Monday, 31 March 2014

JODOROWSKY'S DUNE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Doc about the spectacular movie that should have been made, but wasn't, opens theatrically via Mongrel Media at TIFF Bell Lightbox

Jodorowsky's Dune (2013) ***
Dir. Frank Pavich
Starring: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Michel Seydoux, H.R. Giger, Chris Foss, Brontis Jodorowsky, Nicolas Winding Refn, Richard Stanley, Gary Kurtz

Review By Greg Klymkiw

If we imagine a world without Star Wars, we can probably imagine a world where cinema was no longer being driven to the slow, painful death it is suffering now. More importantly, if we imagine a world where Alejandro (El Topo, Holy Mountain) Jodorowsky, the mad, obsessed/obsessive visionary director had been able to make his film adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune - beating Star Wars to the punch and laying the groundwork for a new and different kind of spectacle in the cinema rather than the empty state of the art blockbusters of the 80s - we can imagine a far greater world than we live in now (especially those who love and care about movies).

Frank Pavich's fascinating feature documentary is as close as we're ever going to get to seeing what might have been one of the greatest movies of the late 20th Century - a film that was a mere five million dollars short of becoming a reality, a film that would have starred Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali and Orson Welles, storyboarded by Moebeius, with effects by Dan O'Bannon, costume and creature designs by H.R. Giger and, of course, the legendary Jodorowsky at the helm.

To see this documentary is to be caught up in the creative excitement that went into every second of preparing this epic motion picture. Jodorowsky himself transports us to a time, place and state of being that captures every thrilling story beat in the development of this insane, passionate and mind-blowing film.

As the story proceeds, we're caught up in the fervour - nay, the fever pitch that never abated over several years of trying to make Dune a reality. And of course, as things start taking turns for the worst and we experience the whole enterprise crumble under the weight of cheap, vision-bereft studio chiefs who all eventually turned the movie down for the last financing piece of the puzzle. we feel like we're being dragged through the coals of sheer decimation of a staggering work of art - one that would have clearly changed the way we see movies.

Even more depressing, but almost strangely uplifting, is seeing storyboard and art designs from Dune that were outright stolen copiously by a who's who of Hollywood's artistic power brokers. There isn't one single mega-hit from a period of over 30 years that doesn't owe a debt of gratitude to the movie that now only exists on paper. It's also kind of cool to discover that not even Jodorowsky knew just how long his movie was going to be. All he knew was that it would be as long as it needed to be.

One of the more maddening revelations is how studio heads loved everything about the film, but hated it's director and yet, it was that same director who rallied the talent, guided the vision and drove the creation of the very materials the bean counters were in love with.

An all star cast of artisans, filmmakers and pundits join Jodorowsky in this tale of the movie that was never made. Best of all we are able to experience the sheer joy and twinkle in Jodorowsky's eye as he launches into one passionate tale after another about the making of the film, but also the film itself. Most extraordinary of all we experience his pride in being able to influence several generations of filmmakers from the fruits of his labours that led at once to a heartbreaking end and to another, seeds for the future greatness of others.

His pride and happiness about this is ultimately what makes him one of the great artists of cinema history.

"Jodorowsky's Dune" from Mongrel Media is playing theatrically in Toronto at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
For tickets and further info, visit the TIFF website HERE Director Frank Pavich will participate in a Q & A via Skype, following the 6:45 pm show of Jodorowsky’s Dune this Friday, April 4, at Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. West.The film will also open April 4 in Vancouver (International Village) and Montreal (Cinéma du Parc)! Programmed by Colin Geddes, the film premiered in the TIFF Docs series during the 2013 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Klymkiw WatchesTV (HBO Canada) - THE UNIVERSITY OF SING SING - Education=Salvation, not the systemic genocide America continues to penetrate upon its people of colour - Review By Greg Klymkiw

Can someone explain to me how America, the supposed bastion of freedom in Western history and culture, continues to be little more than a borderline Third World country that preys on the weakest amongst its own populace to enrich, uh, nobody? I use the word "nobody" only because the country's ruling elite - the rich - really ARE nobody. Even more appalling is the country's systemic racism and frankly, its ongoing genocide of its people of colour. "The University of Sing Sing" offers hope, but for me, it also demonstrates how despicable the ruling elites of the country truly are. Read on...

By Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

The University Of Sing Sing (2014) ***1/2
Dir. Tim Skousen, Starring: Joel Jimenez, Denis Martinez, Dewey Bozella, Douglas Duncan, Harry Belafonte, Ice-T

Review By Greg Klymkiw

In the span of 40 minutes, you will see a group of men learn and graduate from university. They're no ordinary students. They're all prisoners of Sing Sing, the notorious New York state maximum security prison for violent offenders. They are enrolled in Mercy College through a charitable program called Hudson Link which operates a campus onsite and offers the same rigorous academic program that runs concurrently at their nearby university beyond the walls of the prison. At least half of Sing Sing's prisoners return after they're released. A mere 2% of the program's participants find themselves back behind bars.

This sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Good for the prisoners, good for society and, as much as they might not be able to admit it, it's good for the victims of the crimes perpetrated against them by the men who graduate.

Several things knocked me on my ass while watching this picture.

There isn't a single man enrolled in the program who is anything less than intelligent, personable, deeply ashamed of the horrendous crimes they committed to get themselves in prison, genuinely repentant, sensitive beyond words and such exceptionally gifted human beings one wishes they could be released in order to serve the world in ways they could have if not forced into making the kind of mistakes in their youth that, frankly, have more to do with America's (and society's) treatment of its most vulnerable members of the human race to place them in positions wherein they made the very wrong decisions in the first place.

I'd be happy to break bread with these guys anytime, anywhere.

Another element that struck me is that I did not notice a whole lot of men in the program and, for that matter, amongst the general population of Sing Sing, who weren't people of colour - Americans of African, Mexican, Puerto Rican and among other hues of the rainbow, Asian, dotted the landscape of this world. If Whitey exists within the prison's walls, I can only assume they were on view every time I blinked. This doesn't surprise me, the stats on this are pretty clear.

I was also agog to learn that the program exists with no government support. This is easily the most moronic thing I've ever heard. Sure, it's probably not politically popular, but who gives a shit? Supporting endeavours like this only helps EVERYONE. Luckily, the funding comes from the aforementioned Hudson Link which was founded by several former prisoners who benefitted so greatly from this education that they decided to give back. Thank God for people as opposed to the automatons in government.

The truly inspirational thing about the picture is probably the biggest force that had me off the chair and buttock-clinging the ground is having the whirlwind opportunity to witness the progress of a select group of prisoners in their educational journey - in class, doing homework and finally, graduating with a full-on ceremony under the harsh glare of Sing Sing's fluorescent lights. Along the way, we meet family, friends, teachers, former grads and a number of the philanthropists involved in the program.

Most importantly, we get a chance to the know the men, see their fine work in the program, hear their stories, get a taste of their hopes and dreams and in one far-too-short scene we get to sit in on a round circle chat between the prisoners and rapper Ice-T. I'd have given anything to be a fly on the wall for the whole session. Maybe if it was shot in its entirety this is something we'll get as a bonus extra on a DVD/BluRay release. It's also cool that Ice-T is a big supporter of this program. The tough-minded musician/actor still gets my undying admiration for his powerful "Body Count" album blending rap and heavy metal, which addresses the systemic racism in the crime prevention and justice system. His anthem "Cop Killer" (the uncensored version) is still a work that raises gooseflesh.

Speaking of a DVD/BluRay version, I kind of hope this is a possibility. The film is only 40 minutes long and within the context of the story it tells, it's certainly well structured and edited for maximum impact on television, BUT, I wanted more. Wanting more is probably the best thing any filmmaker can hope for in an audience response, IF the film is working (which this one most certainly is). That said, it feels like the material is worthy of a feature length version with added scope and possibly even a re-think with the available footage to bring an even more personal style to a longer version that the clearly talented director Tim Skousen is more than capable of doing.

In recent years, the bar was significantly raised by the brilliant auteur Alan Zweig for the genre of documentaries about the prison system; why it exists, what led to incarceration and what hopes and dreams guided its inmates to lives outside of the box (as it were). The film Zweig gave us was his feature length A Hard Name, a picture with a specific mise-en-scene and tone that placed its audience into an almost poetic rhythm which delivered a structure to place us squarely within the notion of pain and forgiveness. The bar for documentaries dealing with the racism involved in keeping those of colour down was set by Angad Singh Bhalla's Herman's House the alternately tragic and uplifting tale of the late Herman Wallace.

And look, I don't expect Skousen to make something out of his material that's already been done, but I do suspect he's got a different film in him to make about this program and these men. Here's hoping that happens. In the meantime, we all have a chance to experience this fine picture thanks to the vision of its subjects, filmmakers and broadcaster to make it a reality in the first place.

The University of Sing Sing will air in the Great White North via HBO Canada. For more info, visit HERE.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

NOAH - Review By Greg Klymkiw - In search of berries in the land of theSmurfs and Vikings

You'll see green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you're born
You're never gonna see no unicorns
- The Irish Rovers, The Unicorn Song

"Oh shit, it's black fly season and I've got lockjaw."

"I need BERRIES. Got any?
Noah (2014) *
Dir. Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Nick Nolte

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Four words.

Anthony Hopkins IS Methuselah.

Phew! Who cut the fuckin' cheese? Man, oh man, when great directors fail, it's nice to see them crap-out as spectacularly as Darren (Pi, Requiem For a Dream, Black Swan, The Wrestler) Aronofsky has done with the swirling sea of salt water pickle brine that is Noah. Yes, the movie is dreadful, but it's at least a rip-snorting hoot for most of its running time and if you've a hankering for a multi-million dollar Sun Classic International-styled Ed Wood-directed biblical epic, have I got a picture for you.

"I plan to skewer chipmunks upon my 'stache."
In case you don't already know the plot, we're talking Noah of the Ark fame here, the fairytale Old Testament servant of God. To quote from the angel Gabriel in Green Pastures: "Gangway! Gangway fo' de Lawd." And I've gotta tell ya', de Lawd sho' do be right royally pissed off with Man for all his sinning ways - so much so that he entrusts his loyal earthly servant Noah to build an Ark to house the "innocent" during the Great Flood. The innocents He wishes to save are God's non-human animals - excepting of course, the unicorn. God just wants to bless the beasts with life and start all over again. Can we blame him? (Oh, and Aronofsky, an avowed atheist refuses to use the word "God" in the film. He substitutes it with "Creator", but hey, that's his sick shit, not mine.)

God declares, not unlike Travis Bickle: "Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets." Though He doesn't come right out and say it, de Lawd be thinkin', "All the animals come out at night - whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal."

And I feel for Aronofsky on this. It's not much of a story. God tells Noah to build an ark and fill it with animals while everything and everyone else will die in a flood. Noah builds the Ark, the animals board the Ark, the rains comes, the rains go. End of story.

So one of our great directors decides to add a revisionist twist to the piece and couch it as a tale of man's environmental assaults upon the Earth and how drastic measures must be taken to achieve a new beginning. The same, said director decides there's also an interesting way to tell a tale of religious zealotry through Noah who feels charged with the desire to fulfil God's Word even if it means murdering the children of his eldest son. Aronofsky also dabbles in presenting a rivalry twixt Noah and Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), the former being someone who blindly accepts a potential misinterpretation of God's Word and the latter who believes God created in His own image to place a species at the top of the food chain and to control his own destiny.

These very interesting elements are there, but the movie is just so Good-Godawful in pretty much every other respect. Noah and his wife are portrayed as some manner of eco-hippies, but they're equally presented as positively insufferable cliches. Anthony Hopkins munches ham to portray the 900-year-old Methuselah as a doddering idiot who's mostly obsessed with being able to find and eat berries before he dies. I kid you not. There's even a scene with Hopkins on all fours whilst maniacally trolling the ground for fucking berries.

And, of course, I shit myself laughing when a little girl asks Noah to sing. I was gobsmacked, actually. Crowe sings!

As if this weren't enough, Aronofsky even goes all Ray Harryhausen on us when we're introduced to humungous stone creatures called "The Watchers" who rise up out of the ground to offer assistance to Noah to both build the Ark AND do battle - yes BATTLE! - with the armies of Tubal-cain. Worse yet, The Watchers are essentially identical to Transformers - yes, rock-hewn Michael-Bay-style Transformers.

This might be one of the biggest follies of all - CG Transformers made of rock aside, the most ludicrous element is just how much of the film is generated via CG. Using real animals would have lent a sense of "humanity" to the proceedings, but no matter which way you slice it, God's non-human animals have about as much warmth as a witch's tit.

The levels of idiocy in this movie know no bounds, frankly. They are all, however, knee-slappingly funny. Yeah, the laughs are unintentional, but they are as pure as those achieved by Edward D. Wood Jr. in his straight-faced Bride of the Monster and Plan 9 From Outer Space. I mean that with absolutely no condescension towards the late Mr. Wood. I genuinely love the guy. Just, as I genuinely love Aronofsky. They're both filmmakers with a voice, and that ain't something to be sneezed at.

Uh, did I just compare Aronofsky to Ed Wood?

Noah is in massive worldwide release via Paramount Pictures

Friday, 28 March 2014

RUN RUN IT'S HIM - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Underground doc on Porn Addiction the real DON JON

RUN RUN IT'S HIM (2010/2014) ****
Dir. Matthew (Matt) Pollack, Co-Producer/Cinematographer: Jamie Popowich

Review By Greg Klymkiw

This is the real DON JON. The real thing.

It's the straight-up cum-shot to the face that Don Jon's writer-director-star Joseph Gordon-Leavitt could not nor would not do, even if he had a loaded gun shoved up his ass demanding he wipe that annoying smirk off his face whilst making the theme of obsessively wanking to XXX hardcore so horrendously false and, dare I say it, palatable for bourgeois nitwits.

RUN RUN IT’S HIM is an obsessive, hilarious, shocking, touching, imaginative, inventive and altogether astonishing personal portrait of a young man’s addiction to pornography and masturbation. It’s a genuine underground film about WANKING that’s delectably imbued with plenty of WANK qualities. Any obsessive will respond to this, not in spite, but BECAUSE of the picture’s meandering, borderline structure and roughness - its HONESTY! Pollack’s film touches the soul (and a few other, uh, personal places) because it's so goddamn, heart-achingly real. (Oh, and you don't have to be an obsessive to enjoy the movie, but it sure ups the ante if you are a bit out of your fucking gourd on the addictive personality front.)

And make no mistake when you watch this film - this is an underground movie. It's no dull TV-style doc, no slick feature aimed at a wide theatrical market and it is most certainly not some overpriced, earnest National Film Board of Canada documentary about children with learning disabilities who find teachers they can really relate to. It feels grotty, grainy and filthy. It looks like it was shot with a Hi-8 camera from the late 80s and is even framed in one of my favourite aspect ratios - good, old fashioned, square box standard frame. Sometimes the sound is so muddy, the filmmaker needs to affix subtitles to it. Does this mean the movie is badly made or amateurish? Not in the least. It's gorgeously shot. It employs the aesthetic of the very kind of film its director is obsessed with.

This is a dirty movie; not in the usual sense of one's notion of "dirty movies", though it is about dirty movies and the dirty business of seeking out images - almost always degrading and most often infused with sexual violence and subjugation of women. That the movie is about its director's lifelong addiction to an activity that shuts him out of genuine relationships with the opposite sex, is what channels it into very brave places.

Pollack and his small, but dedicated team charted his addiction for 7 years. What we experience is a genuine insider view. We see Pollack's DAILY routine of travelling all across the Toronto streets in search of XXX porn at his favourite purveyors of whack material. He recreates actual whack-off sessions in the privacy of his home. He interviews a porn-shop clerk who turns out to be a veritable Heidegger of porn philosophy. Most hilariously, sadly and entertainingly, he visits with old girlfriends, female friends and women he's long had crushes on and selects his favourite scenes of pornography. It's this latter sequence of footage that is absolutely astounding. We watch the women as they watch the porn, respond and discuss it with him.

This is a wonderful picture. It's at once all over the place and completely whole. The movie might seem structurally thin, but only on the surface since the picture's fierce, personal independence is such that one spends less time admiring (like most terrific pictures) its adherence to all those elements contemporary audiences (especially) have been spoon fed into needing. What we respond to is the experiential journey of a brilliant, funny and honest filmmaker laying the truth before us - no matter how dirty it gets.

RUN RUN IT'S HIM is not available on ANY traditional delivery source. It is available via VOD/download via its own website via Big Doll House. This seems wholly appropriate. For a measly 10 smacks, visit HERE and see the movie. I'm hoping some cool Canuck cinemas have the balls to play this movie theatrically with personal Q and A appearances by its director AFTER the launch. Come on Royal Theatre, come on Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, Come on Tiff Bell Lightbox. DO IT! Display thine aesthetic cojones!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

A BRAND NEW YOU - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Cloning Dead Wife in Dining Room: My Kinda Canuck Comedy

You WILL believe you can clone your dead wife in the Dining Room.
"Only in Canada, you say? A pity."

Now this is my idea of a cool
no-budget Canadian indie comedy!
A Brand New You (2014) ***½
Dir. Kathryn Palmateer, Shawn Whitney
Starring: Manuel Rodriguez-Saenz, Clinton Lee Pontes, Freya Ravensbergen

Review By Greg Klymkiw

A Brand New You is a refreshing approach to the mismatched ménage a trois - a kind of contemporary Canadian Jules et Jim on lithium (with a crack chaser), then fused to a mad-scientist-knee-slapper-fest a la Abbott and Costello. Here one will find sharp writing, good performances and solid economical direction. These go a long way to buoy the film's subversions of the usual tropes of quirky indie laugh-fests. Whatever glue the filmmakers were sniffing to concoct this perversely dark, occasionally (and happily) vulgar and surprisingly sweet romantic comedy was imbued with premium potency.

Look, "quirky" comedies are not necessarily my thing, BUT, this one rises above so many of them by not indulging in horrific, bile-inducing whimsy (a big problem with French, Belgians and Canadians). Its writer-director team and an extremely accomplished cast trust the perverse material enough to keep it on an even keel so that it avoids horrendous twee-ness and unlike so many no-budget indie comedies, especially those of the Canadian persuasion, it never feels like a glorified CBC situation television comedy with a dash or two of mild irreverence. The movie is, in fact, irreverent as all get-out and manages to even veer into occasional Harold and Kumar-like multicultural gross-out comedy.

The movie is, frankly, all over the place but NOT in a bad way. It's endowed with a kind of controlled everything-but-the-kitchen-sink quality or rather, it throws caution to the wind, sometimes to its detriment, but mostly in its supreme favour by often including the kitchen sink. By generating characters and situations we NEVER see in the movies is one of the ways the picture succeeds.

A morose, fussy suicidal widower (Manuel Rodriguez-Saenz) leaves his abode of former nuptial bliss and moves into the squalid surroundings of a proverbial mismatched couple. The man (Clinton Lee Pontes) of the house, such as he is (a man, that is) and such as IT is (a home that is), might well have been a contender for "Filthiest Person Alive" in John Waters' Pink Flamingoes. He's Oscar Madison of The Odd Couple magnified infinitesimally with a foul mouth to rival the sailors in The Last Detail, a dirt-bag mind, scatological, unwashed and obsessed with merely existing as lazily and slovenly as possible. Oh, and he's a brilliant scientist - though disgraced and fallen due to his illegal dabbling in cloning. (One of the funniest things in the movie is an eventual parade of science geeks who worship the ground he walks on and seek him out for counsel on their own illegal experimentation with cloning.)

The woman of the house (Freya Ravensbergen) deserves a whole lot better - in every respect, but her sense of self-worth is often so low that she continues to maintain a mere existence also. In some ways, she feels like an underwritten character, but as the film progresses, she takes on several perverse layers which, in their own unique way, rival that of there male characters.

Our widower, is not only suicidal, but his obsession with the ex-woman-he-loved ("ex" as in six feet under, 'natch) reaches unhealthy proportions. He not only forced his dying fiancé to act out a series of scripted home video conversations before her death, he spends an inordinate amount of time watching them repeatedly on his iPad.

Yes, all three of these people have, uh, problems. But it's the movies and as such, they're allowed to have found each other. When the widower, the slob and the lassie-of-potential-avoidance get to knocking their noggins together, it doesn't take long for experiments of the Dr. Frankenstein variety to unfurl in the dining room. With the scientist's genetic genius, a willing surrogate (she's promised a whack of dough) and the widower's engineering savvy, the trio sets about to clone the dead wife.

While there are some vaguely familiar benchmarks in the narrative, it's everything in-between that proves freshly funny. The movie is often overwrought, but more often than not, in all the right (funny) ways and what takes it into genuinely entertaining territory is that it avoids trying to pathetically be a low-budget version of a mainstream movie. Too many low budget indie comedies sadly infuse themselves with indie-style deviations from the norm that are poorly integrated with all the salient elements that make a satisfying picture and as such, sloppily subvert the material.

This almost never happens here. The movie is completely and often hilariously insane. It's also Canadian in all the right ways. It's completely out to lunch, but lunch turns out to be a sumptuous gelatinous buffet table of sweet, sour, garish and, of course, the delightfully and delectably gilded.

A Brand New You has its World Premier during the 47th annual Worldfest Houston, Sunday, April 6, 7:00pm in the Flagship AMC Studio 30 Theatres at 2949 Dunvale in SW Houston. Here's hoping Canuck audiences will see it soon.


You can find out more about filmmaker Brian Stockton and even buy his movies by accessing his website HERE.

A similar scene to the one experienced by Jim Jarmusch and others in New York during the 70s and 80s and captured in the documentary BLANK CITY as well as many other works in the "Forgotten Winnipeg" series was happening in Winnipeg. A very cool explosion in indie underground cinema that I and many colleagues and friends were involved with was spawned during these halcyon days. This period, coined by film critic Geoff Pevere as Prairie Post-Modernism included the works of John Paizs, Guy Maddin, Greg Hanec and many others.

A great selection of early Guy Maddin, many of which that I produced and were written by George Toles, can be secured directly through the following links:

Another great film from Winnipeg during this period is Greg Hanec's extraordinary DOWNTIME which has the distinction of being a parallel cinematic universe to Jim Jarmusch's "STRANGER THAN PARADISE". Both films were made at the same time in two completely different cities and scenes and both Hanec and Jarmusch premiered their films at the same time at the Berlin Film Festival. One's famous, the other isn't - but now that the "lost" and "found" DOWNTIME has been remastered from original elements to DVD, it can now be purchased directly online.

Order DOWNTIME directly from the film's new website by clicking HERE

Perhaps the greatest Canadian independent underground filmmaker of all-time is Winnipeg's John Paizs. It's virtually impossible to secure copies of his astounding work which, frankly, is responsible for influencing the work of Guy Maddin, David Lynch, Bruce McDonald and an endless number of great indie filmmakers the world over. Paizs' great short film SPRINGTIME IN GREENLAND is available for purchase in a beautiful remastered edition from a fan website, the inimitable Frank Norman. Norman has Paizs' blessing to provide copies of the film, so feel free to directly make your request to Mr. Norman by clicking HERE.

Visit Frank Norman's CRIME WAVE
fan site by clicking HERE

Alas, it's super-impossible to get a copy of Paizs' masterpiece CRIME WAVE (not to be confused with the super-awful Coen Bros/Sam Raimi film of the same name that was released the same year Paizs' film was NOT released properly by its scumbag Canadian distributor Norstar Releasing, which eventually became Alliance Films (where the boneheads sat on the film and turned down several excellent offers from small indie companies to release the film properly on DVD in super-deluxe special editions because they lazily purported to be negotiating a massive package deal on its catalogue titles with some tiny scumbag public domain company that, as far as I can tell, has neither purchased nor released the film). This truly great and highly influential film is, no doubt, languishing in some boneheaded distribution purgatory within the deep anal cavities of the new owner of Alliance Films, a humungous mega-corporation called E-One. Feel free to repeatedly bug their stinking asses and demand a proper release. In the meantime, VHS copies of CRIME WAVE can still be found with the ludicrous title THE BIG CRIME WAVE. Here's a copy available on Amazon:

BLANK CITY and other works in the "Forgotten Winnipeg" Series can be accessed here:

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

CHEAP THRILLS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Raven Banner's Sinister Cinema presents first-rate sicko thriller!

Cheap Thrills (2013) ***1/2
dir. E. L. Katz Script: David Chirchirillo, Trent Haaga
Starring: Pat Healy, David Koechner, Ethan Embry, Sara Paxton,

Review By Greg Klymkiw

You need dough. You need it bad.

If someone were to offer you substantial wads of cold, hard, tax-free cash for your troubles, would you consider any of the following?

- Chop your pinky off, then allow cauterization with an iron?

- Slap a stripper's ass in a club with a no-touching policy?

- Break into a house and take a shit in the living room?

- Kill your friend?

- Eat a pet?

A better question might be, who in the name of Jesus H. Christ would even make such grotesque offers?

The answer is simple - a very generous gentleman (David Koechner, one of the world's greatest living character actors) who merely wishes to give his gorgeous girlfriend (Sara Paxton, the sultry star of The Innkeepers) a birthday celebration she'll never forget. This seems reasonable, mais non? After all, we live in a world sharply divided between the haves and the have-nots. In such a world, anything and everything is possible.

Such is the world of Cheap Thrills, a horrifically funny and terrifying thriller with a great script by David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga, taut direction from E.L. Katz in his feature debut and a cast to die for.

Craig (Pat Healy, intense, funny indie darling co-star of The Inkeepers) seems to have it all - a beautiful wife, a bouncing chubby baby, a nice place to live, a university education, a joe-job at a nearby service station to pay the bills while he tries to kick-start his career as a writer and a kind of geeky charm that makes you think he'd be a cool guy to know. Whilst leaving home for work one fine morning, he finds an eviction notice on the front door. He's in arrears for the amount of 4500 smacks and has 7 days to rectify matters or everyone's going to be booted into the streets. To add insult to injury, he loses his job that day. Times are tough for everyone.

Understandably depressed, he wanders the streets and finds himself in an old neighbourhood where he made a few wrong moves 5-or-so years ago during a not-so-sober phase. He's a recovering alcoholic, you see, and it's probably not the best idea he's ever had to step into a bar he spent far too much time in during those booze-fuelled days. He runs into Vince (Ethan Embry), an old friend he hasn't seen since those seedy days of debauchery. It's a happy reunion, but tinged with a bittersweetness. Craig has moved on with his life, Vince is stuck in the same old rut. Craig admits all is not peaches and cream, while Vince reveals a shade of feeling abandoned by his old pal.

No matter. It's a man's world, and in a man's world, a bud's a bud and you put shit behind you so it's like nothing ever happened. The notion of "so it's like nothing ever happened" becomes an even stronger thematic element as the film proceeds. And proceed it does - our buds meet up with Colin (Koechner), a hip, friendly, funny and boisterous mans man adorned in a cool pork pie hat who asks the guys to be a part of the birthday celebrations for his sultry girlfriend Violet (Paxton).

Soon, he's asking the lads to engage in all manner of naughty and/or downright dangerous shenanigans for wads of dough that he keeps flashing and tossing at them after they've done his bidding. Violet uses her smart phone to capture the tender moments forever (offering politely to email the snaps to the lads if they desire copies). As the intensity of the requests increases, our lads are convinced to hang in for the duration as Colin reminds them that no matter where any of them are in their lives, they will never forget the events of this evening.

The truth of this sinks in, not just for our old pals, but for us too. This is a fantasy worth sticking with and we're almost convinced, as we live vicariously through the lives of our onscreen characters, that we might almost want to experience something like this is real life. Watching people do increasingly nasty stuff for money is fun, but the thought of possibly engaging in such activities ourselves is not only tempting, but makes for an especially thrilling ride.

In many ways, the movie is the ultimate adult fantasy. "Hey, fuck my gorgeous wife in front of me while I jerk off and I'll pay all your back rent." You pretend to go all tut-tut-tut and say this is beyond the pale. Fuck you. I'm going to pull out the Klymkiw Family Motto that goes back to the Old Country when Mongols were raping our ancient Ukrainian grannies' twat-in-skis off: "You can't bullshit a bullshitter." Dearest Reader, seriously, don't get all high and mighty on me here. You'd do it, too. It's a good deal, a shitload of fun and yes, something you'll never, ever forget.

Of course, this is what the clever script of Cheap Thrills is up to. It wants you to face the hard truth about yourself. It does it with morbid, laugh-out-loud humour, total conviction, no annoying tongue-in-cheekness and best of all, no bullshit moralizing. By rendering this all with a straight face, but with the spirit of good, old fashioned American chutzpah instead, say, that of Michael Haneke (or recent Cronenberg) preciousness, ephemeral mindless studio-styled roller coaster rides with no subtext or worse, Canadian indie twee-ness mixed with Toronto Presbyterianism. This team of filmmakers and actors hand us our innards on a silver platter and we scarf the fuckers down with relish and abandon.

This is blistering movie-making at its finest. If I'm gypping the movie out of half a star (yeah - using "gyp" is pejorative, I'm not fucking stupid), it's only because I kind of saw the genuinely shocking (as if the movie wasn't shocking enough) denouement coming from a few miles away. I'll chalk that up to being a sick-fuck and/or just seeing way too many movies, reading too many fucking books and just being a smart-ass son of a bitch.

In the meantime, don't miss this on a big screen (or at least on Blu-Ray) - it's too damn good to simply V.O.D. (Though if you must, it's better than not seeing it at all.)

Raven Banner Entertainment's Sinister Cinema presents CHEAP THRILLS March 27, 2014 at 7:30pm all across Canada. Additional showings in Toronto will be featured at the Yonge-Dundas Cinemas (formerly the AMC) on Mar 27, 28, 29, 30, Apr 1, 3, 2014. Check Toronto listings for confirmed dates and times. The cross-canada showings on March 27 will be at the following venues:

Scotiabank Theatre Chinook - Calgary, AB
Scotiabank Theatre Edmonton - Edmonton, AB
Cineplex Cinemas Saint John - Saint John, NB
Cineplex Cinemas Avalon Mall - St. John's, NL
Cineplex Odeon Victoria Cinemas - Victoria, BC
SilverCity Riverport Cinemas - Richmond, BC
Galaxy Cinemas Nanaimo - Nanaimo, BC
Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas - Vancouver, BC
Colossus Langley Cinemas - Langley, BC
SilverCity Polo Park Cinemas- Winnipeg, MB
SilverCity Sudbury Cinemas- Sudbury, ON
Galaxy Cinemas Regina - Regina, SK
Galaxy Cinemas Saskatoon - Saskatoon, SK
SilverCity Fairview Mall Cinemas - Toronto, ON
Cineplex Odeon Winston Churchill Cinemas - Oakville, ON
Cineplex Cinemas Yonge-Dundas Cinemas - Toronto, ON
Cineplex Odeon Eglinton Town Centre Cinemas - Scarborough, ON
Cineplex Cinemas Queensway and VIP - Etobicoke, ON
Colossus Vaughan Cinemas - Woodbridge, ON
Cineplex Cinemas Mississauga - Mississauga, ON
Coliseum Ottawa Cinemas - Ottawa, ON
SilverCity Gloucester Cinemas - Ottawa, ON
Cineplex Cinemas Bayers Lake - Halifax, NS
Cineplex Odeon Forum Cinemas - Montreal, QC
Cineplex Odeon Devonshire Mall Cinemas - Windsor, ON
Galaxy Cinemas Waterloo - Waterloo, ON
SilverCity Hamilton Cinemas - Hamilton, ON
SilverCity London Cinemas - London, ON

CHEAP THRILLS is distributed through Pacific Northwest Pictures, currently playing in select Canadian cities and will be released theatrically in the US via Drafthouse Films.

For further info on Raven Banner and Sinister Cinema, Click HERE.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Some of the BEST Independent Filmmakers in Canada are on the cusp of making two NEW FILMS and I think you need to give them as much support as you can. God knows, Telefilm Canada and their ilk save most of their dough to support mediocre movies, so why not support some COOL SHIT!!!

If you're sick of the crap getting government support in Canada, the people
who made these COOL movies can make MORE cool movies with YOUR help.


FORTUNATE SON is one of the most moving feature length personal documentaries ever made in Canada. Directed by independent Greek-Canadian filmmaker Tony Asimakopoulos it's an important work that tells a brave and identifiable story about love, loyalty and family that touches the hearts and minds of all who watch it on a number of diverse and emotional levels. Here's a quote from my original review:

The journey Asimakopoulos takes us on makes for a compulsive, sad, funny and profoundly moving experience. We hear about his parents' life in Greece, their immigration to Canada, their life in the New World. We become privy to the story of their roller coaster ride marriage, Tony's childhood, his troubled adolescence and eventual struggle with heroin addiction. We experience his current relationship with his Mom and Dad while also exploring life with his beloved fiance Natalie. We hear and see his parents' patterns of behaviour, both past and present - the laughter, love, tears and conflict. So too do we experience Tony's own love story - fraught with the same emotional challenges that his parents faced and his fear that he is merely repeating the patterns of his life before heroin addiction or worse, the sins (as it were) of his Mother and Father. Asimakopoulos renders this tale with a skilfully edited blend of archival footage, old home movies, scenes from his student films, experimental work and his first feature film. We get up close and personal shots of his life and that of his parents - deftly interwoven with head-on interviews. We see the hopes, dreams and lives of a family which, finally, remind us of our own experiences.

Legendary producer Colin Brunton (ROADKILL, HIGHWAY 61 and the best works out of CFC Features, CUBE and RUDE) and his talented, young protege Kire Paputts kicked our asses with the astounding epic feature documentary about the early days of the Toronto Punk Scene, Here's a quote from my original review:

THE LAST POGO JUMPS AGAIN is a thrilling epic journey into Toronto's legendary punk rock scene. It's a Joseph-Conrad-like boat ride into some kind of Hell that always feels like a Heaven as imagined by Anton LaVey. Directors Colin Brunton and Kire Papputs are the two halves of Willard on a mission that seems to have no real end. And if there is a heart of darkness on display, a Kurtz, if you will, it feels like every Status Quo fuck-wad that ignored this exciting music scene. I embraced the crazy, scrappy, downright dangerous insanity of this terrific documentary and fully accepted its body, its blood - like an unholy sacrement drained and scourged from the everlasting soul of Sid Vicious himself who died, NOT for OUR sins, but for his own and for the rest of us who were willing to commit our own - no matter how heinous or benign. This downright wonderful picture by Brunton and Papputs is a sacrament and I accept its fuck-you-filmmaking-moxie as much as I allow its people, places and music into my very soul as if they were my very own. On the surface - this is a movie that shouldn't work - at least not by the standards of many un-cool fuck-wads who make cultural decisions in this country at both the public and private sectors - propped up comfortably on the nests they feather atop the podiums they take their dumps-a-plenty from as if they were showering the Great Unwashed with gold. It shouldn't work, but it does.

A Walk in Park Ex & The Rainbow Kid - Asimakopoulos, Paputts & Brunton NEED YOUR DOUGH to make these movies. THEY NEED THE DOUGH NOW!



Monday, 24 March 2014

Klymkiw Watches TV (HBO Canada) - JOHN LEGUIZAMO'S GHETTO KLOWN - Review By Greg Klymkiw

John Leguizamo's Ghetto Klown (2014) **
Dir. Fisher Stevens, Starring: John Leguizamo

Review By Greg Klymkiw

There's no denying the fact that John Leguizamo is one of the most versatile and accomplished character actors in the movies. For many years, since his humble beginnings in the theatre, he's presented several live autobiographical one-man shows that have generated great reviews and solid box-office on the New York stage and beyond. His most recent work has been shot by Fisher Stevens, the Academy Award winning director of The Cove. He handles the proceedings of capturing last year's live performance at the New Jersey Performing Arts Centre in lovely Newark, New Jersey, and does so with stout yeoman work. It's strictly camera jockey shot-calling, though, and certainly doesn't have the cinematic force of Spike Lee's helmsmanship of one-man show Mike Tyson: The Undisputed Truth.

Alas, it's really the material here that does in John Leguizamo's Ghetto Klown. Seeing as Leguizamo wrote the material, the finger of blame points in his direction.

This latest Leguizamo dive into his past life is often very funny, but much of it feels self-indulgent in all the wrong ways and its mere 93 minutes breezes along nicely only during its first half, but by the second half, the piece feels like it's running out of steam and/or spinning its wheels.

What works, of course, is Leguizamo when he's cooking. He begins with his childhood, relating a handful of knee-slappingly hilarious tales of avoiding bullies by using his humour, charming his teachers with his talent and driving his Mom and (especially) Dad, utterly round the bend with his hyper antics. The focus, ultimately, are his early years when he discovered acting, studied with famed coach Lee Strasberg and graduated to the big leagues of Hollywood. The funniest tales are his gigs with Brian DePalma - notably opposite Sean Penn in Casualties of War, the harrowing war drama about the gang rape and murder of a young Vietnamese woman at the hands of American soldiers and then, his villainous turn opposite Al Pacino in the Cuban gangster thriller Carlito's Way.

Leguizamo's impersonations of DePalma. Penn and Pacino are right on the money and the most hilarious tale involves his run-ins on the set with Pacino. Given the subject matter of the former DePalma title, Leguizamo holds back wisely and saves his anarchic style for the latter title.

His stories revolving around old pals, early girlfriends and family are often delightful. Though he overdoes a kind of shrill, borderline sexist impersonation of the female characters, his tales of Mom are pretty genuine and loving. It's his impersonations of his father who, by Leguizamo's account was a nasty, abusive sonofabitch, that begin to take on a sour tone and border on creepily uncomfortable. So too are his stories of early relationships with women.

As the movie progresses, Leguizamo and his material both take on a kind of macho bitterness that loses its punch. The show feels often cruel and condescending. Cruel, by the way, is almost always a good thing, but toss in condescension without the right balance and you just sit numbly as the whole Tower of Babel crumbles under the weight of an almost immoral form. Leguizamo's overwrought reminiscences get mean-spirited and worst of all become just plain unfunny. Perhaps there's something missing in the transition from live performance to how it's captured up close by the camera that's at fault here. The jockeying is competent enough, but the mix of mediums doesn't do the material a whole lot of favours. Witnessing Leguizamo's ugly, sneering tone just plain wears you down, though the audience in the theatre is lapping it up. The distance of one's ocular perspective probably accounts for the divide, though I tend to think my own response to a genuinely live version might, due to the material alone, not veer to0 far from that of the film.

What becomes almost intolerable is when he self indulgently focuses upon his bouts of depression - many segments of which have him blaming his Dad. Here he veers from whining, to simpering, to full-on roar-of-a-lion (as rendered in pipsqueak fashion) - back and forth to beat the band. By the time Leguizamo recreates an encounter with his father showing up unexpectedly backstage during a performance wherein he's been especially cruel in depicting Dad, I pretty much felt like throwing in the towel. A portion of this encounter is supposed to be moving, but given how cruel-minded his jabs at Dad have been throughout the proceedings, one actually sides with an alleged abuser over this nasty, self-indulgent knob.

Given that Leguizamo spends good chunks of time relaying his drug use, booze guzzling and exhaustion from the toils of performing live, one keeps wondering if his depression and memories aren't being coloured by substance abuse. This might not be an especially fair response, but it's a whole lot more honest than Leguizamo is being with himself and the audience.

The production is clearly not without merit, but it's also seriously flawed. One wants to commend Leguizamo for exposing his occasional foibles and deep feelings of resentment towards his Dad, but after awhile it dives mercilessly into self indulgence of the most egregious variety.

Soon we begin to see that this talented "Ghetto Klown" had quite a few people encouraging him along his path to success - one which came pretty quickly and relatively painlessly. It doesn't take too long before you're wondering, "Who is this dick-wad and what's he got to complain about?" Leguizamo seldom takes the fall for his failings and is quick to blame others in his life for bad decisions. Even his depression, which is a real medical condition, loses its potential to move us.

Instead, I just wanted to punch the Klown in the face and send his ass back to the Ghetto.

John Leguizamo's Ghetto Clown can be seen on HBO Canada. For dates and times, visit the website HERE.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

LA DOLCE VITA - Review By Greg Klymkiw - With the recent Best Foreign Language Oscar Win, THE GREAT BEAUTY by Paolo Sorrentino continues its run at the TIFF Bell Lightbox via Mongrel Media. It now might be a great time to see this Fellini Classic, a clear influence upon Paolo Sorrentinoi's genuinely great film.

La Dolce Vita (top) and La Grande Bellezza (bottom) - Great Double Bill

La Dolce Vita (1960) ****
dir. Federico Fellini
Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Yvonne Furneaux, Anouk Aimee, Anita Ekberg, Alain Cuny, Walter Santesso, Magali Noel, Annibale Ninchi, Nico, Valeria Ciangottini, Alain Dijon, Lex Barker.

Review By Greg Klymkiw

It has been said that in death we all end up alone.

If we are alone in life, bereft of love, is existence itself then, not a living death?

For me, this is the central theme of La Dolce Vita, Federico Fellini’s great classic of cinema – a film that never ceases to thrill, tantalize and finally, force its audience to look deep into a mirror and search for answers to questions about themselves. This is what makes for great movies that live beyond the ephemeral qualities far too many filmmakers and audiences prefer to settle for - especially in the current Dark Ages of cinema we find ourselves in. It’s the reason why the picture continues to live forever.

What makes La Dolce Vita especially great is that Fellini – as he was so often able to achieve – got to have his cake and eat it too.

He created art that entertained AND challenged audiences the world over. Most of all, La Dolce Vita IS cool – cooler than cool, to be frank. The title, translated from Italian into English means "The Good Life", or more appropriately, “The Sweet Life”. The movie plunges us headlong into a spectacular, decadent world of sex, sin and indulgence of the highest order. Against the backdrop of a swinging post-war Rome, the picture works its considerable magic beyond those surface details and Fellini delivers yet another magnificent entertainment that explores the eternal divide between men and women.

Illustrating this divide to me in the most salient manner possible was seeing it with my little girl. My poor daughter; she’s only twelve years old and her Daddy has been showing her more Fellini movies than any twelve year old has probably ever seen anytime, anywhere on God's good, green Earth.

About halfway through La Dolce Vita – after an umpteenth sequence where Marcello Mastroianni indulges himself in the charms of yet another woman whilst his faithful girlfriend waits home alone by the phone, my daughter (who recently watched I Vitelloni, that great Fellini male layabout picture and Fellini Casanova with its Glad garbage bag ocean and endless mechanical copulation) turned to me with the sweetest straight face I will always remember and she said, “Dad, when I get older, remind me never to date Italian men.”

I reminded her it wasn’t only Italian men who behaved this way. (I sure hope to God she NEVER dates a Ukrainian or ANY Eastern European for that matter.) I noted, "After all, don't you remember recently seeing Barry Levinson’s Diner?"

“Okay,” she added, “remind me not to date American men either.”

Happily and halfway through The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza), I'm rather proud to brag that my daughter was able to note the considerable similarities twixt the Sorrentino and the Fellini. Within this context, if you've seen neither, I will allow you to be ashamed of yourself.

For those from Mars (and/or anyone who has NOT seen this movie), La Dolce Vita tells the episodic tale of Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni), a journalist in Rome who covers the society and entertainment beat of a major tabloid newspaper. He spends most of his days and (especially) nights, hanging out in clubs, restaurants, cafes, piazzas and parties covering the lives of the rich and famous with his trusty photographer sidekick Paparazzo (Walter Santesso). (The word paparazzi, used to describe annoying news photographers came from the name of this character.)

Downright ignoring and/or paying lip service to his beautiful, sexy long-suffering live-in girlfriend Emma (Yvonne Furneaux) whilst dallying with an endless parade of gorgeous women he’s writing about, Marcello is as much a celebrity as those he covers. Though he lacks the wealth his subjects are endowed with, he certainly wields considerable power.

It would seem that Marcello is living the sweet life to its fullest – at least on the surface.

It is, of course, the surface details of La Dolce Vita - both its cinematic style and content - that made it one of the biggest Italian films at the box office worldwide.

Of course, though, what audience would NOT be susceptible to the stunning form of one of the picture's ravishing stars, Anita Ekberg? As Sylvia, the Swedish screen sensation visiting Rome to make a movie, Ekberg squeezes her to-die-for curves into a series of fashionable outfits. Ekberg is style personified. From her spectacular entrance from within a private jet, posing willingly for hordes of slavering reporters to her gossamer movements round a huge luxury suite as she throws out delicious quips during a press conference and then, to her lithe, gazelle-like bounding up the endless St. Peter’s staircase until she and Marcello, who follows her avidly to the balcony, enjoy a quiet, magical, romantic interlude, perched in a holy nest towering above the Vatican.

It is the Ekberg sequences that everyone most remembers – possibly because they appear so early in the film and serve as the most sumptuously sexy introduction to Marcello’s world.

Granted, prior to Ekberg’s entrance we’re treated to the famous opening sequence of Jesus Christ in statue form being airlifted into Rome on a helicopter as Marcello and Paparazzo follow closely behind in their own whirlybird, snapping photos and hovering briefly over a bevy of bikini-clad beauties to try and get their phone numbers.

Following closely behind, we’re indulged with the ravishing beauty of Anouk Aimee as Maddalena, the bored heiress who whisks Marcello away from a nightclub, drives him through the streets of Rome in her swanky Cadillac, picks up a street whore, hires her to provide a dank, sleazy, water-flooded basement suite – a sordid love-nest, if you will, for a night of lovemaking with Marcello whilst the whore waits outside for the rest of the night - arguing with her pimp about how much room rent to charge the kinky couple.

To cap off the shenanigans we're further tantalized by Marcello’s gorgeous, heart-broken Earth Mother girlfriend Emma, writhing about from a dangerous overdose whereupon our duplicitous hero races her madly to the hospital professing his love to her all the way into the recovery room until he steps out to telephone Maddalena.

These stunning episodes not only provide insight into Marcello’s stylish rakishness, but also careen us to and fro within a veritable roller coaster ride of pure, unadulterated hedonism. There’s no two ways about it, Marcello’s a cad, but we love him. And seemingly, so does everyone.

By the time we get to the aforementioned Anita Ekberg sequences, it’s as if Fellini had structured the movie to luxuriate us in ever-more potent fixes of pure speed-ball-like abandon:

Jesus flying above Rome; screw it, not enough.

Gorgeous heiress banging our hero in a whore’s sleazy digs; nope, still not enough.

Lonely sex kitten girlfriend pumped on drugs and near death; uh, yeah, we still need more.

What act could possibly follow any of this?

Anita Ekberg, of course.

Fellini ups the ante on overindulgence to such a degree, that as an audience, we’re as hyped up as Marcello and those who populate this world.

As if this wasn’t enough, Fellini manages to get Ekberg to out-Ekberg Ekberg with MORE Ekberg. From airport to press conference to the Everest of Rome above the Vatican, he plunges us from the clouds of Heaven deep into the bowels of a party within the ancient walls of the Caracalla Baths. Here Marcello gets to dance arms around waist, cheek-to-cheek and chest to breast with La Ekberg until all Hell breaks magnificently loose with the arrival of the flamboyant Mephistophelean actor Frankie Stout (Alain Dijon). Marcello is banished to a table with Ekberg’s sloshed, thickheaded beefcake boyfriend Robert (played hilariously by the genuine B-movie idol Lex Barker, RKO’s Tarzan and star of numerous Euro-trash action pictures) while Frankie and Ekberg heat up the floor with a cha-cha to end all cha-chas.

Fellini continues topping himself. The next sequence of Ekberg-mania is cinema that has seldom been matched.

Can there be anything more sumptuous and breathtaking in Rome, nay – the world – than the Fountain of Trevi?

Yes, the Fountain of Trevi with Anita Ekberg in it.

I can assure you this beats any wet T-shirt contest you're likely to see.

As Fellini has incrementally hoisted us to dizzying heights, we are only one-third of the way through La Dolce Vita .

Where can the Maestro possibly take us from here?

We go where all tales of indulgence must go – down WITH redemption or down with NO redemption. Fellini forces us to hope (at times AGAINST hope) that Marcello will see the light or, at the very least, blow it big time and gain from his loss.

What we come back to is what I feel the central theme of our picture is – that if living life to the fullest is at the expense of love and to therefore live life alone, then how can life itself not ultimately be a living death?

For me, one of the fascinating ways in which Fellini tells Marcello’s story is by allowing us to fill the central character’s shoes and experience the seeming joy and style of this “sweet life”. For much of the film’s running time, we’re along for the ride – not just willingly, but as vicarious participants.

The magic Fellini conjures is subtle indeed. The whole business of getting the cake and eating it too plays a huge part in the proceedings. So often, great stories can work by indulging us in aberrant behaviour – glamorizing it to such a degree that we’re initially unable to see precisely what the protagonist’s real dilemma is. Not seeing the dilemma in the early going allows us to have some fun with the very thing that threatens to be the central character's potential downfall.

For Marcello, it eventually becomes – slowly and carefully – very obvious. He is surrounded by activity, enveloped by other people, the centre of attention of those he is reporting on, yet he is, in a sense, an island unto himself.

Marcello is, in spite of those around him, truly alone.

His real challenge is to break free of the shackles of excess in order to love. Alas, to love another and, in turn, accept their love, he must learn to love himself. On the mere surface, Marcello is all about self-gratification, but as the story progresses and Fellini places him at the centre of yet more sumptuous and indulgent sweet-life set pieces, we see a man struggling with the demons – not only of excess, but those ever-elusive opportunities to gratify the soul.

Even the roller coaster ride of Marcello’s relationship with Emma, the one constant person in his life willing to die for love of him, is a story element that keeps us with his journey. When he is annoyed and/or even disgusted with her, so too are we – and yet, we have the ability – one that Fellini bestows upon us by alternately keeping us in Marcello’s perspective and at arm’s length from it to see just how unconscionable and even wrongheaded he’s being. Most importantly, we begin to feel for Emma and understand her love and frustration. We see how brilliant and charming Marcello is also and a part of us craves for him to find peace.

Finally, what is especially poignant and tragic is that Marcello can only admit to both Emma and himself that he does love her when he is alone (or as in one great scene - seemingly alone) with her. Strangely, these are the few times in the movie when Marcello is truly NOT alone.

When Marcello is together with Emma in the presence of others, it's a different story altogether. When he brings her along to cover a Madonna-sighting which turns into a wild carnival of Catholic hysteria, he withdraws from Emma and she finds herself caught up in the craze of this "miracle". The miracle is, however, false. The two young children who have been put up to claiming they can see the Madonna by their fortune-seeking family, run to and fro - hundreds of the faithful following madly in their footsteps - even Emma, who begs God for Marcello to be with her exclusively and forever.

When Marcello seeks solace in his old friend Steiner (Alain Cuny) a man who has filled his own life with art, literature, culture and most importantly, a sense of home and family, Marcello sees a potential way of escape. Alas, further set pieces involving Steiner dash Marcello’s hopes.

During a vicious argument that eventually ensues between Marcello and Emma, Fellini once again proves that – in spite of his excesses as a stylist – he is ultimately a filmmaker endowed with considerable humanity. Though the bile rises and invective is hurled violently from both parties, we are placed squarely in front of humanity at its most raw and vulnerable.

The final sequences in this film are laden with excess, but they’re certainly no fun anymore. Nor is Marcello. After a pathetic failed attempt at instigating an orgy amongst an especially ragtag group of drunks (climaxing with Marcello riding on a woman's back horsey-style), the party goers (included here is a cameo from the iconic rock legend Nico) stumble out in the early morning onto the beach.

Caught in the nets of some fishermen is a dead sea creature - a strange cross between a stingray and coelacanth, its eyes still open and staring blankly into the heavens. It's the first of two images Marcello encounters on the beach which he bores his own gaze into.

This one is dead - surrounded by many, but finally, ultimately and unequivocally alone.

He then encounters, from a considerable distance across the sand and water, the angelic figure of Paola (Valeria Ciangottini), a pure, youthful young lady he met much earlier in the film - one of the few times when beauty and innocence seemed to touch him far deeper than surface fleshly desires. They look at each other - as if they can see into each others' eyes. The stunningly beautiful young woman, with her enigmatic smile, tries in vain to communicate with Marcello, but the wind drowns out her words and Marcello, his eyes at first bright, turn blank like the dead leviathan. He gives up, turns and joins his coterie of losers.

There is, however, hope in Paola's eyes - perhaps even the hope of a new generation.

Finally, though, Fellini offers no redemption for Marcello.

All that remains is the inevitability of a living death in a sweet life lived without love.

The sweet life, such as it is, proves sour, indeed.

"La Dolce Vita" is available on DVD, but sadly there do not appear to be any supplementary screenings of it at TIFF Bell Lightbox where "The Great Beauty" is currently playing.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

THE INEVITABLE DEFEAT OF MISTER AND PETE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - After-School Special with Balls

from American Idol to Dreamgirls to Weight Watchers to Junkie-Whore
Is there anything this girl can't do? It doesn't look like it.

Fo' a pimp I be fly!
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete (2013) Dir. George Tillman Jr. **1/2
Starring: Jennifer Hudson, Skylan Brooks, Ethan Dizon, Jordin Sparks, Anthony Mackie, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Review By Greg Klymkiw

If you see this movie, and you probably should, you're basically going to be getting a feature-length ABC Afterschool Special where people say "fuck" a lot (including kids) and where everyone's favourite Dreamgirls songstress Jennifer Hudson shoots smack, turns tricks and abandons her child. This alone might be enough to recommend it. The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete is one strange movie. Though much of it felt "been there, done that", there were enough surprising turns in the reasonably compelling story, a clutch of solid performances (great ones from the kids) and relatively smooth direction from the competent George Tillman Jr. In spite of its attempts to be tough-minded, though, the movie finally chickens out with more than enough improbable spoonfuls of sugar to make the medicine go down that it's hard to take it more seriously than the well-crafted trifle it ultimately is.

So, it's summer time and for inner city kids, the living sure ain't easy. Mister (Brooks) and Mom (Hudson) live in the projects. She's strung out on smack most of the time, but she's a good-hearted junkie-whore and takes in Pete (Dizon), the child of a colleague in the junkie-whore trade who's way more strung out than she is. Mister looks upon Pete as an annoying interloper and this surely gets our hero pretty hot and bothered. He doesn't want to hang out with this tiny Asian sissy pants and he sure doesn't want to share what infinitesimal bit of attention he gets from Mom through her glazed eyes.

You know, though, in movies - not so much in life - things have a way of turning around. It takes a bit of doing, but eventually the lads become friends - especially when their respective Mommas are rounded up in a drug raid and incarcerated. Mister and Pete do, however, have a major dilemma on their hands. If they're nabbed by the authorities, they'll wind up in a juvie detention home, fearing they'll be beaten up, corn-holed and/or killed. This, for me, seemed a fair thing to be afeared of. Besides, it allows the movie to move in on Kore-eda turf and pretend to be the 2004 masterpiece Nobody Knows.

I don't actually condemn the picture for this. Believe me when I say there are worse things a movie can pretend to be similar to. That said, someone like Kore-eda sets the bar for this kind of story pretty high, so it's a bit of a case of kinda close, but no cigar for Tillman's efforts. This is not to suggest the movie is a bad one, though. Non-discriminating fans of this type of story will get their fair share of entertainment value and those of the snobby, discriminating persuasion (I include myself here), will not find the experience overly objectionable.

In fact, the movie enjoyably alternates twixt harrowing and fun as the two kids fend for themselves during this section of the movie. There are also a few disturbing elements that add a bit of oomph to the proceedings, though it's a tiny bit disconcerting that the movie introduces, but doesn't really examine them in more satisfying narrative and/or thematically urgent ways.

Please, Sir. We want our Mommas!
One of the kids, it's discovered, has been suffering repeated sexual abuse, but the effects of this are conveniently brushed-off. There are also mixed messages delivered with the film's treatment of a South Asian store owner who responds angrily, though understandably to Mister's initial attitude and eventually resorts to beating the child publicly in the street. While we can't condone the store owner's actions here, there's perhaps a bit too much ambiguity displayed in the store owner's racist views as well as the film's (only slightly) submerged racist attitude towards the store owner.

Most horrendously, the character of a pimp (Anthony Mackie) is also fraught with similar flawed ambiguity. The guy is portrayed a bit too Jekyll-and-Hyde-like for comfort. One one hand, we see a nasty, violent, exploitative and dangerous piece of filth, on the the other he seems like a relatively intelligent and reasonable fella, but then he comes across as a coward who's not going to go the distance when and where it really counts.

If anything, the most egregious element at play is the pat fairytale summation of several story elements that have delivered a great deal of conflict, but upon being tied up ever-so neatly, none of them feel especially earned by the characters. The film's final third congeals into a treacle of feel-good (that some will no doubt welcome), but for me, the shoehorning of oh-so-happy bows and ribbons to placate the audience seems disingenuous to the characters, situations and yes, even the reality the film purports to reflect.

The film ultimately has many worthwhile elements to recommend it, but it does leave one with the overwhelming feeling that it was striving for a kind of greatness it might well have been able to achieve if it had placed far more courage in the convictions of telling this tale.

"The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete" is available on DVD via levelFilm and I recommend purchasing it if this kind of story is up your alley, but the extra features on the DVD alone offer considerable insight into how this film COULD have been great. Even the telling deleted scenes suggest a movie its makers considered far darker than what they wound up with. All this proves is that dampening darkness has resulted in a fencepost experience that didn't really do theatrical business anyway. When will filmmakers, studios, financiers and distributors realize that the best movies need to be true to their inherent ideals. They probably stand a better chance of acceptance into the theatrical marketplace, or at worst, they die on the vine, but attract a much wider, more discriminating (or in many cases, non-discriminating) audience in the home marketplace."