THE ANTISOCIAL NETWORK (From Memes to Mayhem) (USA 2024) ***
Directed by Giorgio Angelini and Arthur Jones


A Netflix original documentary the film begins with words that would make anyone sit u, listen and watch this somewhat intriguing documentary:

You can fix code but you can’t fix people.

The weakest part of any system is the people that put it together.

The jokes (made on their system) that they made would turn into conspiracy theories.  This misinformation has reshaped society,

(we) started something and never intended for it to end this way.

And now I am trying to clean up my own mistakes.

A meme is a word that has been popularized lately and practically unheard of in the past an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or a genre of items that is spread widely online, especially through social media.

A group of lonely teenagers formed an online community and bonded over their isolation, but their collective beliefs warped reality.

Despite the doc having its tech-savvy subject, the film adds its human emotional element by including a bit about the personal lives of the three who invented this antisocial network.  Their stories are narrated by the subjects themselves and they share the common element of being lonely and misplaced kids with alter-personas on the net.  All are tech-savvy and know the ins and outs of social networks.

In terms of information education, there is quite a bit of this doc especially in Japanese culture as in the the worlds of Otaku and 2channel, as explained in the film.

Most of the voiceovers provided by the three subjects create a more credible platform for their stories.  Directors Giorgio Angelini and Arthur Jones clearly and constantly include tactics like animation, colour and dialogue to keep their audience glued to the subject,

THE ANTISOCIAL NETWORK (From Memes to Mayhem) is a socially relevant and informative doc that is both relevant and entertaining in today’s internet culture,

THE ANTISOCIAL NETWORK won the audience award at the Documentary Spotlight Section at the SXSW Film Festival.  A noteworthy doc to be seen that opens for streaming on April 5th on Netflix.


BAGHEAD (UK/Germany 2023) **

Directed by Alberto Corredor


Written by no fewer than 3 writers Christina Pamies, Bryce McGuire and Lorcan Reilly and directed by Alberto Corredor in his debut feature based on his short film in 2017 with the same title, BAGHEAD (not to be confused with the 2008 Mark and Duplass comedy) bears a certain similarity to the acclaimed horror TALK TO ME which by inevitable comparison proves to be the inferior movie, not for want of trying.

There is a certain attractive scare of the image of someone with a sack over his head.  When the sack is pulled up, the head of a different person can be conjured up, or even maybe the head of a monster.  This premise must have inspired the filmmaker to conjure up BAGHEAD.  A few other scary scenarios are added in - the picture of a prisoner tied down and unseen in a dark basement; an inheritance of evil; the signing of a contract that cannot be invoked and a shapeshifter.  To create a more human emotionally effective story two human elements are added.  One is a father/daughter lost relationship and the other is a girl/girl relationship between the protagonist and a girlfriend (the word lesbian is never mentioned but the lesbian relationship is assumed).

Following the death of her estranged father (Ken Loach’s regular actor: Peter Mullan), Iris (Freya Allan) learns she has inherited a run-down, centuries-old pub.  She travels to Berlin (as this is a German co-production, though hardly any German is seen or spoken) to identify her father's body and meet with The Solicitor (Ned Dennehy) to discuss the estate.  Little does she know, when the deed is signed she will become inextricably tied to an unspeakable entity that resides in the pub's basement - Baghead (played and voiced by Anne Muller) - a shape-shifting creature that can transform into the dead.  Two thousand in cash for two minutes with the creature is all it takes for desperate loved ones to ease their grief.  Neil (Jeremy Irvine), who has lost his wife, is Iris' first customer.  Like her father, Iris is tempted to exploit the creature's powers and help desperate people for a price.   This shape-shifting creature can transform into the dead and can provide two minutes with a loved one for a fee of two thousand dollars. Iris is tempted to use Baghead’s powers to help people in need and earn a profit, just like her father did before.  But she soon discovers breaking the two-minute rule can have terrifying consequences. Together with her best friend Katie (Ruby Barker), Iris must battle to keep control of Baghead and figure out how to destroy her, before she destroys them.

The film suffers from the cliched jump scares that one can always do without.  The dark atmosphere of the pub and often used settings add to the horror and potential scares of the film.  However, too much plot ends up with a muddled ending as the climax disappoints after a solid buildup.

Performances are ok at best, and it is good to see veteran actor Peter Mullan lending his hand to a new director’s debut feature.

BAGHEAD streams on Shudder on April the 5th.




THE OLD OAK (UK/France/Belgium 2023) ****

Directed by Ken Loach


THE OLD OAK is directed by Ken Loach who makes a film every 3 years or so, usually excellent fare, something worth waiting for.  THE OLD OAK, Loach’s latest film is no different.  Loach is a British film director and screenwriter known for his socially critical directing style and socialism as evident in his film treatment of social issues such as poverty (Poor Cow, 1967), homelessness (Cathy Come Home, 1966), and labour rights (Riff-Raff, 1991, and The Navigators, 2001).  Loach's film KES(1969) was voted the seventh-greatest British film of the 20th century in a poll by the British Film Institute.  Indeed, this is my favourite Loach film.  His last two films I, Daniel Blake (2016), received the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, making him one of only nine filmmakers to win the award twice and SORRY WE MISSED YOU are unforgettable social dramas.

In the film, THE OLD OAK is the name of a pub in a northern English town where coal mining has its day.  Pub landlord TJ Ballantyne (Dave Turner), living in a previously thriving mining community in County Durham, struggles to hold onto his pub and keep it as the one remaining public space where people can meet in the town. Meanwhile, tensions rise when Syrian refugees are placed there, but Ballantyne strikes up a friendship with one of the refugees, Yara (Ebla Mari).

TJ’s wife had left him and his son is not speaking to him.  The fact is mentioned in the film but the details are not shown on screen. With the town going to bits, he had contemplated suicide by looking into the sea but was saved by a happy dog running to the beach.  The dog, which he named Marra saved his life and brought him companionship and a reason for living.  Any film with the protagonist and a faithful dog means that there is a great temptation for the dog to be killed in the story for dramatic effect.  In the last film LAND OF MINE, the protagonist a Dane sergeant had his dog blown up by a mine.  Will Marra face the same demise?

The Brits are not happy with the new refugees in their town.  They claim that they are not racist even though they are.  They cannot speak a word of English and their pub, The OLD OAK is now crawling with them.  Loach offers a reason for the Brits to be this bitter.  They themselves are victim, in this case, the victims of big mining companies that use and underpay them and then leave town.  Many have lost family members during the mining operations.

Director Loach offers a possible solution to the conflict - keeping the back room of the pub for the refugees and Brits to eat together for free but the plan falls through.  Still, a happy ending is required for a film with such strong undertones.

Loach’s THE OLD OAK is not his best, but it is still an excellent film, all things considered.  The film is an easy watch, pulling all the right political and social-emotional strings while offering an insight into the frailties of the human race.



LA CHIMERA (Italy/France/Switzerland 2013) ****
Directed by Alice Rohrwacher



LA CHIMERA follows the adventures of a linen-suited British archaeologist first name of Arthur (Josh O’Connor) as he digs up tombs and sells treasures in the likes of Indiana Jones.  Arthur has the uncanny ability to be able to foretell where treasures are buried.  Unlike the Spielberg movies, this is art-house Indian Jones, putting a spin on the latest Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.  LA CHIMERA has its major surprises and is an utter delight in its delivery, presentation and originality.

The audience first sees Arthur aboard a train (the film is set in 80’s Tuscany) where he beats up a socks salesman for insulting his smelly feet.  Arthur is shown to be impatient, angry and a man who gets what he wants, no-nonsense tolerated.   Who would not be angry with someone who insults your feet in front of pretty girls in a train compartment?  Arthur is a handsome fellow and O’Connor, in a remarkable role, portrays him with a certain suave and likability.

It turns out that Arthur has just been released from prison for the crime of grave robbing, the only one caught the last time he was tomb digging with the gypsy Romans, who are eager to get up with him again.  Apparently, the Romans had paid Arthur’s way out so that they could continue to rob graves with him.  But Arthur is visiting the aristocratic mother, Flora (Isabella Rossellini) of his beloved missing girlfriend.  Flora is also awaiting her daughter’s return and is glad to see Arthur again.  Flora is holed up near a dilapidated train station among many squatters.

The Romans are shown to be a colourful and playful art and director Rohrwacher delivers many of the film’s funniest and brightest moments of this group, many members of which love to dress in drag.

Nothing more should be said of this lush and colourful adventure that director Rohrwacher takes her audience to except to mention that there is a surprise around every corner.  Watch for the film’s ending which has a nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s final scene in NORTH BY NORTHWEST, in which Cary Grant reaches out to Eva Marie Saint as she almost falls off the cliff only to reveal the final scene where Grant lifts her to the top of the bunk bed on the train.


DOGMAN (France 2023) ***½

A film by Luc Besson


“Wherever there is an unfortunate, God sends a dog.” is a quote that is used in the film.  The unfortunate in the film is Kaleb (Caleb Landry Jones), a man dished out all the misfortunes of life.  His saviour is the canine species, a whole lot of dogs that bid Kaleb’s every command.

It all begins with an emergency at the Detention Centre.  Kolbe is injured and in drag.  He is questioned by a psychologist, who leaves her daughter with her mother in the middle of the night to handle this emergency.  At first hesitant, Kaleb eventually opens up to the psychologist.  His story unfolds as he tells his story, shown to the audience in flashbacks,

French director Lucy Besson is well known for his innovative films, his most successful and best films being LUCY, LEON, NIKITA and of course, THE FIFTH ELEMENT.  DOGMN i a lazy revenge fantasy something that is likely never seen before and the strangest film to be seen on the screen this year - a good thing.  If Besson’sfilm lacks credibility - the audience is supposed to believe that all of Kelly’s dogs can understand his English-spoken commands and can steal jewelry from a mansion.

Besson is French and his French imprint is clear in the film as he chooses Edith Piaf for Kaleb to perform in drag.  The film ends with an English version of Edith Piaf’s ‘Je Ne Regrette Rien’.  As in Besson’s films, DOGMAN is excessively violent and innocent people do get killed off as well, for dramatic effect.

The lead role of Kaleb is performed by American actor Caleb Landry Jones, known for quirky roles as in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and.  Jones has never failed to impress and DOGMAN is perhaps his best role as both a handicap and a drag queen.  His drag performances are superb, especially his rendition of ‘Lili Marlene’.

How the filmmakers got all the dogs trained to perform all the tricks seen on the screen is something that needs to be seen to be believed.  A variety of breeds are used and they are mostly adorable.

Not without flaws, Besson’s latest DOGMAN with its incredible plot and hard-to-believe situations is filmmaking that looks as impressive on screen as his futuristic FIFTH ELEMENT.  It is compulsive watching, for sure, though not for everybody, one cannot go away saying that the film is unforgettable in its execution.

DOGMAN opens in theatres on April 3rd.


GLITTER + DOOM (USA 2024) **

Directed by Tom Gustafson


GLITTER + DOOM is a gay romantic musical based on the music of the Indigo Girls.

In a fantastical romance set to the hits of the Indigo Girls, a carefree circus performer and struggling musician fall in love at first sight, in a local dance club– until the real world comes calling. Their whirlwind summer is interrupted by the realities of pursuing their dreams. Punctuated by an all-queer supporting cast, GLITTER & DOOM attempts to be a creatively ambitious musical about the power of love.

Glitter comes from a rich family, but wants to be a circus clown. Doom, on the other hand, is a singer-songwriter from poor surroundings, trying to break into the local club scene. While Glitter has an over-abundance of self-confidence, Doom has self-doubts. They meet and have under a month to fall in love, before Glitter leaves for clown school in Paris. Meanwhile, Doom needs to produce a promotional music track to confirm his breakout club gig.

There is something that is wrong with the film.  One glaring concern is the actor playing DOOM.  He has a British accent and the accent comes through all throughout the film.  Nothing is explained about his accent.  Or he is an actor who should be hiding it in an American film where the characters have no British connections,  The two characters are also so egoistic not to say annoying, and the script has the audience believe that these two characters are geniuses in their own field.  Doom’s mother also appears in the middle of the film adding another unnecessary subplot to the story.

The music is from the Indigo Girls, repurposed, rearranged, and sometimes mashed up. The songs are sung by the two principals, with a small ensemble doing some dancing around them at times. The entire combination has a magical effect.

For musicals, the characters break out into song at the most misappropriate moments be it at the supermarket or in the fields in the moonies.  The choreography is passable and nothing too spectacular, looking a bit too gay for the average audience.  At its best, the musical numbers are not overdone, with the songs sung mainly by the two principals with dancers around them.  The film was shot in Mexico during the Covid pandemic, where Mexico was quite liberal in its lockdown procedures,

The ultimate question is whether Glitter and Doom will make it at their romance and live happily ever after as well as achieve their dreams or goals in life.  It does not take a genius to be able to guess the answer to these questions,

GLITTER + DOOM is a film that has limited appeal and thus would be a rough sell to the general market.  Unless one is young and queer and full of annoying energy or if one is a complete Indigo fan, this romance comedy about two very annoying young men who do not know what they want or roughly do but do not know how to achieve it is largely a boring affair.  The film runs almost two hours with songs that are amusing at most,  Indigo Girls gave permission for the filmmakers to use their music which consists of a catalog of more than 300 songs, which helps lift the film a little

GLITTER + DOOM premiered at the Indie Out LGBT Toronto Film Festival as its Closing Night Gala.  The film is available digitally on April 9 to rent/purchase on all major platforms.


MONKEY MAN (USA 2024) **1/2

Directed by Dev Patel

(Written by Guest Reviewer Andre A.)

Monkey Man, directed by and
starring Dev Patel, is a film that seeks to meld the gritty essence of
crime-action cinema with layers of Indian mythology, social critique, and
martial arts extravagance. The film narrates the journey of a young man, who, clad in a monkey mask
reminiscent of Mexican wrestlers, engages in underground battles within an
Indian city. He embarks on a vengeful crusade against unscrupulous developers,
whom he holds responsible for his mother's death. Known as Monkey Man, he draws
inspiration from Hanuman, an iconic figure in Indian mythology, representing a
fusion of cultural reverence and urban vigilantism.

However, the film’s realization falls short of its grand ambitions.
Cinematic techniques like excessive slow motion, erratic camera movements, and
blurred visuals compromise the story’s clarity and can be overwhelming,
particularly for viewers sensitive to fast-paced visual shifts. These excessive
stylistic choices eclipse the action sequences, including the much-anticipated
initial confrontation between the protagonist and the antagonist, and diminish
the narrative’s impact.

Monkey Man also suffers from an overload of clichés and a convoluted plot that
weaves through a myriad of themes, including economic exploitation, personal
vendetta, prostitution, and religiosity, attempting to encapsulate the entirety
of Indian societal issues. While aiming for a grandiose spectacle, the film’s
narrative becomes overstretched and perplexing, leading to viewer disengagement
rather than compelling insight or reflection.

The portrayal of hijras as cultural icons who
transform into powerful warriors adds to the narrative’s inconsistency, veering
from a story of personal revenge to a bewildering bloody action spectacle. The
primary plot of a young man avenging his mother’s murder against the backdrop
of systemic injustice is lost in the chaotic blend of numerous themes and

Dev Patel's dual role as the director and protagonist
in Monkey Man appears to be an attempt to transition from his renowned
dramatic talents to action-centric roles. Yet, the film falls short of
leveraging his full potential and does not live up to the expectations
engendered by Jordan Peele’s production involvement. Despite its high
ambitions, Monkey Man struggles to provide a cohesive and engaging
cinematic journey, leaving audiences desiring a more streamlined and impactful
narrative amidst its tumultuous mix of visual and thematic turmoil.





Directed by Ron Frank


REMEMBERING GENE WILDER, a heartfelt and entertaining portrait of the life and career of the beloved actor, featuring an extensive array of highlights from Wilder’s most memorable films as well as interviews with his closest friends, family, and fellow comics.  The doc features interviews with Mel Brooks, Carol Kane, Alan Alda, Ben Mankiewicz, Rain Pryor, and Karen Boyer Wilder, among others.

Gene Wilder was an American actor, comedian, writer and filmmaker. He was mainly known for his comedic roles, but also for his portrayal of Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971). He collaborated with Mel Brooks on the films The Producers (1967), Blazing Saddles (1974) and Young Frankenstein (1974), and with Richard Pryor in the films Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) and Another You (1991

Gene Wilder’s doc begins with his appearance in the first scene with his rendering of the song “Come with Me, and You will be, in a World of Pure Imagination….” taken as many low from Mel Stuart’s WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY.  Everyone loves Gene Wilder, a very funny man who made his name with Mel Brooks, rising to fame for his title role in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN.

The doc does the comedian justice with clips from many roles at the doc’s start.  It goes on with how fate changed the life and introduced fame to Jerome Silberman.  He did not like the name Silberman and wanted something Wilder.  I\Fate has it that in 1963, Wilder was cast in a leading role in Mother Courage and Her Children, a production starring Anne Bancroft, who introduced Wilder to her boyfriend (and later husband) Mel Brooks. A few months later, Brooks mentioned that he was working on a screenplay called Springtime for Hitler filmed as THE PRODUCERS with Zero Mostel, for which he thought Wilder would be perfect in the role of Leo Bloom.  Wilder won an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Wilder’s comic inspirations (and I am proud to say are also mine), were Danny Kaye (a clip of Kaye’s brilliant act in UP IN ARMS is provided), Jerry Lewis and Sid Ceasar from YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS.

What the doc also achieves is exposing the real character of Wilder - revealed as a genuine human being.  The man went through more than most, with the death of his first wife, comedian Gilda Radner, that the doc devotes quite some time for.   The doc also allows the audience to laugh and cry as clips of Wilder's best films are shown.

Director Frank keeps the atmosphere of the doc bright and cheerful with a fairy tale ending similar to the spirit of Wilder showing that dreams can come true, thanks to fate, as Charlie the boy experiences in WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY.

The film opens on April 5 in Toronto at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.


THE TEARMAKER (Italy 2024) ***

Directed by Alessandro Genovesi


Everyone loves a listen to a good fairy tale when one is a kid and sometimes even more so as an adult if there is an adult fairy tale.  THE TEARMAKER, a Netflix original from Italy is an adult fairy tale.  This wonderful tale is based on the 2022 phenomenon book of the same name written by Erin Doom.  Doom also wrote the script for the film.  This is a world where the world’s young women and men want stories that analyze their feelings, including love and friendship. They also want to cry. To produce tears.

The film begins in a fairy tale atmosphere with a car driving in the country.  A daughter kisses a mother’s cut better.  The daughter sees a wolf and despises the creature while the mother tells her that the wolf is not evil, but only always depicted as evil in fairy tales.  Then because of the wolf, the distraction causes a catastrophic car crash.

Within the walls of Grave, the orphanage (order, respect and obedience - the only three rules of the strict orphanage) in which Nica has grown up, stories and legends have always been told by candlelight.  The orphanage is appropriately named Grave. The most famous one is about the tear maker, a mysterious craftsman with eyes as clear as glass, guilty of having manufactured all the fears and anxieties that dwell in people’s hearts.  But, at the age of seventeen, the moment has come for Nica to leave all these dark childhood stories behind. Her greatest dream is about to come true. Mr and Mrs Milligan have begun the adoption procedures and are ready to give her the family she’s always wanted. However, Nica is not alone in the new house. Rigel, a restless, mysterious orphan, is also taken out of Grave, and he’s the last person Nica would wish for as an adoptive brother. Rigel is intelligent, and astute, plays the piano like a bewitching demon and is mesmerizingly handsome, but his angelic appearance conceals a dark temperament. Even though Nica and Rigel share a past filled with grief and deprivation, living together seems impossible; especially when the legend comes back to haunt their lives and the maker of tears suddenly grows increasingly real and draws nearer. Even so, gentle and brave, Nica is ready to do anything in order to protect her dream, because only by facing the nightmares that torment her will she finally be able to soar freely like the butterfly after which she was named.

People cry for fear, anger, anguish and despair  But in the world of THE TEARSMITH are hollow shells as they are unable to cry.  Truthfully, a good cry brings out a lot of emotions and makes human beings feel better,  This is the premise of the imaginative adult fairy tale of THE TEARMAKER, the stuff of legend and stories told from the grave that eventually, the audience is told become bedtime stories.

THE TEARMAKER is an Italian Netflix original film that opens for streaming on April 5th.

Directed by Thea Sharrock


This period piece, supposedly based on a true story that few have heard of till perhaps now, is set in the 1920s when there was a scandal brewing in Littlehampton, England.  Littlehampton is a charming seaside resort town and civil parish in the Arun District of West Sussex, England.  Residents there have started receiving anonymous, poison-pen letters, really vulgar ones brimming with curse words and scandalous prose.  The film has these letters explicitly read, so audiences should be forewarned of the really foul language used.  

Who is writing them and how can they be stopped?  Edith Swan (Olivia Colman) — pious and respected (if not well-liked) — is one of those residents.  The letters assassinate her character in the most blue-tinged language imaginable and, when they stack up, her autocratic, scripture-quoting father Edward (Timothy Spall) insists the culprit be found. With law enforcement reluctantly investigating, Edith bandies a pet theory that her neighbour Rose (Jessie Buckley) might mean her harm.  Rose is the opposite of Edith: loud, brash, a lover of spirits and dancing, and unapologetic about all of it. When the police arrest her in the letters case, assuming her guilt because of her “loose moral character,” it doesn’t sit well with Police Officer Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan). With her superiors unwilling to listen, Moss gathers a group of unlikely yet resourceful female volunteers to get to the bottom of the mystery.   

This wicked little film blinds the fine line between good and evil.  While working like a whodunit, it does not take a genius to correctly figure out the culprit of the letters.  But that is not the point of the film that sneaks quite a few messages of racial prejudice, suffrage and religion into the storyline.  

Olivia Coleman delivers another Oscar-worthy performance, one able to get a laugh of loud or two amidst all the drama.  Veterans Gemma Jones and Eileen Aitkins have cameos amongst heavyweights Coleman and Timothy Spall.  A real gem and surprise at TIFF last year where it had its world premiere. 

WICKED LITTLE LETTERS opens April 5 in Toronto (Varsity & Varsity VIP), Vancouver (Fifth Avenue) and Montreal!




Comments powered by CComment