Solid documentary CONCRETE VALLEY and solid blaxploittion comedy THEY CLONED TYRONE come with highishest recommendations.

The much anticpated OPPENHEIMER also opens and the film soars.


THE (ALMOST) LEGENDS (Mexico 2023) **
Directed by Ricardo Castro Velazquez


If Hollywood silliness like BARBIE is not enough, one can look south of the border to observe silliness in the form of two half-brothers trying to make good in an equally goofy Mexican movie  THE (ALMOST) LEGENDS.

Quite a lot happens in the film’s first 10 minutes, requiring a certain alertness to absorb all the proceedings.  Narrated by Valentin ( Guillermo Quintanilla), the super idol/singer from the unknown beachside tourist town in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa, he tells of his family and his love for two things - his singing aboard a ferry and racing in a rally.  He also has two sons from his two families.  When he dies, he reveals that the story is not about him any longer but about the two sons, half brothers and also half-wits at that.  It is all goofy, cute and a little hilarious looking at Mexican humour.

The story does not really matter, but the setting is colourful enough, director Ricardo Castro Velazquez  going all out colourful.

Romeo (Benny Emmanuel) and Preciado (Harold Azuara), the two half brothers meet again to honor their dad's memory in a car rally full of adrenaline and banda music.

Not as hilarious as it should be, the film has s a lagging middle.  It also does not help that it is hard to care for two half brothers succeed when there is nothing really at stake.

THE (ALMOST) LEGENDS titled “Los (casi) ídolos de Bahía Colorada”, a Netflix original comedy debuts on Netflix this week.


BARBIE (USA 2023) **

Directed by Greta Gerwig


“It’s a Barbie Girl…. in a Barbie world.”  …. as the popular song goes.  If one is unfamiliar with Barbie dolls and the line of the song is all one knows, one is not smarter after leaving the new Barbie movie - entitled BARBIE, of course.  The doll pastiche fantasy plots its audience into the pink coloured Barbie world in which all girly dreams come true.  Everyone living in Barbieland is Barbie - the mayor and all the citizens,  except for Ken.  Barbie is everyone and everywhere.  Ken is just Ken.

Barbie is played with silly aplomb, cheerfulness and nativity by Margot Robbie, destined to play the titular girly heroine while Ken is played with dumb handsome innocence as pink-clad Ken,  Ken is head over heels in love with Barbie and wishes to be part of her life.  Big Barbie is just Barbie.

The character Barbie and the film BARBIE is based on a fashion doll and fictional character manufactured by American toy company Mattel, Inc. and launched on March 9, 1959. American businesswoman Ruth Handler is credited with the creation of the doll using a German doll called Bild Lilli as her inspiration  The character of Ruth Handler (Rhea Perlman) appears too, in the movie making an effect on the character of Barbie at the end.

The story of BARBIE is straightforward.  Barbie lives in her fantasy world of Barbie land when everything is Barbie-perfect.  She has a male admirer called Ken.  Ken is all dressed in pink, like the typical gay male, but Ken’s sexuality is totally dismissed and ignored in the story.  Ken exists just for Barbie and Ken wants to be in her life.  Barbie has an existential crisis - the running joke in the film.  She has to leave Barbieland to enter the real world to find out what has gone wrong with her, and she must make it right.  Not that anyone really cares.  In the process, Barbieland is about to turn into Kenland.  Heaven forbid!  Will Farell has a supporting role as the oafish CEO of Mattel, the company that owns Barbie.

Barbie has a significant impact on social values by conveying characteristics of female independence, and with her multitude of accessories, an idealized upscale life-style that can be shared with affluent friends.  This is the inspiration behind the husband and wife team Greta Gerwig and Noah Bambauch that wrote the script.  Unfortunately, they try too hard with the result of a pretentious rather than glossy look at the world of females in a male dominated world.

From the film’s confused messaging and often not only over-the-top way of reading its adult message, one can gather that the film’s target audience is not the ]girls that play with these Barbie dolls but the adults that used to play with these dolls.  Still the kids would still go see the film and be a bit confused, somewhat.  The film is to be praised for its stunning set and art decoration and its creation on a fantasy and animated looking Barbieland, all dressed in dreamy pink.  Apart from that, nothing else really is worthy of note.  The film should have been funnier for all its silliness.



CONCRETE VALLEY (Canada 2022) ***½

Directed by Antoine Bourges



The film is shot in and around Thorncliffe Park.   The area is familiar to myself as my tennis club courts are right by the residential apartments.  The film consists of both interior and exterior scenes.  Director Bourges makes good use of the area in the storytelling.  For one, the film begins with the protagonist losing his path in the valley forest and the family also has a picnic outing in the valley later in the film.

A bit of the neighbourhood described should interest those watching the film. The neighbourhood (formerly containing a racetrack), just north of downtown Toronto. embodies some standard urban planning ideas of the era – high concentrations of similar housing types, strict separation of retail and residential development, and the assumption that everyone has a car. Low-rise buildings are clustered inside the enclosure created by Thorncliffe Park and Overlea, while high-rise buildings line the outside of Thorncliffe Park.  Residents on Thorncliffe Park Drive are at considerable walking distance from shops, although this problem is mitigated somewhat, even in winter, by well kept sidewalks and walkways and by frequent bus service.   Walking around, one would see many immigrants.  Though a generally safe place, there had been a shooting incident once.

In CONCRETE VALLEY, the audience is introduced to an immigrant family from Syria.   Rashid (Hussam Douhna), a doctor from Syria, struggles to adjust to his life in Canada after five years in Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park with his wife, Farah (Amani Ibrahim) and son Ammar (Abdullah Nadaf).  He tries to hold on to his old identity by working as an unlicensed doctor for his neighbours.  While Farah becomes more involved in their local community, tensions between her and Rashid begin to take their toll on their fragile marriage.  Director Bourges shows both the positives and weaknesses of his characters, not taking any sides in the couple’s quarrels.

The use of non-actors to play the major roles serve two purposes.  The first creates a certain authenticity in that the audience is not faced with cheap theatrics and acting according to the interpretation of the actor or actors.  However, if the non actor is not a doctor as in this movie, it might show.  Fortunately in this movie, it is hard to tell.  The film feels authentic and unforced, a good thing.

Director Bourges, himself an immigrant, paints a favourable picture of immigrants as hardworking and helpful in the community making positive contributions to society but not without their own personal problems.

CONCRETE VALLEY is a slow moving drama but is nevertheless captivating enough to hold interest throughout with its endearing immigrant family facing both integration and personal problems, occasionally with both mixed together.  The entire film looks much less pretentious than previous Canadian immigration films like last year’s downright awful SCARBOROUGH or this year’s recent equally bad SO MUCH TENDERNESS which looks too forceful and artificially staged.

CONCRETE VALLEY has a theatrical release across Canada beginning on July 21st, screening at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, with more Canada-wide dates coming soon. 




LAKOTA NATION VS. UNITED STATES chronicles the Lakota Indians’ quest to reclaim the Black Hills, the sacred land that was stolen in violation of treaty agreements. A searing, timely portrait of resistance, the film explores the ways America has ignored its debt to Indigenous communities, and ponders what might be done today to repair the wrongs of the past.

The United States government stole the Black Hills – a mountain range in the U.S. states of South Dakota and Wyoming – from the Sioux Nation in 1876.   The U.S. calls the Lakota Indians Sioux but whatever they are called they are the Lakota Indians.  The land was pledged to the Sioux Nation in the Treaty of Fort Laramie, but a few years later the United States illegally seized the land and nullified the treaty with the Indian Appropriations Bill of 1876, without the tribe's consent. That bill "denied the Sioux all further appropriation and treaty-guaranteed annuities" until they gave up the Black Hills.  A Supreme Court case was ruled in favour of the Sioux in 1980.  As of 2011, the court's award was worth over $1 billion, but the Sioux have outstanding issues with the ruling and have not collected the funds.

The Black Hills is sacred Lakota land.  There are lots of shots of the land’s beauty with animals, fish and flowing streams and vegetation.

A lot of interviews are given by the Lakota elders who speak of the i justice to their people.  Many of them have got higher education and gone to work with the white man.  But their duty is to their people, and they often return back to their land to fight for their rights - which according to them is the right thing to do.  There is also a segment examining schools that take away the children to educate them the white man’s way.  The beliefs, practices and tradition of the Indians are taught to be bad and the children taught about Christianity and Jesus.  The funny thing is that a lot of the parents thought it ok for the children in order to succeed in their future.  “They did not know better and thought it was the best for us,” says a disgruntled Lakota who went to tone of the school.s

The film takes the occasional lighter tone with the song “Home on the Range '' ironically played when the Lakota Indians have lost their land.  Clips of old films are also shown like the comic one from THE PALEFACE with Buster Keaton.  The scene shows Keaton, the white man or paleface showing an Indian in full headdress a deed of his land with the Indian bowing at Whitman's feet.

But it is a serious doc with serious issues.  The film is told in 3 parts, the last part called “Reparation” which clearly shows there is none.  When the land is stolen, the supreme court of the noted States awards 100 million for the land which is an insult.  The Indians liken it to stealing  car and then paying peanuts for it.  They or course refuse the money and want their sacred land.

Moving, relevant and important, the doc reminds every non-native in North America that they are living on stolen land. 

DAKOTA NATION VS. UNITED STATES is available on VOD platforms July 21st, 2023.


Directed by Christopher Nolan


One of the most anticipated films of the year, OPPENHEIMER, is an epic biographical thriller film written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Based on the 2005 biography American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, the film chronicles the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist who was pivotal in developing the first nuclear weapons as part of the Manhattan Project. 

The first third of the film is filled with lots of jargon on atomic Physics including the concept of fusion (combining of atoms) and the opposite of it, fission, the splitting of atoms as  well as the usage of isotopes.  There is also the mention of the dual property of light, with its wave and particle nature.  Those versed in Physics and Science will be delighted at the script but those who are not will just have to grin and bear it.  It is great when the script gives its audience the benefit of intelligence to comprehend the facts.

Cillian Murphy delivers a magnificent performance carrying the drama fully from start to end as the troubled protagonist.  Murphy is best known for Danny Boyle’s 28 DAYS LATER and also as the creepy villain Scarecrow in the BATMAN movie.  The cast also includes a slew of cameos, many unrecognizable from their great performance as well as the make up.  The best of these performances belongs to Academy Award Winner (for Churchill) Gary Oldman who plays American President Truman.  Cameos include Kenneth Branagh, Benny Sadie, Rami Malek, Matthew Modine, Tom Conti (as Albert Einstein), Casey Affleck and Josh Hartnett among others.  Emily Blunt plays Oppenheimer’s wife, Kitty and Robert Downey plays a villain for the rest time, Lewis Strauss.  Every good story need a villain and Downey  Jr. provides a most hated conniving villain.

OPPENHEIMER is to be praised for its direction, main performance and particularly its visuals, aided by director Nolan’s re-imagination of the damaging effects of the hydrogen bomb.  The film contains many moments of jaw dropping shots in which the theatre went into complete silence.  OPPENHEIMER marks the best of adult Hollywood blockbuster movie making.  Nolan clearly does it best.

There is no segment on the images of the dropping of the bombs of the two Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki  The horrors of the bombing and fallout are shown from the imagined Oppenheimer’s point-of-view, of the American faces.  This is quite a clever and solid deviation from atom bomb films.

OPPENHEIMER runs 3 hours long and will definitely get a complaint or two despite it being a totally engrossing thriller from start to end.  This is clearly an adult thriller and drama, excellently made Nolan style, which means it gets a bit confusing in its facts (consider his last film TENET which is impossible to follow even though one might see it a half dozen times).  Warner Bros. upset with Nolan (thesis Nolan’s first film not with WB) for leaving for Universal also has BARBIE opening this week.  Forget the pink pretentious rubbish.  OPPENHEIMER is the one to go see this week.  OPPENHEIMER premiered at Le Grand Rex in Paris on July 11, 2023 and is scheduled to be theatrically released in the United Kingdom and United States on July 21, 2023, by Universal Pictures.  The film  opens everywhere, 21st of July, but best to see it in IMAX.  For the first time, sections in IMAX were shot using black-and-white analog photography.




Directed by Stephen Scarlata


SHARKSPLOITATION is a documentary about films that exploit the horror films where sharks are the horrors.  It is a sub-genre, in other words, a genre of a genre.  Therefore, it is not a documentary about anything terribly important.  And as expected it is an ok watch, not very educational in terms of the importance of its subject matter and only interesting for those who have a keen interest in shark horror films.

Shudder, AMC Networks’ premium streaming service for horror, thrillers and the supernatural, releases this week on streaming, the new documentary, SHARKSPOITATION from filmmaker Stephen Scarlata.  In the wake of blockbuster classic Jaws in 1972, a new sub-genre was born. This new documentary explores the weird, wild cinematic legacy of sharks on film and the world’s undying fascination.  The film features multiple interviews including of Roger Corman, producer of SHARKTOPUSs and DINOSHARK; Joe Dante, who directed Corman’s Piranha; Carl Gottlieb, writer of all the JAWS films, Jaws 1, 2 and 3; Johannes Roberts, director of 47 METRES DOWN, and Mario Van Peebles, who starred in JAWS THE REVENGE along with marine and environmental conservation advocate Wendy Benchley, who was married to late Jaws, author Peter Benchley.  Benchley is also featured as an interviewee in one segment.

The following two paragraphs illustrate the mediocrity of the subject matter in the doc:

The doc begins with an expert explaining the two reasons behind the interest in shark horror films.  One is that the shark is a natural monster.  The second is that there is an inherent natural fear of high amounts of soft water, that underlines the fear of sharks beneath the water.

The second is the quality of dialogue said by the interviewees featured in the doc.  One has the title of horror film historian.  Is there a market for this type of education or a demand for it?  Another has the tile of doctor, and is a horror and shark expert.  There are, of course, a few famous talents such as the King of low budget horror movies, Roger Corman with a few of his products.  Joe Dante, the director of GREMLINS who also made films for Corman has his say in the doc.  Corman tells Dante that if he makes two successful films for him, he would not have to work for him any more.  Clips of JAWS rip-offs like PIRANHA, SHARKOPUS, ORCA THE KILLER WHALE (a bigger budget one with Richard Harris and Charlotte Rampling) and many others, too many to mention are also shown.  The dialogue or words spoken by those interviewed are often more than not just babbling.  Mario Van Peebles says that if you are in the water in such a situation, you are shit out of luck.  Not much quality information or even humour here.

Best to skip unless one is totally interested in shark horror as there is nothing really of urgency to be learnt here, though interesting to watch clips of old movies of forgettable low-budget generally awful shark horror films.  SHARKSPLOITATION is mildly entertaining at best!



Directed by Juel Taylor


Don’t let this dumb ass nigga mother fucking sounding film title THEY CLONED TYRONE fool you.  THEY CLONED TYRONE,  a Netflix original mf film is one crazed, totally off-the-wall and over-the-top comedy about pimps, drug dealers and gangstas that is an absolute blast.  Besides boasting star names like Jamie Foxx (RAY, DAY SHIFT and the upcoming STRAYS), Kiefer Sutherland and John Boyega (STAR WARS and THE WOMAN KING), it is the direction by Juel Taylor (his debut feature) and the script he co-wrote with Tony Rettenmaier that does the trick.  The screenplay was optioned from The Black List by MACROMedia.  It was conceived as a genre-busting homage to the Blaxploitation films of the 1970s,

A series of eerie events thrusts an unlikely trio made up of a pimp, his ho and a drug dealer onto the trail of a nefarious government conspiracy in this pulpy mystery caper.  The trio are:

Fontaine aka Tyrone:  He finds his clone.  Or is he the clone?  He is the Captain America and drug dealer in the conspiracy equation required to keep the peace of the hood.  He is the most serious of the three, also the one who wants to destroy the conspiracy.

Slick Charles:  He is the pimp who is proud of being the best pimp around.  However, he has trouble keeping Yo-You in control.  Slick is fast talking and is given the best, funniest and most foul mouthed dialogue in the script.  He runs around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Yo-Yo:  She is the hooker who claims she has retired and is only selling her body so that she can have enough money to go to college, hopefully in Miami.  She also is given hilarious lines.  Her name is given because no matter how much Slick tries to get rid of her, she always comes back  like a yo-yo.

Mall Security:  That is the nickname Sutherland calls his character likening his character to that like mall security - only  a very big mall consisting of all the existing clones.  He is the main villain but his character claims that he is just the guy the main villain calls when he wants a job done.

The film references other films like HOLLOW MAN (particularly Kevin Bacon) and SOPHIE’S CHOICE for the fun of it.

The dialogue and props include shops with names like “Got Dranks!” say it all.  Take these sample lines of dialogue:
“Who that?  Ugly black ass mother-fucker.” 

“Am I seeing shit?”

“Ghost of Christmas past ass nigga!” when Slick Charles sees Fointaine who has been shot dead suddenly appear.

THEY CLONED TYRONE blends in several genres - sci-fi, blaxploitation comedy, a bit of political thriller and crime drama.  But the film borders eventually on blaxploitation type goofy humour.  The film is surprisingly good comedy, if not anything else, and has attained a rotten tomatoes approval rating of 95% at the time of writing this review.  THEY CLONED TYRONE premiered at the American Black Film Festival on June 14, 2023. It began a limited theatrical release on July 14, 2023 before streaming on Netflix a week later.


Comments powered by CComment