Monday, 30 November 2015

André Gregory & Wallace Shawn: 3 Films - MY DINNER WITH ANDRE, VANYA ON 42nd ST., A MASTER BUILDER (Blu-Ray/DVD from the Criterion Collection) - One of The Film Corner's BEST Home Viewing Releases of 2015 - JUST IN TIME FOR X-MAS - BUY IT FOR SOMEONE YOU LOVE OR BETTER YET, YOURSELF - Reviews By Greg Klymkiw


One of 2015's TOP TEN Home Entertainment Releases

André Gregory & Wallace Shawn: 3 Films




My Dinner With André (1981)
Dir. Louis Malle
Scr. Wallace Shawn, André Gregory
Starring: André Gregory, Wallace Shawn

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I've always loved this movie. When I first saw it theatrically in 1981, I was a mere twenty-two years of age, but had already seen thousands of movies. I quickly realized, however, that I'd never seen anything like this one. On every level, the writing, acting and direction is of the highest calibre, but most of all the thing I've carried with me ever since, is the feeling that I was literally under a hypnotic spell. I was all there, all the time, my eyes glued to the screen and completely unable to concentrate upon anything else.

Here's the rub, though. My Dinner With Andre is literally what the title says it is. The playwright Wally (Wallace Shawn) informs us he has not seen his old friend and theatre colleague Andre (Andre Gregory) for years and accepts an invitation to dinner in a high-toned Manhattan restaurant.

They meet, greet, eat, talk, then say goodbye. On the surface, that's it.

Of course there's so much more.

Wally gets a complete, detailed rundown on everything Andre's been up to which feels like a thoroughly engaging verbal travelogue, though often, the chat dovetails into the kind of highly literate philosophizing that one might expect from these two brilliant men. Wally is primarily the listener, but when he interjects, his responses, more often than not, are the kind of concise intelligent responses someone like Andre needs, as, of course. does Wally.

As do we all.

Andre's storytelling is riveting - neither Wally nor the audience is any less than transfixed and there are plenty of laughs mixed with the stories and ruminations. Some of them are downright revelatory in terms of the world we (and they) live in and indeed provide numerous touchstones that we've either experienced ourselves, or in some cases, hope to eventuality discover on our own travels.

What's astonishing now, years after growing with the film for some thirty-plus years, especially on subsequent viewings, is to discover just how relevant the discussions are to the early eighties, but most importantly how they build and grow over the years.

What's revealed to us is prescient in ways few films ever are. Given the madness the world has lived in since 9/11 with war, financial collapse and corruption at the highest levels of both government and business, one of Andre's speeches is unbelievably chilling in a contemporary context when he offers:

"We're all bored now. But has it ever occurred to you Wally that the process that creates this boredom that we see in the world now may very well be a self-perpetuating, unconscious form of brainwashing, created by a world totalitarian government based on money, and that all of this is much more dangerous than one thinks and it's not just a question of individual survival Wally, but that somebody who's bored is asleep, and somebody who's asleep will not say no?"
"A world totalitarian government based on money", indeed. In 1982 this was already a concern, but in 2015 this basic fact/fear has never been more prevalent.

At one point, Andre explains how much he wants to leave New York. The city feels like a prison in that comfort is mere acquiescence to forces much greater than humanity. He explains this notion by accusing all New Yorkers, and by extension, anyone living in an urban environment as existing in "a state of schizophrenia. They're both guards and prisoners and as a result they no longer have, having been lobotomized, the capacity to leave the prison they've made, or to even see it as a prison.

Again, we're faced with a chilling notion that acts like some mirror Andre holds up to all our faces. Wally argues, perhaps even on our behalf:
"I would never give up my electric blanket, Andre. . .I'm not looking for ways to get rid of a few things that provide relief and comfort. I mean, on the contrary, I'm looking for more comfort because the world is very abrasive. I mean, I'm trying to protect myself because, really, there's these abrasive beatings to be avoided everywhere you look!"
Wally expresses our point of view and we accept it gladly, but Andre further explains that "comfort can be dangerous" because it can "lull you into a dangerous tranquility".

And damn if he isn't right.

Andre has been to several corners of the earth to find a spiritual transcendence and he indeed discovers it in a series of theatre experiments in deep, dark forests which break all boundaries and carry the participants to a place that was like "a human Kaleidoscope". Even as he says this, we see this kaleidoscope - not literally, of course, but because director Louis (Atlantic City, Lacombe Lucien, Au revoir les enfants) Malle's precise and consistent mise-en-scene takes us there by keeping clear focus upon the faces of his subjects and creates a rhythm which allows us to be lulled into an acquiescence to the stories, philosophy and conversations.

Of course, the screenplay by Shawn and Gregory is rife with some of the best writing you'll ever experience in a film. Towards the picture's conclusion we're awash in a state of melancholy as we've been forced to think about our own lives and piteous place in a world and universe we have so little control over.

During the film's conclusion Wally continues to be our surrogate.

He expresses the greatest truth of all:
"I treated myself to a taxi. I rode home through the city streets. There wasn't a street, there wasn't a building, that wasn't connected to some memory in my mind. There, I was buying a suit with my father. There, I was having an ice cream soda after school. And when I finally came in, Debbie was home from work, and I told her everything about my dinner with Andre."
It is in the crystalline remembrance of our lives and the ability to share those experiences which is finally the genuinely and deeply moving core of My Dinner With Andre, a film that is not only original and powerful, but one we must hold dear to.

And you know, the picture will live forever. No matter what happens in our lives and the world at large, the alternately terrible and beauteous truths is what rests finally at the root of humanity.

Our humanity.

We have art to thank for this and surely we must thank Louis Malle, Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory for giving us this dazzling lesson in how, ideally, we should all strive to hold dear our sense of place and worth.


My Dinner With Andre is available on a great Criterion Blu-Ray, one its own or in a fabulous box which includes A Master Builder and Vanya on 42nd Street. The gorgeously produced Blu-Ray for this film comes with a lovely High-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, an interview from 2009 with actor-writers André Gregory and Wallace Shawn, conducted by their friend, filmmaker Noah Baumbach (so good one wishes it was several hours long), “My Dinner with Louis,” a 1982 episode of the BBC program Arena in which Shawn interviews director Louis Malle (so amazing that one wonders why such incisive TV programming is not produced today), an essay by critic Amy Taubin and the prefaces written by Gregory and Shawn for the 1981 publication of the film’s screenplay.

Vanya on 42nd Street (1994) ****
dir. Louis Malle
Starring: Wallace Shawn, Julianne Moore, Brooke Smith, Larry Pine, Andre Gregory

Review By Greg Klymkiw
"When we come to die, we'll die submissively. Beyond the grave we will testify that we've suffered, that we've wept that we've known bitterness. And God will take pity on us and we will live a life of radiant joy and beauty and we'll look back on this life of our unhappiness with tenderness and we'll smile. And in that new life we shall rest, we shall rest to the songs of the angels in a firmament arrayed in jewels and we'll look down and we'll see evil, all the evil in the world and all our sufferings bathed in a perfect mercy and our lives grown sweet as a caress." - Sonya's final monologue in David Mamet's adaptation of Anton Chekhov's play Uncle Vanya.

If your idea of a good time is not watching two hours of wasted lives, think again. When those same wasted lives come to the collective realization - almost like a series of epiphanies - of just how much they've failed to fulfill their dreams and/or promise, you'll have been rewarded with a journey that will have enriched your very being.

Vanya on 42nd Street is raw in its emotion and approach. Watching Louis Malle's film of the David Mamet adaptation of the great play "Uncle Vanya" is one of the best ways to experience Anton Chekhov on film.

The final product represents the culmination of Andre Gregory's grand theatrical experiment of taking some of New York's greatest actors and rehearsing Vanya for two years with no intention of ever staging it. Gregory, (the Andre of Malle's My Dinner With Andre) had a dream - to create an ideal opportunity for great actors to intimately dive into the depths of Chekhov's multi-layered work - to get to know the text so deeply that the journey's end would, in fact, never end. The goal was to infuse these actors with Chekhov's genius and, at the same time, for very select audiences - usually in the living rooms of friends' apartments - to experience, from Gregory's vantage point, both the journey of the actors and that of Chekhov's characters.

Malle attended one of these legendary living room performances and immediately decided a film version that captured both Gregory's vision and the truly astounding interpretations of Mamet's adaptation of Chekhov's work was in order. With Malle's unique eye as a cinematic storyteller - blending both his documentary background with his deft and delicate touch for drama, Malle framed a performance of the play as a run-through with the actors - in their street clothes and in the environs of a crumbling old theatre on 42nd Street in New York.

At first, we're quite aware of this conceit, but as the magic of Chekhov overtakes us, it's impossible not to be drawn in by the brilliance of the original play, Mamet's adaptation (more of an edit, or polish - to strip out a few formal tropes of theatre from Chekhov's period), a gorgeously composed, though unobtrusive camera and last, but not least, a cast that includes actors who seem like they were born to evoke Chekhov's universal themes and language.

Vanya (Wallace Shawn, the writer of Malle's My Dinner With Andre and who played the "My" of the title) is the brother-in-law of Serebryakov (George Gaynes), a stuffy academic who acquired an old country estate by marrying his first wife (Vanya's late sister) and has now, left his widowhood behind to marry the unmistakably beautiful Yelena (Julianne Moore). With his niece Sonya (Brooke Smith), Vanya manages the estate and the business affairs of his late sister's blusteringly pretentious husband. The family receives visits from Astrov (Larry Pine), a physician constantly called to tend to Serebryakov's ailments - most of which are of the psychosomatic variety.

Vanya and Yelena are greatly suited to each other in every respect - save for the fact that she finds him physically repulsive. Astrov, along with Vanya, is madly in love with Yelena. She's physically attracted to him, but they clearly do not share the intellect and humour she enjoys with Vanya. Then there's Sonya - who is madly in love with Astrov, who barely notices she's there - hanging on his every move, word and gesture. Serebryakov loves Yelena, but fears he is too old for her. Yelena, clearly has no love for Serebryakov, but she is intent to stay faithful to him.

These roiling passions - all unrequited - come to a head when Serebryakov decides he wishes to sell the estate and move to Finland. This would displace the whole family and housekeeping staff. Vanya is finally, after years of subservience and servitude, forced into action.

Wallace Shawn is a perfect Vanya - a funny, charming, yet occasionally sad-sack nebbish. His lovely performance elicits an equal number of laughs and tears. Julianne Moore is utterly radiant as the object of everyone's affection and Larry Pine as the physician who abandons everything for a love that will never be, is a perfect skewed-reverse-image of Shawn's Vanya. The revelation is the sad, funny and yes, beautiful Charlotte Moore as Sonya - her character creeps about in the background, yet when she exudes a force before unimagined, it instills the overwhelmingly expressive feeling that, "Of course! Her actions and words make total sense!" Moore deliver's Sonya's final speech from the play with such gentle, persuasive force that I can't imagine anyone watching it dry-eyed.

Vanya on 42nd Street is an extraordinary experience. Malle's career was one in which he delivered many great films. This one in particular made me and his numerous admirers wait with baited breath for his next work. Sadly it never came. It was his last film before he died of lymphoma one year after making the picture.

I can't think of a more perfect swan song.

"Vanya on 42nd Street" is currently available on a gorgeous new Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection. In addition to the stunning new transfer, it is accompanied by modest, but at the same time, extremely informative and revealing extra features including a new, restored digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Declan Quinn, with uncompressed 2.0 soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition, a new documentary featuring interviews with André Gregory, the play’s director; actors Lynn Cohen, George Gaynes, Julianne Moore, Larry Pine, Wallace Shawn, and Brooke Smith; and producer Fred Berner, the trailer and a booklet featuring a new essay by critic Steven Vineberg and a 1994 on-set report by film critic Amy Taubin

A Master Builder (2014)
Scr. Wallace Shawn
Dir. Jonathan Demme
Starring: Wallace Shawn, Julie Hagerty, Lisa Joyce,
Larry Pine, Andre Gregory, Emily Cass McDonnell, Jeff Biehl

Review By Greg Klymkiw

This marvellous Henrik Ibsen theatrical reverie has been beautifully adapted by screenwriter Wallace (My Dinner With Andre) Shawn and tuned into a compelling, funny and moving feature film by Jonathan Demme. It is at once the imagining of Hilde Wangel (Lisa Joyce), a young woman who was once inappropriately wooed as a child by the film's male protagonist, the famed architect and developer Halvard Solness (Wallace Shawn).

The film is as much a trance-like meditation as it is a death dream, though played out quite naturalistically as a linear narrative until the dreams of both the living and the dead slowly, subtly take over and we're plunged into a heartbreaking lament for the lost dreams of youth and old age.

Shawn's screenplay wisely does not betray the theatrical roots of the piece by unnecessarily opening it up, but keeping the action centred and played-out within the majestic Holness estate. Halvard built the home to replace the one which burned down, destroying all of the family heirlooms and memories along with his own children. It is within this comfortable new house in which he's he's been living with his long-loyal-and-suffering wife Aline (Julie Hagerty), whilst working with an assistant, Kaia Fosli (Emily Cass McDonnell), the fiancé of his young architectural junior partner Ragnar Brovik (Jeff Biehl) who is, in turn, the gifted son of Halvard's aging former partner and best friend Knut (Andre Gregory, the "Andre" of the aforementioned film masterpiece and theatrical director of the stage version).

The brainy, beautiful, ethereal Hilde comes into both the strained professional and personal lives of the ailing Halvard, She's more than a match for the cranky, dweebish, toad-like, yet brilliant old architect and much of the drama plays out in a combination of fractious relations from fifteen years earlier in their lives. A strange intellectual discourse seems to overtake her reminiscences of the clearly uncomfortable wooing Halvard attempted upon Hilde when she was just 14-years-old. What she reminds him of, finally, is not the pedophiliac overtures, but rather, the moment when his senses took hold of him and he instead urged her to come into his life when she was an adult. Most notably, Halvard promised Hilde the dazzling notion of "castles in the sky". In a nutshell, she's held this promise close to her heart these many long years and she's come to collect.

Director Jonathan Demme attempts to maintain the stylistic approach brought by the late, great filmmaker Louis Malle (Au revoir les enfants, Atlantic City, Pretty Baby) to both My Dinner With Andre and its followup, Vanya on 42nd Street.

Demme plays out scenes in nice, generous takes, often in two-shots and only in claustrophobic closeups when absolutely necessary and his overall visual design allows for cuts and punch-ins so judicious that rather than jarring us, they appear as grand punctuation marks to infuse the work with an ideal sense of shock/surprise to be both showy (intentionally so) and to move the drama ever forward.

Eschewing the fastidious, though middle of the road craft he employed on work like the ludicrously overrated Silence of the Lambs and the execrable Philadelphia, Demme comes much closer in tone and spirit to his concert films with the Talking Heads and Neil Young, as well as his delicate touches on work like Melvin and Howard and Handle With Care, Demme is faced here with the seemingly unenviable task of carrying Malle's torch, but ultimately making the film his own.

The pace of the film is modulated with a delicacy that allows us to take in the gorgeous performances and dazzling interplay between the actors. The writing is so solid that it provides a superb roadmap for Demme's sensitive direction that at several points we're jarred, not by cuts, but by performances which, mostly via Shawn and Joyce, take place within gorgeously composed shots with little or no camera movement and yet exploding kinetically with some of the strangest bursts of cacophonous laughter between two characters as the film progresses.

Though the visual, tonal shifts into reverie are subtle, they're also plainly obvious if you are looking for them, allowing us to enjoy the relationships between the film's characters as they would and/or could have been, but without any false trick pony "surprises".

The film is finally as hypnotic as the two other works in the Wallace Shawn/Andre Gregory canon that even as we watch this touching tale of love, yearning and redemption, we do indeed forget that the dramatic arc is one of reverie and when it culminates as such, our emotions are genuinely tweaked because we're both astounded by the consummate artistry of the work as much as we are by the sheer, unalterable humanity of this great, great film.


A Master Builder is available on a great Criterion Blu-Ray, one its own or in a fabulous box which includes My Dinner With Andre and Vanya on 42nd Street. The gorgeously produced Blu-Ray for this film comes with a lovely high-definition digital master, supervised by director of photography Declan Quinn, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray, a ew interview with director Jonathan Demme, stage director–actor André Gregory, and writer-actor Wallace Shawn, conducted by film critic David Edelstein, a ew conversation between actors Julie Hagerty and Lisa Joyce, a new program featuring Gregory, Shawn, and their friend, author Fran Lebowitz in conversation. There is a trailer and an excellent essay by film critic Michael Sragow

Feel Free To Order the box set from the following links on this page
and contribute to the ongoing maintenance of The Film Corner.

In Canada



Sunday, 29 November 2015

SHE WHO MUST BURN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - 2015 Blood in the Snow Film Festival

She Who Must Burn (2014)
Dir. Larry Kent
Scr. Shane Twerdun & Kent
Starring: Sarah Smyth, Shane Twerdun, Missy Cross, Jewel Staite, Andrew Dunbar

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Seventy-eight-year-old Larry Kent's She Who Must Burn is such a great picture on so many levels that I'm compelled to occasionally pinch myself to see if I dreamed its very existence. It was no dream. In all its greatness, it most certainly does exist. If there is any dream fulfillment here, it's one I long to experience with every movie I see, but these days, seldom do. For me, it's one of the best movies of 2015 and certainly one of the best of the new millennium. It gloriously infused me with the kind of rhapsodic gooseflesh I experienced earlier this year while watching 70-year-old George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road.

Not only is Kent's work representative of filmmaking at the highest levels of proficiency and artistry, but it's proof positive that we must never forget that our senior filmmakers often have it in them to knock it out of the park in ways that the young turks everyone seems happy to bestow accolades upon can ultimately only dream about.

Most notably, it's a film that's as current as it is prescient - a film that reflects the madness of contemporary religious fundamentalism in a manner so beyond the ephemeral that it represents a work that will only gain in importance whilst eventually reaching its own august years and beyond.

She Who Must Burn is, without question, a masterpiece.

With the recent events in Colorado Springs on Friday, November 27, 2015 - a whack-job's gruelling siege at a Planned Parenthood clinic in which he murdered three people and wounded nine - Kent's picture is almost beyond topical. It sadly and chillingly reflects the reality of Christian zealots who ultimately, exhibit absolutely none of what it means to be Christian. (And let's not just crap on Christians, but all organized religions worldwide.)

The state of Colorado has been home to some of the most heinous mass-slayings in recent American history (Columbine, Aurora and now Colorado Springs.) Robert L. Dear Jr. is the waste of breathing air who perpetrated his domestic terrorism, in the name of the Lord, no less, upon those who would dare advocate planned parenthood. Even scarier is America's seemingly endless history of violence against similar individuals and institutions.

She Who Must Burn is a relentless, savage and terrifying thriller - a genuine horror film for the ages - true horror.

Angela (Sarah Smyth) voluntarily runs a counselling service out of the home she shares with her husband Mac (Andrew Moxham), a deputy sherif in a small midwestern American Bible Belt community. The local planned parenthood clinic she'd been running had its funding cut by the State after considerable pressure from the Religious Right.

Angela's continued support for women in the community concerns Mac's boss, The Sherrif (Jim Francis), even though he's well aware of the nefarious work of the local pastor Jeremiah Baarker (a chilling, oily Shane Twerdun who is also director Kent's co-writer). Jeremiah's entire family (and parish) is insanely devoted to stamping out the "evils" of birth control and abortion. His father Abraham Baarker (James Wilson) already languishes in prison for killing a doctor at point blank range, his sister Rebecca (Missy Cross) continues to do the dirty work behind the scenes as it needs to be done and constantly attempts to get her pussy-whipped hubby Caleb (Andrew Dunbar) to begin pulling his weight as a "soldier" of Christ.

The entire parish rallies behind the sleazy slime bucket Jeremiah and takes part in endless protests and harassment of Angela's commitment to the health and well being of the town's most vulnerable. These "Christians" are happy to break any man-made law to fulfill their own perverted interpretations of "God's Law" and increasingly display irrational behaviour in their war against "baby killers".

False accusations, physical assaults and murder is not far behind.

The film is relentlessly terrifying. As over-the-top as the Christian psychos are, what's scary is how the behaviour is tolerated by both law enforcement and state legislators. Kent's film mounts in jaw-dropping horror and no matter how extreme things get, they never let up. Evil infuses the work of "the Lord" and builds to a savage, sickening climax and denouement.

Intelligent, audacious writing, first rate performances, overall production value of the highest order and taut direction in the Hitchcock tradition all add up to one barn burner of a horror thriller. Christ's remains, wherever they may be, must be spinning in their grave constantly for the events depicted in the film which sadly, are not far removed from the kind of evil taking place all over America and frankly, anywhere and everywhere in which organized religions have their insidious talons plunged deeply and ravenously in the flesh of all those who would dare transgress laws which no real God, no real Supreme Being, no genuine entity of love, spirituality and forgiveness would ever in its wildest dreams imagine, much less consent to.


She Who Must Burn is playing at the 2015 Toronto Blood in the Snow Film Festival.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

WHITE RAVEN - Review by Greg Klymkiw - 2015 Toronto Blood in the Snow Film Festival

White Raven (2015)
Dir. Andrew Moxham
Starring: Andrew Dunbar, Aaron Brooks, Shane Twerdun, Steve Bradley,
Cindy Busby, Sarah Smyth, Catherine Michaud

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The oft-used phrase "the script's the thing" and its variants on a similar theme may well have entered the industry lexicon as cliches, but the fact remains that good writing ultimately makes for good movies. Some writing is so good, it can even be director-proof if the material is at least covered competently.

Luckily, White Raven is a picture that excels on both fronts. Writer-Director Andrew Moxham has delivered the goods on a movie that's as savage as it is creepy as it is altogether imbued with humanity. It also works very nicely on the most enviable perch of "what the fuck".

You're watching the picture, hopefully with no expectations going in (as it was for me) and you're gripped by the opening sequence, but it gives you just enough information that you're in that wonderful "what the fuck" territory. Then it shifts perspectives and characters three more times. Each time, you're "what the fuck", but not in a bad way at all - each time, you want to know more and to shift forward.

One thing becomes certain during the picture's first third - you appear to be in a kind of Raymond Carver-Neil LaBute territory in terms of four separate stories detailing male-female relations going (or having already gone) sour. The mise-en-scene is grittily kitchen-sink (not unlike the early to mid 60s "angry young man" pictures of the British New Wave) and the writing is always charged with a nice balance of ambiguity and pointedness, tenderness and rage - bereft of the occasionally effective, but often nastily trick-pony characteristics Neil LaBute used to be accoladed for in films like In the Company of Men and Your Friends & Neighbours (a bit too much emphasis on David Mamet-like rhythm with not as much feeling for pathos).

The next big "what the fuck" in White Raven comes at the end of the first act which, having introduced us to the four different sets of characters, makes it clear that the four male equations of the couple-strife-gymnastics are old buds who will be spending a weekend together in the wilderness (as they have for years).

This weekend is different though.

Booze, guns, relationship-hell-times-4-healthy-fellas, suicidal tendencies and a whack of other difficulties on the dis-unification front do not make healthy bedfellows at the best of times, but ESPECIALLY not out in the middle of the Canadian Wilderness.

Shit is going to happen and the keg of dynamite is on a slow, creepy sizzle.

You really need to know nothing else before seeing the picture. The script, direction, performances and technical credits are suitably edgy and effective from beginning to end and it's great to see a uniquely indigenous Canadian film which not only (inadvertently I suspect) swims in the same 70s waters as Canadian wilderness thriller classics like Rituals, but does so in its own unique fashion.

The movie always feels like its taking you to places you have been before - not in the movies, but in life. This is as exciting artistically as the pistol-whipping Moxham and company deliver emotionally - it's moving, rife with humanity and at times, scary as fuck.


White Raven is playing at the 2015 Toronto Blood in the Snow Film Festival.

Friday, 27 November 2015

JAMES WHITE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Privileged Wankers Can Suffer Too

James White (2015)
Dir. Josh Mond
Starring: Christopher Abbott, Cynthia Nixon, Makenzie Leigh, Scott Mescudi

Review By Greg Klymkiw

With James White, his first feature film as a director, acclaimed producer Josh Mond (Martha Marcy May Marlene) has not made it especially easy to like his title character. In fact, he's made it downright difficult to even like his movie.

This is not as bad as it sounds.

James (Christopher Abbott) is a spoiled twenty-something jerk with no job, no prospects and no ambition. He whiles his Manhattan days and nights away in clubs, fraternizing with pals (most notably old chum Nick, played by rapper Scott Mescudi), getting into macho bar brawls, drinking like a fish and ingesting all manner of hallucinogens. He couch surfs in mom Gail's (Cynthia Nixon) comfy apartment and seems oblivious to being a screw-up, not just in life, but in the one thing he's supposed to do properly - take care of his mother who is recovering from cancer.

He's recently lost his father (Gail's ex) to a heart attack and though he cherishes his Mom and wants her to be around a good, long time, he keeps screwing up with his relatively simple chores like making sure her scrips are filled. He even bamboozles her into forking out enough dough to head down to a Mexican resort to "clean himself up." It's the last thing he does, of course. Meeting another New Yorker, the gorgeous Jayne (Makenzie Leigh) he continues ingesting booze, drugs and getting more than his fair share of nookie.

"Alas", his "recovery" vacation is cut short by the news that Gail has had a relapse. Here the film settles into a detailed and harrowing virtual two-hander as a wayward son provides palliative care to his mother who is in Stage 4. Gail is in and out of consciousness and quickly deteriorating physically. James is often stymied by what he's supposed to do, but he refuses to give up on making her every last moment as comfortable as possible.

In her last days, the film's POV upon James comes from Gail and hauntingly, it's the first time we see why she loves him. We even vaguely come to understand why he might not be a complete piece of shit. It's not only haunting, but downright heartbreaking and anyone who has experienced the last days of a beloved parent in palliative care will be rendered to mush as the painstaking reality of both the performances and events are infused with a reality we seldom see in movies.

Abbott as Chris goes all out in making his character as repellent as possible, but when faced with the reality of a Mother who is dying, he also lets us in - just a sliver, mind you, but a shard that is lodged deep with us so that we find ourselves inhabiting his point of view.

Cynthia Nixon delivers one of her sharp, wisecracking, vaguely annoying performances (a la the sicking Sex and the City), but even she manages to let it all hang out in the final third so that we, like her son, desperately hope she'll stop suffering, which she does, but not before Nixon emits one of the most creepily realistic death gasps you'll experience in any film.

Love and connections are made, but the notion of redemption finally seems ambiguous. This is as brave and powerful a stand for any drama to take. I don't like this film, but I cannot help but admire it wholeheartedly.

The Film Corner Rating: *** 3-Stars

James White is limited release via Films We Like at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

BLACK CHRISTMAS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada's exclusive NEW "Season's Grievings" Blu-Ray/DVD of the Canadian Horror Classic that kicked off the entire slasher film genre in North America is one of The Film Corner's TOP Home Entertainment Releases of 2015. GET IT FOR SOMEONE YOU LOVE IN HONOUR OF THE BIRTH OF OUR LORD, LITTLE BABY JESUS. If you don't, Billy will find U and he will kill U.

READ Have Yourself a Merry BLACK CHRISTMAS in my column,
in UK's coolest online film mag, ELECTRIC SHEEP - a deviant view of cinema

and last, but not least,


Black Christmas (1974)
Dir. Bob Clark
Scr. A. Roy Moore
Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder,
Andrea Martin, Marian Waldman, John Saxon, Doug McGrath,
Lynne Griffin, Art Hindle, Les Carlson, Nick Mancuso

Review By Greg Klymkiw

A lone figure stumbles through the snowy bushes surrounding a gorgeous old mansion. He's breathing heavily. We only see what he sees, we do not see him. Through his POV we see warm light pouring out of the windows and the sparkle of Christmas lights. As he gets closer to the house, his breathing becomes more heightened as he looks into the windows and spies a bevy of young beauties. He passes by a sign noting that the old manse is a sorority house. He then begins the arduous task of climbing up the wall and eventually into a remote attic.

Bad shit is going to happen.

Now if the aforementioned seems familiar to you, it should. It's the opening few minutes of Black Christmas, but most of all, it's an approach to horror film malevolence that's been used ad nauseam by virtually every slasher picture ever made. The whole killer POV thing was first popularized in North America by Bob Clark's Yuletide Horror Classic and if you first saw it in 1974 like I did, you'd be jaw agape at its original creepiness (unless you, like Clark, had been a giallo fan and seen a whole whack of Bava and Argento pictures by that point).

But that, frankly, isn't the only original, terrifying and brilliant ingredient of terror in the picture. Working from a layered and beautifully written screenplay by A. Roy Moore, Clark fashioned a horror movie that's as kick-ass scary as it was then and aside from a few elements ripped-off by subsequent films, Black Christmas is replete with all sorts of superb touches that most horror films made afterwards can only dream of.

In spite of the raft of pictures in North America that were influenced by Black Christmas, it still feels like it hasn't dated. Sure, there are obvious elements that could only have existed in the 70s and don't exist now (rotary dial telephones, the insane methods of tracing calls in the "old days", clothing and hair styles which, frankly, have come and gone so many times, they feel contemporary, etc.), but the fact remains that Clark's directorial style and the clever touches in the script are only of their time in so far as they feel ahead of their time. In terms of contemporary filmmaking, the style and craft is miles ahead of most genre pictures being made now.

Hell, I'd argue it almost feels like a contemporary film that is, in actuality, a period picture.

Right from the start, scribe Moore quickly lets us know that someone is living in an attic which hasn't been entered in a long time. In fact, it's either been long forgotten or isn't even known about. Ah, but the lovely young ladies downstairs in the sumptuous, comfortable sorority house living room know nothing about malevolence - never mind the evil which lurks within their home and hearth away from home.

They're busily preparing for Christmas celebrations in the sleepy college town which include dolling the sorority house up for the party they're going to be hosting for orphans, making last minute travel preparations to go home for the holidays, giving their den mother a sexy gift and dealing with the men in their lives.

Moore's writing is exceptional throughout, but especially in establishing full-blooded characters - most of whom we're going to care about, and one of whom will be a fairly convincing red herring.

Then the phone calls begin. The girls have received them before. This time, the calls appear to be far more disturbing than they ever have been. The language and threats are so extreme that these days, many audiences would be as shocked as they were in the 70s, but I'd argue even more so since most English language films made now would never utilize such violent language so grotesquely and effectively.

Then the murders begin. The first killing is so shocking we can't quite believe our eyes - especially considering who gets killed. Hitchcock did this in Psycho, but at least his first victim was seen lolling half naked in the sack and was an embezzler to boot - not so here.

The killings become so vicious, the scares so intense that we're clutching our armrests or biting our nails with such horror that we could even injure ourselves (biting down to the cuticles and ripping away the fleshy bits on each side of the fingernails HURTS LIKE HELL). Amidst the chills and kills, Moore and Clark never forget the human factor nor the dramatic resonance the characters bring to the proceedings.

Delightfully, they also know the importance of how humour must be wended throughout - nothing tongue in cheek, but all connected to character and situation. Marian Waldman as the den mother with a taste for the sauce, Margot Kidder as a delectably foul mouthed heroine and Doug McGrath as the straight-faced dimwit police sergeant who comes across like a perverse cross between Buster Keaton and Don Knotts' Barney Fife, all contribute to some genuine knee-slappers.

In spite of stupid American flags everywhere to make the film more commercial, the atmosphere of the film is quintessentially Canadian - everything from the snow, the parkas, the boots, the toques, the scarves, the actual breath pouring out of peoples' mouths like clouds of smoke and the strange amalgam of WASP primness and hoser gaucherie. One harrowing sequence involves the whole college town engaged in a massive hunt for a missing girl in the bitter cold. This is imbued with that stalwart Canadian sense of commitment in the face of all the elements. A Canadian knows that no matter how cold it is, you just bundle up, eh.

There are a couple of logic lapses, of course, but you don't really begin to notice them until after you watch the movie and even then, after subsequent viewings, the movie is so wonderful you begin to supply your own explanations. My own, of course, seem perfectly valid to me.

And then, there is the killer, Billy. That's all we know or even need to know. We never see him, save for his murderous hands, we only hear him when he's breathing or making obscene phone calls and maybe, just maybe Clark reveals a teasing element or two which chill to the bone. Billy is a serial killer who puts Jason, Freddy and Michael to shame. We know what their respective beefs are, but with Billy, all we know is that he wants to kill. Somehow that's a lot more scary than the silly back-stories given to all the slashers who followed.

Black Christmas is not only a GREAT horror picture, but most significantly, you'll leave the cinema with a whole new appreciation for the word "fellatio". That, my friends, is worth its weight in gold.


Black Christmas is available in an exclusive new "Season's Grievings" 40th anniversary Blu-Ray/DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada. In addition to a gorgeous transfer which accentuates all the glorious 70s grain and garish colours (but sadly bereft of the great mono mix, replaced here with a ho-hum 5.! mix), the edition is bursting at the seems with extras. The all-new extras including a superb new documentary Black Christmas Legacy directed by George Mihalka (My Bloody Valentine) and Justin McConnell, the 40th Anniversary Panel at Fan Expo 2015 featuring John Saxon, Art Hindle, Lynne Griffin & Nick Mancuso, a hilarious Commentary Track dubbed Billy Is Watching (featuring Nick Mancuso, the original voice of Billy) and exclusive to the Blu-Ray is a terrific Black Christmas Retrospective Booklet created by Rue Morgue Magazine. The other extras have been ported over from the previous edition and include 12 Days of Black Christmas doc, Black Christmas Revisited doc, Interviews with Olivia Hussey, Art Hindle, Margot Kidder, Bob Clark and John Saxon, a Midnight Screening Q&A with John Saxon, Bob Clark and Carl Zittrer, Two original scenes with a new vocal soundtrack, the Original Trailer, the Alternate Trailer, both Original English and French Trailers, Original TV and Radio Spots and Alternative Title Sequences.

In Toronto only Black Christmas plays Tuesday, December 15 at 9:00 PM (with Kier Dullea in person) at TIFF Bell Lightbox and Saturday, December 19 at 7:00 PM at the Royal Cinema with Lynne Griffin and Nick Mancuso.




Have Yourself a Merry BLACK CHRISTMAS in my column, COLONIAL REPORT (on cinema) FROM THE DOMINION OF CANADA in UK's coolest online film mag, ELECTRIC SHEEP - a deviant view of cinema WITH STARS LYNNE GRIFFIN, NICK MANCUSO and DOUG McGRATH can be accessed by clicking………

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

MOMENTUM - BluRay/DVD review by Greg Klymkiw - Hot Uke-Babe Olga, Smarmy Purefoy

Momentum (2015)
Dir. Stephen Campanelli
Scr. Adam Marcus, Debra Sullivan
Starring: Olga Kurylenko, James Purefoy, Morgan Freeman

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Stephen Campanelli, the longtime, Canadian-born camera operator for director Clint Eastwood has delivered a supremely entertaining South African-produced action thriller. Momentum, his directorial debut, displays first-rate coverage of the numerous action set-pieces and given the film's relatively low-budget, Campanelli puts the ham-fisted, tin-eyed herky-jerky approach to action by the likes of Sam Mendes and Christopher Nolan (amongst, sadly, far too many others), to humiliating shame.

He displays considerable respect and faith in the nicely choreographed ass-kicking and this results in some mighty thrilling fisticuffs, gunfights and carnage. He also displays a nice sense of humour (some of which comes from the competent, though by-rote screenplay by Adam Marcus and Debra Sullivan).

Opening with a genuinely chilling bank heist sequence (no need to spoil the approach taken by the criminals for you), we're quickly introduced to the lithe, deadly former CIA assassin Alex Farraday (played by the stunning Ukrainian beauty Olga Kurylenko). A series of brutal murders and double-crosses take place and soon, she's on the run from the cunning, psychotic operative Mr. Washington (James Purefoy) on the orders of a corrupt American senator (Morgan Freeman).

The heist she's taken part in contains much more than stolen diamonds, but hidden secrets which could overthrow the evil senator's bid for Presidency.

That's really it on the plot front, but writers Marcus and Sullivan deliver a reasonably solid cat-and-mouse extended chase that's replete with plenty of action set pieces, deliciously delightful violence and plenty of opportunities to display the gorgeous visage and moves of Kurylenko (who is becoming quite the wonderful action star).

The real treat, aside from Campanelli's terrific helmsmanship, is the performance of James Purefoy and the smarmy, hilarious dialogue he gets to rattle off from beginning to end. He's a great villain and perfectly matched with Kurylenko. Their hero-villain chemistry and the characters themselves provide firm audience involvement.

Sadly, the performance of Morgan Freeman (he's clearly shot in isolation) is absolutely abominable. Granted, he has some of the film's worst dialogue, but he is obviously doing as little as possible for his paycheque that I didn't really care how much he humiliated himself as an actor, but that he drags the movie down to sub-grade-Z levels whenever he's onscreen. Casting him did not do the picture any favours at all.

Other than this, though, Momentum is a sturdy, compact action thriller that will offer fans exactly what they want, but executed far above what they usually get in similarly budgeted enterprises, as well as few blockbusters like Skyfall and The Dark Knight.

Of course, Purefoy and Kurylenko make for a handsome, hilarious scumbag and a mouth-watering, ravishing knockout. This is nothing to sneeze at.


Momentum is available on Blu-Ray/DVD via Anchor Bay Entertainment/Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada. Picture and sound are first-rate, though the sole extra, a behind-the-scenes featurette, leaves a bit to be desired.

Please feel free to order Momentum directly from the Amazon links below and assist in the ongoing maintenance of The Film Corner:

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

SAVE YOURSELF - Review By Greg Klymkiw - 2015 Toronto Blood in the Snow Film Festival

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

THE DARK STRANGER - Review By Greg Klymkiw - 2015 Blood in the Snow Film Festival

Katie Findlay in a star-making performance.
The camera absolutely loves her.
The Dark Stranger (2015)
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?
In industry parlance, the movie might be seen as a "tweener", a film lodged between genres, but for those with a more discerning eye, the pleasures are varied and in summation finally create a wholly unique experience. At its most basic level, we have a movie with well-shaded characters and a compelling narrative which seems familiar, but takes turns surprising us just when things get too recognizable.

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 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - 2015 Toronto Blood in the Snow Film Festival

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.


Night Cries is playing at the 2015 Toronto Blood in the Snow Film Festival.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

SECRET SANTA - Review By Greg Klymkiw - 2015 Toronto Blood in the Snow Film Festival

One good poster & one bad poster for SECRET SANTA.
Not that it matters since the movie reeks.
Secret Santa (2015)
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.
As the night passes, the friends are knocked off, one-by-one with the implements they've discovered in their "Secret Santa" gift boxes until eventually, the killer is revealed and a showdown occurs twixt the psycho and the nicest babe of the lot. The killer has "you-know-who-it-is-twenty-minutes-in" spray painted all over him/her/it since the movie is so underpopulated that it's not much of a surprise. As well, one would possibly have to be as stupid as the characters populating the film not to see the reveal that's so obviously telegraphed.

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!"


Secret Santa is playing at the 2015 Toronto Blood in the Snow Film Festival.

Friday, 20 November 2015

FARHOPE TOWER - Review By Greg Klymkiw - 2015 Toronto Blood in the Snow Film Festival

Farhope Tower(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

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 2: Review By Greg Klymkiw: Finally! It's Over!

"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?"

The Review

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 Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 is, predictably, gobbling up far too many screens worldwide and come to Canada courtesy of E-one, Entertainment One.