Tuesday, 24 November 2015
Save Yourself (2015)
Dir. Ryan M. Andrews
Starring: Jessica Cameron, Tristan Risk, Ry Barrett, Marcus Haccius,
Tianna Nori, Caleigh Le Grand, Lara Mrkoci, Elma Begovic, Sydney Kondruss
Review By Greg Klymkiw
This movie should be terrific. It isn't.
The premise of Save Yourself is clean and simple. After a successful screening in some nondescript burgh, a babe female director of horror films (Tristan Risk) and her equally babe-o-licious colleagues (including Canuck scream queen Jessica Cameron) are on a road to trip to present their new film at a festival in L.A.
Piled into a van they stop at a nondescript highway road stop to use the little girls' room. The director disappears. As there is no cel phone coverage nor working pay phone, the ladies go looking for her.
Walking across a nondescript American landscape, they stop at a nondescript farmhouse to use a telephone. They're greeted by a creepy, but friendly dude and his equally creepy, though babe-o-licious wife (Elma Begovic). Instead of immediately using the phone, they sit down for tea. They're clearly not that stupid, but they obviously must be. The tea is laced with sleepy-time properties and they all pass out, only to find themselves locked in a dank basement.
Their hosts, it seems, are nazis following in the footsteps of Josef Mengele.
Let the torture porn begin.
A wonderful cast, especially the brilliant, beautiful and talented Tristan Risk are wasted in this style-bereft exercise in futility which also wastes a decent premise due to lame screenwriting and direction which borders on competence, but musters little more than that.
Suffering from a similar problem plaguing too many recent Canadian genre films is the nondescript nature of the setting - no doubt to please American buyers and audiences who are purportly unable to accept anything not American. The lack of a flavourful indigenous setting contributes mightily to the picture's lack of genuine atmosphere. Given the Nazi angle, the film is also bereft of the slightest touches of demented Weimar-inspired fetishistic "qualities".
The movie simply has no sense of place nor much in the way of imagination to buoy the otherwise decent story idea buried beneath the picture's blandness. There's nothing vaguely unique nor intelligent about the proceedings and as such, leaves us with a horror thriller that's not scary nor even mildly suspenseful.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: *½ One-and-a-Hslf-Stars
Save Yourself is playing at the 2015 Toronto Blood in the Snow Film Festival.
Monday, 23 November 2015
|Katie Findlay in a star-making performance.|
The camera absolutely loves her.
Dir. Chris Trebilcock
Starring: Katie Findlay, Stephen McHattie, Enrico Colantoni,
Jennifer Dale, Mark O'Brien, Alex Ozerov, Emma Campbell
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Art and horror make for strange, but thoroughly appropriate bedfellows in life and art. True artists must be imbued with obsessive, self-reflective and often selfish qualities to create work of both originality and lasting value. Mental unbalance is not a pre-requisite, but comes in mighty handy amongst the best of the best.
The Dark Stranger is a curious and original genre film which delicately blends the elements of family drama, fairy tale (with literal graphic novel qualities) and outright horror (of the psychological and paranormal variety). Call it an everything including the kitchen sink motion picture experience which is buoyed by a superb cast and an overall one-of-a-kind directorial hand.
Leah Garrison (Katie Findlay, in a terrific star-making performance), is a young comic book artist in recovery from deep depression, a nervous breakdown and self-afflicted cutting. She lives with her loving university professor Dad (Enrico Colantoni) and typically goofy, but equally loving younger brother (Alex Ozerov) in a gorgeous, refurbished old house in one of the tonier (and leafier) neighbourhoods of downtown Toronto.
So, you might ask, what's this babe's problem?
Well, you'd possibly go bunyip too if your late mother (Emma Campbell), an acclaimed artist who passed mega-wads of talent DNA to her daughter, became increasingly agitated, irrational, roiling with rage and finally, exploding like Vesuvius - not only coming close to murdering her daughter, but in despair, offing herself. (It's also possible Leah inherited some wacko-psycho genes from Mommie Dearest to compliment her artistic gifts.)
Yup, I accept this.
During Leah's convalescence, a series of incidents converge to create a heady brew of horror. Witness: an art maven (Stephen McHattie) wishes to mount a show of her late mother's work, a series of nightmares involving an evil entity who serves as both artistic inspiration and tormenter and finally, an explosion of creativity that yields magnificent work, but in so doing, extracts the payment of self-mutilation.
Is this a psychological manifestation of the young Leah's despair, or is it something much more sinister and downright unholy? Or could it be both? Whatever it proves to be, we're offered a slowly mounting creepy-crawly terror that eventually releases a geyser of outright dread.
The Dark Stranger will certainly feel a bit oddball to audiences accustomed to a lowest common denominator story structure. The family drama elements border on an After-School-style special, the fairly tale aspects (reflected by gorgeously animated renderings of Leah's art) feel more suited to that curious blend of Grimm darkness and gentle naiveté inherent in the classic Soviet Gorky Studios fairy tales of the 60s and the horror itself blends David Cronenberg-like body mutilation with dollops of Clive Barker and Italian gialli thrown in for good measure. Add to this mix a dash or two of romance twixt Leah and her father's Teaching Assistant (Mark O'Brien) and the occasional visits from a well-meaning, but alternately annoying and sinister psychiatrist (Jennifer Dale).
And yes, there will be blood.
|Veteran character actor Stephen McHattie.|
Villain? Or hero? Or both?
On yet another level, whether consciously intentional or not, the film provides a unique villain - the sort of entity many artists, especially in the film business, must face - the bureaucrat, the executive, the holder of the purse strings - that soul-bereft entity which causes the greatest confusion and turmoil within genuine creative people. Here our villain takes on properties of split-personality-like malevolence. (Like I said, not unlike the aforementioned gatekeepers.)
On one level, I did wish the more naturalistic aspects of the story had been tempered with a slightly otherworldly mise-en-scene to deflect from the more conventional family drama tropes which stick out like moderately sore thumbs. Ultimately though, this potentially fatal flaw is overshadowed. The Dark Stranger gradually and eventually takes hold with a vicelike grip, offering as many moments of genuine terror as it serves up genuine heartfelt emotion.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ Three-and-a-Half-Stars
The Dark Stranger is playing at the 2015 Toronto Blood in the Snow Film Festival.
Sunday, 22 November 2015
Night Cries (2015)
Dir. Andrew Cymek
Starring: Colin Mochrie, Andrew Cymek, Brigitte Kingsley, Dillon Baldassero
Review By Greg Klymkiw
This movie is completely and utterly insane. I mean that in the most positive manner. At times it's almost ridiculously cheesy and suffers from being about twenty minutes too long, but it is clearly a work of imagination, talent, ambition and an infectious love for movie-making. Surprisingly, it's a movie with considerable heart and romance that will most likely appeal to genre fans who don't mind their horror-fantasy tempered with a dour touchstone upon reality as it delves into its otherwise phantasmagorical world.
In a nutshell, it tells the tale of a brave cowpoke adorned as if he escaped from a Tarantino western who becomes the hero and protector of a staggeringly gorgeous missy (gloriously played by Brigitte Kingsley) costumed like some valkyrie who jumped from the pages of a Robert E. Howard novel. There are horrible monsters and ogres threatening our damsel in distress and it's up to the cowpoke to see that she's safe.
Unfortunately, there is a prissy villain (a creepy AND funny Colin Mochrie) who runs this weird underworld with all the power of a dark overlord. Seeking a new babe for his harem, perhaps one who will grace his boudoir for an eternity, our heroine is in dire straights. Even our hero has his work cut out for him against this mincing, dastardly, floridly accoutred whack-job.
But, hold the phone, folks! This is no mere demented bit of sword and sorcery, but is rooted in the real world where a husband loses his wife to cancer (in a series of deeply moving scenes) and involves his journeys into the afterlife to save her soul. I'm not kidding.
You see? I told you the movie was going to be completely and utterly insane. But that's A-OK: this bizarre hybrid is replete with plenty of derring-do, first rate special effects, nicely directed action sequences, some mind-blowing and eye-popping visuals, and, thanks to the welcome relief of Mochrie's great performance, a deliciously demented sense of humour.
One wishes director Cymek would have taken the shears to this a bit more since it might have had way more oomph if it didn't feel like it was occasionally lolly-gagging. Still, I'll take a bit of dawdling when a low budget genre film is as ambitious and imaginative as this one is.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: *** Three Stars
Night Cries is playing at the 2015 Toronto Blood in the Snow Film Festival.
Saturday, 21 November 2015
|One good poster & one bad poster for SECRET SANTA.|
Not that it matters since the movie reeks.
Dir. Mikey McMurran
Starring: Annette Wozniak, Geoff Almond, Keegan Chambers
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Some movies are so dreadful you almost feel bad for the poor actors humiliating themselves, but then you shrug and say, "No biggie, they were well paid for their efforts." Here's the rub, though. Some movies that stink to high heaven are low budget indie feature films where you know damn well the actors, not to mention the entire crew, are working for peanuts.
Secret Santa definitely falls into the latter category.
A pleasant, attractive and possibly talented group of young actors are stuck in this idiotic, repugnant Yuletide horror chiller which offers plenty of babes, plenty of gore and virtually nothing else. In this risibly written, unimaginative cesspool, a group of college students (attending what must be a college for the mentally challenged) are having a Christmas party after their final exam. One of the gals moonlights as a cyber sex performer, another is a T.A. carrying on with her professor, yet another is a foul-mouthed chippie who's so horny she's willing to bang a mega-nerd.
One of the girls is dead. She's been murdered already. Though her friends occasionally express concern as to her whereabouts, they mostly hang around the seasonally-decorated suburban home, suck back the booze and engage in endless, uninteresting conversation which reflects either the imagination of the filmmaker or the milieu in which he resides.
|The babes of SECRET SANTA|
don't humiliate themselves as much as
those of us who sit through the entire movie.
There's purported humour in the film, but none of it is funny. The scares are non-existent since the horror set pieces are directed with all the skill of an inebriated Krampus wielding a cudgel. The gore is plentiful, but none of that is ever much fun unless it's utilized in something resembling a good movie.
When one thinks back upon the genius of Bob Clark's classic Black Christmas, or the Joan Collins segment in 1972's Tales from the Crypt, or Finland's clever chiller Rare Exports or even the recent A Christmas Horror Story one realizes the considerable potential of mixing horror with the season to be jolly. Alas, the makers of Secret Santa have very little on their minds. The movie is sloppily rendered, sub-juvenile and distinctly moronic.
Or, as a character in Black Christmas says: "Ho! Ho! Ho! Shit!"
THE FILM CORNER RATING: THE TURD DISCOVERED BEHIND HARRY'S CHARBROIL & DINING LOUNGE - LOWEST RATING: FULL EXPLANATION OF RATING BY CLICKING HERE
Secret Santa is playing at the 2015 Toronto Blood in the Snow Film Festival.
Friday, 20 November 2015
Dir. April Mullen
Scr. Jeremy & Michael Doiron
Starring: John White, April Mullen, Evan Williams, Lauren Collins,
Tim Doiron, Brittany Allen, Ari Millen
Review By Greg Klymkiw
The script is everything, even in horror films aimed at the lowest common denominators. There has to be a "logic" which is worked out within the context of the film's world. If it isn't, you get something like Farhope Tower.
When an envy-driven hubby brutally beats his pregnant wife to death, then hangs himself before her pulpy, battered, bloody body, it sets off a curse which plagues the Farhope Tower. After a seemingly endless rash of suicides, the (nondescript) city to which it stands as a centrepiece, shuts the building down and allows it to remain shackled, empty and rotting for years - a blight upon the community, environs and worse yet, haunted.
Living in the same city, a group of not-too-bright twenty-somethings have been pathetically trying, for years it seems, to land a TV pilot for a ghost busting reality series - uploading their adventures to YouTube and believing they're on the verge of going big time. Alas, the network they've pitched needs them to deliver something more sensational before they'll offer a green-light.
They want them to tackle Farhope Tower.
In spite of the building's notoriety, it has apparently never been assailed by any other reality shows, which is already a tad hard to swallow. Even more ludicrous, though, is that our group of burgeoning TV ghost-busters have never tried to shoot there either, even though they live in the same city. Yes, the movie eventually delivers a lame backstory to explain this, but in a genre in which one is happy to strain a certain degree of credulity, one is simply forced to swallow wholesale, massive incredulity.
Given far too many other holes in the plot, the kind that pull us out of the drama because we're asking too many questions about the logic of the whole thing, it becomes almost nigh impossible to enjoy a few of the film's decently-directed frissons, occasionally creepy atmosphere and solid performances from an attractive cast of babes (one of whom is director Mullen) and hunks. We're finally left with a relatively short running time that feels longer than it is whilst we follow our group of reality-TV wannabes throughout the building as things go bump in the night and the inevitable body count takes over.
Part of the problem is the very nondescript nature of the film's setting. Without rooting the story in something even vaguely indigenous, removes all incentive for the filmmakers to pay attention to things like, uh, logic. Even the centrepiece itself feels removed from any kind of reality. The interiors feel like a warehouse rather than a high-rise.
It's too bad the script is so lame and rife with cliches since there are a few effective scares in the picture. Ultimately though, Farhope Tower offers little in the way of hope that the movie is going to be any more than a run-of-the-mill, straight-to-video time-waster.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: *1/2 One-and-a-Half-Stars
Farhope Tower is playing at the 2015 Toronto Blood in the Snow Film Festival.
Thursday, 19 November 2015
|"Hmmm, shall I shoot or make another tedious speech?"|
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (2015)
Dir. Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth,
Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks,
Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Claflin
Obnoxious Preface and Review By Greg Klymkiw
Preface - Death Be Not Proud
Though I've suffered through every single Hunger Games picture, I only bothered to write about the first film. Life is, after all, short and none of the movies ever got any better. In 2014, I almost blew this perfect record when I found myself visiting my old hometown of Winnipeg to spend a few weeks watching my mother die from one of the most virulent, painful forms of stomach cancer.
One night, I was in one of those desperate-to-see-a-movie moods and the only film playing in the entire city that I had not seen (Winnipeg has little in the way of movie-viewing choice these days) was The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1.
|This might be the late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffman's|
very last on-screen appearances. Death be not proud.
Upon watching it I was flummoxed as all get out because the movie seemed to work for me. Yes, it was full of the idiotically-monickered characters I'd come to detest (Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are, amongst many others, some of the stupidest character names in the history of cinema). And yes, the movie was replete with all the inanities money could buy.
However, for some reason, its dour tone, relatively-measured pace and accent upon the theme of war propaganda were almost enough to make me think I was watching a movie I liked - perhaps even loved.
I began to pen a rave review, but then, my mother finally died and I became otherwise indisposed with funeral arrangements, et al. When I finally decided it was time to return to my review, I snuck in a second screening to refresh my grief-addled memory before putting cyber-pen to virtual-paper.
Oops! The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 WAS dreadful. Everything I thought I loved about it was finally exposed as by-the-numbers and cinematically intolerable. As I'd recently had a similar experience with the execrable Birdman (loving it pre-Mother's-death and hating it post-Mother's-death), I chalked it all up to mortifying despair and heartache.
And now, here I find myself on the one-year-anniversary of my Mother's long, pain-wracked death. My decision was clear. Since I had only bothered to write about the first in the franchise, it made perfect sense to write about the last.
|"To make another speech or not to make another speech?"|
Beginning precisely where the first cash-grab left off, we're introduced to our plucky heroine Katniss Everkleer (Jennifer Lawrence) as she gets some much needed physical therapy to restore her voice after brainwashed lover Peetmoss Larkvomit (Josh Hutcherson) tried to viciously strangle her.
Thankfully, our beloved Katnip's dulcet tones are restored just in time to participate in a new assault upon President Snowball (Donald Sutherland) and the Capitol. This also allows her to make more monotonous speeches throughout the entire movie.
|"Just call me PizzaPocket Malarkey."|
Accompanied by her other lover Gaylord "Jacob Black" Hawberry (Liam Hemsworth), the hunky antithesis to the spindly Robert Pattinson-like Pitabread, Katnap is shocked when the rebels begin to mercilessly shoot the refugees while she's trying to deliver a propaganda speech. She puts a stop to this foul nonsense by putting herself in harm's way, only to be kidnapped by a refugee who threatens to kill her. When she tells him she'd welcome death, he understands why she's the genuine rebel Queen and lets her go.
As she begins one of many tedious propaganda speeches, she's shot.
We are shocked - not.
It's early in the movie and only an idiot would believe she's dead.
In the movie, however, one of those idiots is President SnowballAficianado as he raises a glass to toast her assassination. Oh, Woe! Would Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H ever fall for this one? Of course not, but that was a great character, in a great movie, by a great director. This picture, of course is the complete opposite of anything resembling greatness, plus with all that white hair adorning the old man's pate, it's obvious both Sutherland and the character he plays here is in a kind of dementia-addled dotage.
|Just one of many poorly directed action scenes.|
Dead, our heroine, is not. Katnipple wants to desperately return to the fields of battle, but is ordered to stay-put by the seemingly supportive, but ultimately fascist President Llama Coil (Julianne Moore) and her bumboy Plufeltch Heavenswasp (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Dejected, Katsass attends an insufferable wedding celebration replete with Newfie-style fiddling and clog dancing. This is enough to sicken anyone, but luckily, she's given an idea on how to sneak away and continue with the campaign to take over the Capitol.
|A sickening wedding celebration.|
From here, we're treated to endless poorly directed action scenes (of the herky-jerky lack-of-spatial-geography variety) until (no surprise) the Capitol is breached and the complete cash-grab of the Hunger Games films finally draws to a predictably sleepy close. (There's a surprise moment during a final execution scene that will only surprise complete dimwits.) Worse yet, we're treated to a bile-inducing montage of Katnutts and Peeboy reuniting as lovers, having kids and our heroine thinking back on the horrors of the past in order to move forward with the future.
One can only hope and pray it's all over, but frankly, I suspect our prayers will not be answered. As long as there are millions of suckers out there, Hollywood will continue to deliver endless variations on the Twilight and Hunger Gamessagas. This, of course, only makes us look forward to more Transformers films.
And that, my friends, is truly sad.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: * One-Star
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 is, predictably, gobbling up far too many screens worldwide and come to Canada courtesy of E-one, Entertainment One.
Friday, 13 November 2015
Dir. Tom McCarthy
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d'Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, Billy Crudup, Len Cariou
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Organized religion has always had about as much to do with genuine faith in God as the Corleones' Genco Oil Co. had to do with selling olives. In both cases, neither parties are what they seem on the surface. The Catholic Church is probably more insidiously evil than the Mafia.
Built on secrecy, shame and corruption of the highest order, the Church has always been the perfect hiding place for sadists, psychopaths and pedophiles. Catholicism is so powerful that it's been almost impossible to break through their fortresses of protection. Too occasionally, through dogged determination, commitment and bravery on the part of its victims and valiant supporters, the Church has occasionally been exposed.
|Where there is a Catholic Church…|
there are Child Rapists!
The movie Spotlight takes deadly aim upon Catholic corruption and is so terrific, the picture easily takes its place with a handful of classic films featuring journalists as crusading detectives under the yoke of dark forces. Director Tom Mcarthy expertly lays out the proceedings in such a clear, precise fashion that his picture knocks us on our asses as mightily as 70s stalwarts All The President's Men and The Parallax View managed to do.
Telling the true story of a team of Boston Globe investigative reporters, the film powerfully and breathlessly details the eventual discovery and exposure of not one, not two, nor even a handful of Catholic Church pedophiles, but hundreds of them. In fact, this was one of the most significant takedowns of Catholic proclivities towards sexual abuse in recent decades.
McCarthy serves up one of the most astonishing casts in recent American cinema to lead us into the labyrinthine evil that plagued Boston as horrifically as Whitey Bulger. We follow Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), a newly appointed Globe editor who pushes the long-respected "Spotlight" team to drop everything and pursue the story behind the story and yet, behind the story, on Catholic pedophiles.
Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton), the team leader, initially complies under duress, but as he comes to know and respect his new boss and discover the twisted truth, he drives his crack reporters to dig deeper than they've ever dug before. The reporters are all Catholics, albeit of the lapsed variety, but even their "lapses" descend into pits of outright indignation as they realize how many children have been sexually abused by priests how both the Catholic Church and the legal system have buried the truth.
|Mark Ruffalo - Lapsed Catholic Reporter|
Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) takes on Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci), a lawyer representing ninety victims. The attorney wants to help, but can only do so surreptitiously. He also has knowledge of documents that can only be secured legally by suing the Catrholic Church. Matt Carroll (Brian D’Arcy James) discovers pedophile priests who are merely reassigned to new parishes to rape anew (with the full knowledge and blessing of the Archdiocese of Boston), while Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) discovers even more victims than the aforementioned ninety - hundreds more. She also goes after slime bucket lawyer Eric MacLeish (Billy Crudup) whose collusion only protects the Catholic pederasts further.
Collusion, of course, is the key, and as the film progresses it seems the entire city of Boston is protecting this Confederacy of Holy Child Rapists: the rich and famous, the captains of finance/industry, the Crown, the cops and even the parents of victims (one victim describes his mother putting out cookies for his rapist). Oh, and just so the Globe doesn't come off completely lily-white in all this, McCarthy and co-writer Josh Singer make sure to nail the local media also - especially The Globe and its early collusion with the Church.
McCarthy's mise-en-scene is intelligently, tastefully un-fettered by overwrought visual excess. He spins the yarn by allowing the terrific script and first-rate cast do their business within well-blocked scenes that play-out in longer takes with punch-ins occurring only when they're necessary to genuinely tell the story and move the picture ever-forward. This is not to suggest McCarthy's work is by-the-numbers - instead he subtly creates three primary looks which assist in terms of tone - garish, fluorescent lights in office settings, dark interiors punctuated with glowing warmth when in the presence of the denizens of the Church and finally, a kind of drab, grey quality to most of the daytime exteriors as the reporters go about their business.
|Stanley Tucci - a lawyer holds the truth|
The entire film grips you by the throat and its impossible to shake free of its grasp - ever-maddening, ever-frustrating, ever-creepy and at times, even downright scary. In addition to the corruption and collusion, the film doesn't avoid exposing the Catholic Church's virulent anti-semitism (especially when blame is placed on the Jewish editor of the Globe). There's also an unbelievably creepy performance from legendary Canadian actor Len Cariou as Cardinal Bernard Law, Boston's prime pervert priest apologist/protector.
The Catholic Church has never looked quite so evil as it does here, and for good reason. It's the sheer paper-pushing bureaucracy at all levels that is used to hide these rapists and then put them back into situations where they can rape again. The movie is so dazzlingly structured that in its final minutes we're not only on the edge of our seats, but are eventually dealt a mighty cathartic blow.
I saw the film with my 14-year-old daughter who was originally going to participate in a Film Corner "he-said-she=said", but eventually declined to do so. By the end of Spotlight, through the entire closing credits and for long after the movie was over, she was weeping uncontrollably. Though she'd not experienced sexual abuse within the Catholic system (she was "luckily" in the Ukrainian Eastern Rite Catholic system where priests are allowed to marry and have "relatively" normal lives), she still suffered the most horrific verbal, psychological and physical abuse within the Toronto Catholic School Board. (Her story can be seen in Alan Zweig's documentary 15 Reasons To Live.)
She explained her emotional response to Spotlight thusly:
"The movie made me really understand how strong and evil the Catholic Church is and to see how horrible the church is to kids makes me thankful that when I told you and Mom what was going on with me, you pulled me right out of there. I kept crying because the movie was so great, but how sad I was to see just how many kids are abused the Church and how they suffered way more than even I did."
As always, the children must have the final word. They're the future. As Spotlight stirringly demonstrates, it's the Catholic Church and its legacy of shame that needs to be exposed, but also, placed in a coffin.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars
Spotlight is in theatres via Eone - Entertainment One.
Friday, 6 November 2015
SPECTRE - Review By Thomas Zachary Toles - There Cannot Be Spoilers in this Review of Spectre Because You Already KNOW What Happens
|Klymkiw hates Sam Mendes, hated every Bond reboot aside from Casino Royale and hates Spectre. Klymkiw's going to take a nap whilst Rhodes Scholar Extraordinaire, Thomas Zachary Toles, AVIDLY inspects Spectre.|
Dir. Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes
Review By Thomas Zachary Toles
I would like to formally congratulate Judy Dench for escaping the Bond franchise.
Early in the Dench-free Spectre, Bond (Daniel Craig) is suspended from MI6 for having the audacity to play by his own infinitely successful rules. Casting red tape aside as if it were a sexually frustrated woman, 007 walks defencelessly into a shadowy organization’s home-crater and murders legions of poorly trained goons, only to feel an arbitrary pang of mercy before finishing off their impossibly vile leader, Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). As M (played by Ralph Fiennes, the pitiful rescuer of Judy Dench) explains, this proves to us that Bond, unlike a drone, knows when not to kill.
Bond vows to quit MI6 so he can settle down into a hollow relationship, mainly to provide him with fresh emotional baggage that might just propel him into another adventure in 2018.
Spectre’s absurdly cobbled together plot is meant to suggest that Oberhauser is the architect of all of Bond’s recent tragedies, the big final boss of Craig’s career as the secret agent. Oberhauser is interested in global surveillance, a contemporary paranoia that is pitted against the apparently unproblematic alternative: white male government agents with carte blanche access to exquisitely lethal weaponry.
The most amusing part of Spectre comes on the heels of the recent revelation that Daniel Craig hates playing Bond, despising the character’s misogyny nearly enough to turn down the tri-annual dump truck of money at Craig Manor. There is a [*ahem*] spectre of weary embarrassment behind Craig’s eyes even as he throws a man off a train or ejects himself from a car.
As a matter of fact, Sam Smith, the musician behind Spectre’s completely inappropriate theme, also seems intent on puncturing whatever remains of the Bond myth.
Spectre is far more comprehensible than Quantum of Solace (the opening scene is fairly strong) and, in some ways, less annoying than Skyfall (no childhood homes in sight), but it continues to spin the wheels of a franchise that really ought to be on its last legs. What a plunge from Casino Royale, which miraculously suggested that there might still be something to admire in a well-made, intelligently ironic Bond film.
Though the Mission: Impossible films do many impressive things that the Bond films fail to do, somehow the 007 brand keeps attracting audience members in droves. And I admit, Bond’s allure has sustained a certain nostalgic significance for me, despite the many dubious aspects of the franchise. If Idris Elba could somehow be cast as the interminable spy, my ears might perk up. Until then, I stand by Bond’s decision at Spectre’s conclusion to walk away from his thoroughly exhausted lifestyle.
Sadly, I know that Craig’s claim that he would rather slash his wrists than play Bond again is as unrealistic as his character’s departure from MI6. Both the actor and the character will undoubtedly reprise their roles in a forthcoming jaunt into the high-octane doldrums.
Sam Mendes, the director of Skyfall and now, Spectre, proves once again that he can kill James Bond as easily as he decimates most every movie he purports to direct. On the other hand, the producers of the Bond franchise, like Bond himself, are experts in knowing when not to kill something.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: *½ One-and-a-half stars
Predictably, Spectre is playing everywhere.
Monday, 2 November 2015
The Keeping Room (2014)
Dir. Daniel Barber
Scr. Julia Hart
Starring: Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Manu Otaru,
Sam Worthington, Kyle Soller, Nicholas Pinnock, Ned Dennehy, Amy Nuttall
As Sherman marched through the South, decimating everything in his path, he placed considerable trust in his scouts to sniff out what lay ahead that could be burned and/or pillaged. Given that the menfolk on the Rebel side were off being slaughtered by the Yankees in a bloodthirsty, unevenly matched war, those left behind in the South were women, children, the old and infirm. One can't exactly place much in the way of heroism in Sherman's deeds, nor according to this movie, in those of his scouts who only had one thing on their minds - and we all know what that was.
Julia Hart's screenplay focuses upon those women left behind and her earnest efforts certainly exemplify the old college try, but for all its female bonding, attention to detail and attempts at putting a revisionist feminist spin on things, the whole affair comes up short - partially due to the too-lean script and Daniel Barber's precious direction.
The picture is finally little more than a Straw Dogs wannabe crossed with Kelly Reichardt's astonishing Meek's Cutoff.
Three women, comprised of two Southern belle sisters (TV stalwart Marling and True Grit's Steinfeld) and their female slave (Manu Otaru) live a hard, lonely life without the menfolk around to handle the heavy lifting. In addition to all the womanly household chores, they're out in the fields trying to yield what they can from the earth - Marling even ventures into the woods with her shotgun to try hunting.
Goldurn it, these ladies is never goin' hungry agin.
Just a ways down the road, a pair of Yankee scouts (Sam Worthington, Kyle Soller) are having one grand old time: pillaging, stealing, drinking, cussing, killing and most of all, raping. Yes, these boys just loves to rape. They spend so much time sniffing out prime flesh and then raping and killing it, one wonders when they have any time to do what General Sherman needs them to do.
Soon enough, these randy rapists will be coming to call upon our trio and we spend a good chunk of the movie watching the womenfolk defending their virtue and home. Along the way, the movie provides some passing nods to race relations and sexuality, but the name of the game is rape and revenge. Curiously, there's not much in the way of rape - there's one attempt upon the feisty Steinfeld, followed by plenty of prowling around and eventually the inevitable extraction of vengeance.
One can't quarrel with any of the solid, try-as-they-might performances and the gorgeous visuals, but this is one dull, precious and pretentious movie. It carries itself with an elegiac lope, but there's no real heft to its pseudo-arty rambling. It wants to have its cake and eat it too by taking a good wallow in girlie-girl concerns and some good old fashioned ultra violence, but just in case we'd mistake it for an exploitation item, everything is paced like that snail Col. Kurtz talks about in Apocalypse Now, slooooooowwwwwwllllllyyyy "crawling along the edge of a straight razor".
By the time the relatively modest running time unspools towards its "surprise" (not really) killing and the fake solidarity of womanhood as the ladies destroy everything before the Yankees can destroy it, we've felt like the movie has gone on forever and we're delivered one final sickening blow, the trilling of a mournful song whilst our trio disappear into the vastness that will become a new America. (Hmmm, I think I'm making it sound better than it is.)
The only real revisionism here is taking a potentially drama-charged setting and scenario, then slowing it down to a molasses ooze to fool some people into thinking they're seeing art. If there was a good screenplay here, director Barber hasn't done it any favours by applying a bargain basement Kelly Reichardt Meek's Cutoff contemplative approach to the proceedings. What was great there, is a big snore here. And, by the way, if you are hankering for a great revisionist western with a solid female character and perspective, you'd be better off with that film than The Keeping Room.
It's the real thing. This one's a fake.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ** Two Stars
The Keeping Room is in limited release via FilmsWeLike. In Toronto it unspools at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Sunday, 1 November 2015
SIMON HOUPT in the Toronto GLOBE & MAIL shills Gross Canadian FLOP "Hyena Road", one day before the same newspaper issues their immortal endorsement of Canada's Conservative Party to win another mandate, creating history by issuing the most moronic editorial ever written in Canada - Commentary and Report By Greg Klymkiw
THE REAL CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES:
Globe and Mail SHILLS Gross FLOP Hyena Road
Commentary and Report By Greg Klymkiw
"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." - Jonathan Swift in "Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting"You would think Jonathan Swift might well have penned the aforementioned words as a kind of prescient reference to Canadian "filmmaker" Paul Gross, whose grotesquely bloated Afghanistan war picture Hyena Road enjoyed a World Premiere Gala at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2015). Opening theatrically soon after, with an unprecedented amount of publicity courtesy of Cineplex Entertainment, various levels of provincial and federal marketing assistance (the Canadian taxpayer) and the film's Canadian distributor Elevation Pictures, the film was a resounding FLOP!!!
One would assume this latest effort by Mr. Gross, known the world over as Constable Benton Fraser, the scarlet-uniform-adorned Mountie in the inexplicably long-running TV series Due South, would have been assailed by a Swiftian Confederacy of Dunces; but no, Mr. Gross was instead hailed by a decidedly non-Swiftian Confederacy of Dunces in the form of virtually every member of the Canadian media and critical establishment.
One can forgive the professional shilling of supposed entertainment "journalists" in print and broadcast media, since that is what arts reportage has been reduced to in these Dark Ages. One might even be tempted to forgive the ludicrous number of positive notices the movie received from Canadian film critics, since many of them could care less about the genuinely great Canadian cinema that takes the world by storm and long to accept something vaguely commercial. That said, there's virtually nothing commercial about Hyena Road, save for its dull levels of borderline competence. Essentially, the picture is bargain basement war-pornography extolling the virtues of all the Canadian soldiers whose lives were wasted in a completely unnecessary war and certainly one in which Canada should never have succumbed to participating in.
Is there, then, anyone we should not forgive? Of course. Canada's purported "newspaper of record", the Toronto Globe and Mail has been part of an obvious shill effort to canonize Paul Gross and his dreadful film(s) and career for some time now. The most egregious act of shilling occurred in the Globe courtesy of "reporter" Simon Houpt in the article headlined: "Hyena Road’s battle at the box office brings in $486,000", followed by the puffery of a ludicrous lead which reads: "Hyena Road, the new Canadians-in-Afghanistan war drama, scored the biggest opening of any Canadian film of the year last weekend, bringing in $486,000 at the box office."
This is all well and good, but he merely swallows this dubious honour based upon the bumph supplied to him by the Canadian distributor Elevation Films who are quick to point out how well the film did in Western Canada (where the deservedly-trounced Conservative party remained the strongest after the recent election to become the Official Opposition to Justin Trudeau's new majority government of Liberals).
Though Houpt hammers home the historic grosses of this $12.5 million effort (a nice chunk of which was borne by Canadian taxpayers), he also benevolently allows the distribution company to make excuses for the film's performance by suggesting that Canadian grosses for all films were down right across the board for the entire Thanksgiving weekend due to the Toronto Blue Jays and their playoff bid. We furthermore find out that there was, in fact, only a small drop in the grosses twixt the holiday Monday and Tuesday which, according to Houpt, "may augur well for sustained business."
Alas, as the numbers played out, it did not auger well, but Houpt is forgiven for not being clairvoyant. He does, of course, include the ludicrous comment from Elevation Pictures that this drop in box-office “goes to show that people wanted to see the film, but they weren’t rushing out.”
"Not rushing out" seems a whopper of an understatement.
The film's second weekend turned out to be even MORE dismal.
What Houpt fails to point out in his obvious shill piece is what any reporter worth their salt might have noted. In his box-office report for Movie City News, veteran film critic and film industry reporter Len Klady notes: "In Canada Afghan war saga Hyena Road was unenthusiastically received with a $337,000 gross." Granted, Klady is referring to the three-day weekend and not Houpt's four-day long weekend numbers, but Klady, instead of slanting a shill in favour of Hyena Road presents his comments, not on the misleading cumulative grosses, but on what (I reiterate) ANY REPORTER WORTH THEIR SALT would have noted:
The per-screen average of Hyena Road was dismal. Even going by Houpt's numbers, a cumulative gross of $486,000 and a screen count of 184, tells a much different story than Houpt's shill-prose: The film grossed an average of $2600 PER SCREEN. Let's be generous here and say that the average ticket price is $10 (quite conservative, but we'll use it). This means that Gross's film's grosses were so pathetic that a grand total of 260 people went to see the film in each cinema over FOUR DAYS, FOUR SHOWS PER DAY!!! Doing the math even further, an average of sixty-five (65) people saw the film on each screen over the same period - PER DAY!!! Let's do the math even further: Sixteen (16.25 to be precise) people saw the movie each show over the same period. I won't even bother doing the math on how many people saw the movie per show, per day - that would be cruel.
These, of course, are averages. Granted. They especially do not accurately represent the numbers in cinemas located in the redneck Conservative enclaves of Western Canada, but even those numbers could not have been that much higher than the rest of the country. The fact remains that the film's distributor, its exhibitor (primarily the monopoly known as Cineplex Entertainment) and the Canadian Taxpayer forked out a whopping amount of dough, not to mention effort, for a promotional budget which was up there with any major release (at least in Canadian terms).
The film's second weekend per-screen average was a mere pubic hair over $1000. As for its third weekend, I didn't even bother looking for grosses, but I couldn't help but notice that many screens had already dropped the film entirely or reduced its daily runs to two shows a day.
In spite of the movie flopping so obviously on its opening weekend, it's a bit distasteful to see that Houpt, not only shills, but turns himself into an apologist for Gross, the film, its distributor and all those who backed this spindly Thanksgiving Turkey when he writes:
"...the strong theatrical opening positions Hyena Road well for a video-on-demand run, and would likely increase viewership when it appears on the pay-TV channels TMN and Movie Central. The film has also been sold to CBC-TV.
'This is a Canadian film that now has huge awareness, which will play out for the life of the film,' he [the film's Canadian distributor] said."
Great! The movie will play on TV. We might even see DVDs and Blu-Rays in the Wal-Mart $5.00 bargain bins across the country. In spite of crappy box-office grosses, there is a "huge awareness". Really? Huge?
And why, oh why, does Simon Houpt's Globe article accept what the film's Canadian distributor says at face value? Had this reporter never thought about scouring the trades outside of Canada? Or taking a look at the numbers via Rentrak Corp., the world's most prestigious viewership data and analysis companies? Was there any thought at all to perhaps getting a quotation from either the industry scribe Klady or, for that matter, RentTrack's topper Paul Dergarabdian who offers opinions/analysis to virtually any outlet that asks him for it?
I can only assume that Houpt chose not to do any of the aforementioned because he is a shill and/or not an especially good reporter.
However, let's not blame the messenger 100%. Surely Houpt's editors at the Globe had something to do with this. They're either shills themselves or don't care or worse, are part of the Moron Club at the Globe who green-lit the most idiotic editorial in the history of journalism in Canada. One day after Houpt's shill for Hyena Road appeared, the Globe urged all Canadians to give the fascist Conservative party another mandate to govern. This would be bad enough, but that the Globe would idiotically suggest Canadians vote the Conservatives to a majority and in the same breath call for ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper's resignation is tantamount to gross stupidity.
Yeah, right! If the Conservatives had won, Herr Harper would have listened to the Globe editors and resigned - NOT! Love him or hate him, Stephen Harper is/was the Conservative Party of Canada. He's also more intelligent than all the knot-heads who make up the rest of the party combined.
The election is over. The Conservatives have been defeated. Harper has resigned as party leader. BUT NOT because of the Globe.
And Hyena Road is the stinking flop nobody wants to admit to.
Oddly, I feel like the Swiftian Confederacy of Dunces. I have dared to piss on the genius that is Paul Gross as well as the utter failure of his film at the box-office. It seems, publicly, that I am a Confederacy of one on this front.
That said, I offer the following by asking: Who comprises the genuine, non-Swiftian Confederacy of Dunces?
I think we all know the answer to that one.
My review of Hyena Road is HERE.
My review of Guy Maddin's Hyena Road "making of", Bring Me The Head of Tim Horton is HERE.
My review of Guy Maddin's The Forbidden Room which was partially finished by monies funnelled to Maddin for his Hyena Road "making of" is HERE.
My editorial commentary "The Unbearable Promotion of War: Buying Grosses for Wasteful Gross Film" is HERE.
My editorial commentary "Maddin Fêted in New York with Fine Single-Screen Opening Weekend Numbers While Gross Multimillion Dollar Canadian Pro-War Film a FLOP with Paltry Per-Screen Average" is HERE.
My review of Paul Gross's execrable Passchendaele is HERE.
Simon Houpt's article in the Globe and Mail is HERE.
The Globe and Mail's moronic editorial endorsement of the Conservatives is HERE.
Saturday, 31 October 2015
William Katt ("Carrie") delivers an Oscar-Worthy performance as a repressed White Trash South Carolina psychopath in documentary filmmaker Bret Wood's feature drama debut THE UNWANTED,
a perverse antebellum-ish New Millennium Gothic adaptation of "Carmilla", Sheridan Le Fanu's classic tale of vampirism and lesbo action.
a perverse antebellum-ish New Millennium Gothic adaptation of "Carmilla", Sheridan Le Fanu's classic tale of vampirism and lesbo action.
Read Greg Klymkiw's full review at the ultra-cool UK movie mag
ELECTRIC SHEEP - a deviant view of cinema:
ELECTRIC SHEEP - a deviant view of cinema:
Friday, 30 October 2015
Greg Klymkiw's 10 Favourite Scary Movies of All-Time
All the movies listed here make ideal Halloween viewing and/or gifts to bestow upon those celebrating their birthdays, wedding anniversaries and/or pretty much any holiday celebration - most notably, the birth of Baby Jesus H. Christ!
Below you'll find a handy-dandy list representing my 10 All-Time Favourite Scary Movies. These are, frankly, worth watching any time of year and are movies I tend to watch at least once a year myself.
Because 10 is a ridiculous number, you'll find a more exhaustive list of my favourite scary movies way at the bottom, so make your list and check it twice!!!
Watch 'em and please feel free to soil yourself!
Please note: All my lists, including these, are alphabetical.
Alien (1979) Ridley Scott
The best and scariest Alien of all.
No matter how many times you watch it, everyone will hear you scream.
Black Sunday (1960) Mario Bava
Drawer-filling adaptation of Gogol with first-rate witch burnings, the gorgeous Barbara Steele and Bava style-galore.
Redefined and Defined horror on film forever by con-temporizing the world of horror, finding scares in the shadows and what you don't see, equating old-world horror with new-world fears and inventing the shock cut. The picture still sends chills down the spine and ruined many a walk in the park after dark.
Scariest. Movie. Ever. The power of Christ compels thee, indeed.
NEVER fuck a freak over. You could become one yourself.
Creep-fest from the MOST perverse director in the studio system.
Great ghost thriller. Wise created this nerve wracking film in the Lewton tradition.
Stunning expressionism and still the creepiest, scariest and most vile vampire picture ever made. Max Schrek still comes closest to Stoker's vision of Dracula.
Devil worship and paranoia at its finest.
Pray for her baby, Pray to replace your soiled panties.
Masterpiece of nightmare logic delivers mise-en-scene seldom matched in modern horror. Like the old Dominion store jingle: "It's mainly because of the meat!"
Carpenter's finest piece of direction yields edge-of-the-seat terror from beginning to end. A remake worthy of the original which inspired it.
Okay, because ten movies might just not be enough, here's a whole whack of my favourite scary movies to supplement the aforementioned list. Not all of them are strictly horror movies, but they all scare the shit out of me in some fashion or another. Enjoy!
10 Rillington Place by Richard Fleischer
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night by Ana Lily Amirpour
Alice Sweet Alice by Alfred Sole
American Mary by Jen and Sylvia Soska
An American Werewolf in London by John Landis
Antichrist by Lars von Trier
Asylum by Roy Ward Baker
Basket Case by Frank Henenlotter
Bedlam by Mark Robson/Val Lewton
Black Cat, The by Edgar G. Ulmer
Black Christmas by Bob Clark
Black Sabbath by Mario Bava
Black Sunday by Mario Bava
Body Snatcher, The by Robert Wise/Val Lewton
Boston Strangler, The by Richard Fleischer
Body Snatchers by Abel Ferrara
Bride and the Beast, The by Adrien Weiss/Ed Wood
Bride of Frankenstein, The by James Whale
Brides of Dracula by Terence Fisher
Brood, The by David Cronenberg
Bug by William Friedkin
Bunny The Killer Thing by Joonas Makkonen
Burnt Offerings By Dan Curtis
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari by Robert Wiene
Cape Fear by J. Lee Thompson
Carnival of Souls by Herk Harvey
Carrie by Brian De Palma
Castle of Blood by Antonio Margheriti
Changeling, The by Peter Medak
Citadel by Ciaran Foy
City of the Dead by John Llewellyn Moxey
Creature from the Black Lagoon by Jack Arnold
Cruising by William Friedkin
Curse of the Cat People by Robert Wise/Val Lewton
Dark Water by Hideo Nakata
Dawn of the Dead by George Romero
Day of the Dead by George Romero
Dead of Night by Hamer/Dearden/Crichton/Cavalcanti
Dead Snow 2 by Tommy Wirkola
Deliverance by John Boorman
Demon by Marcin Wrona
Descent, The by Neil Marshall
Devil Rides Out, The by Terence Fisher
Don’t Look Now by Nicholas Roeg
Dracula by Tod Browning
Dressed to Kill by Brian DePalma
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Rouben Mamoulian
Duel by Steven Spielberg
Editor, The by Astron-6
Ejecta by Matt Wiele, Chad Archibald
Entity, The by Sidney J. Furie
Evil Dead, The by Sam Raimi
Eyes Without A Face by Georges Franju
Father's Day by Astron-6
Fly, The by David Cronenberg
Frankenstein by James Whale
Frenzy by Alfred Hitchcock
Ghost Ship by Mark Robson/Val Lewton
Hellmouth by John Geddes
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer by John McNaughton
Hexecutioners, The by Jesse Thomas Cook
House of Dark Shadows by Dan Curtis
Howling, The by Joe Dante
Incredible Shrinking Man, The by Jack Arnold
Innocents, The by Jack Clayton
Invaders From Mars by William Cameron Menzies
Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Don Siegel
Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Phil Kaufman
Invisible Man, The by James Whale
Island of Lost Souls by Erle C. Kenton
Isle of the Dead by Mark Robson/Val Lewton
I Walked With A Zombie by Jacques Tourneur/Lewton
Jaws by Steven Spielberg
Kwaidan by Masaki Kobayashi
Last Man On Earth, The by Ubaldo Ragoda/Sidney Salkow
Leopard Man, The by Jacquea Tourneur/Val Lewton
Let's Scare Jessica To Death by John Hancock
Let The Right One In by Tomas Alfredson
M by Fritz Lang
Mad Love by Karl Freund
Man Who Laughs, The by Paul Leni
Mark of the Devil by Michael Armstrong
Masque of the Red Death by Roger Corman
Midnight Son by Scott Leberecht
Mulberry Street by Jim Mickle
Mummy, The by Karl Freund
Night of the Demons by Jacques Tourneur
Night of the Living Dead by George Romero
Omen, The by Richard Donner
Paranormal Activity by Oren Peli
Phantom of the Opera by Rupert Julian
Play Misty For Me by Clint Eastwood
Poltergeist by Tobe Hooper
Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock
Pulse by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Pyx, The by Daryl Duke
Rabid by David Cronenberg
Race With The Devil by Jack Starett
Re-Animator, The by Stuart Gordon
[REC] by Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
Repulsion by Roman Polanski
Ring, The by Gore Verbinski
Ringu by Hideo Nakata
Road, The by John Hillcoat
See No Evil by Richard Fleischer
Seventh Victim, The by Mark Robson/Val Lewton
Shining, The by Staney Kubrick
Shivers by David Cronenberg
Silent Partner, The by Daryl Duke
Sinister 2 by Ciarin Foy
Sisters by Brian De Palma
Stake Land by Jim Mickle
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The by Charles Jarrot/Dan Curtis
Straw Dogs by Sam Peckinpah
Suspiria by Dario Argento
Tales From The Crypt by Freddie Francis
Targets by Peter Bogdanovich
Tenant, The by Roman Polanski
Terminal Man, The by Mike Hodges
Uninvited, The by Lewis Allem
Vampires by John Carpenter
Vampyr by Cark Dreyer
Videodrome by David Cronenberg
War of the Worlds by Steven Spielberg
Werewolf of London by Stuart Walker
Westworld by Michael Crichton
White Zombie by Victor Halperin
Wicker Man, The by Robin Hardy
Willow Creek by Bobcat Goldthwait
Wolf Man, The by George Waggner
Wyrmwood by Kiah Roache-Turner
X - The Man With The X-Ray Eyes by Roger Corman
Friday, 23 October 2015
|"I'm hoping this franchise can transform me into a Steve Reeves for the New Millennium."|
The Last Witch Hunter (2015)
Dir. Breck Eisner
Starring: Vin Diesel (dubbed "Not His Real Name" by the late, great film critic John Harkness), Michael Caine, Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson
Review By Greg Klymkiw
One doesn't go to a movie entitled The Last Witch Hunter expecting a masterpiece, especially when its lead is played by Vin ("Not His Real Name") Diesel, the bald, vaguely simian wiseacre star of the Fast and Furious and XXX franchises who, it seems, is seeking a whole new persona to exploit in yet another potential franchise. In fact, one expects something considerably lower on the rung when its revealed that the director will be Breck (Sahara, The Crazies) Eisner, a man who has yet to direct anything resembling a good movie.
In spite of these strikes against it, one grits ones teeth and hopes the movie will at least be fun on the level of 50s/60s Italian sword and sandal epics starring the likes of Steve Reeves. For the first few minutes, with Diesel traipsing about some Middle Ages fantasy setting with a ludicrous bushy beard and wielding a humungous sword, one believes that the modest hopes one had going in might blossom into something a bit more enjoyable.
Unfortunately, Diesel's character is defeated by the head honcho of all witches and cursed with eternal life and banished to an eternity of always remembering he didn't avenge the murder of his wife and child. That said, he becomes a witch hunter and, for a few hundred years he's been decimating "bad" witches all over the place.
|"Look, this babe behind me has such a bad speech impediment I can't understand a word she says. Can we use some witchcraft to fix this up?"|
For the rest of this movie, Diesel (sans beard) lives high atop the city in a swanky Manhattan pad and continues his vendetta against witches who refuse to live peacefully with humans. He even has a sidekick in the form of a Catholic priest played by Michael Caine (who no doubt earned a sizeable cheque to pay for a few more mansions in the sky). When Sir Michael is savagely tortured and left for dead, Diesel not only gets mad, he's going to get even. Related to this injustice is the fact that some bad witches are about to release a plague upon New York, so the Diesel-meister is going to have his hands full. The Catholics, always on top of such matters, give him a new Holy mortal sidekick in the form of a young priest (Elijah Wood) who means well, but is lacking the know-how of his predecessor.
Even all this might have been palatable if it wasn't for the fact that the movie gets increasingly convoluted and stupid. Stupid is fine, but once its commingled with convolutions, it becomes deadly. Add to this an uninspired villain (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) and a horrendous leading lady (Rose Leslie, she of the speech impediment which renders all her lines to mush and a grating high-pitched voice which is probably enough to send canines the world over into a tizzy rivalling the silent dog whistles one can buy from ads at the back of comic books) and worst of all, a character working both sides of the good/evil coin that we can see from the first minute he appears on screen, we know - beyond a shadow of any doubt - that this picture is going to be a boring stinker.
|One of the most repulsive screen kisses in recent memory.|
Eisner's non-direction proves he's not even grasped basic skill sets to put him in hack territory. He simply has no idea of where to place his camera and the action scenes are all a miss-mashed mess.
Diesel has apparently announced a sequel is in the works. Let's hope it quietly goes the way of the Dodo. That said, I'd be up for a Fast and Furious sequel which offers Diesel in full-on sword-and-sandal beard. Now that, could be a howler worth enjoying.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: * One-Star
The Last Witch Hunter is a Lions Gate production in release world wide via eOne.
Thursday, 22 October 2015
THE INTERIOR - Review By Greg Klymkiw - "Office Space" Meets "Deliverance" Meets "Repulsion" Meets "Willow Creek" Meets "Fight Club" Meets "Repo Man" Meets "Billy Liar" Meets "O Lucky Man!" in this creepy, hilarious, terrifying, original & potential cult classic, a very promising Canuck First-Feature by Trevor Juras - TADFF 2015
|Hope springs eternal in the young man's breast.|
New Beginnings. New Job. New Boss. New Horizons.
Dir. Trevor Juras
Prd. Peter Kuplowsky
Starring: Patrick McFadden, Delphine Roussel, Hyun-Jin Kim, Andrew Hayes,
Lucas Mailing, Ryan Austin, Shaina Silver-Baird, Jake Beczala
Review By Greg Klymkiw
I hope not to oversell the subtle, albeit glorious charms of The Interior, but when I see a movie as bold and original as this one, it's hard not to. Let me say, right off the bat, though, that writer-director Trevor Juras has broken a big rule in storytelling that not only works beautifully, but warms the cockles of my heart because this particular approach is so rooted to my personal peccadilloes as both a critic and film producer. For anyone who cares, my production of Guy Maddin's Careful had a deliciously insane narrative rule-breaker (among a shitload, really) that's not unlike the one employed by Juras in this brilliant black comedy/horror thriller.
Though I was pleased this film reminded me of several films, this is not to say Juras employs by-rote geek-homages, but that his film made me think positively about it in the historical context of such disparate items as Office Space/Silicon Valley (knee-slappingly funny white-collar shenanigans), Deliverance (creepy-ass shit in the deep woods), Repulsion/The Tenant (loneliness and insanity converging to create horror), Willow Creek (sheer terror in a tent), Fight Club (eating food with one's digits directly from the fridge), Repo Man (a mordantly hilarious and realistic blend of workplace strangeness with, uh, just plain cult-movie strangeness), Billy Liar (the famous Brit New Wave rendering of a young man with "fantasies") and O Lucky Man! (the bizarre adventures of a coffee salesman played by Malcolm McDowell).
For a first feature to get an old curmudgeon like me to put its director's name, Trevor Juras, in a pantheon that includes Guy Maddin, Mike Judge, John Boorman, Roman Polanski, Bobcat Goldthwait, David Fincher, Alex Cox, John Schlesinger and Lindsay Anderson, is indeed a heart-felt pleasure.
How's that for an oversell?
Well, screw it. This movie gave me so much pleasure, I can't help myself.
Things get off to a rip-snortingly deadpan start. Yes, "rip-snortingly deadpan" might seem like an oxymoron, but that's just the kind of picture The Interior is. It's a leave it or lump it affair, but if you leave it, you lose (and potentially display your crappy taste, lack of cinema literacy and sense of humour).
Under the harsh glare of fluorescent lights, we first meet a handsome, cleanly, but conservatively attired James (Patrick McFadden in an astonishingly great performance, an amalgam of Emilio Estevez in Repo Man and Buster Keaton in anything). He betrays little emotion as he rigidly drills his eyes downward into nothingness whilst the angry thumping of a rap song pulsates on the soundtrack. Given the composition and lighting, as well as what little of the set we see, his emotion-bereft reverie could well be in the copier room of some white collar offices as he daydreams in place of his gaze upon the progress of the copy machine.
The reverie is broken. The door opens. An exotically attractive woman with high cheekbones that never end, inviting eyes, a gorgeously buffed aquiline profile and adorned in medical-white attire, enters and grabs a chart near the door. We realize there's no copy machine and that James is actually in a doctor's office.
This opening shot and subsequent shots during the rest of the scene is a terrific indicator of what's to follow - rigid, well-composed tableaux which appear to be something other than they actually are. This is a consistent attribute of Juras's direction within the film as a whole. It's not just an effective visual flourish, but is rooted in the movie's structure, narrative and thematic core - that nothing is ever as it seems, but, uh, maybe it is, like, after all, but, like, who the fuck really knows in this cold world of contemporary ennui. I loved this point of view which permeates The Interior with the force and consistency of a master, yet possibly only achievable in an artist's earliest work (only to grow and morph with maturity and subsequent pictures).
During this thorough exam, James reveals a number of troubling symptoms which have the doctor quite concerned. She orders an MRI, passes him some documentation, then watches as he strangely keeps missing the insertion-target of his shirt pocket. She delicately expresses more concern. James has a roach twixt his fingers and has clearly been puffing on a joint whilst waiting for the doctor to come into the room.
This is our perfect entry point into the seemingly empty life of James. He works as a low level executive in an advertising agency run by a complete asshole (Andrew Hayes), spending much time gazing into a bathroom mirror, having a myriad of daydreams and eventually pulling a weirdly brilliant and hilarious stunt which gets him fired. He eventually applies for a new job, expressing his need to the proprietor (Ryan "Please Let This Man Be In More Movies" Austin) that he wishes to work with his hands. His interview is a success, he's hired by MAXI-VAC, an air duct cleaning firm, gets a shocking medical prognosis, breaks up with his girlfriend (Shaina Silver-Baird) without even looking her in the eye and then, finally decides that TRUE change is in order.
Two things were clear to me on a first helping of The Interior and remain with me after subsequent helpings. First of all, during this opening section, I howled with laughter so hysterically that I induced a few unwanted dribblings twixt my loins. Secondly, this first chunk of the movie features the funniest job interview scene that I've ever seen. EVER. NO KIDDING. Much of this is thanks to Juras's terrific writing, but also the insanely hysterical performance by Ryan Austin.
As the film, by this point, felt like James would indeed plunge into the "big change", I realized that after almost 30 minutes of screen time, something was missing. Seconds after this thought scuttled across my cerebellum, the film's title finally appeared on-screen.
No more noggin-scratching on my part and the title also announces that our hapless city-dweller is now in The Interior.
The story structure might feel wonky to some, but in reality, it's rooted in the very nature of what James has had to face all along. Going from a black comedy about urban emptiness to what becomes a chilling exploration of a man facing his own demons and maybe some real ones in nature, is so simple and powerful.
It helps that Juras is blessed with the cinematography of Othello J. Ubalde (who deserves some kind of award for the name most resembling a giallo lenser). Ubalde exposes gorgeously, mostly with natural light and light sources, his compositions are exquisite and his moves like the golden ooze of honey. Juras, for his part, wisely and bravely trusts in the power of the tableau, allowing one to take in every detail - no matter how beautiful, scary or mundane.
And yes, with a knapsack on his back, James has left cold, soul-bereft Toronto behind and is now in the middle of deep bush in British Columbia's dense, lush and unpopulated hinterlands. He breaks into a cottage, already shuttered for the season, helps himself to a nice bottle of wine and leaves this vestige of civilization behind.
Once ensconced in nature's loving embrace with his tent erected and his cooler hung high above on a tree so critters won't get at it, he seems, content. Now, here is where audiences must display a smidgen of patience. If they do, it will be rewarded a thousand-fold.
Mr. Juras shifts gears into borderline neorealism as we experience every simple, mundane act anyone might perform alone in deep bush. This includes eating, tent-erection, napping, reading, exploring, napping, eating, reading, sleeping soundly into the deep night and finally - YES! FINALLY! - taking a most leisurely dump in the woods. Heaven on Earth!
And then, whilst enjoying his bowel movement in the fresh air of the outdoors:
James sees someone.
Here, The Interior moves into an even slower crawl - never boring, but even more time for every twig snap to take on substantial, shuddering power. Not only does Juras spend time to establish the rhythm of time in nature, the often glorious feeling of being cozily blanketed in a tent in the deep night, but he slowly lures us into the creepy crawly terror of a man in a red jacket (Jake Beczala), seen only fleetingly, often at night, but eventually daring to lurk outside of the tent Jason is bundled in. Soon, the man even pushes against the nylon, ever-so gently, just enough to let James know he's there.
Juras uses a skillfully crafted sound design which captures the sounds of "silence" beautifully. His editing is a thing of beauty. His visual design is such that when a cut comes, it's not only absolutely necessary at just the right beat, but also allows for occasional cuts to simply take your breath away.
Curiously, the film often feels like a silent movie - that wonderful period of film history when both narrative and emotion had to be conveyed by picture and music (always live - sometimes with an orchestra and often with a lone piano or organ). There's one "scare" sequence where the blacks are deep and we catch fleeting brightly lit irises of James's horrified face as he moves through the dark in sickeningly horrifying slow motion as a simple Chopin piano solo carries us away with its haunting accompaniment.
This is the cinema of gooseflesh.
There are, of course, quite a few terrifying set pieces which are as scary as anything I've seen recently - not in cheap, obvious ways, but the kind of "scary" that gets deep in your bones. Most extraordinarily, Juras captures the joy and terror of nature, but does so by using his seemingly slender narrative, measured pace and attention to detail to explore that horrifying feeling that maybe, just maybe, all your senses play tricks on you, but then, as quickly as you settle into the notion that it's all a figment of loneliness, the realities rear their ugly heads and within no time, imagination and nightmare become one with reality.
And you know, this is what really fucking curdles your blood.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars
The Interior enjoyed its Toronto Premiere at TADFF 2015.