outside world is also an element that is established and will reverberate throughout the film with great force.

The other vital component here is that the position of the camera allows us to see all three women very clearly. Though their interaction seems tentative compared to that of the husband, the very length of the shot allows Shin to establish trinity between these women and we're soon plunged into their story - which ultimately, the film is. The Husband seems a mere appendage or, if you will, the chauffeur. He gets his wife there, he even gets us there, but when his job is done, he's dispensed with save for a few key moments later on wherein he still, strangely, feels more like an instrument of mere conveyance.

The dynamic between these three women is so powerful, so telling and finally, so devastating, that Shin's subtle control of his film is at once invisible and yet always present because we are where we have to be for every single emotional and narrative beat.

In Her Place so quietly rips our hearts to shreds. We are included in the emotional journeys of a daughter whose child can never be hers, a mother whose daughter is everything to her but comes to this realization when it's too late and a woman who has come between them because her own desire to love and nurture is so strong and true.

Finally, it's all about a baby - a new life that binds all three women for what will be an eternity.

This is a great picture. See it.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars

In Her Place enjoys its World Premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. For tickets, dates, venues and showtimes, be sure to visit the TIFF website HERE.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

LIFE IN A FISHBOWL (aka Vonarstræti) - TIFF 2014 (TIFF Discovery) - Review By Greg Klymkiw

In search of redemption:
WHORE, WRITER, BANKER
TIFF 2014 (Discovery)
Life in a Fishbowl (aka Vonarstræti) (2014)
Dir. Baldvin Zophoníasson
Script: Birgir Steinarsson & Zophoníasson
Starring: Hera Hilmar, Thor Kristjansson, Þorsteinn Bachmann

Review By Greg Klymkiw

As a Canadian who writes about movies, has made more than a few movies and loves movies, I'm ashamed to the depths of my bowels at having to admit that the highest grossing Canadian film over the last year was the utterly loathsome flop The Mortal Instrument: City of Bones. By virtue of our nation's tax credit system and international co-production agreements and the blatant, sorrowful waste of our talent and locations, this sickeningly moronic teen fantasy-adventure based on a dreadful franchise of illiterate-ture, aimed at the lowest common denominator of those who purport to read, is no more Canadian, in terms of its content (if you want to call it that, I prefer to describe it as faecal matter), than a hairy, barefoot, offensively unwashed, stove-top-hat-adorned, shotgun-toting, Ozark-dwelling hillbilly.

Oh Canada, how dare anyone stand on guard for thee?

As these thoughts of national shame permeate the gelatinous goo of my brain matter, I seek respite from the horror and instead, as a longtime cottager in Gimli, Manitoba, I look to the tiny country of which I feel honorarily bound by virtue of so many years celebrating Islendingadagurinn and secretly whacking off to photographs of those grand old ladies crowned each year as "New Iceland's" Fjallkona.

Yes, Iceland, I'm looking at you, baby and I rejoice that your audiences recently supported a superb new indigenous film and turned it into a humungous domestic box office hit, higher and more powerful than the mighty Mount Askja. That the film is a dark, disturbing, multi-layered, hauntingly textured and deeply moving multi-character drama that focuses on the legacy of three major banking institutions collapsing during the Icelandic Financial Crises of 2008, is what ultimately makes this picture's existence and success even more of a victory. North American exhibitors, broadcasters and distributors of motion picture product would never even green-light, much less allow an indigenous film with this subject matter to be seen by those who would embrace it. Thankfully, one of Canada's most visionary sales companies, Raven Banner, has done us proud by acquiring this motion picture for distribution.

Life in a Fishbowl was a very difficult and challenging work for me to get through - not because it lacked anything aesthetically, but because it's so damn rich and emotionally complex. That said, like all truly great drama, the surface layers work with very simple, basic standards to allow for its textures of theme, character and narrative complexity to bubble and roil like molten lava and when necessary, explode with the force of Icelandic volcanoes. The screenplay by director Baldvin Zophoníasson and Birgir Steinarsson practically sings with a musical quality - highs, lows, moments of contemplation and some sequences that both soar and jangle. When I eventually looked up the film's credits, something my readers and colleagues know I only do after I see a movie, I was delighted to learn that this was the first shot at screenwriting from the singer-songwriter of the legendary Icelandic rock band Maus. It made perfect sense to me. Let's not forget that one of the best contemporary screenwriters in the world, Nick Cave, has a similar pedigree to this film's co-writer Birgir Steinarsson.

Life in a Fishbowl compellingly and powerfully focuses on three characters who live out their lives separately after the horrendous Icelandic financial crisis, but all of whom intersect in a variety of interesting and gloriously meshed ways.

Eik (Hera Hilmar) is a drop-dead-gorgeous single mother who works in a pre-school. Ravaged with debt, she puts on a brave face for her child and others in her life. She has a strained relationship with her parents. They seem well-off enough to assist her, but even if they could, one doubts Eik would accept such help in light of an extremely horrendous and harrowing series of events from her childhood. Eik's nights are occasionally filled with part-time work to supplement her meagre income, but it's the kind of work she approaches by shutting herself down emotionally with as much inner strength as she can muster.

Hilmar's performance here is astonishing. She evokes a wide-range of emotions and the camera clearly loves her. She's got all the potential to be snatched up by the Hollywood machine as her star potential ascends very high, indeed. That said. her work here is so challenging and luminous, one questions whether she'd ever get the kind of roles in mainstream work that she's more than capable of playing. She's already been used in such typically cliched work as David S. Goyer's slick, faux-sophisticated, but empty TV series Da Vinci's Demons. Ugh! Please give this lady work worthy of her talent. Then again, one supposes she can always count on Icelandic, European or independent filmmakers to fill the need for truly great roles.

Móri (Þorsteinn Bachmann) is an acclaimed and much-beloved Icelandic literary figure, but he also lives alone in a house that seems untouched, as if it were a museum piece reflecting both happier times and tragedy. He's also an alcoholic. Many great writers have been and he, like they, uses booze to numb the pain which wracks his soul. He's written a new novel, but it's his first in a long time and while waiting for word from his publisher, he whiles away his time performing poetry in a local "arts" bar, downing gallons of fiery rotgut with other drunks in a less-than-upscale dive and during his benders, he's prone to both accidents and being beaten, robbed and left on the pavement by his "fair-weather", equally-soused cronies.

When Móri meets Eik and her daughter, he develops a loving friendship with both and even manages to hit the wagon. Unfortunately, all the elements that make his life have new, added meaning, are also the very things which threaten to knock him off the wagon.

Bachmann, like Hilmar, offers a deeply absorbing and complex performance. His moments of kindness, humour and even paternal caring betray his sensitivity, but he, like Eik, looks to shutting down emotionally. Móri, however, seeks booze to turn the inner faucet of his soul to the "off" position.

(As a side note, there were a few moments in Bachmann's performance wherein I was happily reminded of a legendary night of drunken laughs, tears, hugs and general male bonding in Toronto's Bistro 990, the now-defunct TIFF watering hole, where I shall never forget hoisting more-than-a-few with the great German documentary filmmaker and ZDF executive Alexander Bohr and the brilliant Icelandic auteur Friðrik Þór Friðriksson. But, I digress.)

Sölvi (Thor Kristjansson) is a former pro-athlete who has been sidelined by a debilitating injury and now works as an executive in a financial corporation. Here, he seems destined for success, but his immediate superior is the kind of immoral scumbag who'd think nothing of perpetrating the kind of criminal actions that brought Iceland to its knees. Sölvi is placed in charge of a sleazy real-estate deal which will buy up a swath of properties to erect a new mega-complex.

Kristjansson deftly handles the complexities of this role wherein his character's sense of morality is challenged by his need to provide for his beautiful wife and child. After all, in tough times, how can anyone in this position place integrity ahead of business? This is also a business of temptations beyond getting-ahead, it is a world where part of getting the deal done involves bonding with male colleagues in the exploitation of women-for-hire.

There is a sequence of debauchery on a Florida yacht which clearly rivals the antics of Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese's thrilling biopic of financial scumbag Jordan Belfort. I use this harrowing sequence of whoring and boozing as one which best exemplifies Zophoníasson's superb direction and proves that the excellent work he displayed in his phenomenal debut Jitters was no fluke.

Zophoníasson's touch here contrasts Scorsese's in a very interesting way. Where the Maestro from Little Italy injected immorality with a dazzling virtuosity that heightened the depravity by exploiting it, Zophoníasson captures the exploitation with a kind of documentarian's eye - it's not fun at all, at least not for the audience. In fact, it's gross and horrific what these grown men are up to on this yacht of banal depravity. Brilliantly though, Zophoníasson and Steinarsson's screenplay allows for a series of subtle directorial movements into territory that borders on another sort of dazzling style - one that is tender and romantic, but that eventually dovetails into something else altogether. There's a denouement to this sequence which occurs a few scenes later that is as maddening as it is heartbreaking.

One film "critic" recently complained that Life in a Fishbowl is hampered by "plot weaknesses and a tendency to the obvious", but what these purported weaknesses might be, are not (as per usual in mainstream criticism), detailed in any way, nor is the review forthcoming in explaining what is meant by a "tendency to the obvious". Yes, metaphorically one cannot help but see these characters like those fish in a bowl who have clearly been trapped into swimming endlessly in every available which-way with no hope of ever adding new boundaries or horizons, but it's these simple visual symbols that allow for films to be truly great and transcend them the way Zophoníasson's film clearly does.

The simple surface elements of the narrative also give way to layers of emotional and narrative complexity. The aforementioned whoring-on-the-boat sequence is just one of many moments wherein the filmmakers transcend the tools that only the very best will adhere to in order to create work that has lasting value and yes, maybe, just maybe, hope.

Make no mistake, Life in a Fishbowl is blessed with qualities that are not ephemeral. The movie is universal. It's what makes movies worth seeing.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** FOUR STARS

Life in a Fishbowl is playing during the 2014 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival in the Discovery series. It's been programmed by one of the world's leading proponents of Nordic, Scandic and Canadian Cinema, Steve Gravestock. For further information on dates, times and tickets, visit TIFF's website HERE. Raven Banner is the film's distributor.

Friday, 22 August 2014

TO BE TAKEI - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Kuchar Bros. Film Biographer Jennifer M. Kroot serves up superb doc on Star Trek's Mr. Sulu @TIFF BellLightbox followed by a DVD Release via Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada

NOTE: The Film Corner's Star Ratings will now appear at the end of the review.
One of Takei's favourite movies as a kid was Errol Flynn
in the classic swashbuckler The Adventures of Robin Hood.

During a celebrity roast, Mr. Takei carves
William Shatner up like a RUMP ROAST.
To Be Takei (2014)
Dir. Jennifer M. Kroot

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Most of us know George Takei as Mr. Sulu the stalwart Asian helmsman of the multi-racial S.S. Enterprise crew on Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, the immortal science fiction television series (and its subsequent blockbuster feature film spin-offs). In recent years, however, Takei has become a symbol of Asian actors who broke out of the offensive stereotyping American drama prescribed for our Asian brothers and sisters. Maybe most important of all, Takei has been one of the world's most tireless champions for Gay Rights and in particular, Gay marriage. As Star Trek is surely the greatest television series ever produced, Mr. Takei is one of America's most important actors and activists. With this in mind, it's fortunate for Takei and audiences all over the world, that his documentary biographer is the extraordinary Jennifer M. Kroot who studied under the late, great filmmaker George Kuchar and went on to direct It Came From Kuchar, the ultimate big-screen love letter to her mentor George and his brilliant brother Mike - two filmmakers who defined 20th century cinema.

Kroot's sophomore effort proves she's no one-trick pony and has carved a lovely niche for herself as one of the medium's best documentary biographers and, in fact, can be considered as one of the foremost filmmakers working in America today. To Be Takei is absolutely joyous - a funny, touching and compelling portrait of a great, great human being - so much so that you'll only be disappointed that the picture eventually ends. Her first-rate DNA-hardwired filmmaking prowess is responsible for leaving us wanting more, in all the best ways. The movie is as close as we're likely to get to actually being able to mainline Takei as if he was the purest heroine. And yes, she's chosen an ideal subject, but her skill and artistry as a filmmaker is what ultimately raises both Takei and the film to stellar heights. By focusing so resolutely on his achievements with all the aplomb of a master storyteller, Kroot has made a movie that not only dazzles, informs and entertains, but is - without question - as important a film as any of us really want all of our film experiences to be. Such is the living legacy that is George Takei.

At 77 or 30, George Takei is the epitome of HOT!
And such is the consummate artistry of Jennifer M. Kroot that she spins the Takei yarn in the context of 20th Century American history. If you ever wanted a portrait of pre-War life amongst Asian Americans, you'll get it here. If you've yearned for a deeply moving and personal exploration into America's racist policies of interning Japanese Americans in concentration camps upon the attack of Pearl Harbor, you've got it. If you're interested in the childhood memories of life in such a concentration camp from the erudite, detailed perspective of a 77-year-old man, Kroot delivers the goods. For a portrait of a young Asian actor finding his place in an American Cinema replete with disgraceful stereotyping, look no further. If you've a hankering for an illuminating look, through the eyes of said actor, at American television and film history from the 50s to the present, To Be Takei offers a riveting, informative window into the last half-century and beyond. As well, the themes of burgeoning sexuality in a repressed America, living in the closet, coming out of the closet (when the dough-headed, at-the-time California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the state's same-sex marriage legislation) and a fervent commitment to activism, fill the film to overflowing.

If, perhaps most movingly of all, bearing witness to the deep love between two wonderful human beings, Takei and his spouse Brad Altman, you'll discover it here.

And then some.

The aforementioned to-die-for grocery list of sumptuous morsels to tantalize, tickle and touch, doesn't even include Takei's brilliant use of social media, his stellar political career, his unwavering support of public transit, his longtime on-air creative relationship with the insanely brilliant shock-jock Howard Stern, his open and generous relationship with fans and his astounding, obsessive and triumphant production of Allegiance, a musical (!!!!!) about the internment of Japanese-Americans.

Hell, if sainthood wasn't tied so inextricably to the evils of Catholicism, George Takei would be an ideal candidate for such lofty canonization and it's this very thing, Takei's importance and impact upon 20th Century (and beyond) culture, which is what makes Kroot's film so damn terrific. There's no need to provide a warts-and-all look at this great man. There are, so to speak, no warts. There is, however, considerable conflict in his tale which Kroot manages ever-so-deftly to provide a stirring narrative.

dif tor heh smusma - WORDS TO LIVE BY

One of the coolest revelations in Kroot's film, at least to me (being the inveterate John Wayne lover that I am) is the regard with which Takei speaks of "The Duke" giving him a juicy starring role in his epic blockbuster war extravaganza The Green Berets (you can read my own in-depth review of the film HERE). It's a movie I love deeply, in spite of its clearly skewed politics, but the fact remains that Wayne, like it or not, broke incredible ground by choosing to make a Vietnam War film at the height of a war that was, and still is, one of America's many dark hours.

That said, seeing this reasonably extended segment in Kroot's film reminded me of how important it is for artists - especially those with "pull" - to always seek out that which is as audacious and unheard of as Wayne did. To not only give Takei a rich role in a high-profile film suggests Wayne's acumen as a filmmaker, but reminds me of how many such individuals, including Takei, pushed all manner of limits - artistically and politically. As well, Kroot's film contrasts this with the horrendous use of Takei in a stupid Jerry Lewis comedy which moronically fell back upon the racist stereotyping of Asians. Takei's regret in this regard, is deeply and profoundly moving.

Needless to say, Takei's regard for Wayne is also touching as is his respect for the visionary genius of Gene Roddenberry to realize that a futuristic space voyage on the scale depicted in Star Trek would, in fact, have to be populated with a multicultural crew.

Kroot herself populates the film with a multitude of faces, places and media to relate this great story. Using archival clips and photos, as well as a variety of all-new interviews (expertly handled, by the way), she boldly takes us to places no documentary biographer has dared to go by affording herself with all the available tools anyone might use, but does so in a fashion that's so seamless, we never feel weighted down by tropes, but instead are veritably cascaded on a journey that takes us into Takei's heart and mind, and in so doing delivers a portrait of life, politics, art and history.

Some of the more delightful interviews come from expected and not-so-expected places. The talented young actor John Cho (the current Sulu and co-star of the hilarious Harold and Kumar films) discusses the childhood thrills he (and his family) experienced whenever Takei came on screen. Sex columnist Dan Savage points out the obvious - how unbelievably HOT Takei is. And perhaps the most literate and heartfelt thoughts come from the great actor/director Leonard Nimoy who shared the Star Trek stage with Takei as everyone's favourite Vulcan, Mr. Spock.

And in the words of Mr. Spock, Kroot has fashioned a film that will ensure that George Takei will "Live long and prosper" - for now and forever.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: *****
5-Stars, Highest Film Corner Accolade

To Be Takei is platforming theatrically across North America with a flagship engagement at the majestic TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, to be followed by a massive home entertainment release via Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada and Anchor Bay on October 7, 2014. Feel free to order directly from the Amazon links below.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Rodriguez-Miller Noir Sequel Too Little, Too Late

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
Dir. Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Josh Brolin, Eva Greene, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Powers Boothe, Julia Garner, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Jamie Chung, Dennis Haysbert, Bruce Willis, Stacy Keach, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Lloyd, Jamie Chung, Marton Csokas, Ray Liotta, Juno Temple, Jude Ciccolella, Jaime King, Alexa PenaVega, Lady Gaga

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The biggest sin this movie commits is being more boring than a soused, fat, old, skunk-pussy whore trying to pathetically coax a hard-on from a flaccid dick, but failing miserably with every attempt to inspire even a half-mast to poke through the globs of cellulite folding over a fetid, purulent orifice of love. This is especially disappointing since nine-years-ago, Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller grabbed us by the short and curlies with the stylish, audacious and supremely entertaining Sin City. This time around, the neo-noir magic just isn't there. In fairness, the overwrought visual palette of high-contrast black & white splashed with snot-balls of garish colour hasn't lost its appeal, nor has the extreme violence. What's dishearteningly awry in this installment of short, loosely-connected pulp stories is that they're simply no match for the compelling, original nastiness that slugged us repeatedly in the face like a solid pistol-whipping that felt like it was never going to end. In fact, we didn't want it to end. I would have been happy for Rodriguez and Miller to keep smacking away at my flabby mug with some cold, hard, black steel. Here, though, we're constantly compelled to check the time on our smart phones every ten minutes or so and on occasion, the temptation to open up a game app like Bejeweled is stronger than the pull of the thundering Niagara Falls when you insanely hop the barrier and creep too close to the edge.

Alack and alas, the five stories in this prequel/sequel are simply not as good as those in the previous outing and the hard boiled overripe dialogue feels way more machine-tooled. The latter element jackhammers away at us with such force that it pretty much numbs us to the few decent lines peppered throughout.

Happily, Rodriguez and Miller don't save the best for last. The first tale, "Just Another Saturday Night" genuinely captures a fair bit of the old magic and sets us up to expect a ride as crazed and original as the first. We focus on everyone's favourite pug-ugly muscle-packed hood Marv (Michey Rourke) flaked out on a lonely stretch of highway overlooking The Projects and he's got no idea why he's there. The dead bodies strewn about provide enough clues to retrace his steps from earlier in the evening. His adventure-laden flashback includes ogling Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) gyrating onstage at Kadies, stopping some rich young scumbags from torching a drunk, stealing a police car in pursuit of the well-to-do filth, following them into the projects and engaging in a delicious spree of mayhem.

So far, so good. It's just after this point where, aside from a handful of bright spots, our hearts sink. "The Long Bad Night (Part I)" isn't bad, mind you. Johnny (Joseph Gordon Levitt) joins a card game in Kadie's back salon which is presided over by A-1 dirt-bag Senator Roarke (Powers Booth). With babe Marcie (Julia Garner) in tow for good luck, Johnny cleans up. The Senator is pissed at being humiliated. A big secret is soon revealed. A certain someone gets their fingers broken with a pair of pliers. And revenge, is sworn. Close, but no cigar with this tale, and we're on to the next dark segment.

"A Dame to Kill For" is surprisingly the weakest of the bunch. Too bad it's the centre-piece. A prequel to the first film's glorious "The Big Fat Kill", the story features the pre-plastic surgery Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin). He was played by Clive Owen in the previous picture and Brolin is a decent enough replacement. Unfortunately this long, deadly-dull tale involves his old flame Ava Lord (Eva Green) hinting at needing protection from her sexual deviant rich hubby Damian Lord (Marton Csokas) and the powerful manhandling Manute (Dennis Haysbert, replacing the late, great Michael Clarke Duncan). The convolutions involve a whack of femme fatale manipulations, a couple of cops Mort (Christopher Meloni) and Bob (Jeremy Piven), one of whom goes rogue, the return of hot whore Gail (Rosario Dawson, looking very bored) plus the deadly assassin Miho (Jamie Chung, a lame replacement for Devon Aoki). There's a too-short appearance by Stacy Keach as the sweating, corpulent, repulsive mobster Wallensquist and even a supernatural angle involving witchcraft.

The whole thing plays out like molasses.

The only decent stuff is the first few minutes involving Juno Temple as a whore marked for death by a slimy Ray Liotta, but it's disappointingly short and dispatched ingloriously in favour of and as a lead-in to the aforementioned nonsense with Ava. Eva Green is often wonderful, in spite of how dreadful this segment is and it might be great to see an entire feature devoted to her character. Green, to be blunt, is definitely as boner-inducing, if not more so than in Zack Snyder's 300.

"The Long Bad Night (Part II)" is a completely inconsequential tale of Johnny's attempted revenge upon Roarke and its only pleasures are to be found in Christopher Lloyd's great cameo as a heroin-shooting private doctor whom Johnny hires to straighten out his broken fingers.

"Nancy's Last Dance" involves our gyrating stripper "daughter" of Bruce Willis (who appears as - I kid you not - a ghost) and her desire to kill Roarke who's eventually going to rub her out to avenge the death of his "Yellow Bastard" son from Sin City. And no, this is not a case of best-for-last, but thanks to a great sequence with Marv and Nancy zipping along on their respective motorcycles and a genuinely decent blood bath in Roarke's mansion, the tale is more akin to being not-bad-for-last.

Powers Boothe, by the way, is always terrific as Roarke and he, like Eva Green, demands his own movie.

The addition of 3-D adds nothing and as per usual, renders everything murky in all the wrong ways.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ** 2-Stars

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is an e-One release. It's also a humungous flop at the box office.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

SHARKTOPUS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - The Crown Jewel of Anchor Bay BLU-RAY "SHARK 4 Movie Collection"

NOTE: The Film Corner's Star Ratings will now appear at the end of the review.

One can never go wrong with any movie featuring a ROGER CORMAN cameo.
One can never go wrong with any movie featuring
TONS OF BABES IN BATHING SUITS!!!
Sharktopus (2010)
Dir. Declan O'Brien
Producers: Roger and Julie Corman
Starring: Eric Roberts, Kerem Bursin, Sara Malakul Lane, Liv Boughn, Hector Jimenez, Blake Lindsey

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Sharktopus is a hoot! As a matter of fact, I haven't enjoyed one of these ludicrous shark pictures so much since I saw Sharknado. The big difference is that this one is actually good. Or rather, well, maybe good isn't quite the word, but this movie delivers everything you'd want from a low-budget creature feature and with a few dollops of "and then some". This, of course, is all due to the powerhouse husband and wife producing team of Roger and Julie Corman who ensure that the film delivers massive-impact carnage, a ludicrous number of babes in swimsuits and the same, crazy sense of looney humour that Corman's stalwart tutelage delivered with such delightful 70s New World horror classics like the Joe-Dante-directed Piranha. Though Sharktopus doesn't quite soar to the heights of Dante's giddy, goofy gobble-em-up, it flies a lot higher than such lumbering big-budget creature-feature affairs like Pacific Rim and Godzilla 2014.

The mad monster of the film's title is exactly what it spells out - a shark with octopus tentacles. This allows the creature to attack its victims "normally" like "Bruce" in Jaws or coil its tentacles round the (mostly) nubile bikini-clad babes then stuff 'em down the deadly sharktopus maw and not unlike the insects in Starship Troopers, the dextrous arms are equipped spear-like tips which impale before devouring. Now before you think we're supposed to buy that a creature like this actually exists, let it be said loud and clear that sharktopus is a mad combination of genetic engineering and computers hard-wired into the brain of this human-engineered freak o' nature. Developed by a private corporation using scads of military moolah, the sharktopus is meant to be a secret weapon to be used in battle - whether against genuine countries Uncle Sam is fighting or worse, Somalian pirates, drug smugglers, various cartels and the like.

Eric Roberts is the head of the firm and his gorgeous daughter Nicole (Sara Malakul Lane) is his right hand. Unbeknownst to her, Dad has secretly rewritten the genetic code so that sharktopus becomes an unstoppable killing machine. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem for the American military, but when the computer in the creature's brain goes awry, it starts to munch anything and everything and the plucky father-daughter are ordered to track the beast down and stop it from decimating innocent people.

Luckily for everyone, sharktopus heads for the Mexican resort of Puerto Vallarta. It's lucky for us because we get nice scenery and endless frames jam-packed with babes in bikinis. It's especially lucky for producer Roger Corman on two counts. First of all, he and his co-producing wife and key crew members get a nice vacation in the famed sunny resort town.

One can never go wrong with 4 BluRays for 1 low price.
Secondly, the film's production costs will be rock bottom because it's, uh, Mexico. This might be the most important reason of all for Corman to shoot in the Land of Tacos, Tamales and Tequila.

The plot, such as it is, thickens once Eric Roberts hires a hunky, cocky shark hunter (Kerem Bursin) who very quickly falls for Roberts's babe-o-licious daughter. There are some subplots, none of which are all that important, but allow many opportunities to parade babes in front of the camera who will also get munched.

The acting ranges from barely competent to well, uh, competent, with the exception of Eric Roberts, Julia Roberts' brother, Emma Roberts' Dad and at one time, a promising and brilliant young actor during the 80s (Star 80, Runaway Train, The Pope of Greenwich Village and Raggedy Man). Roberts manages to register above the thespian Richter Scale by chewing the scenery with aplomb and oozing slime in his smarmy, villainous role.

Declan O'Brien's direction is competent at best, the special effects are so good-God-awful they're funny and the script perfunctorily hits all the checklist items a movie like this needs (mostly, opportunities for babes in bikinis to strut their stuff before being munched).

One can never go wrong with ERIC ROBERTS
Occasionally, the writing delivers individual lines of dialogue and some banter that's genuinely funny.

In the end, Sharktopus has two elements that raise it above its cellar-dweller aspirations. First of all, it features an absolutely hilarious cameo appearance by Corman as a dirty old man following a babe in a bikini on the beach who's scanning the sand with a metal detector. Corman's eyes appear to be on her ass, but just after she discovers a valuable gold doubloon in the sand, she gets dragged into the ocean by the sharktopus. Corman keeps his eyes peeled on the treasure lying in the sand, ignoring her screams for help. He retrieves the doubloon and happily saunters off. Secondly, most of the killings are delightfully hilarious and some of them border on the surreal - especially since we're treated to some ludicrous musical numbers on the stage of a resort and we get to see cheesy costumes and ethnic dancing until the sharktopus lunges itself onto dry land by using its tentacles as legs and starts eating Mexican señoritas in full traditional Mexican garb. And, of course, one of the best killings involves a mega-babe (Corman's own daughter) getting munched during a bungee jump. Seriously, can you think of any movie featuring a walking octopus/shark and a bungee-jump kill?

One can never go wrong with babes being eaten.
I thought not.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: *** Three-Stars

Sharktopus is available on a nice 4-disc/4-movie Blu-Ray set from Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada. It features a super commentary track with Corman (and his lovely wife/co-producer Julie). Both are gracious, erudite, full of terrific anecdotes and solid information about making movies. And keep your eyes peeled. The Film Corner will review all four films in this set. The other three include one more Corman production, DinoShark, as well as Jersey Shore Shark Attack and Bait.

In the meantime, feel free to order this terrific four-disc set (and any of the other wonderful Corman titles) directly from the Amazon links below and in so doing, support the ongoing maintenance of The Film Corner.






Saturday, 16 August 2014

SEPTIC MAN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Presented by Raven Banner Entertainment, Jesse Thomas Cook's Masterpiece of Terror, written by Tony Burgess and produced by the visionary Foresight Festures, is a must-own title on DVD via Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada. It will scare the crap out of you - LITERALLY!!!

NOTE: The Film Corner's Star Ratings will now appear at the end of the review.

SEPTIC MAN was one of my favourite genre pictures of 2013. In my various accolade lists, the movie scored big-time. In my Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2013 Best of the Fest round-up, I bestowed 10 - count 'em - 10 Greg Klymkiw "Film Corner Accolades" which included:

Most Disgusting Movie
Best Canadian Feature Film
Best Screenwriting: Tony Burgess
Best Art Direction/Production Design: Jason David Brown
Best Makeup: Alex Rotundo
Best Actress (Supporting): Nicole G. Leier
Best Social Commentary Content
Best Movie that DEMANDS a Sequel
Best Line of Dialogue: "I’m a civic-minded shit sucker."
Best Babe Taking a Shit and Vomiting: Nicole G. Leier.

In my 10 Best Lists, I named it one of the 10 BEST HORROR FILMS OF 2013 and in my overall round-up of accolades for the best of the year, I cited the film with my BEST VISUAL & SPECIAL MAKEUP EFFECTS of 2013 Oblation.


This is the result of E-coli poisoning in the water system of Collingwood. Enjoy!

A good SEPTIC MAN is hard to find.
Septic Man (2013) ****
Dir. Jesse Thomas Cook / Screenplay: Tony Burgess
Starring: Jason David Brown, Molly Dunsworth, Robert Maillet, Julian Richings,
Stephen McHattie, Tim Burd, Nicole G. Leier

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Any movie that opens with a weepy babe (Nicole G. Leier) taking a severely punishing crap replete with dulcet echoes of spurting, plopping and gaseous expulsions whilst said babe alternates twixt the release of putrid faecal matter with cum-shot-like geysers of stringy rancid vomit launching from within her maw, splattering triumphantly upon the grotesque tiles of a dimly lit toilet adorned top to bottom in slime, sludge, blown chunks and excrement, should be enough to alert viewers they're in for one mother-pounder of a wild ride into the deepest pits of scatological horror hell.

Septic Man, a new movie from the talented young Canadian horror auteur Jesse Thomas Cook (Monster Brawl), screenwriter Tony Burgess (Ejecta, Pontypool) and the visionary independent production company Foresight Features takes the cake (of the urinal variety) for serving up one heaping, horrific platter o' genre representation of the real-life deadly water contamination that occurred several years ago in the bustling Southern Ontario burgh of Walkerton - known around the world for its inbreeding and, of course, the famous E-coli contamination of its drinking water.

The Walkerton tragedy occurred in May of 2000 when some 5000 people flooded (so to speak) the hospitals with severe cases of bloody diarrhoea and a bevy of other tummy-related ailments. Heading up the Walkerton Public Utilities Commission were the Koebel Brothers, two real prizes who'd held their jobs for over thirty years in spite of having absolutely no qualifications to do so. Stan and Frank, fulfilling the respective responsibilities of manager and water foreman, claimed the drinking water was just fine - pure, clean and safe to drink.

Seven people died and a veritable shit-load (as it were) fell ill. The nastiness could have been averted if the trusty local fellas hadn't lied through their teeth. During a subsequent criminal investigation, the Koebel Boys admitted wrongdoing of astronomical proportions - Stan falsified reports and Frank had been happily juicing on the job because his office was not equipped with a fridge to keep beer cold.

It is this very case, ripped from Canadian headlines and firmly lodged in the country's history of endlessly incompetent public service that clearly inspired director Cook to cook-up (so to speak) this delectable sick puppy of a movie. With the nimble, twisted words of Pontypool, Ejecta scribe Tony Burgess, it's a simple tale with an accent on a claustrophobic setting. While some might compare Septic Man to the 80s Troma Films classic The Toxic Avenger, Cook and Burgess's mordant wit, the hallucinogenic horror styling, intelligent (albeit sledge hammer) social commentary and eye-assaulting viscous-splattering and pustule-sprouting imagery of the foulest kind, all bring it much closer to David Cronenberg's early work (most notably Shivers, Rabid and The Brood).

Rather than Walkerton, Cook chooses to set his fictitious horror movie rendering of heinous incompetence leading to a major health crisis in his home town of Collingwood, Ontario.

This, I will admit, is especially knee-slapping since Collingwood is known far more for tony tourism, over-priced retreats, upscale cottage country and a retirement community for rich old people as opposed to Walkerton's inbreeding claim to fame. While far more ludicrous, it is not, surprisingly, improbable.

Following the aforementioned opening five minutes of pre-credit babe-o-licious crapping and barfing, Septic Man introduces us to a televised report from Collingwood's Mayor (the indomitably brilliant Stephen McHattie) who, with the hilarious timbre of virtually every small town Ontario civic official intones the following with a perfectly appropriate straight face: "I’m gonna be honest with you, like I always am. I’m not going to pull any punches. We are in a heck of a goddamn situation here." He goes on to admit that his office has known for six weeks that the source of a local contamination is from the town's water supply, resulting in the deaths of 16 people and hundreds afflicted with ailments related to crypto sporidium and e-coli (including cholera). The Mayor goes on to announce a complete civilian evacuation of Collingwood orchestrated by military, law enforcement and federal officials.

While all hell breaks loose, we're introduced to the lone efforts of Jack (Jason David Brown), Collingwood's ace septic expert as he toils prodigiously in a stinking pool of sludge on the outskirts of a huge pollution-spewing factory that's emptying the most foul concoction of excrement, slime and dead rats into the town's water table. He's approached by Prosser (played with officious malevolence by one of Canada's finest character actors Julian Richings), a dapper gentleman who makes Jack a highly lucrative offer that just cannot be refused.

Prosser represents a "consortium". When Jack asks, "What's that?", Prosser simply declares: "Results, Jack." This implies that only a consortium, as opposed to government officials, are the only ones to acknowledge that our sludge-caked hero is the sole individual in town who has always been on top of various water-related issues. Furthermore, Prosser notes how Jack's efforts have largely gone been unappreciated by local authorities.

Jack wonders why he should risk staying behind when he has a responsibility to accompany his wife to the curling rink where Collingwood's residents are being bussed out. Prosser suggests that money will be the greatest incentive and a reward for Jack's service and prowess. He also throws in an offer wherein Jack will get a cushy desk job for life where he'll "do fuck-all but put your feet up." This is vaguely compelling, but Prosser seals the deal when he reminds Jack "Your wife probably smells shit every time you fuck her." Jack protests with, "Hey, my wife’s pregnant." Clearly the smell of shit hasn't kept the couple from procreating, but ultimately, Prosser's argument is genuinely the right thing to do.

"I’m a civic-minded shit sucker," Jack proclaims upon agreeing to the mission of delving deep into the bowels of the sewer system emptying into the water from the mysterious factory.

What follows is a lonely odyssey into the darkest depths of utter horror. Reality and nightmare become one as Jack uncovers a series of secret underground pipes and tunnels cluttered with corpses and body parts, then realizes he's trapped in a Knossos-like maze of filth presided over by two clearly inbred psychopaths, Lord Auch (Tim Burd) a nasty little thing with a mouthful of razor-sharp canines and a humungous, hulking, long-faced muscle man of few words (played by former WWF wrestling champ and star of such diverse genre favourites as 300, The Immortals, Pacific Rim and, of course, Cook's own hit Anchor Bay title from last year, Monster Brawl).

The special visual and makeup effects are, by the way, superb - right across the board - which comes as no surprise since the SFX team includes Canada's wizard of wonder Steven Kostanski (Astron-6, Manborg). Then again, one of the hallmarks of Foresight Features productions is the fact that so many of its key above the line creators have no problem doing double-triple-quadruple-quintuple and so on duties - immersing themselves in the entire process in a hands-on fashion. Cook, in particular, is a born filmmaker - cinema seems hardwired into his very DNA and he shares this quality with such new Canadian horror icons as Astron-6 and the Twisted Twins. This is how great low-budget movies get made, but more importantly, Foresight understands that you do NOT make low budget features that pathetically try to emulate the mainstream (including indies since most of them are bargain basement studio pictures anyway) - they seek to plumb depths that others do not dare dive into. They happily swim about in a world of shit.

Plumbing, of course, is exactly what this picture is all about and eventually, deep within the bowels of the factory's sewers, an infection sets in, and Jack begins to transform into something utterly hideous and horrific - something bordering, perhaps, on the immortal. Not unlike a number of seminal low budget cult films - David Lynch's Eraserhead in particular - Septic Man roams into nightmarish and hallucinogenic territory which is a delicious place for the film to go since it logically opens things up for all manner of illness.

Though there's a tiny bit of wheel-spinning that weights the picture down slightly in its middle portion, Cook has overall crafted a truly sickening, creepy and original horror gem that joins the ranks of Canada's west coast twins of the most twisted kind, the delightful Soskas who delivered American Mary and Winnipeg's Astron-6 who gave us the magnificent mega-bum-blaster Father's Day. Though some might feel Septic Man doesn't quite creep into modern masterpiece territory of the Soskas's body modification classic or the Astron-6 celebration of demonic sodomy, Jesse Thomas Cook with this and his supremely entertaining Monster Brawl is well on his way to carving a niche all his own into Canada's worthy tradition of audaciously sicko horror. Ultimately, Septic Man is indeed, a masterpiece of terror.

Between all three Canucks, they form a mighty trinity of delectably diseased subjects. In the name of the Father - Body Modification, The Son - Sodomy and The Holy Ghost - Excrement, young Canadian horror wizards are leaving the rest behind as mere dust in their tracks.

This is truly a must-see motion picture, but to be on the safe side, avoid eating Indian or Mexican cuisine prior to screening it (unless you truly feel the need to purge). And frankly, whether you feel the need to expunge or not, I recommend you load up on the Tums for your tummy before strapping on the feedbag to dine upon this exquisite cinematic cesspool of scary scatological horror that is Jesse Thomas Cook's brazenly foul Septic Man.

Septic Man, a Raven Banner presentation, is available on DVD via Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada and Anchor Bay Films on Aug. 19, 2014 with a lovely new transfer to enhance all of the blood and faecal matter. Sadly, there are no extra features. I'd have given my right testicle for a Jesse Thomas Cook commentary track. The movie enjoyed its World Premiere at Fantastic Fest 2013 in awesome Austin, Texas and launched a mighty home base turd in at the illustrious Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2013. Just buy the movie, already. IF YOU DON'T, YOU ARE A LOSER OF THE HIGHEST MAGNITUDE. Here's some Amazon links to order Septic Man and some other delightful titles.










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