578 MAGNUM (Vietnam 2023) ***

Directed by Dung Long Dinj


578 MAGNUM is, as the film title implies, an action film.  This one is from Vietnam!  Though not as fortunate as Hollywood action films blessed with large production budgets, 579 MAGNUM does its best with what it’s got - a modest budget.

After leaving the Special Forces, container truck driver and single father Hùng (Alexandre Nguyen) dedicates his life to raising his six-year-old daughter. But when she gets kidnapped and assaulted, Hùng relies on his martial arts training and combat skills to hunt down the twisted millionaire responsible.  His mission of vengeance takes him on a journey deep into the Vietnamese underworld, where he faces off against legions of bloodthirsty gangsters working for one of the world's most dangerous crime syndicates.

  The action set pieces are well staged including one where Hung fights his foes while moving under and out of a tractor-trailer.  Another well-staged piece deserving of mention is a hand-to-hand fight taking place atop the slippery top of a storage container during a heavy downpour.

There are a few points that differentiate this action flick from the ordinary.   There is more emotion in the story, the main one involving the father reuniting with his kidnapped daughter,  Director Dung milks the emotional impact for all it is worth.  The beauty of Vietnam is also on full display here, including the sea around the country.  The theme of the triumph of the human spirit is also on display here - the father, Hung going all out in the hopes of finding his daughter.  The theme of parent and child is also examined - both between the hero and his daughter and the billionaire villain and his son  “When my son cried at night as a baby, I stayed up all night,” says the villain.  The film also has a good build-up ending with the climactic fight between Hung and the billionaire villain.   There is also a side theme of being a good Samaritan,  hung aids a helpless female truck driver with truck trouble, who repays him later.

Award-winning director Dung Luong Dinh makes a 180-degree turn from his two previous films Father and Son and Drowsy City, to deliver an action flick from Vietnam, a welcome change,  The film features action sequences by Oh Sea Young (Avengers: Age of Ultron), 578 MAGNUM, nominated for the Grand Prix Award at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, was selected as Vietnam's 2023 official Oscar Entry for Best International Feature.

It is no surprise that the film did not even make the Oscar Best International Feature shortlist.  Every country in the world vies for the coveted award and it is hard to compete with countries like France, Italy, Denmark, and other wealthier Western countries.  Even France’s THE TASTE OF THINGS and Denmark’s THE PROMISED LAND made the shortlist but failed to make the 5 nominated films.  A martial arts action flick would be the least likely contender.  Even as an action flick, it is pale compared to this year’s already-released action flicks like THE BEEKEEPER.  But the film still holds its own.  The well-staged action set pieces and other differences like a plot with more emotional impact involving human courage make this Vietnamese action film stand out.

579 MAGNUM premieres via VOD, Digital and Film Movement Plus on February 23, 2024.


ABOUT DRY GRASSES (Turkey/France/Germany/Sweden 2023) ***

Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan


Dedicated teachers or just plain teachers and their demise have been favourite fodder for dramatic stories in films.  At TIFF alone this year, there are similar stories to be told in THE TEACHER’S LOUNGE and L’ETE DERNER (THE LAST SUMMER)but not so elaborate as Nuri Bilge Ceylon’s (WINTER SLEEP, ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA) masses.  Elaborate it is as the film runs a full three hours and 20 minutes allowing Ceylon time to tell his take without rush or even urgency.

The film is set in a tight-knit community that seems to only experience two seasons, just summer and winter in Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s masterfully character-driven return to the screen probes into power dynamics and the darkest regions of the human soul, as reflected ninth film’s setting.

Middle-aged Samet (Deniz Celiloglu) is a quick-witted and quick-to-anger elementary school art teacher–cum–amateur photographer in a traditional village who dreams of a posting in his native Istanbul.   shares lodging with his more attractive and likable colleague Kenan (Musab Ekici) and spends his nihilistic days developing an inappropriate fixation on 14-year-old teacher’s pet Sevim (Ece Bagci).  When a love note written by Sevim is confiscated in a school-wide search, Samet’s rotten-to-the-core fantasies grow.  The search clearly violates personal privacy, an issue that will never be tolerated these days in North American or Western schools.  Meanwhile, Sevim, who suspects her teacher of stealing the letter, makes her heightened discomfort with his behaviour known to the school authorities and an investigation is launched. Enter Nuray (Merve Dizdar), a fellow teacher whose past political activism has rendered her disabled, allowing her to choose postings anywhere in the state — just the escape Samet needs. The only problem is that Nuray seems to favour Kenan.

The film is beautiful to look, at the vast ice and snow of the landscape and even the flowing river during summer.  The film is poetic and reflective of the emotions of its characters.  But the film is far too long, good as it is, and can be shortened without compromise.


BRING HIM TO ME (Australia 2023) ***

Directed by Luke Sparke


In the film’s first 30 minutes, the camera shows a mole in the middle of the road.  The car skids pass barely missing it.  The scene has nothing to do with the story but the scene shows that there is some spirit and verve involved in the making of the movie.  Other notable camera work shows a man walking towards a car as seen in the car’s mirror and a closeup of the car’s glove compartment revealing a photo of a kid informing the audience that the protagonist has a son.  There are impressive night scenes of a lit-up fair and some neat editing in the way the story is introduced in flashbacks.  Director Sparke performs multiple film duties including editing and production design,

The title of the film tells the simple plot. Under orders from a ruthless crime boss, a getaway driver with no name (Barry Pepper) must battle his conscience and drive an unsuspecting crew member, also of no name (Jamie Costa) to an ambush execution. There is a long drive ahead.  The simple story sounds mundane enough and it is of no surprise that anyone watching the movie would have quite low expectations.  But truth be told, this Australian film that poses as an American film has its pleasures.  There are several Australian actors in the cast including Sam Neill (actually New Zealand) and Liam McIntyre but they all pass with their American accent.  Expect little and the film turns out better than expected.  This film certainly does. The film contains a solid script by Tom Evans and apt direction by Luke Sparke.

The lead is Barry Pepper playing the getaway driver.  Pepper spots an ugly beard and moustache and his 53 years of age is showing.  Pepper is an extremely handsome chap in his younger days and is Canadian-born (in British Columbia) and has always delivered solid performances in films like WE ARE SOLDIERS, THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS and TRUE GRIT among others).  Here it plays a driver with no name or unknown background who shows his mettle in a surprise scene where he beats up two assholes at a gas station.

The film is aided by the fact that it contains two likable characters, one veteran who can stand no nonsense and the other, a kid who is nothing but nonsense.  The two opposing personalities make good chemistry as crime partners.

One can tell that there are a few twists in the story.  The crime boss tells the driver: “Don’t trust him.”  “What did he do?” the driver asks the boss.  What are you gaping to do to him?”  What the kid apparently did is disclosed in time to the audience but it is again neat to note that the disclosure might not be the truth.

BRING HIM TO ME opens on February 23 on digital and on-demand (Apple TV, Cineplex, Bell, Google Play, Rogers, etc) and is certainly worth a watch.



Directed by Ethan Cohen


DRIVE-AWAY DOLLS is a comedy caper with a nod to THELMA AND LOUISE that follows Jamie (Margaret Qualley, daughter of Andie MacDowell and with credit in films like POOR THINGS and SEBERG), an uninhibited free spirit bemoaning yet another breakup with a girlfriend Sukie (Beanie Feldstein), and her demure friend Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan) who desperately needs to loosen up.  In search of a fresh start, the two embark on an impromptu road trip to Tallahassee, but things quickly go awry when they cross paths with a group of inept criminals along the way.  No drugs are involved, just penises.

Ethan Coen goes solo without his brother Joel, in this raunchy comedy about two teenage lesbians as they take across the country,  There is obviously play of opportunity for high jinx, but these have to be inventive and funny.

DRIVE-AWAY DOLLS would be more appropriately titled DRIVE-AWAY DIKES as indicated at the end of the film, though many entering to see this movie would not think that this is a gay-themed film about two teen lesbians trying to find love in what might also be considered to be a partial coming-of-age movie.  The film is not bad with an atmosphere similar to the Coen Brothers’ RAISING ARIZONA but because of its downright outrageousness in the plot evolving penises, also bears similarity to the Farrelly Brother’s comedies such as THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT MARY.  Truth be told, DRIVE-AWAY DOLLS is not bad but a disappointment, considering that one has come to expect a lot from the Cohen Breathers, Ethan aside, nonetheless.

One flaw that can be noticed is the fact that the filmmakers particularly Cohen have tried too hard in what could also be a nod to the classic THELMA AND LOUISE and ROMY ND MICHELLE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION films.  The six penises, the simulated sex scenes, and the lesbian orgy are examples of extremes the film has taken to surprise the audience.  This is Cohen’s first film since THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS in 2018, he claimed that he was bored with the filmmaking process like his brother Joel was, though much more than him.  The boredom can be observed in the film which lacks fresh humour relying on gross dick/dildo jokes.

Matt Damon has a cameo at the end of the film as a senator with a questionable character, But the best cameo belongs to Bill Camp who plays a character called Curlie who is being called Curlie unless you know him well.

There is one huge error of miscasting at the end of the film.  The person who plays Marian’s aunt is clearly Afro American while an East Indian performs Marian.  It is as if audiences are not given credit for distinguishing different races of darker skinned races,

The best thing about the film that brings the most laughs and surprises is Beanie Feldstein (BOOKSMART) who plays Sarah’s ex-girlfriend, a hard-nosed cop.  The film soars whenever she appears on screen.

Despite efforts to be naughty and funny, DRIVE-AWAY DOLLs is a huge Ethan Cohen disappointment illustrating his statement that he had recently gotten bored with the filmmaking process.


Directed by Bo Mirhossen


HISTORY OF EVIL is set in a dystopian future of 2045 in the United States where chaos needs to be contained where evil arises.  It is the age-old fight between good and evil but now in a political setting. However, director Bo shows that evil can come from both human and the supernatural.

In the near future, war and corruption will plague America and turn it into a theocratic police state.  The opening words on the screen describe civil war and unrest, very similar to what one would expect if Trump got into power during the next election - with misuse of power, rise of the red-necks and loss of democracy.  But there is hope.

Against the oppression, ordinary citizens have formed a group called The Resistance. One such member, Alegre Dyer (Jackie Cruz, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK), breaks out of political prison and reunites with her husband Ron (Paul Wesley, STAR TREK, STRANGE NEW WORLDS) and daughter Daria.  Daria does not recognize her mother upon seeing her.  On the run from the militia, the family takes shelter in a remote safe house.  Why this particular place?  Because the family is told, that no one wants to come near it.  Some audience anticipation is invoked that maybe this is a haunted mansion.  But their journey is far from over, as the house’s dark past begins to eat away at Ron, and his earnest desire to keep his family safe is overtaken by something much more sinister.

As in the spirit of Master of Suspense, Hitchcock, there is another audience anticipation scene of what is yet to come in a scene when Maria and her mum, Alegre is play a game of guessing how many fingers the mother has up behind her back.  Daria guesses right three times and when asked how she does it, Daria says that the boy behind her mother is helping her.  At that point in the film, there is no supernatural occurrences as yet.

But the film fails to satisfy the build-up of suspense and audience anticipation,. Not much is seen of the resistance fighters except for the family.

Director Bo Mirhossen has based this horror film on his past experiences.  Bo is an Iranian director living in the United States.  His parents were activists during the 1070s in Iran, during the revolution, a very dangerous period for his family.  He combines his experiences with his love for horror films to create HISTORY OF EVIL.

HISTORY OF EVIL is a horror film in a political setting in which horror exists in both human and supernatural forms.   Director Bo creates and intimidating atmosphere that a family has to overcome in order to survive as a family unit.  Unfortunately, the film does not come together as a whole, as the supernatural portion that occurs only during the last third of the film makes little sense.  Why the house is haunted and why the ghosts appear in the forms shown are never explained as a lot of other loose ends.  The film starts off well and slowly deteriorates which is a shame.

HISTORY OF EVIL (a Shudder original film) premieres on Shudder the horror streaming service on February 22nd.

IO CAPITANO (Me, Cap[tain) (Italy 2023) ****

Directed by Matteo Garrone


Two teenagers, actually cousins, Seydou and Moussa (wonderfully portrayed with sincerity by non-professional actors), leave their home in Dakar for a hellish odyssey through hazardous seas, arid deserts (the Sahara), and a Libyan detention centre, all in pursuit of the dream of living in Europe.

The 2024 Oscar nominee for Best International Feature comes with a warning of Content advisory: explicit violence; scenes of surgery; crude content; frightening scenes and mature themes. These include a torture scene involving scorching of naked bodies, bodies hung from limbs as well as horrific scenes of men trapped in a boat's engine room.

Seydou and Moussa transit through Mali equipped with a false passport ()costing them a hefty $100 each) and, although the scam (the clothes worn in the passport photo are the same as the ones currently worn by them) is discovered by a policeman, they avoid prison in exchange for 50 dollars. Once in Niger, they face the desert until they enter Libya, where they are arrested and taken to separate detention centres.

Seydou is subjected to torture but manages to get out, as another inmate pushes him to offer himself as a bricklayer like him. Having worked well, both are released and their trip to Tripoli is paid for. In the Libyan capital, Seydou meets Moussa, with whom he resumes his journey toward Europe.

The last leg of the journey will not be revealed in this review, except to say that it is just as harrowing as the other parts of the journey.  But it is during this part that Seydou shows his true human courage and sympathy.

This review was written this review on Rotten Tomatoes.  “Kinda weird to center half of the movie's runtime on Libya.... with actors that are supposed to be Libyan, but don't speak Libyan and instead speak Algerian, which is not the same dialect nor the language nor the country at all.  Imagine if a movie was centered around Argentina, but every Argentinian character in it just spoke Castilian Spanish... Also, in one of the scenes, the characters were supposed to speak 'Libyan Arabic', but they were (no exaggeration at all) just making racist gibberish sounds and yelling 'yala' with guns... beyond disrespectful and disgusting.”  Being no expert in African languages, I am assuming that there might be some truth in his/her saying that put some downer points to Garrone’s  otherwise credible opus.

Garrone’s film also opens further questions.  When the two finally arrive in Italy, the film ends with what is assumed to be a happy ending.  But what is there to say these people will not be sent back to where they came from?  The two are neither refugees though they have done their fair share of suffering and they do not have immigration status.

Still, despite its flaws of the abrupt open ending, Garrone’s film is well researched, harrowing in its depiction of the joinery while keeping on its theme of the triumph of the human spirit,

IO CAPITANO the film is so titled for the reason that is explained at the end of the film  The film is Italy’s Academy Award   Entry for Best International Feature.  It has the shortlist and also the final 5 nominees,  It stands up to fight another film likely its main competitor, that deals with suffering, rescue and the triumph of the human spirit - Netflix’s SOCIETY OF THE SNOW.

IOP CAPITANO opens at the TIFF Lightbox on Friday, February 23rd.


MEA CULPA (USA 2024) ***

Directed by Tyler Perry


MEA CULPA is a Tyler Perry film from Tyler Perry Studios.  Perry is one of the most successful black artists today - and a popular artist at that.  Tyler Perry is an American actor, filmmaker and playwright. He is the creator and performer of Mabel "Madea" Simmons, a tough elderly woman, and also portrays her brother Joe Simmons and her nephew Brian Simmons.  His films vary in style from orthodox filmmaking techniques to filmed productions of live stage plays, many of which have been subsequently adapted into feature films. Madea's first appearance was in Perry's play I Can Do Bad All by Myself staged in Chicago.

Tyler Perry is best known for his drag performance as Madea, a hard-hitting, no-nonsense often foul-mouthed middle-aged black woman who always has her say.  This character appears as Mea’s mother-in-law, but since this character is more acerbic than Madea, Perry has got someone to play her, instead of himself.


Tyler Perry knows comedy and he mixes it with real bitchiness in the mother-in-law segments.  She is hitting hard,”  the protagonist Mea Harper (Kelly Rowland) is told by her best friend, also her sister-in-law at her mother-in-law’s birthday dinner, only to add: “Don’t worry, she is really drunk and will pass out in time!”  The mother-in-law quips: “What did I miss over there?”  The mother-in-law is white a sort of clever reversal of black inclusion in a white cast movie.

MEA CULPA is Spanish for 'through my fault'.  The story turns into a murder thriller that follows Mea as an ambitious criminal defense attorney who, in her aspiration to be named partner, takes on the case of an artist accused of murdering his girlfriend.

Tyler Perry is known to be a born-again and practicing Christian and his films are sometimes preachy.  One wonders the message he is putting across with this latest film of his.  But MEA CULPA has a strong feminine presence.  The wife works today the bills while the husband is out of a job, spending the money.

What makes this thriller work, despite the questionably silly ending, is that it deals with down-to-earth issues that audiences can relate to.  Issues like husband and wife quarrels, mother-in-law problems, job conflicts of interest and feminine issues are all treated to the typical Tyler Perry touch.  This film moves more toward serious thriller territory.  His films might not win awards for artistic merit (though his films have won a few BET awards), but they are always entertaining to watch, MEA CULPA included.

Tyler Perry has already 3 more films in the making after MEA CULPER - MADEA’S DESTINATION WEDDING, BLACK WHITE AND BLUE and DIVORCE IN THE BLACK.

MEA CULPA, a Netflix original movie,  is open for streaming on Netflix from February 23rd.


THE MONK AND THE GUN (Bhutan, France, United States of America, Taiwan 2023) ***

Directed by Pawo Choyning Dorji


THE MONK AND THE GUN is set in Bhutan and is a Bhutan production.

Bhutan is a landlocked country in South Asia situated in the Eastern Himalayas between China in the north and India in the south. With a population of over 727,145 and a territory of 38,394 square kilometres (14,824 sq mi), Bhutan ranks 133rd in land area and 160th in population. Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy with a king (Druk Gyalpo) as the head of state and a prime minister as the head of government. Vajrayana Buddhism is the state religion and the Je Khenpo is the head of the state religion.  For most people, Bhutan is known as a base for Mount Everest climbers and a place where lot of monks live and have an influence.

THE MONK AND THE GUN serves to educate audiences about Bhutan and its history of democracy while sending a message as well.

Set in 2006, when the Kingdom of Bhutan the film examines]its transition to democracy. Writer-director Pawo Choyning Dorji is a poignant parable about the impossibility of embracing modernity without reckoning with the past.

The year 2006 marked a historical turning point for the Kingdom of Bhutan: with the abdication of its King, it began its journey to becoming the world’s youngest democracy together as the last country to have television and the internet.  Following the adventures of monks, villagers, urbanites, and one hapless foreigner, this big-hearted ensemble drama captures that moment of transition in all its strangeness and wonder.

Government officials stage a mock election as a training exercise — though even registering folks to vote is a challenge in regions where people don’t know their birthdates. In the village of Ura, an elderly lama, recognizing the great change sweeping his country, instructs a monk (Tandin Wangchuk) to obtain a pair of guns. Meanwhile, Benji (Tandin Sonam) takes a gig hosting and translating for Ron (Harry Einhorn), an American antique arms collector who has come to purchase a coveted 19th-century rifle. With a tremendous fee on offer, Ron assumes the transaction will be a slam dunk. He fails to anticipate that, just as the Bhutanese are unfamiliar with democracy, they are also less persuadable when it comes to the laws of commerce.

One thing director Pawo portrays is the naivety of the Bhutan people to the point of spicily and occasional ignorance of the ways of the West.  But he also shows with naivety comes innocence, sincerity and human goodness.

Directed by Pawo Choyning Dorji, best known as the director of 2019’s Oscar-nominated Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, which made the top 5 nominated International Features and set against Bhutan’s snaking streams and verdant hills, THE MONK AND THE GUN unfortunately did not make it to the top 5, a hard top 5 to beat.  There is a reference to a yak in this film as it is said to be worth two cows as the neighbour has sold two cows to buy a yak in order to show off his wealth.  For all that is worth, THE MONK AND THE GUN is an earnest and simply made film with heart and a message for peace that is well made and entertaining enough.

THE MONK AND THE GUN opens FEBRUARY 23 at the TIFF Lightbox on February 23rd.


SEAGRASS (Canada 2023) ***

Directed by Meredith Hama-Brown


SEAGRASS has an idyllic opening on a ferry where two young sisters (Remy Marthaller and Nyha Huang Breitkreuz) playfully run around enjoying the view and the trip aboard the ferry.  They are going to a retreat with their parents traveling via the ferry.  The following scene shows the children in the back seat of the family car while the father drives off.  They sing the song: "When you are happy and you know it”, while the camera has a shot of the mother, suddenly frowning in the car’s passenger seat.  It is a beautiful beginning, also beautifully shot, displaying the beauty of the Canadian province, of British Columbia while sending a shiver down one’s spine from the mother’s frown that something ominous is about to occur.

Set in the mid-1990s, a Japanese Canadian woman, Judith  (Ally Maki, THE BIG DOOR PRIZE) grappling with the recent death of her mother brings her family to a self-development retreat. When her distressed relationship with her husband (Luke Roberts, GAME OF THRONES) begins to affect the children’s emotional security, the family is forever changed.  The film covers several key issues and explores questions relating to fear and security, it is about a distressed family, motherhood,  grief, shame, intergenerational trauma and racial identity.  It is about all these seemingly disparate things, but the thematic tissue that connects them all is “fear” and the various ways that uncertainty affects our relationships and sense of stability.  

Director Hama-Brown goes deep into the success and problems of a relationship and marriage,  At the retreat, Judith talks to a fellow retreater on the topic, where she confesses her unhappy marriage,  Does there need to be a reason to be unhappy?  There needs to be work in a relationship.  These are some of the questions asked She also talks about the duty of marriage reflecting back to other parents, about how unhappy they were.  A quote from Buddha is also mentioned for good measure  “A man who conquers himself is greater than one who conquers a thousand men in battle.”  The film slants more toward the female perspective.  Not much is revealed about how the husband feels.  The husband reacts, most of the time to the emotions of his wife.  

The child actors are marvellous.  Director Hama-Brown captures both the innocence and mischief of children, also showing both the fun and trouble kids can bring to the parents.  At one point, they break the closet door by accident causing Judith to question whether she is a good mother after scolding them.

The issue of racism is also covered in the subject of Judith’s parents being interned during WWII.  One of her children’s friends also remarks that she does not look ‘normal’ as she is mixed.

SEAGRASS is written and directed by Meredith Hama-Brown, the cinematographer is award-winning Norm Li, CSC (Beyond the Black Rainbow) and is produced by Experimental Forest Films' Tyler Hagan (The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open) and Ceroma Pictures' Sara Blake (Until Branches Bend) and distributed by Game Theory. The project was predominantly shot on Gabriola Island (BC) with a few additional days shot in Tofino and Ucluelet (BC).

Director Hama-Brown steers her relationship family drama into its emotional climax that includes a little suspense to boot in what can be termed s meticulously crafted gem.


STOPMOTION (UK 2023) ***

Directed by Robert Morgan


A stop-motion animator, Ella Blake (Aisling Franciosi)  struggles to control her demons after the loss of her overbearing mother.  Suddenly alone in the world, she embarks upon the creation of a macabre new puppet film, which soon becomes the battleground for her sanity.  As Ella’s mind starts to fracture, the characters in her animated film take on a terrifying life of their own, and the unleashed power of her imagination threatens to destroy her.

The film opens with an odd-looking woman shown in flashes (like stop-motion) sneering and silently snickering on screen.

Stop motion is an animated filmmaking technique in which objects are physically manipulated in small increments between individually photographed frames so that they will appear to exhibit independent motion or change when the series of frames is played back. Any kind of object can thus be animated, but puppets with movable joints (puppet animation) or plasticine figures (clay animation or claymation) are most commonly used. Puppets, models or clay figures built around an armature (described as the skeleton in the film) are used in model animation.  The new British horror film STOPMOTION is about a girl, recently left alone after her domineering mother (Stella Gonet) (move it 1 millimetre; move it half a millimetre; is it too much to ask that we finish this film before I die?) is hospitalized from a stroke.

The animation that Ella is working on with her mum deals with a cyclops who has traded one eye in order to see her destiny only to see her own death.

When Ella shows a little girl (Coiling Springall) her work, the little girl says it is boring.  Little girl:  It must take forever.  Why bother?

Ella: It feels like bringing something back to life.

The little girl suggests that Ella re-do the whole story and start anew and they indulge in a  conversation,

Little Girl: There is a girl lost in the woods.

Ella: Why is it scary?

Little Girl: Because there is someone coming.  Someone no one wants to meet.

Before you know it, Ella re-does the stop-motion animation.  Then Ella shows the little girl the work:

Little girl: She does not look real

Ella: She is not supposed to look real.

The puppet of the girl lost in the woods is quite odd-looking and definitely scary for children to look at.  Director Morgan ups the ante in creating a scary gothic atmosphere by the use of multiple techniques including thumping and screeching sounds, colours, odd image and innovative camera angles.  Filming locations include director Morgan's sitting room.

Ella gets more obsessed with her work, refusing to eat and ignoring her boyfriend, Tom (Tom York) who eventually loses his patience with her.

One thing that can be said for sure about the atmosphere of Morgan’s film is that no one can be sure of what is actually happening, less guess what is going to happen.

STOPMOTION opens in theatres on February 23rd and everywhere for rent March 15th.  The film is also available on Shudder, the horror streaming service in May.



YOUTH (SPRING) (Luxembourg/Franxe/Nerehrlands  2023) ***½

Directed by Wang Bing


Running at 3 hours and 30 monies. YOUTH (SPRING) is a candid examination of the youth garment workers working in the textile capital, Zhili, China.  Unlike the youth of Western countries, these young people live in closed and often filthy quarters, worn more than 8 hours a day, and away from their families.  Yet, they share the common trait of their Western counterparts of lively spirit, off flirting with the opposite sex and also running into mischief.  The work ethics of the textile companies also come into question.  The bosses are rude to the young workers, calling them morons and refusing to look at fir pay for their work.  Shot over the course of five years, from 2014 to 2019, in the city of Zhili, one of the main hubs of the country’s textile industry, the film condenses 2,600 hours of footage into a three-and-a-half-hour document of considerable visual strength and impact.  What emerges is a vivid portrait of not only a regional economy, but the love, tenderness, and friendship experienced by its young textile workers. These 20-year-olds have migrated from their hometowns to work for a period of time in the sweatshop capital of China. They share everything. They stay and eat in common dormitories, meet in corridors or on balconies, and, above all, spend 15 hours a day at work, the constant hum of sewing machines forming the soundtrack of their destinies. There is no story or narrative but what occurs onscreen tells more stories about human youth than anything else.





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