• This Week's Film Reviews (May 23, 2014)

    Biggest film opening is X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST which should GODZILLA and SPIDEY 2 down the box-office ladder.  See review posted.  The Inside Out LGBT film festival opens.  Watch for EASTERN BOYS in the festival.

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    FADING GIGOLO (USA 2013) **

    Directed by John Turturro


    Set in Brooklyn, FADING GIGOLO is the writing/directorial debut of actor John Turturro.  A sweet little film about loneliness, the two central characters are older than middle-aged men, a welcome change that we do not see often in films these days.

    Times are hard. With his bookshop closing, cash strapped Murray (Woody Allen) convinces his employee, Fioravante (John Turturro) to become a gigolo with them splitting the profits.  The venture turns out better than they expected but there are  also unexpected results, good and bad.  This is a sweet story , funny and sad  and occasionally moving.

    As Woody Allen has a major role, one expects the typical humor expected from the comedian filmmaker genius.  Turturro is generous enough to grant his co-star the limelight, himself taking the role of a shyer character.  A gigolo with a difference (not a pretty boy but down-to-earth dirty but in a nice way as the film puts it), Tuturro is credible as a rather sexy whore.  Sexy and deadly Sharon Stone as Murray’s doctor is their first customer.

    Turturro’s film celebrates Jewish culture, a rare and welcome change.  The lest Jewish character is Turturro’s who replies that he is not sure he is Jewish at one point.

    But the film’s premise runs out of steam quickly.  When it gets trapped into predictability mode, the film gets boring with nothing but mild jokes and contrived sex scenes going for it.

    One can see Turturro’s influences.  Turturro draws his inspiration from Woody Allen’s films like PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM with a jazzy score and sets like Murray’s apartment that looks like something out of any Allen film.  Turturro is also fond of playing with odd camera angles (overhead shots; distorted shot), that reminds one of the films of the Coen Brothers.  The overall result is a far from perfect film that that tries very hard.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2epX4tXfic 

    112 WEDDINGS (USA 2014) **
    Directed by Doug Block


                Director Doug Block shoots wedding videos.  He has accumulated a total of 112 of couples that he has shot before deciding to make a film about what has happened to the couples over the years.

                Not an original premise as Michael Apted has treaded familiar territory with individuals in 7 Up, 14 Up and 28 UP.  In 112 WEDDINGS, the results are less interesting.  For one, the film contains no surprises.  As expected, couples could stay happily married, solving problems as they come on the way, get separated or continue their struggle.  Children come into the picture as do mental problems and infidelity.  And there are only a handful  (thank God not all 112 wedding couples) that are on display here.

                The documentary is a slice of real life, but real life can be pretty boring, especially when one has to sit down and listen or watch some others’ go on and on about their live stories. The same can be said for this documentary.  There are no surprises, nothing new to be learnt, no profound messages, just a  dull documentary that is not helped by the director’s own uninspired narration.  More interesting tales can be heard from the inebriated at the local pub.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4A07vLA-dI

    X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (USA 2014) ****

    Directed by Bryan Singer


                Sequel to X: MEN:THE LAST STAND (2006) and X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and the third X-MEN film directed by Bryan Singer, this action packed film has lots of plot, action and suspense with a solid story involving time travel.

    When the film opens in the year 2023, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is to be transported to the past (hence the film’s title) to save the world.  It is always the world at stake in action hero films.  It is a complicated scenario involving sentinel robots that are designed to wipe out the mutants.  But the premise is for the mutant and human to live in harmony.  But a few mutants  do not agree such as Magneto (Michael Fsssbender) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence in HUNGER GAMES mode) and they opt to assassinate Trask (Peter Dinklage) the scientist behind the design of the Sentinels.  Logan/Wolverine and the younger Professor X (James McAvoy) (the older played by Patrick Stewart) join forces to stop them and save the world, thus changing history by altering the events in time.

    It is a clever script by Simon Kinberg that piques interest in time travel and Quantum Physics.  Changing the world is likened to a stone thrown in a river which can only make a ripple.  But the X-Men aims to change a difference, with the element of hope, which is a hidden message in this action film.

    The film is filled with many more mutants with super powers such as Storm (Halle Berry), Shadowcat (Ellen Page), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Beast (Nicholas Roult) and especially Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who steals the show.

    The 3-D effects are effectively utilized with the X-Men leaping out at the out at the audience or explosions spewing objects out of the screen.  The 70’s period atmosphere are nostalgically created with songs like the Oscar winning “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” from PLAY MISTY FOR ME and the dozen of Citroen cars in the Paris segment.

    X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE past is the best action flick so far – forget the ridiculous GODZILLA and the over flight AMAZING SPIER-MAN 2.  Good story, great action and compelling suspense!  What more can one ask in a summer action movie?

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6acRHWnfZAE


    Best Bets of the Week:


    Best film opening: X-Men: Days of Future Past

    1. Under the Skin
    2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
    3. Like Father, Like Son
    4. X-Men: Days of Future Past
    5. Neighbors

    Best Action: X-Men: Days of Future Past

    Best Doc: Teenage

    Best Foreign: Like Father, Like Son

    Best Animation: The Lego Movie

    Best Comedy: Neighbors

  • Inside Out LGBT Film Festival 2014


    The festival of video and film begins May 22nd just after the May 24 long weekend and has a bay of films to enthral all.  Below are capsule reviews of selected films.

    For complete film programming, check the Inside Out website at:


    Capsule reviews will be added daily as this reviewer sees more films.


    THE CIRCLE (DER KREIS) (Switzerland 2014) ****

    Directed by Stefa Haupt


    THE CIRCLE is a social network that revolved around a gay publication of the same name in the 40’s and 50’s just after the Hitler years.  Though homosexuality was not banned in Switzerland, it was in Germany with the result that many flocked to the Swiss haven for rent boys and other naughty things.  Prejudice was the order of the day and many did not come out and still led closeted family lives.  Those were the bad old days but those days still ring in a lot of nostalgia.  The film interviews Ernst Ostertag and Robi Rapp, a teacher and drag queen who were largely involved in the group.  The couple is portrayed by actors Mathias Hungerbuler and Sven Schelker who act out the scripted depiction of the story.  Haupt’s film is rich in period atmosphere and the film paints a vivid and unforgettable picture of love in forbidden times.  The film just won the Teddy Award for Best documentary at the Berlin Film Festival , though it may be argued if the film is really a documentary except for the interviews.

    CUPCAKES (Israel 2013) **

    Directed by Eytan Fox


    Gay Israeli director Eyta Fox in light mood here in a film about a song contest called Unisong in which a group of 6 have to overcome personal difficulties to enter.  The lead is the much older Anat whose marriage is n the rocks.  The others are females with one flaming male.  This is kitch at its height and straight audiences might not be ble to tolerate it.  The film attempts to celebrate joy and life but it comes off too flighty and slight.  The songs on display are also too familiar played out ones that one has heard already too often.

    Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ta4KhyMwmE

    EASTERN BOYS (France 2012) ***** Top 10

    Directed by Robin Campillo


    A totally fresh thriller that transcends several genres while breaking several filmmaking rules in the process, EASTERN BOYS is an astonishing debut from Robin Capillo about a group of illegal boys from Eastern Europe who live in a one-room hotel in the suburbs of Paris.  In the film , they prey on timid businessman Daniel (Olivier Ravourdin) who falls in love with one of them, Marek (Kirill Emelyanov) and eventually helps him escape from the psychotic boss of the gang (Daniil Vorobyev).  The film starts cinema verite (camera following the boys speaking their own language with no subtitles), then home invasion, then love story and finally escape thriller, Hitchcock style.  Midway through the film, the camera follows a black lady for no apparent reason.  It turns out that she is the security of the hotel the boys are at, and she plays a big part in the plot.  I love it too the way the film avoids a direct confrontation between the hero (Daniel) and the villain (the boss of the gang) that is expected in every Hollywood action film.  This is an exceptionally compelling and fresh film from start to finish and demands to be seen to be believed!  Excellent performances, too, all around especially from Vorobyev as boss.

    Trailer: http://www.allocine.fr/video/player_gen_cmedia=19543219&cfilm=213991.html


    (Venezuela 2012) ***

    Directed by Miguel Ferrari


    MY STRAIGHT SON, as the title implies is about a gay father’s gay son.  The son is forced to live with his birth father who has not seen him as the mother is off for studies in London.  While trying to win over the son’s love, Diego (Guillermo Garcia) is faced with a bigger challenge.  His lover and partner, Fabrizio (Socrates Serrano) is gay bashed and in serious condition in hospital.  Gay films that initially had tons of new ideas to address like coming out; cruising; A.I.D.s; relationship appear now to be short of fresh mat4rial.  MY STRAIGHT SON covers the issue of coming out, but with the twos of a father coming out to his son.  Both male partners suffer prejudice from their families and the issue of gay marriage is central the film’s theme.  Initially very funny, the film gets very weepy towards the middle and then quite serious towards the end.  Apart from the over preachy ending, MY STRAIGHT SON is still entertaining fare dealing with key issues but over-brimming with good intentions.

    Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBiVWESrGRU

    EL TERCERO ((THE THIRD ONE) (Argentina 2012) ***
    Directed by Rodrigo Guerrero


    A low budget art porn film of shorts done in real time.  Two gay guys chat on line with a  webcam.  They tease each other.  After 10 minutes of real time, they shut off the chat, and the film takes the audience to a dinner the two and the partner of one who has cooked the meal.  Thought the chat during the meal is kind of boring and inconsequential, the anticipation is high for what is to follow.  The three engage in a hot threesome sex session with lots of kissing and f***ing.  The moaning and grunting adds to the eroticism.  If what described sounds like your cup of tea, you would not be disappointed.  Or perhaps one can the same turn on renting a video from you favourite porn store.  THE HRD ONE refers to the kid that enters the relationship of the couple for threesome sex.

    Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBiVWESrGRU

  • This Week's Film Reviews (May 16, 2014)

    Biggest film opening has GODZILLA saving the world instead of terrorizing it.  See review posted.  Lots of other films like MILLION DOLLAR ARM, JEUNE & JOLIE and SHEKINAH make their debut.

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    AI WEIWEI: THE FAKE CASE (Denmark 2013) **


    Directed by Andreas Johnsen




    This is the sequel to the documentary AI WEIWEI that opened the HOT DOCs festival a few years back.  It begins where the last one ends when the Chinese artist is kidnapped by the Government and released after 81 days for the made-up accusation of tax evasion.


    Johnsen’s tracks Weiwei’s life that follows his release that includes his art and his followers that support him all the way. The government monitors his every move and confiscates his passport but he refuses to be intimidated or portrayed in any way except by his own hand and voice. He firmly believes that “to show you’re alive, you have to speak out” and slowly regains his confidence by finding novel ways to irritate the authorities despite the restrictions of his parole. He assembles a sculpture based on his imprisonment and smuggles it out of the country.


    There is nothing depicted in this film the world does not really know of the Chinese government.  The film runs out of material very fast.  Though the audience will clearly sympathize with Weise’s plight, all can be said in about 30 minutes of film.


    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0sSwTw2-bs




    FOR NO GOOD REASON (USA 2013) ***

    Directed by Charlie Paul


                FOR NO GOOD REASON is a documentary about British cartoonist/artist Ralph Steadman and his work in the U.S. featuring him at work and in interviews as well as featuring Johnny Depp who puts in his two cents worth for credibility.  At the end of the film Depp remarks to the camera that Steadman has inspired him FOR NO GOOD REASON.  But director Paul’s film proves otherwise.

    Steadman’s opening statement says that if he could learn to paint, he would change the world.  In the middle of the film, he also states that America nurtures everything that as gone badly in the world.  He has particular disdain for ex-President Richard Nixon.  One of his works has Kissinger as the head of a spider spinning a web.  Whether Steadman achieves his purpose in life is up to the audience to determine.  But director Paul is smart to include the artist at work – which is nothing short of amazing.

    The film’s best scene shows how a splash of paint evolves into the creation of ‘an unwanted pet’.  Of course, the film also contains lots of complaints on the world by Steadman.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjgFgD0Q3hQ

    FOXFIRE: CONFESSIONS OF A GIRL GANG (France/Canada 2012) ****

    Directed by Laurent Cantet


    Laurent Cantet’s features TIME OUT and the Cannes winner ENTRE LES MURS (THE CLASS) are top notch films that examine human emotions of a group be it a family faced with the breadwinners hidden loss of a job or a class of pre-teens.  Similar territory is treaded here.  This group in concern, is a girl gang, one initially out to take revenge only those who wronged them before things go out of control in the form of a botched hostage taking.

    Cantet’s film is smart enough to win the audience on to the side of the girls.  Their initial preys are the worst scum of human life – child molesters (Maddy’s uncle) and boy rapists.  Noted too, is how innocent they can them - both initially agreeing to help Maddy - before showing off their true colours.

    Set in 1950’s America, it is odd that the production is Canada/France.  The props (vintage cars, dresses) and especially the music (a mix of rock and roll, jazz and nostalgia) aid create both the mood and atmosphere.  It is clear that the events that occur in the film cannot happen at present as we do not see girls renting their own place or buying  a car in the way they do in the film.

    Running art over 2 hours, the pacing is excellent running from humorous and fun to serious. The characters also grow in maturity from innocence to reality.

    The story is told from the point of view of Maddy (Rita O’Hagan), who writes her book from what she can remember.  In an interview with director Cantet, he tells of removing the vagueness of the book in the book, which makes complete sense as it would only serve to blur the authenticity of the events and characters.

    The performances from the cast of nonprofessional actors are impressive particular as the gang leader Legs (Raven Adamson).

    Note that there is another version of the film just called FOXFIRE based on the Joyce Carol Oates directed by Annette Haywood-Carter.

    Cantet once again proves his mettle as a director of high human drama.

    Audiences might want to check out his other two films (HEADING SOUTH and HUMAN RESOURCES) that did not get commercial distribution in North America.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rad6l9iyMRc 

    GODZILLA (USA 2014) *

    Directed by Gareth Edwards


    Most action movies like the James Bond flicks begin with a full action sequence before the starting credits roll.  GODZILLA begins with an anticipatory segment in which the action will take place 15 years later.  In it, a wife (Juliette Binoche) dies, while the husband (Bryan Cranston) and boy survives only to see the monster scare the world.

    The premise given is the seismic tremors that are not natural but come from some other source, implying the monsters.  As the plot develops, there are two spawning monsters (looking very mechanical – transformer-like) that eventually have to fight with Godzilla.  If Godzilla wins, Japan and the world will be saved.

    There are too many loose ends in this film which leads to gigantic Godzilla stupidity.  For one, the tremors leading to the spawning monsters make no sense at all.  And where did these monsters originate in the first place or come to rest on our planet?  Our hero, Ford Brody (Aaron Johnson-Taylor) and his father (Cranston) appears to know everything and what is going on and what will happen next.  There is also an old Japanese scientist (Ken Watanabe) and his assistant (what is British actress Sally Hawkins doing here?) that could disappear from the story with no consequence.  In the climatic fight, Godzilla suddenly out of nowhere begins breathing out fire.  Where did all this come from?  Had  Godzilla been eating monster chilies?

    The special effects are all right and it is all fine to watch Godzilla in IMAX.  But there is hardly any suspense generated.  All the anticipation created all leads to naught.  The audience have enough repeated scenes of actors looking in aghast at the huge monsters.

    The best Godzilla film I have seen is the Japanese 1962 one entitled KING KONG VS. GODZILLA in which the climax had King Kong kill Godzilla.  That film had genuine scary scenes like a train travelling at night through the mountains while electricity goes out and darkness engulfs the train.  King Kong appears as can be seen through the control room.  There is also a train segment in GODZILLA which is probably the film’s most chilling scene.

    The result is a terribly silly and boring film that is 2 hours too long.  At the film’s end, the people applaud Godzilla that had apparently saved them while the monster moves out to disappear in the sea.  Never mind the fact that it has likely trampled lots of vehicles on the way and killed at least a dozen more people.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjKO10hKtYw

    JEUNE & JOLIE (YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL) (France 2013) ***

    Directed by Francois Ozon


                It would appear that Francois Ozon, the director of original naughty comedies like SITCOM, LES AMANTS CRIMINELS is treading used waters with his tale of a young story of a prostitute by night, student otherwise after films like BELLE DU JOUR and LOVELACE.

    But Ozon takes his film further with the story set in a strong familial setting (many of Ozon’s films derive their strength from this familiar setting) with more subplots than can be expected.   The film starts with the young and beautiful Isabelle (Marine Vecht) lying topless on a towel by the beach.  She is observed by binoculars (as if the audience were voyeurs themselves) by who turns out to her brother.  Her antics take to have a sexual encounter with a young German, Felix (Lucas Prisor) and later selling services to older clients.  When one dies of a heart attack when she rides him, her secret is blown.  Mother (Geraldine Pailhas) finds out and Isabelle has to accept the consequences including meeting the dead’s client’s wife (Ozon’s regular Charlotte Rampling).

    Ozon’s tale of desire is interesting from start to finish with a few subplots left hanging, for example if Isabelle’s little brother is gay.

    Trailer: Trailer:  http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x16hzcm_young-and-beautiful-movie-uk-trailer-2013_shortfilms


    Directed by Craig Gillespie


    MILLION DOLLAR RM is a biographical sports drama that the filmmakers re proud to tout as a true story as it us one in which dreams come true – Disney Fantasyland style.  So, Disney Studios notable for making formulaic films have come up with perhaps the most formulaic film of the year.  But this is not a bad thing as the film gets all the points done right, except there is nothing left that is surprising in the film.

    The film tells the story of sport agent J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) who travels to India to discover new talent in the form of baseball pitchers.  It is a case of JERRY MAGUIRE meets SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE in which a large part of the film is shot in Mumbai where Indian boys Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal) are discovered and brought to L.A.

    The film works best when set in Mumbai as the audience at least get to view things foreign to North America and the west.  He music by A. R. Rahman, a blend of rap and Bollywood helps create the mood.

    A little romance in the form of lodger, Brenda (Lake Bell) is added in with the expected eccentric talent scout (Alan Arkin) and skeptical coach (Bill Paxton) in the story.  The usual culture jokes abound with the Indian kids seeing the excesses of Americans (elevators, big house, huge television, media) for the first time.  One wishes the script might include some sarcasm of the American way of life but the script appears to eager to please.

    The result is satisfactory family entertainment for the not too discernable viewer.  And this is not a bad thing considering how easy it is for movies even following a formula to go wrong.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nl4QeQzIkOM


    Directed by Abbey Jack Neidik


    SHEKINAH which is the English translation of the word God with a feminine connotation is documentary that takes the audience into the world of Chabad Lubavitch, a sect of orthodox Hasidim, one of the more conservative Judaism branches existing today.  The setting is the Quebec town of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts where the school exists to teach Hasidic girls the ways of their religion and living.

    This is a world that most North Americans or the world are unfamiliar with.  It is a educational experience and one worth diving into, so that one can respect other human beings for what they believe and so that the world can live in harmony without prejudice.  This appears to be the aim of director Neidik, who in the voiceover claims to be a non-practicing Jew.

    The first part of the film introduces the audience to the young women in the school, with interviews of both the teachers, students (the one from England being most prominent) and outsiders.  The perspectives of these young women are studied from school age through courtship and marriage. Their views on courtship and their relationships with men are based on the Kabbalah, the mystical aspect of Judaism.  They see God as both masculine and feminine, and marriage as pre-ordained in heaven.

    The second part aims to convert the audience to appreciate these women and their beliefs.  Nedidik does a good tactic by highlighting an incident of a swastika painted on the window of the school one night.  This intolerance definitely angers anyone decent and puts the audience on the side of the Hasidic women.

    The third deals with the girls in the world itself, their sexuality and interaction for example with girls in another school.  One disturbing matter that is brought up is their non-acceptance of homosexuality.  But too bad, this important subject is just brushed away.

    SHEKINAH, shot in Hebrew, French and English is both educational and eye opening, and entertaining in a way of how these women’s lives are dramatic, romantic, musical and relevant at times.

    Trailer:  http://vimeo.com/65188601

    Best Bets of the Week:

    1. Under the Skin
    2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
    3. Like Father, Like Son
    4. Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang
    5. Neighbors

    Best Family: Bears

    Best Doc: Teenage

    Best Foreign: Like Father, Like Son

    Best Animation: The Lego Movie

    Best Comedy: Neighbors

  • Tiff Cinematheque presents - Je T'aime Je T'aime


    JE T’AIME, JE T’AIME (France 1968) ****
    Directed by Alain Resnais


                JE T’AIME, JE T’AIME is the first French film this reviewer had seen way back while in Singapore and brings back fond memories.  Singapore is not known to be the place to watch noncommercial films; so needless to say, Resnais’ film on time travel with no commercial narrative blew me away.

                After released from hospital on a suicide attempt, Claude Ridder (Claude Rich) is chosen as the perfect specimen for time travel.  But one minute into the past is only permitted due to equipment restrictions.  Still things go wrong and Claude is stuck in events in the past that are out of chronological sequence.  He also meets Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot).

                The plot gives Resnais, known for his mesmerizing, dreamlike and surrealistic films like LAST NIGHT AT MARIENBAD, SMOKING/NO SMOKING familiar material to play with.  And this he does to great effect. Resnais treats his film with a start and finish, setting the stage up for the experiment, and the experiment itself before fate intervenes.  Resnais plays with futuristic sets, repeated sequences and dreamlike surroundings.

                At third viewing, Resnais’ JE T’AIME, JE T’AIME remains one of my favourite films of all time.

                Note that the film is a brand new 35mm print.  Director Resnais passed away March 2nd at the age of 91.

    Original French Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HElwY3rt8t0

    Screening at Bell Lightbox 18h30 Thursday 15th.



    The Je T'aime Je Y'aime screening is part of TIFF Cinematheque Special Screenings (April 8-May 20), a selection of 16 cinema classics featuring many recent restorations and newly struck prints.   Below is the list of the screenings remaining in the series.

    NEW 35mm PRINT!

    Je t'aime, je t'aime

    dir. Alain Resnais | France | 1968 | 91min. | PG

    Thursday, May 15, 6:30pm

    NEW 35mm PRINT!


    dir. Michelangelo Antonioni | Italy | 1960 | 143 min. | 14A

    Thursday, May 15, 8:45pm

    Tuesday, May, 20, 6:30pm


    Voyage in Italy

    dir. Roberto Rossellini | Italy | 1953 | 85 min. | 14A

    Saturday, May 17, 4:30pm

    NEW 35mm PRINT!


    dir. Nagisa Oshima | Japan | 1969 | 97 min. | 14A

    Sunday, May 18, 4:00 pm



  • This Week's Film Reviews (May 9, 2014)


    Close to 10 new films (NEIGHBORS, BELLE, UNDER THE SKIN, FED UP, TEENAGE) opening this week including a retrospective on Orson Welles and a screening of lost and found silent film TOO MUCH JOHNSON.




    Best Bets of the Week:

    1. Under the Skin
    2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
    3. Like Father, Like Son
    4. Belle
    5. Neighbors

    Best Family: Bears

    Best Doc: Teenage

    Best Foreign: Like Father, Like Son

    Best Animation: The Lego Movie

    Best Comedy: Neighbors



    BELLE (UK 2013) ***

    Directed by Amma Asante


    Based on a true story BELLE tells of Dido Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy officer (Matthew Goode), brought to England by her father and left in the care of his uncle, Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson), the Lord Chief Justice, at his estate of Kenwood House. Though the social mores of the time make her an outsider, Dido is raised by Mansfield as an aristocrat alongside her cousin Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon).  Dido's burgeoning relationship with a young lawyer, John Davinier (Sam Reid), meets with the disapproval of Mansfield who considers the match beneath her.  At the same time Mansfield is deliberating a slavery case that might turn the turns of the history of slavery in the British colonies.

    Misan Sagay’s script tells Dido’s story in chronological order without the subtlety that is normally expected from films in this period genre.  Nothing needs to be deduced by the viewer and everything is spelt out in dialogue, often to full confrontational effect.

    But it is a good story, nevertheless with a credible romance, key issues on hand and principles on trial.  One cannot go wrong with a film in which right prevails, though nothing else is left for the audience to be surprised.

    BELLE benefits from an apt cast that puts all the relish into their roles from Miranda Richardson as the racist Lady Ashford to the over-loving father Captain Sir John Lindsay.  The characters spew out Jane Austin like dialogue such as “I have been promised the company of my aunt,” instead of simply saying “I cannot stay for dinner.”      While enjoyable to a fault, BELLE is no Merchant Ivory classic and can nowhere be compared to films like ROOM WITH A VIEW and HOWARD’S END.  Still, this is English Masterpiece theatre and there are not enough films like BELLE to go around.

    An ambitious film with key issues such as racial prejudice and the abolition of slavery, BELLE has much more to offer than recent films such as THE HELP and 12 YEARS A SLAVE.  But the fact that BELLE is British and a period piece not dealing with current issues, one can only hope that Asante’s film can only do so well.

    FED UP (USA 2014) ***

    Directed by Stephanie Soechtig


                FED UP is a documentary that aims at angering audiences to the point to take up the fight against companies responsible for American obesity.  The film trailer says vehemently: The film the food industry does not want you to see!

    Director Soechtig’s ambitious film has quite a lot to say, so that if  it does not appear preachy at times, it seems to be drumming some point into our heads.  In general, the film follows a few obese children through a couple of years as they fight to lose weight.  One undergoes risky surgery, one swims and exercises to no avail and yet another tries to go on a processed less food diet.

    But the message here is that it is not the children’s fault (the eat less, exercise more maxim does not work) but that of companies that overuse sugar in its products – like pop companies, pizza companies and other processed food industries.  Sugar causes as much damage as fat in foods especially in soda drinks.  The film explains that one calorie in pop is different from one calorie in fruit which has fibre to break it down instead of it being converted into fat.

    The film contains interviews by celebrities like ex-President Bill Clinton and ex-FDA Communications Chairman.  The First Lady, Michelle Obama is also featured in her program on “Move IT”, but she has refused to be interviewed.

    The one good point director Soechtig emphasizes is the similarity between pop and tobacco companies in their poisons – one being tobacco causing cancer and the other sugar causing death through obesity.  The examples that could be implemented include labels on all sugar-based products, including the percentage daily requirement consumed as well a ban on children targeted advertising.  Here, it seems that the filmmakers good intentions are not that faraway, if everyone in the audience does his or her duty.

    Trailer:  http://www.traileraddict.com/fed-up/trailer:


    THE GERMAN DOCTOR (WAKOLDA) (Argentina/Fr/Sp/Nor 2013) **

    Directed by Lucia Puenzo


                WALKOLDA is Argentina’s entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar last year though it did not make it to the nominations But one has to hand it to writer/director Lucia Puenzo for a most intriguing premise for a film. 

    A doctor (Alex Brendemuhl) from Germany arrives in Patagonia, befriending a family that is about to open a family hotel.  He befriends the family, aiding the short daughter grow taller through injections and saving the young born twins.  It turns out that the good doctor is not that good after all, as he is a Nazi criminal who had performed human experiments in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

                The film is based on Puenzo’s novel Wakolda, and the scariest bit is that it is all supposed to be true.  But it is revealed at the end credits that the doctor is none other than the infamous Josef Mengele, but the doctor takes another name of Helmut.

                The film is not really a thriller or horror film.  The director reveals at the start of the film, through the daughter’s diary who the doctor is (a war criminal) but it is clear midway through the film that the doctor ‘s only flaw is his desire to learn more about human medicine.  He means good most times, though his methods are questionable.  So, the audience is bewildered whether to feel sorry or to despise the character.

                The film moves towards its inevitable conclusion where the doctor’s identity is revealed to the family.  Still the family (and the audience as well) is just as confused what to think of him.

                The film ins interesting in the way one cannot figure what kind of film Puenzo wants her film to be, but the film is still far less satisfying than its premise.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csvp5SjTniE

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiI8PNdvkhY 

    NEIGHBORS (USA 2014) ***1/2
    Directed by Nicholas Stoller


    NEIGHBORS (not to be confused or has it anything to do with the 80’s John Landis comedy with John Belushi and Dan Akroyd) has an oversimplified plot.  A newly married couple (Seth Rogen and Roe Byrne) realize that the new neighbors are a university fraternity.  Needless to say, they are a noisy bunch, partying into the early hours of the morning.  The couple go all out to get the frat removed as neighbors using any way thinkable.  The solid unit is the family and the relationship between the two is always of prime importance throughout the film.

    On the other hand, the frat boys and girls are just rubbish and do not stand for much.  Their dean, played with controlled hilarity by the excellent Lisa Kudrow is treated very much the same way.

    The film takes a while to stand on its feet.  But the film settles down just as the fraternity settles down to their partying.

    Though Seth Rogen is the main lead and most often than not have first crack at the film’s best lines, Zac Efron surprisingly steals the show from under his nose.  One of the film’s most effective moments involve him suddenly realizing the truth about himself.  He realizes he is not as smart as his best friend Pete (Dave Franco) and that he will succeed in the real world.  The script offers him a way out in the end with night courses.  It is an awkward moment of truth and Efron carries it well in his expression.  When the two (him and Rogen) are together in one scene, as in the dance-off segment, the result is magic.  The baby used in the film is also he cutest little toddler seen in films in a long while.  Rose Byrne can only do so much playing second fiddle to Rogen.

    As in all Rogen’s films, there are unforgettable gross segments.  In THIS IS THE END , it is the masturbation argument on the toilet magazines.  In NEIGHBORS, the script has a quite hilarious milking the wife segment.  But the most comically inspired segment has Dave Franco and Zac Efron doing De Niro from TAXI DRIVER outside Rogen’s window (See Image).

    Produced by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen who both directed last year’s THIS IS THE END, NEIGHBORS tries very hard at beating that movie.  Though unsuccessful, NEIGHBORS is still very funny as guarantees a laugh-out loud good time.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGin3oLH5vo&feature=youtu.be

    STAGE FRIGHT (USA 2014) **

    Directed by Jerome Sable


    STAGE FRIGHT has been described as an original musical horror film.  But it is only the songs that are original (music and lyrics here by director Sable and Eli Batalion) but not the concept of a musical horror that many critics are raving about.  THE PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE written by Paul Williams was the true original that popped up even before Andrew Lloyd Webber’s West End musical.  That film was hilarious, scary with show stopping numbers and nowhere can it be compared to the trashy STAGE FRIGHT.

    When STAGE FRIGHT opens, the audience gets their first loud laugh with the words “Based on True Events” flashed on the screen.  What follows is a totally overdone killing scene, which if based on true events, is highly questionable.  A Broadway diva (nice cameo from Minnie Driver) is slaughtered by a phantom and the film goes into the present with her daughter, now grown up, wishing to follow in her mother’s footsteps.  “Life is a song to sing, so sing with all your heart”, are the words passed down from mother to daughter.

    As expected, the phantom shows up again.

    Camilla Swanson (Allie MacDonald) wants to also become a Broadway diva, but she's stuck working in the kitchen of a snobby performing arts camp.  The best part of the film lies in the initial 30 minutes before it falls into the typical horror slashed movie mode.  The best parts include a campy (pardon the pun) song and dance number “I am gay” as the performance arts camp is introduced to the audience.

    But after that Camilla falls into the typical romance of a boy who truly loves her, but she spurns, sort of, for her fame, till she realizes her mistake.  Meanwhile, the phantom begins his killing spree, Friday the 13th style.  There are a few funny lines in the film as someone screams out: “How can you continue in the play if someone just got killed!”  But these are, unfortunately few and far between,

    There are not that many PHANTOM OF THE PARADISES, so this film STAGE FRIGHT makes a welcome entrance.  Too bad, it did not turn out to be as inventive and original as it leads audiences to believe.

    Trailer:  http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1est13_stage-fright-hd-trailer-2014-official-all-videos-trailer_shortfilms


    TEENAGE (USA 2013) ****

    Directed by Matt Wolf


    TEENAGE is a fascinating and most entertaining entry on teenagers based on the book “Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture 1875-1945” written by Jon Savage who also wrote the script for the film.  Wolf’s (I REMEMBER and WILD COMBINATION) film is made up of a collage of archive footage, newsreel, old diaries, vintage TV shows and a few period enactments enhanced by an original musical score by Bradford Cox.  In black and white, TEENAGE appeals to all as everyone (except kids) has gone through the teen days a teen right now.

    The filmmakers aim more at the rebellious, be them the German youth that defied Hitler or Brenda who succumbed to drugs in the U.S.  Of course, they make more interesting material.  The screen time is divided quite equally towards male and female.  As usual, the older adults are to bale for forcing child labour, the youth to fight in their wars and by plainly not giving them a chance.  TEENAGE celebrate teenage youth and does it very well.

    The film has no main plot but moves freely across time with youth at its centre.  From the Nazi Youth to the Nazi rebels, from the hooligans to the Scouts and from girls to boys to women to men, TEENAGE is pure bliss to watch and never dull.  It is nostalgia (and film editing) at its very best and has to be seen to be believed.  “Woe to those that oppress the young and the young at heart!” appears to be the message Wolf and Savage want to get across and this they too exceptionally well.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8bNqD9YhkM

    UNDER THE SKIN (UK/USA 2013) ****
    Directed by Jonathan Glazer

    Scarlett Johansson in a still from Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin

    The opening sequence which shows the creation of a synthetic eye with a soundtrack voiceover of a voice pronouncing phonetics in order to master the human language is both creepily disturbing and visually arresting.  At the same time, the audience is challenged to decipher the images to form the narrative of a film that moves as slow as it is hard to put together.  The music and sounds by Mica Levi enhances the mysteriousness.

    The plot based on the novel by Michel Faber, Dutch born, Australian raised and immigrated to Scotland, tells of an alien, given no name, (Scarlett Johansson) travelling in a van in Scotland, picking up various men on the pretext of sex and devouring them.  Hot on her heels is another alien in the form of a male motorcyclist.  In the process of meeting different men, she beings to sympathize with her victims, eventually letting one or two of them escape.  She tries, at one point to try human food (a cake) as a substitute only to get sick in the process.

    Director Jonathan Glazer (BIRTH) apparently shot a portion of his film with hidden cameras (like in a mall) and using non-actors that the alien picked up.  Johansson is hardly recognizable in her black wig, which likely fooled  the non-actors.

    Glazer is a scary, creepy and intense film.  The creepiest involves the alien picking up a 26-year old with a disfigured face.  She knows that he is different and asks more general questions such as whether he has had a girlfriend, commenting then that he has nice hands.  The actor who plays this man is Adam Pearson who suffers from the condition called neurofibromatosis.  The entire segment is uncomfortable not only for the alien and the man but for the audience as well.  She eventually lets him go, only to have him killed by the motorcyclist alien.

    This is the turning point of the film when the alien begins sympathizing with her human prey.  Which eventually turns to her downfall.  One might reflect the novel’s author’s sympathy for Iraq and Afghanistan as he turned down British citizenship as a protest of the U.K. joining forces with the U.S. in the war against the two said countries.

    Aliens have been depicted in different forms by different directors from the commercial E.T. by Steven Spielberg to the faceless THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH by Nicholas Roeg.  But this one will be remembered for its dare to be different and effecting a most intriguing film as a result.

    Trailer:  http://www.contactmusic.com/video/under-the-skin-teaser-trailer

  • TIFF Cinematheque presents - Orson Welles

    Orson Welles: Lost & Found – This weekend only!

    Eastman House restores lost Welles film
    Eastman House discuses the recovery of Mercury Theatre's long-lost Too Much Johnson, directed by Orson Welles in 1938. The believed to be destroyed silent film was found in a warehouse by the staff…
    Added on 8/08/13

    TIFF Cinematheque is thrilled to present one of the essential cinematic events of the year with the extra-special screening of Orson Welles' recently rediscovered silent film TOO MUCH JOHNSON (with live commentary and musical accompaniment!), headlining a mini-retrospective of Welles classics.


    A new 35mm restoration of Too Much Johnson will have its Canadian premiere at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Saturday, May 10 at 4:30 p.m., and will be presented with live piano accompaniment by William O’Meara and live commentary by Caroline Yeager, Assistant Curator at George Eastman House. This essential cinematic event anchors Orson Welles: Lost and Found, a mini-retrospective of Welles’ career as both a director and actor, including Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), Othello (1952), and Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949), to take place from May 9 to May 13.

    Video: Eastman House restores lost Welles film

    See below for complete schedule for TIFF Cinematheque’s retrospective, Orson Welles: Lost and Found.


    The Third Man

    dir. Carol Reed | UK | 1949 | 104 min. | PG | 35mm

    Archival Print!

    Orson Welles gives perhaps his best-known screen performance apart from Citizen Kane in Carol Reed's classic thriller, set amongst the Expressionist shadows of a divided postwar Vienna.

    Friday, May 9 at 9:15 p.m.

    Sunday, May 11 at 5:00 p.m.

    Tuesday, May 13 at 9:15 p.m.

    Citizen Kane

    dir. Orson Welles | USA | 1941 | 119 min. | G | 35mm

    The most famous debut in film history and long regarded as the greatest film ever made, Orson Welles' legendary chronicle of the rise and fall of a Hearst-like newspaper magnate retains its power to enthrall, confound and overwhelm.

    Saturday, May 10 at 6:30 p.m.

    Home Movie: Orson Welles Directing Too Much Johnson

    3 min. | G | Digital

    Donated by the family of Myron S. Falk, one of the early investors in the Mercury Theatre, this behind-the-scenes document filmed during the making of Too Much Johnson offers a glimpse of a playful Welles on the film's fake Cuban location with actors Joseph Cotten and Ruth Ford.

    Courtesy of the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

    Preceded by

    Too Much Johnson

    dir. Orson Welles | USA | 1938 | 66 min. | USA | G | 35mm

    Canadian Premiere! New 35mm Restoration!

    Long thought lost in a house fire, Orson Welles' ultra-rare, pre-Kane silent comedy makes its Canadian premiere in this essential TIFF Cinematheque special presentation. The screening will have a live commentary by Caroline Yeager, Assistant Curator for Administration and Special Projects at George Eastman House, and piano accompaniment by William O'Meara.

    Restored by the George Eastman House at the Cinema Arts, Inc. laboratories (Pennsylvania, US), through a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation. Additional preservation from Haghefilm Digitaal, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, with funding provided by La Cineteca del Friuli.

    Saturday, May 10 at 4:30 p.m.

    The Magnificent Ambersons

    dir. Orson Welles | USA | 1942 | 88 min. | USA | G | 35mm

    Welles' follow-up to Citizen Kane — an elegiac, sometimes emotionally harrowing adaptation of Booth Tarkington's novel about the downfall of an aristocratic Midwestern American family — is regarded by many as the pinnacle of Welles' cinematic oeuvre.

    Sunday, May 11, 2:45 p.m.


    dir. Orson Welles | USA | 1952 | 90 min. | USA | PG | Digital

    New Digital Restoration!

    Welles himself plays the Moor of Venice in his visually opulent rendering of Shakespeare's tragedy, returning in a new digital restoration.

    Sunday, May 11 at 12:30 p.m.

    Capsule Reviews:

     CITIZEN KANE (USA 1941) ***** Top 10

    Directed by Orson Welles


    While THE THIRD MAN (reviewed below) is considered one of the greatest films of all time, CITIZEN KANE is considered by many as THE greatest film of all time.  Co-written, produced, directed and starring Welles in this first feature (nominated for 9 Academy Awards), this is a story of power and the American dream gone sour.  Welles plays Charles Foster Kane an enormously wealthy newspaper publisher.   When the film opens, he has been living alone in Florida on his vast palatial estate, called Xanadu for the last years of his life, with a "no trespassing" sign on the gate.  On his deathbed, he holds a snow globe and utters the single word, "Rosebud", before passing away and letting the globe slip from his hand, smashing on the floor.   As a reporter traces the man’s life and the mystery of rosebud, Kane’s life is revealed through flashbacks from his rise to politics and through two marriages.  The film’s main strength lies in its great script which won the Oscar for best original screenplay and it has all the elements of a good classic – love, ambition, power, loss of innocence and redemption.  A marvelous film, no one can argue about that and a film that demands repeated viewings turning up more pleasures each time.

    THE THIRD MAN (UK 1949) ***** Top 10

    Directed by Carol Reed


    Carol Reed’s Kafka-ish film shot with tilted camera and distorted images (the unforgettable chase through the steps and alleyways) has been praised by critics worldwide as one of the greatest films of all times and it is easy to see why.  A classic suspense film noir with an ill-fated romance, shot in stunning black and white cinematography by Robert Krasker and perfectly scripted by Graham Greene (who later wrote a novella based on the script) and directed by Reed.  When the film starts, the haunting music by Anton Karas is immediately recognizable as the zither music hit the international charts after the film opened. The story concerns American pulp western writer Holly Martins Joseph Cotten) arriving in Allied-occupied Vienna in seeking his childhood friend, Harry Lime who has offered him a job, to be told that Lime was killed by a car while crossing the street just days before.  He starts his own investigation only to learn that Lime (Orson Welles) is still alive and indulging in nasty activities.  Excellent performances all round only to be topped by Welles as Lime.  The key confrontation scene between Cotton and Welles only serves to prove once again Welles as one of he greatest actors ever lived.  THE THIRD MAN should be seen again and again and on the big screen in all its grandeur.

  • Mies Julie: Class, power and sex in post-Apartheid South Africa

    Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage presents, starting this week, South African-born and Montreal-based playwright Yaël Farber’s adaptation of August Strindberg’s classic play, Mies Julie. Running from May 6-10 at Harbourfront Centre’s Enwave Theatre, Mies Julie is an adaptation of the original play exploring the explosive mixture of class, power, love, lust and sex. Adding the potent elements of race and land rights, Farber transports the scene from Strindberg’s 19th century Sweden to post-Apartheid Karoo in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.

    The story takes place 18 years after the end of Apartheid, on the midsummer’s eve of the election of Nelson Mandela’s National Freedom Day. On the backdrop of a desolated farmstead’s tension-filled kitchen, Julie (played by Hilda Cronje), the daughter of a White Afrikaner landowner, John (played by Bongile Mantsai), the Black Xhosa son of her father’s servant, and Christine, Julie’s former nanny and John’s mother, all interact in thought-provoking ways.

    As World Stage artistic director Tina Rasmussen, who first saw the play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2012, recently told AfroToronto.com: “When there's a large socio-political shift, such as Perestroika or the like, the rest of the global world sort of moves on; but there remains concrete tensions and hangovers. The affected societies grapple with having to reconcile, in this case with the legacy of Apartheid from within in a post-Apartheid state some 20 years later. There are undoubtedly wounds and scars. How does the society come to terms with that?”


    It is of particular significance that the farm where the action is set is built on an ancient burial ground. As Rasmussen further expounds, “the idea of legacy around ancestral burial rights informs a broader global debate about the rights of first nations people -- be in is South Africa, Australia or Canada.” During the play John and Julie confront each other on that thorny topic. They argue about the land’s proprietorship given the fact that both of their Boer and Xhosa ancestors are buried there.

    In addition, much like the sexual dynamics underlying the class, power, and gender relationships in the original Strindberg version, Yaël Farber’s Mies Julie tackles the interracial underpinnings in Julie and John’s tempestuous relationship. How does John come to terms with confronting the generations of attacks against his blackness and manhood? How does he react to Julie and what she represents? How do they each fit both individually and in relation to each other in a post-Apartheid world?

    In order to further explore those themes, the Harbourfront Center will hold pre and post-show talks featuring the playwright, artists as well as academics from the University of Toronto (Denise Cruz and Alan Ackerman) and York University (Marcia Blumberg). The guests will offer their perspectives on Strindberg’s message, the ideology behind the play, the current relevant context, and examine South African theater in general. The post-performance talkshow will take place on Wednesday, May 7th and the pre-show event is scheduled for Thursday, May 8 (admission is free with the purchase of a ticket to Mies Julie).

    Earning rave reviews, the play has been touring in over 100 venues around the world. As part of the work’s first Canadian representations, it arrives in Toronto following shows in both Vancouver and Montreal.

    Tickets for Mies Julie and other World Stage 2014 productions are available via Harbourfront Centre’s Box Office. Patrons can call 416-973-4000, visit 235 Queens Quay West and/or go online for all ticket inquiries.

  • This Week's Film Reviews (May 2, 2014)


    Big film opening Easter is SPIDERMAN 2. 

    Two festivals are also underway in Toronto – The Toronto Jewish Film Festival and Hot Docs.



    Directed by Marc Webb


    Reboot of SPIDEY number two looks like it needs a reboot.  Not that audiences need another one, but this one is bad and falls into the same trap of action hero films sinking into over seriousness.

    It is odd that SPIDER-MAN 2 is all over the place.  It is directed by the director Marc Webb of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and (500) DAYS OF SUMMER, both excellent films and written by the writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci of the TRANSFORMER films – though they cannot resist putting a stunted transformer villain at the film’s end.

    The film begins with Peter Parker’s father, Richard Parker (Campbell Scott) and mother (Embeth Davidtz) leaving the boy while taking a plane to their new life. This turns out to be an action packed sequence which includes a plane crash in mid-air only to be followed by Spidey (Andrew Garfield) saving a hijacked truck carrying plutonium and catching hundreds of vials before they hit the ground and exploding.  Why plutonium?  It has actually nothing to do with the story and caching the hundreds of vials only makes Spidey look silly and too invulnerable.  Then the film moves into mushy sentimental mode.  Spidey’s girl, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) giving a Valedictorian speech (yes, about life and how human beings should be)before he rejects her due to a previous promise he made to her dad.  I cannot break that promise, he tells her.  Yes, he does before the middle of the film.

    British actor Andrew Garfield makes a good younger Spider-Man, likely to attract younger audiences.  Sally Field, as Aunt May looks as if she is begging for another Oscar.  Thee is one scene in the film when the power of the hospital comes back on, when she tells everyone to go back to work (obviously a parody of NORMA RAE where she gives instruction to her factory workers to stop working.)

    This film is allover the place, switches modes and cannot decide to settle on an single one.  There are too many villains, the main ones being Green Goblin (Max DeHaan) and Electro (Jamie Foxx) and at 140 minutes running time, it does not know when to end.  It eventually ends with Spidey’s return thanks to a little boy donning a Spider-man costume (hive me a break!) before the screen goes black, only to indicate that ideas have run out. While the first reboot, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN can be divided into three parts – Parker getting his spider powers; learning to harness them; falling into romance and getting the villain, this sequel cannot be categorized into any definable parts.  Part of the story form the first film (loss of the father and uncle) even spills into this film.

    As far as special effects go, Spidey flies around too much and appears more super than Superman.  The most exciting special effects sequence comes at the film’s start and the film never tops that.  Director Webb also seems to be contently reminding the audience that the film is in 3D as objects are continually flung out of the screen from start to finish.

    THE AMAZNG SPIDER-MAN 3 is already into production  and one knows that at least hat cannot be as disappointing as this one.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbp3Ra3Yp74

    CINCO DE MAYO: THE BATTLE (Mexico 2013) **

    Directed by Rafa Lara


                Cinco de Mayo of the film title means the 5th of May, the fateful date of

    Mexico's Battle of Puebla, the most important battle in Mexico's history.  When the French army invades Mexico to set up a monarchy, General Ignacio Zaragoza played by Kuno Becker (Goal!, From Prada to Nada), must defend the city of Puebla, commanding a poorly armed and outnumbered troop of men.  Meanwhile, two young Mexican lovers manage to find love amidst the chaos of war.

                As the film is a Mexican production of a historical battle Mexico is proud of, director Rafa Lara goes all overboard with praising the Mexicans in their fighting efforts.  General Ignacio is depicted as a selfless hero who goes immediately into battle despite his wife’s recent death of pneumonia. Every person from army officer to doctor to peasant goes their all out for their country.  The French invaders are meanwhile shown as ruthless dogs.

                The film has been touted as Mexico’s largest production.  From the logistics  - battles, uniforms, props etc. – it is obviously so, but the battle scenes are all over the place.  It is difficult to see which side is winning (except by looking at the uniforms) and whatever strategy each side takes is lost in screen translation.  What finally emerges on screen, is noise, noise and more noise.

                To make matters worse, the film narrows down on the romance of an army deserter (who finally comes to his senses) and a village girl.  This subplot looks totally silly and out of context in the wide scheme of this war film. 

                Running at 2 hours, CINCO DE MAYO is a pitiful waste of good money.  Loyal Mexicans might enjoy it for all that it’s worth.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MI5H6oNDG8Q


    Best Bets of the Week:

             American Hustle              

         The Grand Budapest Hotel

               Like Father, Like Son

    Best Family: Bears

    Best Doc: The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden

    Best Foreign: Like Father, Like Son

    Best Animation: The Lego Movie

  • This Week's Film Reviews (Apr 25, 2014)

    Openings include THE QUIET ONES, THE OTHER WOMAN and BRICK MANSIONS, a horror, actioner and comedy for all tastes.

    otherwomanposterba brickmansionsposterba


    BLUE RUIN (USA 2013) ***

    Directed by Jeremy Saulnier


    Director Saulnier returns to the director’s chair after the unheard of horror comedy MURDER PARTY with an impressive grisly violent survival slasher BLUE RUIN, the title derived from the rusty old blue car the protagonist, a vagrant lives in at the start of the film.

    Dwight (Macon Blair) is forced to protect himself and his sister after a double murderer involved with killing his parents is released from prison.  He cleans up his act as well as his physical appearance and the killings begin.

    What distinguishes BLUE RUIN from the run of the mill slasher film is director Saulnier’s use of a strong narrative to drive his film.  Saulnier reveals only enough of the plot to keep the audience in the know, while always piquing the audience’s interest.  This is aided by a nuanced performance by Blair who develops a strong characterization for Dwight.  Suspense and drama are well blended in this otherwise satisfying horror thriller (the audience feels for the poor protagonist) that should keep fans at the end of their seats.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8MHgTAJQCI 

    BRICK MANSIONS (France/Canada 2014) ***

    Directed by Camille Delaware


    A remake of the French film DISTRICT 13, Luc Bison’s print is all over this actioner that he also co-wrote.  Stylized action set in a futuristic (in this case dystopian) environment; BRICK MANSIONS is fights from start to finish.

    The film is reset in Detroit, where abandoned brick mansions left from better times now house only the most dangerous criminals. Unable to control the crime, the police have now constructed a colossal containment wall around this area to protect the rest of the city (the BANLIEU 13 in the original film.) For undercover cop Damien Collier (the late Paul Walker) every day is a battle against corruption. For Lino (David Belle), every day is a fight to live an honest life.  Their paths cross for the first time when drug kingpin, Tremaine (RZA) kidnaps Lino’s girlfriend, Damien reluctantly accepts the help of the fearless ex-convict, and together they must stop a sinister plot to devastate the entire city.

    The film features the physical training discipline called Parkour of which actor David Belle is a co-founder.  As expected, the action segments are crisp and excitingly shot.

    It helps too that there is no black and white in the bad and good guys, except perhaps for the major of Detroit.  Tremaine and Lino have a good side while the stubborn side of Damien is also illustrated at the end of the film.

    Except for the ridiculous looking rocket, the look and atmosphere of the dystopian future appear realistic enough.

    This guilty entertainment piece serves as a good enough tribute for the late Paul Walker (THE FAST AND FURIOUS movies) who died last November in a car crash.

    Trailer:  http://radioalice.cbslocal.com/2014/04/24/watch-the-trailer-for-brick-mansions/ 

    A FIGHTING MAN (Canada 2013) **
    Directed by Damian Lee


                This apparent fight pic begins with an initial round of a match in which the two fighters have already beaten each other to a bloody pulp.  Writer/director Damian Lee then takes his audience into a full ten rounds intercutting with flashbacks telling the story behind the two fighters.

                The older fighter is Sailor (Dominic Purcell) fighting for his demons that include his mother (Sheila McCarthy) dying of cancer and a family tragedy involving his wife (Famke Janssen).  The younger, King Solomon (Izaac Smith) needs the winning cash for his upcoming baby with his girl (Jenessa Grant).  So, it is redemption vs. hope in the bout.  Who will win?  The answer is given away early in the film when the money Sailor is offered for losing is sufficient to take his dying mother to Ireland for the last time.

                So, the result of fight match, though executed with all its bloodiness turns out not to be that important.  Lee emphasizes all the drama of the two stories to great unbelievability.  As if the odds against Sailor are not enough, the script puts in a nasty promoter (Adam Beach) and a priest (Kim Coates) as well.  And King has a crack head mother and a past that made him give up fighting before (not given much more detail in the film.)

                A FIGHTING MAN is more a drama than a boxing film, so action fans beware.  But the drama is too far-fetched and clichéd for any effect.  But one has to hand it for the actors that try very hard to overcome the shortcomings of the script.

    Trailer:  http://themoviebox.net/4613


    Directed by Jim Jarmusch

    "only lovers left alive"

    In Jarmusch’s vampire saga, the audience s led to believe that blood comes from supplies that can be bought.  So, there is no need for the vampire lovers, Adam and Eve (Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston) to go hunting down victims to suck blood of.  Or so, the audience is led to believe.

    There is not much story in Jarmusch’s film.  When the film opens Eve is in Tangiers and Adam is in Detroit. Each doing their own thing.  Adam is a reclusive and disrunted musician of some fame who has taken a human, Ian (Anton Yelchin) under his wing.  Eve’s younger sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska), arrives from L.A. and shatters the couple's idyllic seclusion. After a night out at a local club, Ava kills Ian, draining him of blood.

    The script offers no explanation of how these vampires come about or how he two lovers have survived the present time.  Jarmusch’s film also moves at a snail’s pace, until her cousin appears when things begin to pick up.

    Jarmusch’s film is very visual (as stated by Swinton in one  comical segment) and that is the one saving grace of the film.  Tangiers never looked so stunning at night.  Otherwise, the audience is groping in the dark as much as the vampires are looking for the good stuff to drink of.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jNkNOlHiCE

    THE OTHER WOMAN (USA 2014) **

    Directed by Nick Cassevetes


    THE OTHER WOMAN plays like the typical chick flick movie in which females get heir own back on the evil male that has wronged them. The film bears a lot of resemblance to NONE TO FIVE where Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin tie up and beat up their boss Dabney Coleman.

    The three actresses on display here are Cameron Diaz, model Kate Upton and Leslie Mann, the first two playing the latter husband’s mistresses,  Carly and Amber respectively.  Each of the three could be termed THE OTHER WOMAN while the cheating husband, mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Danish hunk from OBLIVION) gets what he deserves.  The trouble is that actor Nicolaj is so good-looking and charming, he also casts a spell on the female audience, which makes it quite hard to take seeing him punished.

    The film could be roughly be divided into three parts.  The first and most effectively funny involves the bonding of Mann, the wife, Kate and Diaz, the first mistress.  It takes quite a bit of work to have the audience believe that two women vying for the same man would bond and work together.   The third comes in smoothly enough in a beach scene which is the film’s funniest moment.

    The soundtrack is made up of top 40 tunes also include Lalo Schifrin’s MISSION IMPOSSIBLE theme, which unfortunately highlights the difficulty of making a good original comedy o a well worn theme.

    The wide screen works well at times, as in the beach segment where the two meet their new other woman.  But in the confrontation scene in which the husband enters the boardroom to find himself face to face with his three women, the scene would be better done in a more claustrophobic tone.

    The script’s (by Melissa Stack) revenge plot is not convincing.  The way the three women steal all the money leaving him penniless is quite implausible.  That could be the reason that it opted for a tasteless ‘poop in the pants’ revenge plot earlier on in the film.

    As can be expected in all chick flicks, the males all exist as chauvinist, brainless or mere sex objects.  Mark’s character is a womanizing user with no redeeming qualities except for his sexual prowess.  The role of Kate’s brother Phil (Taylor Kinney) is n better written.  He is another sex object that exist only to provide certain pleasures for the ladies such as designing the perfect beach room for Carly.

    As far as acting goes, Leslie Mann steals every scene from Diaz who manages to stand on her own feet only during the second half of the film.  Upton only needs to look great and the script, at least that plays that best to her advantage.

    For a comedy, THE OTHER WOMAN contains enough laugh-out loud moments but there are still too many scenes dragged out.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hUCj9ULig0

    THE RAILWAY MAN (UK/Austraila 2013) ****
    Directed by Jonathan Tepitsky


                Love and redemption and the Bridge on The River Kwai!  Not the David lean epic but no less quite the dramatic piece in comparison.

    THE RAILWAY MAN is Eric Lomax (Colin Firth), an engineer captured during WWII Surrender of Singapore to the Japanese.  Eric and other English prisoners-of-war s were forced labour in the construction of the railway.  When Lomax was discovered by the Japs making a radio, he was tortured almost to the point of death.  While recovering and living in England, he is forced to face the demons and hunt down the war criminal that brought him harm.

    THE RAILWAY MAN is a beautifully constructed both narrative wise and in camerawork.   Though obviously not shot in Singapore, the detail in the colour and outline of the terrain looks as if shot there.  The torture contraptions constructed in the film look just alike the ones seen in books on the Japanese Occupation in Singapore during WWII.  Firth is again as marvelous as the troubled soldier and lover.  A film that delves into the aftermath of war effectively!

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbS_dYEwf2M


    Best Bets of the Week:

    1. American Hustle
    2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
    3. Like Father, Like Son

    Best Family: Bears

    Best Doc: The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden

    Best Foreign: Like Father, Like Son

    Best Animation: The Lego Movie

  • Hot Docs Film Festival 2014 Toronto


    HOT DOCS 2014 – Toronto


    The 2014 Hot Docs Festival, April 24 to May 4, will feature 197 official selections from 43 countries, and will open with the international premiere of Brian Knappenberger’s The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story Of Aaron Swartz.

    Find films online, or download a printable version of this year’s screening schedule.

    Hot Docs tickets, packages, passes, can be purchased online, by phone at 416.637.5150, or in person at the Hot Docs documentary Box Office, newly located at 2 Bloor Street West (Cumberland Terrace – Lower Level).

    For more information on this year’s Festival, visit www.hotdocs.ca.

    Mr. Busy managed to catch only 4 documentaries, as just returned from vacation.  Capsule Reviews follow, hope these will help your picks.


    AI WEIWEI: THE FAKE CASE (Denmark 2013) **

    Directed by Andreas Johnsen


    This is the sequel to the documentary AI WEIWEI hat opened the HOT DOCs festival a few years back.  It begins where the last one ends when the Chinese artist is kidnapped by the Government and released after 81 days for the made-up accusation of tax evasion.  Johnsen’s tracks Weiwei’s life that follows his release that includes his art and his followers that support him all the way. The government monitors his every move and confiscates his passport but he refuses to be intimidated or portrayed in any way except by his own hand and voice. He firmly believes that “to show you’re alive, you have to speak out” and slowly regains his confidence by finding novel ways to irritate the authorities despite the restrictions of his parole. He assembles a sculpture based on his imprisonment and smuggles it out of the country.  There is nothing depicted in this film the world does not really know of the Chinese government.  The film runs out of material very fast.  Though the audience will clearly sympathize with Weise’s plight, all can be said in about 30 minutes if film.

    DIVIDE IN CONCORD (USA 2014) ****

    Directed by Kris Kaczar


    DIVIDE IN CONCORD documents champion 80 over year old Jean Hill trying to pass the city of Concord’s new bill of banning bottled water.  She is deeply concerned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—the world’s largest landfill. She spends her golden years attending city council meetings and cold-calling residents. She has failed in 2010 and 2011.  But she never gives up.  Her fiercest challenge comes from Adriana Cohen, mother, model and celebrity publicist-turned-pundit, who insists the bill, is an attack on freedom.  The film also highlights the same town that incited the American Revolution and inspired Thoreau’s environmental movement, can one little old lady make history?   Kaczar’s film is, a expected, on Jean’s side as can be observed in the film’s manipulation of events.  Jean always has the last say and the arguments to her favor are shown at the end.   Adriana is depicted as a rich, conglomerate manipulated individual who has no concern about the planet.  Three is an excellent climax at the film’s end where the end vote to the bill is counted.  A feel good, well-intentioned and well made film in which the good prevail.

    DOC OF THE DEAD (USA 2013) ***

    Directed by Alexandre Philippe


    Everything you always wanted to know about zombies but never knew what to ask!  DOC OF THE DEAD is the definitive documentary about zombies from its origin (the first movie was WHITE ZOMBIE) to its roots in black slavery to its re-invention through George A. Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD movies.  There are lots of interviews taken from venues from comicon and zombie conventions that include zombie celebrities like Romero himself, Sid Haig, director Alex Cox, Simon Clegg (director of  SHAUN OF THE DEAD) and other notables.  The film also records various zombie walks around the world and talks to organization selling zombie survival kits.  This is not that far-fetched an idea after diseases like mad-cow and mad-human disease have become widespread.  Philippe’s film is quite exhaustive in dealing with its topic.  One cannot complain.  But the film is truly dedicated to zombie fans all round the world.  If you are not one of them, you would find the entire exercise very strange though still fascinating.  I could do with a lot more footage of zombie films though.

    THE SHEIK (USA 2013) ***

    Directed by Igal Hecht


    There have been documentaries made of powerful and famous men.  But director Igan Hecht’s subject is a common brawny not too bright wrestler known as the Iron Sheik.  The film traces his rise to fall to rise to fame in a film that sees a man put through the test of the temptations resulting from fame and fortune.  Iran’s Khosrow Vaziri became the World Wrestling Federation’s Iron Sheik and “camel-clutched” his way to fame in the 1980’s, he achieved the American Dream by personifying a foreign villain. Losing his world championship belt to Hulk Hogan became a defining moment in professional wrestling.   The death of one of his daughters drove him to a spiral of self destruction.  But with the help of Toronto’s Magen brothers, the Sheik begins a road to redemption and renewed status as a public figure.   Hecht creates a character on film that is larger and more important than in real life.  Finally the audience is given an important lesson on life in the guise of a story of a famous wrestler.


    UKRAINE IS NOT A BROTHEL (Ukraine/Australia 2013) **

    Directed by Kitty Green


    Australian Kitty Green’s documentary initially appears to be an exploration of Ukraine’s nouveau-feminist group Femen.  Ukraine is, in fact, the world’s brothel and serves as the center of sex tourism and supplies a steady stream of women to the international sex trade.  All that put’s Femen’s rather attention grabbing, topless protests into some context.  Sensational as the visuals may be, Femen has a point.  But as the film progresses, it is revealed that a couple of the girls are strippers and that the group is masterminded by a man named Victor, the self proclaimed “patriarch of the new feminism.”  Then he admits that he maybe came up with the idea of Femen to get laid.  The girls turn out on camera to be not too bright so that the entire exercise seems fruitless.  If this is director Green’s purpose, it is not obvious to her audience.  The film comes across as disorganized and purposeless as the Femen group.





  • This week's Film Reviews (Easter Apr 14, 2014)

    Big film opening Easter is SPIDERMAN 2. That is if you live in London.  North Americans have till wait till May 8th.

    Easter openings here include Disneynature’s BEARS and the thriller TRANSCENDENCE.


    BEARS (USA 2014) ***1/2

    Directed by Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey


    BEARS is one of the better Disneynature features compared to EARTH, AFRICAN CATS and CHIMPANZEE.  BEARS contains a stronger narrative and engages its audience to the difficult plight of a mother bear with the survival burden of caring or her two less than one-year old cubs.

    To engage the audience further, the narrator (who else would do a better job tan the bearish John C. Reilly?) gives the bear names.  Mother is called Sky and her cubs are Scout and Amber. They are seen from birth breast-feeding till they are able to walk.  The film begins after the winter hibernation when the bears are forced to leave their den to look for food.  The mother, in particular has to both feed herself so that she has enough milk for the next winter to feed her cubs as well a protect them from predators that include other bears and wolves.

    The film takes the audience one full seasonal circle from one winter to the next.  The narration informs that only half of bear cubs survive but one knows that both Scout and Amber will, though there will be lots of danger with thrills and suspense provided in this otherwise harsh nature family entertainment.

    For a nature film, one always cringes during the killing scenes when animals take they prey.  Fortunately, there are none in this film.  The only scary scene is Sky fighting off another stronger bear to protect her cubs.  The only victims here are the poor salmon who swim large distances upstream to spawn only to find the bears waiting at the golden pond to eat them up.  Such is the harshness of nature.

    One must give credit to the tireless cameramen (shown during the end credits) who film the animals and put the story together.  It is all nice and easy for filmmakers to make the kind of films they want like adult dramas and horror flicks.  But it takes dedication and sacrifice to make nature movies of this kind.  Hats off to the Disney team and to directors Fitherill an Scholey.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJYTEOkmKiI

    HEAVEN IS FOR REAL (USA 2014) **

    Directed by Randall Wallace


    HEAVEN IS FOR REAL deals with a small-town father and pastor, Todd (Greg Kinnear) whose young son tells of visiting heaven during a near death experience.  This brings out the wrath of unbelievers that include members of his congregation.  But this is a religious Christian film because of Todd’s vocation.  The film is based on a true story and on the best seller of the same name.

    As far as Christian films go, the film holds fast to the faith.  God’s glory can be witnessed in many parts of the film.  It is sometimes too obvious as the camera pans the colors of the town’s crops or when Todd opens a garage door to reveal again the glories of God’s creation.

    Religion or Christianity aside, director’s Wallace’s film is monotonously paced and offers nothing new that is not already seen in the film’s trailer.  The film gets boring pretty fast without any action, heightened drama or evil villains.  The poverty and the hardship of the townsfolk are mentioned at the film’s start but the script never goes anywhere with it.

    The one plus thing about the film is Emmy Award and Oscar nominee Greg Linear in the main role.  He jumps into his role with he fervor of a minister ready to spread the Word of God.

    For a Christian film, there is one extremely graphic scene in which Todd injures his leg during a baseball game.

    But the target market of Christians should help HEAVEN IS FOR REAL make a decent buck at the box-office.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mydh4MEo2B0 

    HOLD FAST (Canada 2012) ***
    Directed by Justin Simms


                HOLD FAST is the plight of two14-year olds as they flee an adult world to try to survive in the wilderness.  It is a coming-of-age story which deals with many current adolescent issues.  A family film, suitable for the holiday Easter season, the film does not contain swearing, violence or any other nastiness.  The result too, is a film that should have more drama or impact, but there are many other plusses that can be discovered in this well-intentioned film.

                Michael (Avery Ash), 14, lives in a fishing village in Newfoundland but his world turns upside down when his parents are killed in a car accident. He's sent to live in a city, where he constantly gets into trouble at school and at home, with his strict Uncle Ted.

    After another fight at school, Michael decides not to stay where he's not wanted. His timid cousin Curtis (Douglas Sullivan) begs Michael to let him come with him and together they set off on a quest into the Newfoundland wilderness for freedom and belonging, determined to prove they can survive on their own.

                Issues dealt with in this film include bullying, buddying, survival, loss (death) and first love.  Though each of these is not covered in great detail, they are touched long enough to make an effect.  Sullivan and Ash deliver winning performances as the two on the run.

                A big plus of the movie is the stunning scenery captured on film.  This is one film that should be used to promote tourism in Labrador, Newfoundland.  From the rugged cliffs, to the sea to the meadows, Canada never looked more inviting.

                Made in 2012, HOLD FAST took a while to get general release.  HOLD FAST is entertaining good old fashioned Canadian fodder.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4pcVZHCQDs



    Directed by Rudy Barichello


    The young poet of the film title is an aspirin writer, Paul Susser (Vincent Hoss-Desmarais) who has several meetings with his Master and great author, Samuel Beckett (Stephen McHattie).  Paul also meets Lucia (Maria de Medeiros), a diva actress who needs Paul’s permission to play Krapp, Beckett’s most autobiographical male character.

    As the film progresses, Beckett denounces Paul’s writings.  Lucia sleeps with Paul to secure permission.  The reason Paul obtained Beckett’s legacy is also explained in the film.

    This is a complex fictitious story that involves three main characters, all of whom are not very nice people.  Each uses another for personal gain or for evil pleasure.  The film is thus not easy to like, though director Barichello goes about his duties as if he does not care.  Lucia comes across as a stuck-up diva who is not as talented or pretty as she thinks she is.  Beckett is a pompous ass and Paul has no backbone.

    At least the film’s message is not drummed into the audience’s heads.  As each character goes about his or her path, fate eventually comes up on top.

    MEETINGS WITH A YOUNG POET meanders around a lot while not coming to any conclusion.  If one is ok with that, the film can come across as a neat essay on eccentric writers and their muses.

    Trailer:  http://www.cinemamontreal.com/trailers/197366/Meetings_with_a_Young_Poet.html


     STRESS POSITION (Canada 2013) *1/2

    Directed by A.J. Bond


    Two friends make a bet of $10,000 to see who can stand a week of psychological suffering in the hands of each other.  Dave (David Amito) goes first as the victim and director A.J. Bond who plays himself goes next.

    The tortures, both emotional and physical (with references to Guantanamo Bay) include not being able to go to the toilet, being tied up, seeing their closed ones suffering, drawing blood and even tickling.  All these are shot on film by the torturer.

    It must always be remembered that this is not a documentary or a reality show though played out most times as one.  Everything is staged here as obvious from certain scenes like the one in which David breaks down in front of the camera. The question emerges as who is the worst torturer or worst human being?  It is a hard contest.  The film’s first half has A.J. the torturer and Dave the victim and the second quarter with the roles reversed.

    A low budget film with a minimum of players, the film has the occasional 70’s sci-fi look with its sparse and white sets and characters going around in white uniforms.

    One wonders what the aim of the filmmakers is in the making of the film.  There is no clear message or comedy or real drama.  Is it to see how far the human endurance can take?  The movie turns out less and less interesting though at one self-conscious point in the film, A.J. promises to make the events more interesting.  It is obvious that Dave and A.J. are not the only ones tortured here.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzfsR6IfuB4


    Directed by Mike Clattenburg


    The third and most serious of the Trailer Park Boys films based on the TV comedy drama series sees one again the trio getting out of one trouble and into another.

    The story follows Ricky (Robb Wells), Julian (Jon Paul Tremblay) and Bubbles (Mike Smith) attempt a series of money making schemes after being released from prison, but are again pursued by former Sunnyvale Trailer Park supervisor Jim Lahey (John Dunsworth).

    There is more road trip as the boys take to travelling down the road than actual trailer park living.  Of course, the boys do the politically incorrect thing, like driving under the influence.  After making several wrong turns, they finally reach their destination only to be robbed.

    The novelty of the Trailer Park Boys has worn thin and the laughs are no longer fresh or hilarious.  It can be observed how laborious it is to keep the film afloat.  But one thing the film does have is an accuracy of the lives of these white trailer trash material.  Selling untainted piss to drug addicts that need clean ones for their medical tests is a novel idea and one might be surprised that there is such a business going on.  This slice of Canadiana is effectively portrayed and is the one good point of the movie.

    Trailer:  http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=39e_1367445205

    TRANSCENDENCE (USA/UK/China 2014) **

    Directed by Wally Pfister


    Oscar winning Cinematographer of INCEPTION, Wally Pfister delivers his debut directorial feature in the form of a sci-fi suspense thriller that looks good on screen but lacks the punch of a good shocker.   INCEPTION’s director Christopher Nolan serves as executive producer for the film.

    Though the lead character in the film appears to be Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp), who strives to create the perfect Artificial Intelligence machine, his wife and collaborator, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) has more to do and say that affects the plot.  The story clumsily begins with a bewildered Max Waters (Paul Bettany), a friend who wonders about before the film flashes back 5 years before to explain what has occurred.

    Dr. Caster has been shot and to save himself, he downloads his mind to the computer acquiring power and making him unstoppable.  Then the rebels appear to stop him and to prevent the world from been at the mercy of such a super being.  The question is whether one can trust Dr. Caster.  But then, a precedence should not be set.

    As far as the film goes, it is all okay as the plot initially unfolds.  It gets too talky in the middle with the suspense/thriller element totally thrown to the dogs.  The third half of the film turns silly, with the rebels trying to save the world and a lot of guns and explosions going off.

    Johnny Depp looks totally out of it and only Cillian Murphy a the FBI agent seems to take things seriously.  But it is actually Rebecca Hall’s show here and she performs her acting tasks satisfactorily.

    The film’s cinematography (by Jess Hall) appears to be the only reason to see it on the IMAX screens.  But during the one I attended, the far and medium shots were blurry and the end credits were jumpy, indicating that the projectionist should have got all the equipment properly calibrated.  After all, IMAX screenings boast the best in focus and projection in both sight and sound.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3Sd7J-_3Ho


    Best Bets of the Week:

    $11.             American Hustle

    $12.             The Grand Budapest Hotel

    $13.             Like Father, Like Son

    Best Family: Bears

    Best Doc: The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden

    Best Foreign: Like Father, Like Son

    Best Animation: The Lego Movie

  • Krip-Hop: Bringing Da’ Noize to Toronto

    “If you can’t see us, then you don’t know. If it bothers you to see us then close your eyes and just experience the music. We want it to be about the art, about the music and what’s manifesting through each artist.”

    - Rob Da’ Noize Temple

    The 11th Annual Tangled Arts Festival will showcase tomorrow, April 12, the Krip-Hop Nation: Toronto event featuring hip-hop artists with disabilities. The show will be Canada’s first introduction to a growing movement of disabled hip-hop artists that is building a worldwide following. “People are learning about krip-hop. We have chapters all over the world, we have chapters in the UK, Germany, South Africa, Chile and so on,” as Rob Da’ Noize Temple, one of the event’s performers, told AfroToronto.com.

    In addition to New York-based musician, producer and performer Rob Da’ Noize, Krip-Hop Nation: Toronto will also headline and be hosted by Berkeley, California native and Krip-Hop Nation founder, Leroy F. Moore Jr. Also performing will be Cleveland Heights alternative punk-hop act Kounterclockwise. Samplings of all the performers’ music can be heard here.

    These artists are at the forefront of the krip-hop movement, which comprises of a collaborative network and community of artists from around the world. “The hallmark of branding and marketing is to be the first in your category. So we’re now pretty much the first in our category; so it’s new. People may chuckle at the idea of it, but those chuckles turn into awareness,” says Rob Da’ Noize Temple.

    Rob Da’ Noize Temple looks forward to coming back to Toronto. He’s been to the city a few times before as a performer with the group Rapper’s Delight, composed of the original members of The Sugar Hill Gang: Wonder Mike and Master Gee.

    Art Across Genres and Nationalities

    Given the common experiences of discrimination and exclusion, as a result of their disabilities, the krip-hop movement holds no barriers of race, colour, ethnicity or art form. While both Leroy Moore Jr and Rob Da’ Noize Temple have been active together in the African-American community’s arts and culture scenes (such as in poetry and theatre), they refuse to allow themselves and their art form to be pigeonholed or defined by their disability, race, or nationality. “There’s nothing really black or white about it because we have Jewish artists, Italian artists and whether they’re black or white we’re just bringing them into the music,” Temple said.

    As Temple further explains: “Krip-hop artists express their talents through their music and their art form; whether it be graffiti, whether it be hip-hop, break dancing, or what have you. We have artists that do that as well. So it’s about the culture of hip-hop within hip hop’s sub-genre. So we’re trying to fit within a zone but not look at that zone as our only way of expression. We’re trying to be ageless, colourless, sexless, and just let it be about the art. Let it be about the music.”

    The Growing Voice of Disabled Artists

    The son of a Juilliard School-trained mother, Rod Da’ Noize Temple has grown up around music. He began playing keyboards and the age of six and, over his 40-year career, has worked with top industry people like musician and hit producer George Kerr, as well as produced and arranged music for major labels and movie productions such as Beverly Hills Cop III. He was also the first artist signed with Jive Records.

    His cerebral palsy hasn’t stopped him from approaching his career in the music industry on the same playing field as any other musician. As he recounts: “I never really thought about anything, I’ve just been pretty much in mainstream music. … Clients who work with me know that I’m going to bring everything I can bring to the table. And I try to surround myself with truly gifted musicians. … I think that Jive Records really truly never recognized that I was the first artist and first disabled artist outside of Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles on a major label.”

    Societal barriers and lack of awareness remain, however, toward the full recognition and appreciation of disabled artists. As Rob Da’ Noize Temple asks: “When was the last time you saw a video on TV, a love song, where the guy is singing to a girl and he rolls up in a wheel chair?”

    As the krip-hop movement expands, including through the large number of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans coming back wounded and discovering new forms of artistic expressions, hundreds of disabled artists from around the world are growing their following. They actively disseminate their work through global online communities, media exposure, word of mouth and international tours.

    “It’s a spiritual journey to me. I truly love to make music. It would be nice to make money. I mean that’s the end goal for most people but for me it’s the art itself; and what we leave behind for the next generation,” as Temple concludes.

    Event Info

    Krip-Hop Nation: Toronto

    April 12, 2014

    8:00 pm

    Oakham House

    $10 General Admission

    $5 Students/PWD

    Buy tickets

  • This week's Film Reviews (Mar 21, 2014)


    Big films opening this week are DIVERGENT, the new TWILIGHT and HUNGER GAMES hopeful and MUPPETS MOST WANTED.


    Both are expected to be hits.


    DIVERGENT (USA 2014) ****

    Directed by Neil Burger


    The most anticipated film opens this week and proves to be hit entertainment.

    This story takes place in the city of Chicago in the distant future. The city is divided into 5 factions: Abnegation, meant for the selfless; Amity, meant for the peaceful; Candor, meant for the honest; Dauntless, meant for the brave; and Erudite, meant for the knowledgeable. On a given day each year, all sixteen-year-olds take an aptitude test that will tell them for which faction they are best suited. After receiving the results of their test, they must decide whether to remain with their family or transfer to a new faction.

    At 16, Tris (Shailene Woodley) is tested DIVERGENT, which means she belongs to more than one faction.  Divergents are deemed threats to peace as they do not fit into any faction, and are hunted and eliminated by Dauntless.  Tris has to keep the secret while she opts to enter the Dauntless faction for training.

    The film goes on with her training before revealing half way through the film, a plot by Erudite to eliminate Abnegation, which was Tris’ birth faction.

    Director Burger is no stranger to the action sci-fi genre.  His LIMITLESS was a delight and THE ILLUSIONIST was mesmerizing..  Focusing on story and a strong romantic element (between Tris and her leader, Four played by Theo James), all the action is meaningful.  Ethical issues such as the price of peace are cleverly tied to the plot.  Special effects are of course present, and are kept at a minimum thus aiding credibility.  There are no meaningless action sequences or silly car chases.

    Shailene Woodley, best remembered as George Clooney’s daughter in THE DESCENDENTS fares well as the heroine, requiring her to display strength in the fighting scenes and in emotion as with the death of a loved one.  Hunky Theo James proves that he not just a pretty face or body.  Trained in London theatre, he shows great promise as a talented good looking star.  And Oscar Winner Kate Winslet offers star power as Jeannine Matthews, the female villain of the piece.

    Running at 2 hours and 20 minutes, the film covers all the material in the Veronica Roth novel.  The book was reviewed in The New York Times as rich in plot and imaginative details.  The film matches the standard.

    The plot contains all the elements that make good storytelling of film adaptation series.  Tris is in training school in preparation for some higher purpose, just as Harry Potter in the HARRY POTTER films.  She learns of her strengths just as action heroes learn how to use their super powers (e.g. SPIDER-MAN).  War games as in HUNGER GAMES exists where one must be able to fight individually as well as in groups.

    DIVERGENT cost $80 million to make.  The bar of success is $70 million in box-office for the first weekend.  On the first day of advance sales, half the tickets were sold surpassing the TWILIGHT film five times.

    Also, this paragraph contains a disclosure regarding conflict of interest.  I own $30 grand of Lionsgate stock, the company responsible for HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT.  Though it can be argued that I should not write this review as it might be deemed a conflict of interest, I do believe that my readership, though substantial will not affect the stock price of Lionsgate.  And after all, it is an excellent dystopian commercial movie.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6HHCxLZftQ

    THE LUNCHBOX (India/Fr/Germ/USA 2013) ***

    Directed by Ritesh Batra


    One of the daily routines in busy Dubai is the receiving of the dabba or lunchbox.  These boxes are prepared by wives that are delivered to their husbands at work.  The film tells the tale of a wrongly delivered box and the relationship that develops between the neglected woman, Ila (Nimrat Kaur) and the government worker, Saarjan (Irrfan Khan from last year’s THE LIFE OF PI).

    But it is hard to believe that the lunchbox delivered to the wrong recipient would continue again and again.  The problem is addressed at one point in the film when she confronts the carrier who insists that there has been no mistake in the delivery.  But this does not answer the nagging question.

    THE LUNCHBOX is neither a love story nor a film that settles the problems of the characters’ lives.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  Whatever problems still exist at the film’s end, though the characters have a clearer idea of what they are facing.  The film does, however, paint a good portrait of the hustle and bustle of the subcontinent city life.  In fact the first 10 minutes, in which the camera depicts the goings-on of the city (over-packed trains and overcrowded streets) is quite like Alfred Hitchcock’s NORTH BY NORTHWEST where Hitchcock shows the craziness of an advertising executive’s life in the New York.

    The relationship between the accountant and his understudy turns out to be more interesting that that of the man and the woman who makes the lunchbox.  It is easy to see why as the two men interact whereas the man and woman do not.  But the two stories come together at the end when the understudy guesses that the girl in his supervisor’s life is the one that cooks his lunch meals.

    THE LUNCHBOX is entertaining as an observation piece – of both of how relationships work (or fail).  Though THE LUNCHBOX has a look similar to SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, there is no fairy tale ending.  But the film won the viewers’ choice award at the Cannes Critics’ Week.

    And just incidentally, in Britain, what Saarjan receives is not called a lunchbox but a tiffin carrier.

    Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKggd5rAdYc


    Directed by James Babin


    MUPPEST MOST WANTED is the sequel to the reboot of THE MUPPET MOVIE , that being Disney’s THE MUPPETS which made a ton at the box-office that I hated.  Thankfully, this film beats a lot of odds in the sequel being better than the original.

    The plot has The Muppets hiring a manager in the form of the number 2 biggest crook in the world, Dominic played by Ricky Gervais.  He has teamed up with Number One, Constantine, a Kermit look alike who has just escaped from The Gulag in Siberia.  Kermit is kidnapped and replaced with Constantine.  The Muppets, unaware of the switch, tour Europe while Number 1 and 2 rob buildings next to the performance venues.  Humour is also provided by Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) working with Muppet character Bald Eagle in solving the case together caustically and then amicably.

    The film stays true to the success of its roots.  The film contains plenty of silly puns, musical numbers (including the outrageous Gulag Follies) and lots of star cameos – all of which made The Muppets TV series addictive to watch week after week, even by adult audiences.  The Kermit Piggy romance is still there, with a wedding as a clever plot twist.  And all the favorite Muppet characters get to do their famous acts like the Swedish Chef, Gonzo the Great, Animal and of course, Fuzzie Bear.

    The actors in MUPPETS MOST WANTED are a 100% improvement over the last film.  For one, they replaced my two most unfunny, obnoxious comedians (Jack Black, and Ken Jeong) in cameos in the last film with the funniest (but still obnoxious hilarious as a Golden Globe Awards host) as the main lead in the film.  Whereas Disney’s THE MUPPETS only had a limited number of guests like Chris Cooper and Amy Adams, MUPPETS MOST WANTED has a slew lot more that incudes Sean “Diddy” Combs, Salma Hayek, Lady Gaga, Danny Trejo (with the best cameo joke in the film) and Christophe Waltz as themselves while others like Celine Dion, Ray Liotta and Stanly Tucci, just to mention a few, play pop up characters.

    But what works is that this film has taken the MUPPET series to a new success level.  While Disney’s THE MUPPETS was basically one stretched out TV Muppets episode disguised as the Muppets Telethon which turned out boring (I rated this film 2 stars), this one is multiple episodes set in different countries with different stars (Christophe Waltz, yes doing the waltz in Germany, Salma Hayek dodging bulls in Spain etc.).

    The film also parodies lots of escape films from THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION to every other escape movie including THE SOUND OF MUSIC.  My favorite is the prison escape sequence where the convicts escape during their musical performance and when the warden realizes this during the scene curtain call, just as the Von Trapp family escapes during their performance.  But the last scene in which the Muppets, one by one shout out; ’Take me too (back to the Gulag)’ could and should have been made into a parody than left as a clichéd ending.

    MUPPETS MOST WANTED are up to the box-office test opening the same week as the much anticipated DIVERGENT, the next HUNGER GAMES hopeful.  Though both films stand a good chance as they target different audiences, it would be a good close fight for the number one spot.

    Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUMVmK6tPac

    NYMPH()MANIAC (Denmark 2013)  ***
    Directed by Lars Von Trier


                A bit of background is needed before watching NYMPH()MANIAC or reading the review.  The film is screened in two 2-hour parts, Volume 1 and Volume 2 and is the abridged, cut version of Von Trier’s original opus.  The only time the five and a half version was shown was at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival.  All over the world, which includes North America, audiences will have to pay and watch individual films as Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.  But both parts were screened together for press and both parts will be released (at least in Toronto and most of Canada) together.  But both parts should be seen, not too far apart from each other, so that the film makes sense (at least in Von Trier’s way of making sense) and that each part will remain fresh in memory.  Vol. 1 opens in the U.S. only an Vol. 2 later in a few weeks.  But the review will be an aggregate of both volumes.

    NYMPH()MANIAC is the third and final entry of Von Trier’s ‘Depression Trilogy’ the other two being ANTICHRIST and MELANCHOLIA.  But the stories of each film are independent of each other.

    The almost soft pornography tells of a woman's erotic journey from birth to the age of 50 as told by the main character, the self-diagnosed nymphomaniac, Joe (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg and in her earlier years by Stacy Martin).  It all begins on a cold winter's evening, when an old, charming bachelor Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) finds Joe beaten up in an alleyway.  He brings her home to his flat where he tends to her wounds while asking her about her life.  She tells of her erotic life in the film’s 8 chapters (Vol.1 containing the first 5 and a half).  Seligman and Joe interact as she recovers, though caustically.

    Von Trier’s film opens with a 2-minute blank grey screen.  The camera then pans down a wall with dripping water, all of which is the set for Seligman to find the beaten Joe in the alleyway.  So, despite the abridged version, do not expect the film to move fast.

    Von Trier’s film is stylized, and filled with artistic references  (Faust, Bach) wit much to read between the lines (or images as they may be).

    But what is notable is the reason for Joe revealing all to a total stranger.  Is she hoping for redemption or perhaps a reward to her rescuer, as Seligman is revealed as an asexual character incapable of having sex with either male or female.  In one key scene, Seligman moves in to Joe with his private part showing, so perhaps Joe’s storytelling has achieved some good, though not to her advantage.  There is much to ponder on, when watching the film aided by the fact that Von Trier’s film moves at an extremely slow pace.

    Vol. 2 is the more disturbing half with segments such as a naked Joe in front of two African men with erect penises, and the one aforementioned with Seligman approaching Joe.

    But the conclusion in Vol. 2 (conclusion in the Von Trier sense) still leaves much to be explained as to what really transpired.  But, hey!  This is a Lars Von Trier film.

    Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ow0Coe8bnTk



    Best Bets of the Week:

    Best Film Opening: Divergent

    Best Films Playing: Like Father, Like Son, The Grand Budapest Hotel and American Hustle

    Best Action: Divergent

    Best Animation: The Lego Movie

    Best Documentary: The Galapagos Affair: Satan Comes to Eden

    Best Foreign: Like Father, Like Son

    Best Comedy: The Grand Budapest Hotel

  • This week's Film Reviews (Mar 14, 2014)

    Wes Anderson's new film THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is a real delight.

    Big films opening this week are NEED FOR SPEED and the new Wes Anderson comedy THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL.



    ENEMY (Canada/Spain/France2013) ****
    Directed by Denis Villeneuve


                Viilleneuve does David Lynch in ENEMY. 

                In MULHOLLAND DRIVE, Lynch’s film makes total sense the initial 75% of the film before taking off on a tangent to an illogical narrative for its last quarter.  In Villeneuve’s ENEMY, the film makes no sense from the very start.  That is the beauty of ENEMY.

                The plot (apparently based on a novel by Jose Saramago) has a successful college professor, Anthony (Jake Gyllenhaal) leading a comfortable life with his expecting wife (Susan Gadon).  A colleague recommends him a film in which he recognizes his doppelganger in it.  Compulsively, Anthony looks him up and finds him to be an unemployed actor living with his girlfriend (Melanie Laurent).

                Weird as weirdness goes, the two start about exchanging partners.  Though it gets a bit confusing trying to decipher whether the Gyllenhaal we see on the screen is the professor or actor, t all comes to place within a while.  Or does it?  Villeneuve brings his audience for quite the ride that includes a giant spider clambering the apartment wall and a secret meeting of gentlemen and prostitutes delivering spiders on a tray. 

                The film is set in Toronto as recognizable by its skyline and an early morning radio show announcing traffic problems along one of Toronto’s expressways.  But the city is shot in a grey misty atmosphere offering the notion that something is amiss in the city.

                ENEMY is the most dumbfounding film I have seen this year.  And I mean this in a good way.  Villeneuve has kept his audience glued to the screen from tart to finish trying to follow his narrative 100% only to leave everyone mind f***ed!  But he does give a warning at the start of the film with these words splashed on the screen: “Order is chaos yet un-deciphered.

    Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJuaAWrgoUY


    THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (U.K./Germany 2014) ***** Top 10

    Directed by Wes Anderson


    THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL tells the story of the hotel’s most famous concierge, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes).  It is told by storyteller meister Wes Anderson (THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX, MOONRISE KINGDOM, THE DARJEELING LIMIED, THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS) with his famous filmmaking traits such as his wide-pan tracking shots, colour, spot-on and bitingly funny dialogue and contains a whole slew of actors (Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton) that have appeared in his previous films.  THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is also his best movie.

    As in true classic storytelling a teenage girl approaches a statue in a courtyard and leaves it at the end of the film while reading a chapter in the book about the author’s visit to the hotel.  The young hotel (Jude Law) is invited in the most polite of manners for dinner with its owner, Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abrahams).  Zero (Tony Revolori), as he is known when he was a lobby boy under the charge of concierge Gustave had a whole series of adventures that started from Gustave’s great affinity to the hotel guests.

    These adventures include cat-and-mouse between Gustave, Zero and Madame D’s (Tilda Swinton) henchmen, a ski/bobsled chase, theft of a priceless painting all set during the beginning of the War, which makes great filmmaking.  Anderson’s film has chases, action, romance, period atmosphere, humor but most of all great dialogue.  The film contains so many quotables that it would be wise to bring a notebook and someone who know shorthand.

    Surprisingly, Anderson keeps the momentum paced well all throughout the film.  Surprisingly, the lack of a climax does not help the film, but the story comes full circle.  The result is one of the most entertaining and colorful pieces of the year.  If you stay for the end credits, you can enjoy the dancing of an animated Moustafa dancing at the bottom right of the screen.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgGXL5lJ-6g 

    NEED FOR SPEED (USA 2014) **

    Directed by Scott Waugh


    As the title of the film implies, NEED FOR SPEED is a high-octane chase and race film in which plot does not matter.  It is based on a video game.

    After being released from prison for a crime that he didn't commit, a street racer, Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul), is set to race cross-country and to avenge the death of his friend Pete (Harrison Gilbertson).  The villain of the piece is Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper from THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE) who framed Tobey and is also Pete’s sister’s boyfriend.

    Tobey’s character is supported by a bunch of loyals who all try the best to be cool.  Benny (Kid Cudi) teaches rap fitness while serving time, Finn (Rami Malek) bears all when he quite his tiresome job while Monarch, the eccentric organizer of the race (Michael Keaton) hams in up the best he can. The result is all of them looking incredibly childish and idiotic.  The coolest actor of the lot turns out to be Dominic Cooper as the villain.  These people should learn that one is either born cool or not they can die trying.

    The entire story is an excuse for racing.  The segment in which Tobey’s car has to be refueled at red neck speed, of course makes no logic as is the need to travel to California in the neck of time.

    The races are all aptly shot but the audience could do without all the high fives and self congratulationary remarks of the characters.

    Running at over 2 hours, NEED FOR SPEED is a tad too long.  There is the race before the race, which is the climatic race in which 5 entries compete.  The race before the race should have been totally edited out and the action sequences there incorporated into the final race.  The audience is all ‘raced-out’ by the time the climatic race arrives.  The story is all too predictable in it dos not take a genius to guess that only Tobey and Dino will be left of the 5 to compete with each other as rivals.

    Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsrJWUVoXeM



    Best Bets of the Week:

    Best Film Opening: The Grand Budapest Hotel

    Best Films Playing: Like Father, Like Son, The Grand Budapest Hotel and American Hustle

    Best Animation: The Lego Movie

    Best Documentary: Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve

    Best Foreign: Like Father, Like Son

    Best Comedy: The Grand Budapest Hotel

    Best Suspense: Enemy

  • This week's Film Reviews (Mar 7, 2014)



    The documentary BETTIE PAGE REVEALS All has a limited run this week.


    Big films opening this week are 300 –RISE OF AN EMPIRE and the animated MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN.


    But the Japanese gem LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON that won last year’s Cannes Jury Prize is a must-see.


    ALAN PARTRIDGE (UK/France 2013) ****
    Directed by Decran Lowney


    To Americans, the name of Alan Partridge rings no bells.  This is likely the reason the film has been released in North America with the title as just his name instead of ALAN PARTRIDGE: ALPHLA PAPA in the U.K.  Alan Partridge is a British household name after 2 successful seasons on sitcom television.  The series received rave reviews and the upcoming film is actually pretty good.  Not only is the hit and miss ratio high but the film contains many, many laugh out loud moments making this perhaps the funniest film to be released this year.

    Alan Partridge is a fictional presenter who has played on various BBC radio and television shows since 1991.  The character was invented by Steve Coogan.  The film written by him (just as he starred and wrote the recent PHILOMENA) as well.

    The story centers on ambitious Alan Partridge whose career is about to take a turn when his radio station in Norwich, Norfolk is bought out by a multinational conglomerate.  In the downsizing, his colleague Pat Farrell (Colm Meany) is let go.  Farrell goes berserk entering the station with a shotgun and taking the staff hostage.  The police forces Alan to be the negotiator with obvious hilarious results.

    The clever script milks the situation well coming up with price comic bits such as broadcasting under siege and a runaway radio van under cheering listeners.  The film also takes aim at commercialism vs. art as the disk jockeys complain that they can only play what they are told to.  It also works well that the hero of the piece is something like an asshole, which Coogan portrays quite well.  Though the film contains segments in which violence could be the order of the day, the film stays true to its comedic roots.  The only times fires are shot are in the dream sequence and mostly by accident.

    The film contains priceless hilarious segments like the one with Partridge’s face peering at Farrell’s from inside the toilet bowl as he hides in the van’s portaloo and another when Partridge appears in a dream sequence as Jason Statham, Jason Bourne and Jason Argonaut (though it should be Jason and the Argonauts).

    The film made number one at the box-office when opening in the U.K.  Whether it does well across the Atlantic is hard to predict, but this is one pretty hilarious comedy.

    Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKYkWa9JBu4




    Directed by Mark Moni


    The iconic Bettie Page is the pin up girl the whole world got to know and love.  In Mark Moni’s ‘revealing’ documentary on Page, he tries to capture the charisma and appeal of his bubbly subject.  This he succeeds, but whether ‘all is revealed’, that is up to the audience to decide.  The audience sees her life, her aspirations but still quite a bit of secrecy has been kept.  Perhaps that is what has kept her so popular and mysterious.

    Through interviews of her friends and colleagues and also through her voiced interviews (at various stages of her life as reckoned from the sound of her voice), Moni paints a good history of her life.  From the age of her marriage to her rise to success in her business life to her mental instability, one cannot help but admire this independent woman for what she stands for – her principles and beliefs.  Bettie also was a staunch Christian, which is really weird, all things considering.

    It was widely believed that Bettie Page knew when to appear and when to disappear.  Throughout the entire film, he audience never gets a glimpse of Paige in her later years.  The closest they get is to hear is her hoarser voice.  So when she said that she always wanted the world to remember her by her photos and pin ups, this smart woman kept her word.  So, do not believe then the title of the movie that BETTIE PAGE REVEALS ALL.

    Those who grew up in the Bettie Page years will likely love the film for all the nostalgia it brings.  For those who did not, the film offers a few lessons in life, through observation of what this respectable lady has gone through.

    Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ke41T0eXG7g 

    LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (Japan 2013) Top 10 *****

    Directed by Hirokazu Kore-Eda


    Director’s Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s breakout film AFTER LIFE about the recent dead filming their fondest memory to take it forever into eternity is a minor masterpiece.  The British magazine Sight and Sound did a 4-page article on the then undistributed film that eventually got the film a distributor with the film earning the recognition it deserved.  Hirokazu Kore-Eda never matched the greatness of that earlier film till this new entry that won the grand Jury Prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

    LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON is the story of two babies switched by birth.  The hospital calls the two families 6 years later to reveal the catastrophe with the families deciding on whether to keep the boys or exchange them.

    The film centers on the father of the richer family, Ryoto (Masaharu Fukuyama) a successful architect who spends more time at work than with his son, Keita.  Success is all that matters to him, disappointed at his son’s piano performances (in a quietly humorous segment in which the son plays baa baa black sheep while a girl classmate accomplishes a classical piece).  He puts pressure on his wife Midori and it becomes clear in the film that there is no love in the family.  He gets a call from the hospital 20 minutes into the film.

    Director Hirokazu Kore-Eda switches to the other family, the Saikis’s showing how the poorer family, this one with the father, Yudai  a shopkeeper who spends more time with the family lives.  Hirokazu Kore-Eda then alternates the screen time between both families miraculously revealing the true feelings of both the mothers and the two boys in the short period of time.  This is the reason the film works – so much is accomplished in so little time.  The story is told, emotions unfurled and principles, views and social mores explored.  The story is also set in modern Japan where it s competitive and the pressure is on everyone in a family to do well.

    The film contains two segments that pack quite the emotional wallop.  One occurs in the middle of the film when the real reason of the baby switch is revealed.  The other is the confrontation between the nurse’s son and the architect father outside their house.  The second demonstrates the power of a son’s love while the first the folly of mankind.

    But the film poses the important question of what makes the true son – the upbringing or the blood relation?

    Hirokazu Kore-Eda elicits the best performances from children as are evident in his films I WISH and NOBODY KNOWS.  The performances and expressions of the young actors portraying the two sons are priceless.

    But despite all the tension Hirokazu Kore-Eda creates especially for the slim chance of a happy ending, the film more than satisfies.  Kore-Eda treats all his characters with respect and the best thing is that those who have done wrong are given a second chance at redemption.  But make sure you bring lots of Kleenex.

    DreamWorks has already purchased the film rights to make an American adaptation of the film. It is doubtful that the remake can match the emotional powerhouse of this one. So make sure you catch Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON, which comes with this critic’s highest recommendation.

    Trailer:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnaFGUmBsFg



    MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN (USA 2014) ***1/2
    Directed by Rob Minkoff


    This fast paced, action packed animated adventure sees genius dog Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) and his adopted son Sherman (Max Charles) take their time machine (WABAC) to various time periods to save the day.

    It all starts when Sherman’s girl classmate takes the WABAC back into time.  Sherman and father dog travel to bring her back.  But it is much of the same subplot regenerated again.  They save her at different time periods (the Trojan War, Egypt) before the film comes to a climax.  The script attempts to put into the film some scientific mumbo jumbo, something like breaking the time space continuum that actually makes no sense.  There is enough in the dialogue that the audience will understand so that they will believe that the rest of the logic makes sense.  Anyway, director Minkoff moves his film so fast that one can hardly have time to notice the film’s flaws.

    Though the film contains no clear messages, it does address key issues like bullying, adoption, the school system and social classes.

    The film contains enough goofy stuff for the kids and some adult stuff coming from Mr. Peabody who is supposed to be a genius.  Adults will likely grow nostalgic from this old cartoon, though it is reset to the present.  Mr. Peabody and Sherman live in an ultra modern penthouse.

    But the film scores top marks in its 3D animation.  MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN has really classy and astounding animated effects that can be noticed throughout the film’s entirety.

    Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=za56MdewGzM

    NO CLUE (Canada 2013) **

    Directed by Carl Bessai


    This Canadian slant (British Columbia, actually) of detective film noir comes complete with a blonde femme fatale and missing person and is not that bad a film.  But one comes out of the movie with the feeling that: “there is something missing.”  One wihses that Bessai’s (LOLA, NORMAL) film would have fared better, as everyone – director, writer and actors – all work at their material enough.  The plot is intriguing, the characters relatively interesting and the atmosphere sufficiently menacing, but still something is missing besides the person in the story.

    A beautiful blonde, Kyra (Amy Smart) shows up asking a private investigator to hunt down her missing brother.  The person Kyra is asking happens to be Leo Falloon (Brent Butt), as she has entered the wrong office.  Leo, infatuated by her, helps her nevertheless.  The plot thickens.  Nothing is what it seems but Leo turns out to be pretty apt in mystery solving.

    The film plays as a comedy.  Though the dialogue is occasionally smart, it is not laugh-out loud funny.  Actor Brent Butt is likely funny as a comic but he is no leading man. An actor playing the role straight (like Humphrey Bogart) might have gotten this hole exercise right.  Director Bessai, not known for comedies has his comedic timing all wrong.  He seems unaware on what generates the laughs.  Certain missed jokes should have been left on the cutting room floor.

    The result is a film that is half funny and half mystery leaving the audience amiss at what really happened.

    Trailer:   http://www.traileraddict.com/no-clue-2014/trailer


    Best Bets of the Week:

    Best Film Opening: Like Father, Like Son

    Best Film Playing: Like Father, Like Son and American Hustle

    Best Animation: The Lego Movie

    Best Drama: The Wolf of Wall Street

    Best Action: Stalingrad

    Best Documentary: Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve

    Best Foreign: Like Father, Like Son


  • TIFF Cinematheque presents - Pasolini

    TIFF Cinematheque presents – Pier Paolo Pasolini

    (Please note that the article that follows is reproduced from TIFF Cinematheque.

    While the capsule reviews are written by Gilbert Seah.)


    Pier Paolo Pasolini: The Poet of Contamination

    March 8 to April 12

    TIFF Bell Lightbox

    “In an era when Italy produced a bumper crop of difficult, passionate artists, especially in the cinema, he may have been the most difficult of all, and arguably the most prodigiously talented. . . . More than three decades after his death, his best films still feel like news.” — A.O. Scott, The New York Times


    “Pasolini is like a God to me, a god of aesthetic, majestic style” — Sergei Paradjanov


    “Pier Paolo Pasolini is the major Italian poet of the second half of this century. One poet is not more valuable than another, but Pasolini has said more important things with greater force than the others.” — Alberto Moravia


    “If you know that I am an unbeliever, then you know me better than I do myself. I may be an unbeliever, but I am an unbeliever who has a nostalgia for a belief.” — Pier Paolo Pasolini


    Filmmaker, novelist, linguist, critic, playwright, painter, journalist and poet, Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922–1975), was one of the most important and controversial intellectuals of postwar Italian culture. Employing raw, street-shot imagery of the poor, disenfranchised and unfortunate, Pasolini was a fierce critic of his country’s complacency and bourgeois aspirations as it underwent the economic transformation into modernity.

    Pier Paolo Pasolini: The Poet of Contamination opens on March 8 with an archival print of the raucously funny and woundingly moving Mamma Roma (1962), featuring the volcanic Anna Magnani in a tour-de-force performance as an ex-prostitute whose class aspirations and unconditional love for her no-good son lead to tragic results. The screening will be introduced by Luca Caminati, Italian cinema scholar and Associate Professor of Film Studies at Concordia University, who will discuss Pasolini’s representation of the urban landscape in the film as exemplary of the director’s cinematic pastiche. Pasolini’s eclectic oeuvre ranges from classic texts refashioned to stress their pagan qualities, such as his version of Euripides’ tragedy, Medea (1970), starring Maria Callas in her only major non-operatic role in cinema, to political fables such as Porcile (1969), an outrageous and touching portrait of the hypocrisy and greed of contemporary life starring Jean-Pierre Léaud and Pierre Clémenti. Based on the three most famous works of omnibus fiction in world literature, Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life celebrates sex as the conduit to the sacred. Visually spectacular and juicily sacrilegious, The Decameron (1971) turns Boccaccio’s blasphemous tales about lusty nuns, reprobate priests and thieving sacristans into a glorious celebration of fleshly pleasure. Banned in Italy despite having won the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival, The Canterbury Tales (1972) is a wild refashioning of the famous medieval text, populated by copious codpieces, copulation and scatology. Intoxicating in its eroticism, The Arabian Nights (1974) is a daring and debauched festival of the bizarre shot in the mirrored palaces and labyrinthine streets of Yemen, Nepal, Iran and Ethiopia. In conjunction with the Italian Cultural Institute’s photo exhibition Pasolini’s l’Oriente: Arabian Nights Through the Photographs of Roberto Villa, photographer Roberto Villa will introduce the screening of The Arabian Nights on March 23.

    Pasolini’s extreme vision ended with what was to be his last film, Salò, or the 120 days of Sodom (1975), a legendary work of utter disgust and rage against a world distorted by the desire for power and privilege. Banned, censored and reviled the world over since its first release, the film is an unflinching tableau of degradation and humiliation based on The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade, with the setting transposed to Mussolini’s miniature Fascist Republic of Salò in 1944. Other highlights include Teorema (1968), one of Pasolini’s most provocative and formally daring fusions of sex and the sacred staring Terence Stamp as an otherworldly visitor that serenely seduces and spiritually transforms each member of a wealthy Milanese household; The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964), Pasolini’s starkly beautiful and brutely physical rendering of the Biblical text has exerted an immeasurable influence on such directors as Martin Scorsese and Jean-Luc Godard; La Ricotta (1962), Pasolini’s cheerfully blasphemous short starring Orson Welles; and rare works such as Notes for an African Oresteia (1969-70), which follows Pasolini as he scouts locations and actors for a prospective version of Aeschylus’ tragedy to be set in then contemporary Uganda and Tanzania; and Pasolini & Giuseppe Bertolucci’s La Rabbia di Pasolini (1963/2008), a recent restoration and reconstruction of a political found-footage essay film by Pasolini that was censored and cut before its release due to its polemics.

    Featuring 15 feature films and 6 short films presented almost entirely in new 35mm prints, several restored for the occasion, Pier Paolo Pasolini: The Poet of Contamination invites audiences to experience the stylistic experiments in Pasolini’s fiercely enduring and legendary cinema and the eternal beauty and emotional power of his work. TIFF Cinematheque is the sole Canadian venue for the North American tour of this rare and imperative event, running from March 8 to April 12.

    In conjunction with TIFF Cinematheque’s retrospective, the Italian Cultural Institute hosts the exhibition Pasolini’s l’Oriente: Arabian Nights Through the Photographs of Roberto Villa, a selection of photographs shot by master Italian photographer Roberto Villa on the set of Pasolini’s The Arabian Nights. One of the most comprehensive photographic exhibitions ever devoted to the great Italian poet, writer and filmmaker Pasolini’s l’Oriente runs from March 11 to April 26 at the Italian Cultural Institute, 496 Huron Street, Toronto.

    See below for complete schedule for Pier Paolo Pasolini: The Poet of Contamination at TIFF Cinematheque.



    Luca Caminati on Mamma Roma

    Approx. Duration: 2 hour 15 minutes

    Luca Caminati, Italian cinema scholar and Associate Professor of Film Studies at Concordia University, opens the retrospective with this discussion of Pasolini’s representation of the urban landscape in Mamma Roma as exemplary of the director’s cinematic pastiche, which deploys the painterly tradition as a critique of the industrial modernization process in late 1950s Italy.


    Mamma Roma

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy | 1962  | 105 min. | PG  | 35mm

    Archival Print!

    Anna Magnani gives a tour-de-force performance as an ex-prostitute whose class aspirations and unconditional love for her no-good son lead to tragic results.

    Saturday, March 8 at 4 p.m.



    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy | 1961 | 116 min. | PG | 35mm

    New 35mm Print!

    As important a debut as any in film history, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s portrait of a scrounging thief struggling to survive in the netherworlds of Rome remains one of his most moving and powerful works.

    Sunday, March 9 at 6 p.m.


    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy/France/Germany | 1970 | 118 min. | PG | 35mm

    New 35mm Print!

    Opera legend Maria Callas brings fierce beauty and harrowing power to Pasolini’s version of Euripides’ tragedy.

    Thursday, March 13 at 6:30 p.m.


    The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Il vangelo secondo Matteo)

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy | 1964 | 137 min. | G | 35mm

    New 35mm Print!

    A surprise international hit that became a beloved classic of world cinema, Pasolini’s starkly beautiful and brutely physical rendering of the Biblical text has exerted an immeasurable influence on such directors as Martin Scorsese and Jean-Luc Godard.

    Friday, March 14 at 6:30 p.m.


    Teorema (Theorem)

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy | 1968 | 98 min. | 14A | 35mm

    New 35mm Print!

    An otherworldly visitor (Terence Stamp) serenely seduces and spiritually transforms each member of a wealthy Milanese household, in one of Pasolini’s most provocative and formally daring fusions of sex and the sacred.

    Saturday, March 15 at 5 p.m.


    Hawks and Sparrows (Uccellacci e uccellini)

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy | 1966 | 86 min. | 14A  | 35mm

    New 35mm Print!

    The great comedian Totò and Pasolini regular Ninetto Davoli star as a hapless father-and-son team who wander the roads of Italy in the company of a talking crow, in Pasolini’s marvellous Brechtian comedy.

    Sunday, March 16 at 3 p.m.


    Seeking Locations in Palestine for the Film The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Sopralluoghi in Palestina per il film Il vangelo secondo Matteo)

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy | 1964 | 52 min. | 14A | 35mm

    New 35mm Print!

    A highly personal, enlightening document of Pasolini’s search for landscapes and locations to use in The Gospel According to St. Matthew.

    Followed by

    Notes for an African Oresteia (Appunti per un’Orestiade Africana)

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy | 1970 | 63 min. | 14A | 35mm

    New 35mm Print!

    This rarely screened documentary follows Pasolini as he scouts locations and actors for his never-completed version of the classic Aeschylus tragedy, which he planned to set in contemporary Uganda and Tanzania.

    Followed by

    Walls of Sana’a (Le mura di Sana’a)

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy | 1971 | 13 min. | 14A | Digital

    A ravishing documentary portrait of the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, which entranced Pasolini during the shoot of The Decameron and whose threatened old quarter he hoped to preserve by having it declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

    Tuesday, March 18 at 9 p.m.

    The Decameron (Il Decameron)

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy | 1971 | 110 min. | R | 35mm

    New 35mm Print!

    Pasolini’s visually spectacular and juicily sacrilegious adaptation of Boccaccio’s Decameron inaugurated his joyous Trilogy of Life.

    Friday, March 21 at 6:30 p.m.


    The Canterbury Tales (Il racconti di Canterbury)

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy | 1972 | 110 min. | R | 35mm

    New 35mm Print!

    Pasolini himself plays Chaucer in this wild refashioning of the famous medieval text full to overflowing with rutting, ribaldry, and roistering.

    Saturday, March 22 at 4 p.m.


    The Arabian Nights introduced by Roberto Villa

    Approx. Duration: 2 hour 38 minutes

    In conjunction with the Italian Cultural Institute’s photo exhibition Pasolini’s l’Oriente: Arabian Nights Through the Photographs of Roberto Villa, photographer Roberto Villa introduces our screening of the concluding chapter of Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life.

    The Arabian Nights (Il fiore delle mille e una note)

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy | 1974 | 129 min. | R | 35mm

    New 35mm Print!

    Shot on location in Yemen, Nepal, Iran and Ethiopia, the conclusion of Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life employs Scheherazade’s stories to explore the “idyllic sexuality” Pasolini sought in countries unsullied by European culture.

    Sunday, March 23 at 3:30 p.m.


    Love Meetings (Comizi d’amore)

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy | 1965 | 90 min. | 14A | 35mm

    New 35mm Print!

    Pasolini travels through Italy asking his country’s people about love, sex, divorce, homosexuality, marriage, prostitution and more in this landmark portrait of postwar Italian culture.

    Tuesday, March 25 at 6:30 p.m.


    Oedipus Rex (Edipo Re)

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy | 1967 | 110 min. | 14A | 35mm

    New 35mm Print!

    Filmed in the harsh, parched landscape of northern Morocco, Pasolini’s Oedipus Rex recasts the ancient Greek drama about the prince who kills his father, marries his mother, and blinds himself in contrition as a psychological “family romance” that owes as much to Freud as it does to Sophocles.

    Sunday, March 30 at 6 p.m.


    Primo Pasolini: Four Short Films

    Approx. Duration: 99 min.

    A quartet of Pasolini’s glorious short films, each made for one of the superstar-auteur “anthology films” that were a mania in sixties European cinema.


    La ricotta

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy | 1962 | 35 min. | 14A  | 35mm

    New 35mm Print!

    Orson Welles stars in Pasolini’s cheerfully blasphemous short about the disastrous production of a would-be Biblical spectacular.


    The Earth as Seen from the Moon (La terra vista della luna)

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy | 1966 | 30 min. | 14A | 35mm

    New 35mm Print!

    In this outlandish, surrealist fable, a dim-witted, green-haired boy-man (Ninetto Davoli) and his hapless, recently widowed dad (Totò) look for a new mother/wife, only to find their lives in the hands of a non-speaking Silvana Mangano.

    What are the Clouds? (Che cosa sono le nuvole?)

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy | 1967 | 22 min. | 14A | 35mm

    New 35mm Print!

    Invoking Velázquez’s Las Meninas, this wild little film stars Totò, Ninetto Davoli, and Laura Betti as puppets acting out a most peculiar version of Othello.

    The Paper Flower Sequence (La sequenza del fiore di carta)

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy | 1968 | 12 min. | 14A | Digital

    Ninetto Davoli walks down the Via Nazionale, blissfully unaware of the sufferings of the world such as the bombing of Vietnam. Like the fig tree that Christ strikes down in March because it is not bearing fruit, the innocent is hardly at fault, though Pasolini states that “not to be aware is to be guilty.”

    Saturday, April 5 at 5 p.m.

    Porcile (Pigpen)

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy/France | 1969 | 99 min. | PG | 35mm

    New 35mm Print!

    A modern-day narrative of bourgeois bestiality is paralleled with the primeval tale of an unrepentant cannibal, in one of Pasolini’s most notorious and outrageous films.

    Sunday, April 6 at 3 p.m.

    La rabbia di Pasolini (The Rage of Pasolini)

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Giuseppe Bertolucci | Italy | 1963/2008 | 83 min. | 14A  | 35mm

    New 35mm Print!

    A restoration of Pasolini’s searing, long unavailable essay film, which offers the director’s probing and caustic commentary on celebrity culture, the Cold War, Italy’s postwar economic boom and the world’s rampant injustices.

    Tuesday, April 8 at 6:30 p.m.


    Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom (Salò o le 120 giornate di sodoma)

    dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini | Italy/France | 1975 | 116 min. | R | 35mm

    New 35mm Print!

    Pasolini’s updating of the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom to Mussolini’s short-lived Fascist republic of Salò in 1944 is one of the most harrowing and controversial films ever made.

    Saturday, April 12 at 7 p.m.


    Mamma Roma http://www.criterion.com/films/375-mamma-roma

    1. Accattone http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xqxkc7_accattone-1961-official-trailer-masters-of-cinema_shortfilms
    2. Medea https://mubi.com/films/medea–2

    The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Italian) https://mubi.com/films/the-gospel-according-to-st-matthew

    Hawks and Sparrows http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8riUlf9dAaY

    The Decameron https://mubi.com/films/the-decameron

    1. Porcile http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c22GE3ldZ3o

    La rabbia di Pasolini http://rarovideousa.com/The-Anger-La-Rabbia

    Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom http://www.criterion.com/films/532-salo-or-the-120-days-of-sodom


    La ricotta (Italian) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNbjp6F7lx0


    ARABIAN NIGHTS (Italy 1974) ****

    Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini


    The film is the last of Pasolini’s “Trilogy of Life” which is based on the Arabic anthology The Book of One Thousand and One Nights”.  The main story concerns a young virgin man Nur-e-Din (newcomer Franco Merli) who falls deeply in love with his slave girl, Zamurrud (Ines Pellegrini).  Fate causes her to be stolen from him one night and he spends the rest of the film hunting her down.  She, however, escapes her captor and becomes King of a faraway Kingdom.  Several other romantic and saucy tales are nterwove into the story, tough not all comfortably.  When each of these tales end, the main one between the boy and the slave girl is kindled.  As in the other trilogy films, ARABIAN NIGHTS contains lots of humour, graphic violence (a demon chops off the limbs of his lover) and sex scenes (mostly heterosexual here) which makes the film distinct Pasolini.  The film won the Special Grand Prix at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival.

    THE CANTERBURY TALES (Italy 1972) ****

    Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini


    Based on the medieval poem by Geoffrey Chaucer, Pasolini shot these 8 tales in English featuring a few well-known English actors like Hugh Griffith (the first story) and Robin Askwith (later famous for his CONFESSIONS series of sex comedies).  Pasolini leaves his imprint, which means that the film contains lots of nudity, wry humour and slapstick as well as sex including sodomy.  The last tale is a bit much to swallow with devils farting out more little devils from the arse in hell but all this should be taken with a sense of humour.  His two most humorous tales, ‘the students and the miller’ and ‘Perkin the festive’ with a Chaplin-like character are the best of the lot. The film won the Silver Bear at the 22nd Berlin International Film Festival.

    MAMMA ROMA (Italy 1962) ****
    Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini


    An ex-prostitute, Mamma Roma (Anna Magnani in her best role), tries to start a new life selling vegetables with her 16-year-old son Ettore (Ettore Garofolo). When he later finds out that she was a prostitute, he succumbs to the dark side ending with the petty theft of a radio in a hospital and goes to prison.  This is a tragic tale of mother and son, mother wanting too much for her son while he just wanting to be left to his own devices. Pasolini’s film contains lots of homoerotic images like Ettore’s friend wrestling him to the ground and Ettore being strapped down to his underwear in the hospital.  Pasolini also captures the period, classes atmosphere and hopeless of is tale with clarity and emotion.

     PORCILE (PIGSTY) (Italy 1969) ****
    Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini


    PORCILE is two paralleled stories intercut with each other.   The one set is the past tells the story of a young man (Pierre Clementi) who wanders around a volvano who ends up being caught after turning into a cannibal.  The second and more hilarious story is about two industrialists, Herr Klotz (Alberto Lionelli) and Kerdhitze (Ugo Tognazzi) solving is rivalry with each other while Klotz’s son (Jean-Pierre Leaud) has this odd obsession about pigs.  Both stories depict the downfall of society in one way or another and whether the two stories are linked is u to the viewer.  Pasolini’s stories are not only compelling to watch much outrageously funny at the same time.

    LA RABBIA (RAGE) (Italy 1063) ***

    Directed by Giovannin Guareschi and Pie Paolo Pasolini


    Using old footage, LA RABBIA is a political documentary that likely shows most accurately the soul of director Pasolini.  The film is a criticism of society as told by two intellectuals, directors Guareschi, a right winged Monarchist and Pasolini, a Communist militant.  The film is in two parts, each done by each director.  The classical musical enlivens the grim nature of the material, though there are bits of humour thrown in occasionally.  Each have their say, and though one may not agree fully with the ideals and principles, LA RABBIA illustrates the ‘rage’ of the film’s title at what the world has become or is becoming.


  • Doc Soup March - La Maison de la Radio


    Hot Docs is pleased to announce that March’s Doc Soup will present the Toronto premiere of LA MAISON DE LA RADIO (D: Nicolas Philibert; France, Japan; 99 min.) Called “humorous … insightful” by Variety, LA MAISON DE LA RADIO will screen on Wednesday, March 5, at 6:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m., and on Thursday, March 6, at 6:45 p.m. at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 506 Bloor St. West.

    LA MAISON DE LA RADIO is a vibrant film about listening and the value of great public institutions. Master documentarian Nicolas Philibert, director of award-winning TO BE AND TO HAVE (2002), turns his probing, sensitive camera on the inner workings of the inspirational public broadcaster Radio France—the French equivalent of the BBC—to enchanting, enlightening and frequently humorous effect.

    Single tickets for LA MAISON DE LA RADIO are $15 and can be purchased in advance online at www.hotdocs.ca or in person at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema box office. In the event advance tickets sell out, a limited number of tickets may be available at the door on the night of the screening. Tickets can be purchased online atwww.hotdocs.ca, in person at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema box office, or by phone at 416-637-5150.



    LA MAISON DE LA RADIO (France/Japan 2013) ***
    Directed by Nicolas Philibert


    March Doc Soup filmgoers are in for a treat.  Master documentarian, best known for his Award Winning TO BE AND TO HAVE about school kids has his new film about a public radio house, Radio France screened.  Like his TO BE AND TO HAVE, Philibert adopts a free-wheeling approach allowing the energy of his subjects take the limelight.  There is no narrative but the subjects are shown on camera at their work, be in announcing, playing music, performing administrative or managerial duties or just talking about what they think are important in general, like potatoes saving the world.  The result is a charming, entertaining film that requires no great concentration or work.  Just sit back and enjoy, life and life at LA MAISON DE LA RADIO.

    Trailer:  http://vimeo.com/64874771

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  • This Week's Film Reviews (Feb 28, 2014)

    Best film opening is Palestine’s Best Foreign Film Oscar nominee OMAR.  This is my pick for the winner in this category.

    Also opening this week are NON-STOP and Russian blockbuster STALINGRAD.


    Two film festivals make their run – Irish and Human Rights Watch,


    NON-STOP (USA /France 2014) **

    Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra


    NON-STOP is billed as an action/thriller mystery.  The mystery element is the film’s strongest component, thanks to Spanish director Collet-Serra’s effort, him being made famous for his ghost stories ORPHAN and UNKNOWN.  But when the film changes gear to action and thriller, it gets too silly, over-the-top.

    The central character of the story is federal air Marshall Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) who is alcoholic and a complete mess owing to marital and other problems.  So when he boards a plane and receives a series of threatening text messages stating that a passenger will be killed every 20 minutes unless $150 million is deposited into an offshore account, no one believes him.  Bill takes things into his own hands.  He gets fired while at it and incurs the wrath of all the passengers, except of course, Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), his love interest.

    The script contains too many details that need to be explained.  Not all these are explained satisfactorily but credibility gets pushed further as a bomb on the plane finally explodes and the plane lands safely while t\its body is torn apart.  All this looks good on screen, special effects-wise, but upon careful consideration is in reality all very silly and unbelievable.

    When the location of the bomb is revealed in the film, one member of the audience laughed his head off for a full 5 minutes, bringing the rest of the audience laughing as well.

    There is a segment in which Bill comforts a lone little girl passenger, which reminds him of his won daughter.  This is emotion generated in a film at the lowest level.

    NON-STOP is non-stop Hollywood kitsch at its very best or at its very worst, depending how one wants to look at it.

    Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nODrjQUR5YU 

    OMAR (Palestine 2013) ****

    Directed by Hany Abu-Assad


    OMAR is the story of Omar (Adam Bakri), a mischievous, bright but always in trouble youth who has to fight for his true love and freedom.

    When the film opens, Omar is scaling a wall to meet his secret love, Nadia (Leem Lubany).  But Omar is also a freedom fighter who with two friends, Tarek (Eyad Hourani) and Amjad (Samer Bisharat) shoot a military sentry.  Omar is captured and tricked into working for the military police.  But the appeal of the story is how Omar and the military police play the constant cat-and-mouse game.

    The Israelis are the bad guys in this film with the Palestinians as the good ones.  However, director Hany omits any political issues.  The conflict is just present and that is left at that.  The conflict could exist in any other country or at any other time.  Or it could be the Palestinians and Israelis in reversed roles.

    The film is as exciting as it is suspenseful.  Director Hany keeps the audience constantly on their toes.  The torture scenes are a bit too severe at times to watch, but the audience knows that what is shown on screen happens in real life.  The film contains all the elements that make a good suspensor – betrayal, love, loyalty, sacrifice and the fight for freedom.

    Bakri is excellent as the youth Omar, charismatic and indeed the best looking Palestinian I have ever seen.  Bakri looks even more dashing with the scars left by the torture.

    IMAX claims to create a new viewing experience for audiences with the use of both sight (in the form of a gigantic screen) and sound system but this film does the same without the expense but by director Hany’s excellent story-telling skills.  OMAR is Palestine’s Best Foreign Film Oscar hopeful this year.  The film also won the Jury prize at this years Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5dSeBD-qiY


    STALINGRAD (Russia 2013) ***

    Directed by Fedor Bondarchuk


    STALINGRAD will attract audiences for the fact that it is the first Russian and non-American movie to be made using the IMAX format with stupendous war footage that will rival the best of sci-fi futuristic and action hero films.

    One would say that the film is inspired by true events.  STALINGRAD is not based on any literary source but from diaries of the participants of the battle of Stalingrad.  The action takes place in 1942 when the German troops occupied the bank of the Volga River.  Having failed while attempting to cross the Volga to launch a counteroffensive on the German Army, the Russian troops were forced to retreat. However, a few soldiers managed to get to the shore on the enemy's side. They remained hidden in a coastal house where they met a girl. The Germans had occupied her home, and she did not have time to leave the front lines.  The film is the story of 5 combatants and the girl.

    The film begins with he aftermath of the Tsunami in Japan.  One immediately wonders what this has to do with Stalingrad but the film eventually explains why.

    Or a full two-hour film, director Fedor Bondarchek knows how to engage his audience into the narrative.  There are 5 Russian and 2 German characters and 2 females with two love stories.  The human element is of prime importance to draw the audience into a film that would otherwise just become meaningless fighting.

    Bondarchuk has also taken great pains to ensure his battle scenes are exciting and authentic.  The film is also shot both in German and Russian with a little English.

    Hopefully the subtitles and the fact that the film is in Russian will not deter audiences from the film.  The film has everything audiences love such as action, romance, and special effects though it does not have that much humour.  The film cost a modest $30 million and it has already made double that amount internationally.

    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0aVDDvmr0g


    Best Bets of the Week:

    Best Film Opening: Omar

    Best Film Playing: American Hustle

    Best Animation: The Lego Movie

    Best Drama: The Wolf of Wall Street

    Best Action: Stalingrad

  • The Toronto Irish Film Festival


    The ultimate Irish pub crawl, a boxing legend at the height of his career, a madcap chase for missing millions, an Irish bird who’s afraid of flying and personal reconciliation are among the themes at this year’s Toronto Irish Film Festival.  This first wee film festival takes place from Friday, February 28 to Sunday, March 2 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. TIRFF 2014 delivers a weekend of Irish cinema with North American and Canadian Premieres, a classic Irish pub-night and very special guests from Ireland.

    The Opening Night Gala on Friday, February 28, sponsored by Tourism Ireland, features the North American Premiere of THE IRISH PUB by filmmaker Alex Fegan,who will be in attendance.  THE IRISH PUB is a loving tribute to the most important institution in Irish society and the publicans who run them.

    John Galway, TIRFF co-founder adds, “This year, we’re bringing together all four corners of the Toronto-Irish community like never before and we’re delighted to present Irish content in all genres, including animation, documentary and, a television-first for TIRFF, the Season 2 launch of “Moone Boy”, winner of the 2013 International Emmy for Best Comedy, in partnership with BITE TV and Blue Ant Media”.

    TIRFF’s annual SHORTS PROGRAM, sponsored by the Embassy of Ireland in Ottawa, showcases a strong line-up of Ireland’s up-and-coming filmmakers.  Saturday’s schedule continues with “When Ali Came To Ireland”, sponsored byKPMG, which captures the lead up to the historic 1972 Muhammad Ali boxing match which captured the attention of the entire country.  Also screening Saturday is the Northern Ireland drama “Made in Belfast”, by first-time director Paul Kennedy, about a successful novelist returning home to confront those he left behind.  On Sunday, TIRFF audiences will be the first in Canada to see the much-anticipated Season 2 launch of ”Moone Boy”, the wildly popular Irish sitcom created, co-written and co-starring Chris O’Dowd.   Back by popular demand after its premiere at TIFF 2013, Lance Daly’s madcap “recession” comedy “Life’s A Breeze”, sponsored by The Ireland Fund of Canada, starring Pat Shortt, Fionnula Flanagan, Brendan Gleeson and introducing newcomer, Kelly Thornton, wraps the weekend on a comedic high-note.




    OPENING NIGHT GALA – THE IRISH PUB (North American Premiere)

    Sponsored by Tourism Ireland

    Director: Alex Fegan in attendance/Q & A following screening

    Running time: 75 mins.

    Friday, February 28, 2014, 7:00pm


    Alex Fegan’s feature documentary is a eulogy to the greatest institution in Irish society, and the legendary Irish publicans who run them.  An ode to the traditional Irish pub in all its glory: solid wood, stone floors, no music, little TV, knick-knacks and yellowed ceilings, Fegan’s camera slips from pub to pub meeting interesting and quirky publicans and patrons each step along the way.

    Director Alex Fegan is available for interviews in Toronto beginning February 27.

    OPENING NIGHT PARTY: Dora Keogh’s, 141 Danforth Avenue, 9:30pm

    Present your TIRFF ticket stub from ‘The Irish Pub’ to meet director Alex Fegan and join us in celebrating TIRFF 2014.

    FOY VANCE – RECORDING NOTHING (Ireland 2013) **

    Directed by Babysweet


    This short documentary of 25 minutes documents 4 days with Foy Vance between May 2012 and February 2013 as he recorded bits for his new album called ‘Joy for Nothing’ and hence the title.  Vance sings his songs, talks to the camera and makes a few remarks here and there about nothing important in general.  Judging from the length of Foy’s moustache, the doc is not sot time linearly.  The images often go too bright as the director loves to shoot with too much sunlight.  Foy’s songs are all right but they are not something one would write home about.  The director must think a world of Foy Vance hoping that his unrecorded hits might make millions in the future.  But like the tile of the film, this film is about nothing, but literally.

    THE IRISH PUB (Ireland 2013) ***

    Directed by Alex Fegan


    The Irish Pub is an Irish institution.  THE IRISH PUB is a documentary on just that and the film is appropriately chosen to open the First Toronto Irish Film in Toronto.  Director Alex Fegan travels around the different counties of Ireland to look at all the pubs, singling out that have resisted change and have stayed the same over the hundred years that they have opened.  The pub owners have thy say on everything from the customers, the culture, the Irish, the past and almost everything they can think of under the sun.  Fegan’s film is light hearted and entertaining as it is nostalgic, especially those with an Irish heart.  The film ends with the pub owners answering to the question as to what they think is the meaning of life.  There is a lot of truth in what they have to say in this beautiful little film.


    Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9uaboCF1N4

    MADE IN BELFAST (UK 2013) ***

    Directed by Paul Kennedy


                MADE IN BELFAST is a comedy drama about Jack Kelly (Ciaran McMenamin), a successful author now living in Paris who returns to Belfast after hearing that his dad is on his last days.  Jack is not welcome back home as he left his girlfriend, Alice (Shauna Macdonald) behind while writing about his friends in his first book that caused them a lot of grief.  Jack learns to forgive, make peace and becomes a better person.  Here is nothing in this micro-budget film that audiences have not seen before but the film does contain lot of Northern Ireland charm that is missing (charm in general, that is) in many films these days.  Director Kennedy gives himself a small role as the friend whose marriage was destroyed by Jack’s book.  An overall likeable crowd-pleaser!


  • The Human Rights Watch Film Festival


     Because the festival is on Human Rights, the documentaries screened are undoubtedly the most moving one will ever experience in any festival this year!

    HRWFF runs from Feb 27 (Thursday) to March 6 at TIFF Bell Lightbox, and features eight films that call for justice and social action with stories of human rights violations from Canada and around the world. 2014 will be the Festival's 11th edition in Toronto, and it continues to be Human Rights Watch Canada's most important outreach event, bringing these empowering stories to Toronto audiences.

    For complete schedule and show times, please check the TIFF website at:


    Capsule Reviews of 4 prominent films follow:

    HIGHWAY OF TEARS (Canada 2014) ***
    Directed by Matthew Smiley


    "Highway of Tears" is about the missing or murdered women along a 724-kilometer stretch of highway in northern British Columbia.   None of the 18 cold-cases had been solved since 1969, until project E-Pana (a special division of the RCMP) managed to link DNA to Portland drifter, Bobby Jack Fowler with the 1974 murder of 16 year-old hitchhiker, Collen MacMillen.  Smiley’s documentary questions the more than 500 cases of Aboriginal women that have gone missing or been murdered since the 1960s.   Half the cases have never been solved.  The film shows viewers generational poverty, residential schools, systemic violence, and high unemployment rates have done to First Nation reserves and how they tie in with the missing and murdered women in the Highway of Tears cases.  Though the human rights issue appears to only affect Northern B.C, the larger issues here are the neglect of women safety and respect for the First Ntion women.  Some good have at least come about from all this, like the introduction of transportation and delivery of essential medical supplies to First nation Communities.

    THE MISSING PICTURE (L’IMAGE MANQUANTE) (Cambodia/France 2013) ****
    Directed by Rithy Panh


                The film is a part archival footage part clay animation documentary of the horrors of life under the Pol Pot regime when the dreaded Khmer Rouge Army destroyed all individuality of the Cambodians.  Director Panh took two decades to create this impressive body of work.  Panh was only 11 years old when the Khmer Rouge took over and his story also explored the suffering of his own family, making the film both personal and highly effective.   The film contains unforgettable horrific images many that will surely bring tears to ones eyes, especially the tale of hungry children crying themselves to their death.  He film is rendered more beautiful by the flute and strings score and Panh’s poetic narrative. 

    SAVING FACE (USA/Pakistan 2011) ****
    Directed by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and Daniel Junge


                SAVING FACE is a disturbing yet uplifting 52-minute documentary on the subject of acid violence against women.  Pakistan documents over 100 such attacks on women.  The attackers, mostly jealous husbands and men generally get away with the heinous crime.  The human rights issue here is the bill proposed to Parliament for life sentences on the guilty party.  The hero of the piece is London based plastic surgeon, a Pakistani himself who performs reconstructive surgery pro bono on scarred victim.  The film rightly centres only on two such victims and how Dr. Mohammad Jawad helps them normalize their lives.  The film is difficult to watch due to the awful destroyed faces of the women shown on screen.  While the film shows the worst in human beings, it also shows the best in the form of the work of Dr. Jawad.  The film won Pakistan’s fist Oscar for Best Documentary Short Feature!

    VALENTINE ROAD (USA 2013) ***** Top 10

    Directed by Marta Cunningham


                The setting of this must-see documentary is Oxnard, California, close to L.A., where 8th grade Brandon shot Larry King at the back of the head in a classroom.  Larry King had previously asked Brandon to be his Valentine while wearing in high heels in front of his laughing friends.  The film tells the story through interviews, revealing both sides of the story though it is clear director Cunningham has hidden agenda in her documentary.  But the main message is tolerance to everyone which is told through speeches at the school’s graduation and indirectly (and most effectively) through conniving Jurors who show on screen not only how intolerant but how stupid they are.  But it is clear that both Larry King and Brandon are victims though there is no excuse for the killing and bullying.   There is one great truth revealed in a small segment in the middle of Cunningham’s film when Larry’s friend and classmate tells how she stopped Brandon from calling her a nigger.  She went up to him in the middle of a class and punched him in the head several times.   Brandon never bothered her again.

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