Thursday, 13 October 2016

UNDER THE SHADOW - TORONTO AFTER DARK 2016 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Horror film against the backdrop of the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s will knock you on your ass!

Under the Shadow (2016)
Dir. Babak Anvari
Starring: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Living in Tehran during the eight long years of the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s was terrifying enough with endless bombs dropping. Eventually, with the threat of missiles from Iraq, the city emptied to ghost town proportions. Against this backdrop is one of the most creepy, harrowing and heart-stoppingly scary movies of the year.

Shideh (played by the intense and babe-o-licious Narges Rashidi) lives the life of a housewife and Mom to hubby Iraj (Bobby Nederi) and daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) respectively.

After unceremoniously being booted from medical school for her "political" leanings, she's disappointed to learn that after years of repentance, she will still be barred from completing her studies. Iraj is sympathetic, but he is a practising doctor himself and tries to placate her with taking solace in the good life they have together.

She's having none of it. Even in the repressive world they live in, she yearns for independence and self-fulfilment - perhaps, even, to a fault. When Iraj is drafted into military service, she refuses to leave Tehran with Dorsa and into the relatively safe harbour of her in-laws. As bombs and missiles strike the city with more frequency, Shideh gets frantic telephone calls from Iraj, begging her to leave.

Infused with the similar kind of Dustin Hoffman from Straw Dogs ethic of "This is our home", Shideh digs her heels in.

However, other than a war waging, there's another problem which creepily, insidiously begins to plague the family's home. Is it a ghost? A demon? A Djinn?

If it's an evil Djinn, this is definitely not a good thing.

Shideh is, however, a woman of reason, of logic, of intellect. She refuses to believe in old Arabic superstitions. But soon, the horror visiting upon her is far too real to ignore.

Under the Shadow is a slow burn. What begins as a domestic drama during wartime starts to unravel itself into a full blown horror film. You'll never see the first jump-scare coming, but when it does, you will be gasping for breath and clutching your chest. And it's no cheap jump scare. It's earned and rooted deeply in the psychological, cultural and sociological fabric of both the narrative and world of the film.

Writer-Director Babak Anveri displays such control over the proceedings that the visceral moments have the kind of impact we seldom see in contemporary horror films. The film is dazzling and original and one of the few movies that flirts with being genuinely in the same league as The Exorcist.


Under The Shadow is an official selection at the 2016 Toronto After Dark Film Festival.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

LA CIEL FLAMAND - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2016 - Flemish Heaven? Heaven? Really?

La Ciel Flamand (2016)
Dir. Peter Monsaert
Starring: Sara Vertongen, Wim Willaert, Esra Vandenbussche

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I texted the following note to a pal right after seeing Peter Monsaert's La Ciel Flamand.

"Uh, so I just saw this movie in which a sad sack bus driver attempts to rekindle his relationship with a brothel keeper whose 6-year-old daughter has been molested by the town's Santa Claus."

The response I received was thus:

"OK, that does not even sound like a real movie."

I'll admit my tongue was slightly in cheek with this description of one of the most original and moving experiences I had this year, but the fact remains that it's not an especially improper portraiture.

You see, single Mom Sylvie (Sara Vertongen) runs a tidy little brothel with Monique (Ingrid De Vos), her Mother. Bearing the moniker "La Ciel Flamand" (the almost hilariously oxymoronic English translation is "Flemish Heaven"), the modest house of ill repute, nestled off a grubby highway under the grey Belgian skies, is adorned in red lights and within, it seems an especially cozy refuge for gentlemen seeking womanly release.

Still, it is a brothel and Sylvie's six-year-old Eline (Esra Vandenbussche, Vertogen's real-life child) is never allowed inside and instead, spends her time in the car or in the company of the kindly Uncle Dirk (Wim Willaert), our aforementioned bus-drivin' man of the hangdog schlemiel persuasion.

Uncle Dirk is, of course, Eline's biological Dad. His paternal love for the child is unmistakeable, but so is the torch he carries for Sylvie. When the sweet child is molested by a pedophile, the status quo casts aspersions upon Sylvie's profession and fitness as a mother - as if prostitution was to blame. God knows Sylvie herself feels guilt about it, but she's a great Mom, a powerhouse businesswoman and a first-rate provider of the world's oldest services.

The cops are pretty much useless (as they so often are) and Dirk finds himself on two odysseys; one, to find the pedophile and two, to pursue the joy of familial bliss with Eline and her mother.

In addition to the film's unique, often kitchen-sink exploration of both motherhood and loneliness, writer-director Monsaert never casts an eye of reproach upon the sex trade. Indeed, he pens the delightfully warm description of Sylvie's work as providing "hugs" to gentlemen in need of said hugs. (Eline accepts this explanation from her Mother with the sensitivity and openness only children can bring and her spirit is infectious throughout both the film itself and within the hearts and minds of the audience.)

This film's positive portrayal of prostitution is refreshing in both its frankness and clear-headedness. It doesn't avoid the ugly side of the business, but frankly, all business is replete with a fair share of monstrousness.

Monsaert's directorial artistry extends to every dramatic beat, but no place is his eye of observation more acute in providing Dirk's POV of the town's local Santa Clause (or, in Flemish/Dutch/Eastern Rite and other customs, St. Nicholas). When we see the sordid Santa dandling kids on his knee, Dirk sees what only someone looking for the tell-tale signs will see. We see them too. Chillingly, it reminded me of the several times I witnessed pedophiliac tendencies in men. Remind me to tell you sometime about one guy I knew at a dog park (a fellow beloved by many children) who sported a hard-on whenever he spoke to my own child. Scumbag!

What Dirk observes and corroborates beyond a shadow of a doubt leads to a virtual explosion of mad intensity which knocks you flat on your ass, precisely because of Monsaert's observational eye throughout and the quiet intensity with which he permeates this gorgeous, love-filled slice of humanity.


La Ciel Flamand plays TIFF 2016

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

HELLO DESTROYER - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2016 - Blood on the Ice of Prince George

Hello Destroyer (2016)
Dir. Kevan Funk
Starring: Jared Abrahamson, Kurt Max Runte, Joe Dion Buffalo, Paul McGillion, Ian Tracey, Ben Cotton, Sara Canning, Maxwell Haynes, R.J. Fetherstonhaugh, Darren Mann, Shane Leydon, Phil Prajoux, David Lennon

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Prince George, British Columbia is often considered Canada's most dangerous city, but in Kevan Funk's dazzling feature-length debut Hello Destroyer, it's not the criminal element anyone need fear, but rather, Tyson Burr (Jared Abrahamson), the newest recruit of the city's minor league hockey team The Warriors. He's a goon, you see. His job is to provide muscle and he delivers the goods with a cool viciousness. He does, however, seem like a perfectly nice fellow in all other respects. He's soft-spoken, handsome, a loyal hard-working teammate and damn it all, downright introspective.

Egged on by his coaches and fellow players to deliver the goods, he's clearly a rising star-in-the-making; a burgeoning Tie Domi in the world of enforcers on skates. He does what it takes and accepts the meagre accolades of his leaders like a bruised, abused dog will still accept pats on the head from its abusing master.

Alas, there is something far more brutal and dangerous in the world of hockey than fists and lumber smashed into the teeth - it's politics. When Tyson's enforcing results in a horrifying and tragic incident during a game, our hero meets his biggest adversary of all; shame, shunning and aimlessness.

In addition to the most Canadian movie never made in Canada, Slap Shot, Canada itself has yielded a number of terrific pictures about its National Sport (Face Off, Paperback Hero, Goon), but none with the genuine force and power of Hello Destroyer. Writer-Director Kevan Funk paints a veritable portrait of Hell; a stylized blend of expressionism and neorealism that keeps us on the edge of our seats.

With cinematographer Benjamin Loeb, Funk seldom jumps out of the intensity of claustrophobic and downright chilling closeups - keeping us as intimate with Tyson as we'd ever want to be. This adds intensity, to be sure, but it contributes to both the confusion and humanity our hero represents. The compositions are always masterful and I applaud the almost-pitch-black opaque qualities of the images, forcing us to look deeply into the gloomiest pits of the game itself.

There are no false notes here. The performances range from juicily (appropriately) over-the-top to creepily deadpan. The film captures small-town Canadiana, team spirit and the dregs of its national support with verve and aplomb.


Hello Destroyer, a Northern Banner release, is playing at TIFF 2016.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

ELLE - Review By Greg - TIFF 2016 - Verhoeven manages unimaginable, makes boring film

Elle (2016)
Dir. Paul Verhoeven
Scr. David Birke
Nvl. Philippe Djian
Starring: Isabelle Huppert

Review By Greg Klymkiw

It seems unthinkable that Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Showgirls, Total Recall) could actually make a boring movie. That he could make a film that's repugnant - in all the wrong ways - is equally shocking. He's done it with Elle, though.

Michèle LeBlanc (Isabelle Huppert) is raped by a ski-masked scumbag in her tony Paris digs, but she doesn't report it to the police. She has other ideas.

Michèle happens to be a dynamo in the world of gaming production. Failure eludes her because she makes her designers, colleagues and programmers suffer her sharp-tongued wrath. She knows what her gameboy customers want and, irony of ironies (ugh), the lads living in front of their gaming consoles want big boobs, blood and rape, especially rape.

Yes, she eventually tracks down her rapist, but not before Verhoeven can provide rape flashbacks and rape dreams. And isn't this all going to be oh-so Francais? She may or may not be out for revenge, but mostly, she seems fuelled by the cat and mouse aspects of the rapist stalking the rape victim and vice versa. Super Ugh!

Working with a ridiculous script, his first in the French language (from what must be a dreadful novel), Verhoeven has made a film that's vagina-stuffed with lame satirical jabs, mostly of the easy-poke variety against gaming and gamers to justify what turn out to be the rape fantasies of his leading lady.

The picture's not funny, nor suspenseful and worst of all, it's a mega-bore. I love Verhoeven, but this is a total misfire. I imagine most psueds and/or film critics will defend the picture and applaud its "bravery" and purported nods to "empowerment", but this is the domain of pinheads, not anyone with taste, compassion and humanity.


Elle is a Mongrel Media Release playing TIFF 2016

Monday, 5 September 2016

DOG EAT DOG - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2016 - Schrader Nails Bunker Book Bigtime

Dog Eat Dog (2016)
Dir. Paul Schrader
Scr. Matthew Wilder
Nvl. Edward Bunker
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Matthew Cook

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The first few minutes of Paul Schrader's sprightly and downright buoyant film adaptation of Edward Bunker's classic crime novel Dog Eat Dog plunges us into a kaleidoscopic, drug-fueled fantasia via Willem Dafoe (as the appropriately monikered "Mad Dog"). This juicily ramps up to one of the most shocking acts of violence imaginable, at least within the oh-so-tender context of Mad Dog promising his porcine "lady love" some good lovin' and a mess o' delectable short ribs. And then the picture forcibly butt-blasts us raw into an even more appalling "OH-FUCK-NO-REALLY?" salvo of horrifyingly hilarious carnage. At this point, it's obvious how terrific this movie is going to be.

This is no surprise, really. As the screenwriter of Taxi Driver and director of Blue Collar, Hardcore, Light Sleeper, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, American Gigolo, Auto Focus and the insanely brilliant and unfairly-drubbed The Canyons, the very idea of Schrader directing a Bunker adaptation makes the mouth water. The execution goes well beyond anticipatory salivation - he pins us to the floor and fiercely has his way with us. And we cum and we cum and we cum.

Troy (Nicolas Cage) is the snaky, charming mastermind behind the Holy Trinity of ex-cons which includes the aforementioned Mad Dog and the burly Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook). After performing a series of small-money scams, which they pull off by the barely competent skins of their wobbly teeth, Troy decides the time is right for the ultimate crime-fueled payday. The Greek (Schrader himself, in a gruffly funny turn) offers them the job of a lifetime; their lifetime, anyway. A scumbag gangster owes The Greek a whack of dough and the job is to kidnap the thug's baby for a princely ransom.

To say things go smoothly might be an understatement, but the major league fumbles guarantee knee-slappers aplenty and blood-soaked shenanigans of the most lovingly repellent kind.

Screenwriter Matthew Wilder deftly updates Bunker's book (a period piece would clearly have cost a small fortune and might well have been un-financeable given the film's darkly hilarious overtones) and shifting the locale from Los Angeles to Cleveland manages to up the ante on the sleaze factor most succulently. 

Schrader's visual palate is gorgeously achieved by the sturdy, no-holds-barred lensing of Alexander Dynan, and ranges from grimy 70s filthiness to fine-grained monochrome to out-and-out blasts of garishly happy 80s colour - splashing across the screen like Jackson Pollock on crystal meth. The cutting of Ben Rodriguez Jr. appropriately jettisons the action along without resorting to unnecessary wham-bam-thank-you-M'am gymnastics and both the music and design elements add oodles of panache to the proceedings.

Dog Eat Dog is one of the best crime pictures of the year, but most of all, it had me soaring out of the cinema feeling like a helium balloon (especially when Cage delivers a moving Bogart riff).

Oh yeah, and it has plenty of nudity. One can never go wrong with that.


Dog Eat Dog plays Midnight Madness at TIFF 2016

Sunday, 4 September 2016

I, DANIEL BLAKE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2016 - Bureaucrats Who Kill With Joy

I, Daniel Blake (2016)
Dir. Ken Loach
Scr. Paul Laverty
Starring: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Dylan McKiernan, Briana Shann

Review By Greg Klymkiw

In a world where it seems that the poor are better off dying than face the indignity of their supposed benefactors, one wonders what's more evil - the government or its vile, petty bureaucrats who coldly implement policies designed to keep people down whilst supporting the greed of the 1%.

Ken Loach, one of cinema's great humanitarians, takes us on a harrowing roller coaster ride of those caught up in the cold-blooded silos of social assistance in contemporary Britain. I, Daniel Blake tells the story of a 59-year-old skilled construction worker (Dave Johns) who suffers a heart-related accident on the job and rightfully applies for benefits. In spite of his serious condition and a desire to get better and return to work, a soulless clerk purporting to be a "medical expert" ticks off a ludicrous series of boxes which deny him basic care.

He is allowed to appeal, of course, but the process to do so is fraught with hurdles clearly designed to keep people like Daniel Blake from getting what's rightfully due to them. He's eventually shuffled into a spurious bandaid program which forces him to look for work even though he is medically prohibited from doing so.

His journey makes for the stuff of great drama, but screenwriter Daniel Laverty and leading man Johns create a character of considerable humour and warmth. Even as we furiously engage in his plight (to the point of wanting to put our fists into the faces of all the fools on the government side of the desk), I, Daniel Blake is almost endlessly laugh-out-loud funny, often downright joyous.

A concurrent subplot involving Daniel's friendship with Katie (Hayley Squires) a struggling single Mom and her two kids caught up in a similarly infuriating bureaucratic is the source of deeply moving humanity. Though Daniel's character slips into an old-fashioned patriarchal disdain for Katie's tough employment choice to help her kids, Loach allows us to be both angered by his response whilst understanding it completely.

The film creates a rich tapestry of supporting characters, a superb sense of place and small victories which take on the force of tidal wave-like power as Loach plunges us into a world that never feels false. Funny, bittersweet and tear-wrenching, I, Daniel Blake will preach to the converted with aplomb, but should be required viewing for every petty bureaucrat in the world.

Those callous shits need to be strapped into chairs like Alex in A Clockwork Orange and forced to see this film. It will provide a searing mirror image, but also an unflinching portrait of the damage they cause to all those who do most of the living and dying in our world.


I, Daniel Blake is a Mongrel Media Release at TIFF 2016.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

THE HAPPIEST DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MAKI - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Finnish Boxing

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (2016)
Dir. Juho Kuosmanen
Scr. Kuosmanen and Mikko Myllylahti
Starring: Jarkko Lahti, Oona Airola, Eero Milonoff, John Bosco Jr.

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Is it possible for anyone to have a happy day in Finland? Well, amateur boxer and former Olympic champ Olli Mäki (Jarkko Lahti) hopes so. It's 1962 and his friend, manager and former boxer Elis Ask (Eero Milonoff) is not only counting on it, but he comes close to promising that Olli will indeed experience the happiest day in his life - if Olli works for it, harder than ever before. Olli's no slouch in the pugilistic sweepstakes. His record is impressive, but now the stakes are going to be very high because he's been entered into a professional bout in Helsinki against the formidable American fighter Davey Moore (John Bosco Jr.), a lean, mean boxer with over 60 wins behind him.

Can a sweet, young fighter from the sticks really hold his own in a bout touted as Finland's big shot at boxing supremacy on the world stage? For all intents and purposes, Olli is Finland's "Great White Hope" and the pressures placed upon him seem insurmountable.

Worst of all, Olli is severely distracted. He's falling in love.

The love of Olli's life is Raija (Oona Airola), a vivacious, gorgeous, fresh-faced beauty from his hometown. Manager Elis is understandably concerned. The only love Olli should keep in his heart is boxing and the will to win. Olli has other priorities. He's shy, humble and just wants to do his best, but in the world of professional sports, best isn't good enough. He's got to be the best of the best.

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki is one of the best boxing films ever made. Kuosmanen's direction is infused with attention to the smallest details and results in a picture where the stuff of life provides indelible moments of dramatic and emotional resonance far beyond the cliches which litter so many sports films. The love story itself is wildly, deliriously romantic to the point of instilling the most delightful frissons of loving goooseflesh. It's one of the few movies I've seen which manages to create a feeling of butterflies in the tummy which only mad, passionate love can inspire.

Kuosmanen's cast hits all the right notes while cinematographer J-P Passi’s monochrome images carry us back to a time of simplicity, beauty and the promise the early 60s offered, in spite of the Cold-War, which tried to overshadow basic elements of humanity, but lost out to the decency of the hearts and minds of simple men the world over. The period details in the film are first-rate, but never stand out like glistening sore thumbs. They're inextricably linked to character and drama.

And if you don't know the true story of Olli Mäki, avoid looking it up before seeing the picture. Your experience will be blessed with added profundity and joy.


The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, a Norther Banner release, plays at TIFF 2016

Friday, 2 September 2016

TONI ERDMANN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2016 - Teutonic Father-Daughter Hilarity

Toni Erdmann (2016)
Dir. Maren Ade
Starring: Peter Simonischek, Sandra Hüller

Review By Greg Klymkiw

If you do the wrong math on Toni Erdmann, you might be tempted to assume a 162-minute running time and its country of origin (Germany) will yield an unbearably dreary slog, so whatever you do, don't be a dumkopf in your calculations; Maren Ade's lovely picture yields one of the funniest, most heartwarming and celebratory experiences you'll have at the movies this year.

Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) is a hangdog retired old schlub who perks up his life (and those around him, when they're so willing) with a seemingly endless supply of practical jokes which he pulls off with costumes (including fake buck teeth) and a totally straight face.

His adult daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller), a public relations executive in the field of international relations is less amused. Her poker face in the joy department matches Winfried's in the gag sweepstakes. There's clearly a deep love between father and daughter, but also an estrangement as she's tried to move on and create a life and career for herself.

When Winfried comes to visit Ines in Romania, unannounced no less, he finds her in the midst of an important campaign involving the outsourcing of jobs (and an attempt to lessen the blow of the optics). Daddy Dearest wastes no time insinuating himself upon Ines and her world. Donning a series of ridiculously cheesy sport coats, buck teeth and a moronic wig (a la Peter Sellers in What's New Pussycat), he assumes the fictional role of "Toni Erdmann", proving to be a blessing and curse to his daughter's business dealings.

This movie is so funny, I needed to constantly gasp for air, but when the picture settles into genuine pathos, tears were shed with equal abandon. Father-daughter relationships have their own unique complexities and writer-director Ade captures this dynamic with considerable artistry.

Toni Erdmann is easily the most joyous experience I've had at the movies in a long time. You laugh, you cry, but most importantly, you soar.

Soaring is good. Trust me.


Toni Erdmann plays at TIFF 2016. It is a Mongrel Media release.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Turgid Tedium Rules Romance

The Light Between Oceans (2016)
Dir. Derek Cianfrance
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander,
Rachel Weisz, Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Early into this historical romance, the two lovers-to-be (Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander) go for an extra-long picnic, walking and talking ad nauseum through hilly, seemingly treeless and wide-open Aussie wilderness until, settling several hours later on a cliff overlooking a gorgeous sunset on the ocean, they kiss and profess their love for each other. As Alexandre Desplat's ludicrously lush score throbs over cinematographer Adam Arkapaw's dull picture-postcard images, all I could think about was when, where and for how long did our lovebirds relieve themselves of waste matter. Worse yet, I wondered about how the two deposited heavier loads with no apparent evidence of toilet paper.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the last thing one should be thinking about in any romance are bowel movements, but think about them, I did - long and hard. And as the film plodded along, I thought about my own need to relieve myself. Thank heaven for tender mercies.

The Light Between Oceans had plenty of potential to be a weepy in the 40s Warner Bros. tradition, but alas it suffers from a horrendously miscast leading lady and worse yet, plods along to a relatively safe denouement.

Fassbender and Vikander play a newly married couple living an Eden-like existence on a remote island - its only practical reason for being is to provide a lighthouse to guide ships from its rocky shores and towards the safe harbours about 100 miles away. We watch them boink like minks, but their attempts to generate progeny result in not one, but two - count 'em - still births. Vikander takes it especially badly. When a small boat washes ashore with a dead man and a living, breathing newborn baby, she petulantly, selfishly insists that Fassbender bury the evidence of the obviously real Daddy and keep the child for themselves.

For what seems like several hours of running time, we watch our couple raise the child as if it were their own. Alas, back on shore, there is the baby's real grieving mother. Rachel Weisz suffers quite magnificently in this role - so much so that occasional sojourns to the mainland by our baby-napping couple inspire Fassbender's guilt to overwhelm him.

Needless to say, things will probably not turn out too well. Unfortunately, instead of some really unbearable suffering, we're dealt the unkindest cut of all, a relatively happy ending tinged with bittersweetness. Some of the melodramatic elements in the movie do indeed work in a rudimentary sledgehammer fashion, but neither the screenplay nor the direction take brave enough steps into completely ludicrous tear-wrenching territory - it's all eventually so bloody tasteful.

Under the circumstances, Fassbender and Weisz acquit themselves nicely and it's great seeing Aussie stalwarts like Bryan Brown and Jack Thompson in top form, but the ubiquitous Alicia Vikander pretty much upends the whole picture. She seldom wipes the dimple-inducing smile from her face and even when she expresses sadness or desperation, there's more giddiness in her visage than anything remotely real or harrowing. In fact, her dimples become so bothersome, one wants to pave them over with cement. Most embarrassing are her line-readings which seem oddly anachronistic. Ultimately, Vikander galumphs her way through the proceedings with such misplaced intensity that the movie galumphs alongside her.


The Light Between Oceans opened the 2016 Venice Film Festival and is now in wide release via Disney.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

I, OLGA HEPNAROVA ***** 5-Star Contemporary Masterpiece - Revised Fantasia 2016 Review By Greg Klymkiw at Electric Sheep Magazine

The astonishing young actress Michalina Olzanska delivers one of the great screen performances of the new millennium.
Dir. Petr Kazda, Tomas Weinreb
Starring: Michalina Olszanska

Review By Greg Klymkiw

A grim, superbly realized feature-length dramatic biography about the last person ever executed in Czechoslovakia. Writer-directors Petr Kazda and Tomas Weinreb have crafted a compulsive, moving and shocking film about mental illness as a genuine affliction. It can result in evil actions, but the perpetrators are, more often than not, sick in mind, body and soul. Healing and caring has escaped them. I, Olga Hepnarová speaks not just for one, but all of them.


Read the full review at Electric Sheep HERE.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Revised and Expanded review of SHE'S ALLERGIC TO CATS - Fantasia 2016 Review By Greg Klymkiw at Electric Sheep Magazine - Link to new review enclosed below

She's Allergic To Cats (2016)
Dir. Michael Reich
Starring: Mike Pinkney, Sophia Kinski

Review By Greg Klymkiw

An all-new expanded review at Electric Sheep Magazine of this endlessly dazzling, deliriously perverse and rapturously romantic comedy about a part time dog groomer who dreams of being a filmmaker by remaking Brian De Palma's Carrie with cats.

Read the full expanded review HERE.


She's Allergic To Cats enjoyed its World Premier at Fantasia 2016

Friday, 26 August 2016

Greg Klymkiw and CFC Media Lab's Ana Serrano flap jaws on VR in Montreal - Virtual Reality at Fantasia 2016 - Includes Magic LINK to Interview by Greg Klymkiw at CFC website

Montreal = FANTASIA, MEAT & VR

CFC MEDIA LAB - VR @ Fantasia 2016

By Greg Klymkiw
With the assistance, sponsorship and programming expertise of the CFC Media Lab at Uncle Norman (In the Heat of the Night, Moonstruck) Jewison's Canadian Film Centre, the 2016 edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal hosted The Samsung Fantasia Virtual Reality Experience.

Several of the films in the series proved to be first-rate stand-alone pieces: Remember by Australia’s George Kacevski was a chilling experiential piece involving a woman’s conversation with a computer that is erasing all her memories; Anthony C. Ferrante, famed director of Sharknado 1, 2, 3 and 4 delivered the best of the VR pieces - Killer Deal, a grimly hilarious bloodbath set in a hotel room during a machete salesman convention; and Australia’s Nathan Anderson gave us the wholly immersive and interactive reinvention of the great genre of the 40s and 50s with the post-modern VR NOIR. The Samsung Fantasia Virtual Reality Experience also featured two terrific new productions from the CFC Media Lab: Body Mind Change Redux Teaser and The Closet (both produced by CFC Media Lab Topper Ana Serrano).

As cool as VR is, the technology to deliver the product to its viewers, still needs some modification. The Samsung headsets are comfortable enough, but they are not especially conducive to people who wear glasses, nor are they ideal for those (like me) who sweat like pigs. To the former, I chucked my eyeglasses and used the headset focus to bring the picture into view. This seemed to work fine, only I was seeing a strange mesh-like backdrop which I assume was there because I couldn’t focus to my ideal vision.

To the latter, I was often sweating under the headset and this caused fogging.

Needless to say, this was a tad annoying, especially when immersive interaction was required. The fogging issue is not the end of the world, though. I suggest Samsung build in a de-fogger/defrost system within the viewers. Gentle cold air pumping in would not only clear the screen, but provide a sensual experience for the viewer. This would also add a fetishistic element for those so inclined. After all, who doesn’t enjoy having their eyelids caressed by someone gently blowing upon them?

Ah, but this is mere technology and I suspect the bugs will be worked out (if they haven’t already been). VR is the future and then some. To say the experience was inspirational, wildly entertaining and at times, almost heart stopping, would be an understatement. Participation in the films was to participate on the ground floor of the future and I was mega excited to discuss VR in all its glory with Serrano.

My interview with her can be found on the CFC website HERE.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

It makes sense that the GREAT city of Montreal hosts the FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL. Find the MAGIC LINK to Greg Klymkiw's Fantasia 2016 Reviews of KILLER DEAL, THE UNSEEN, KIDNAP CAPITAL and more at the CFC website.


The Joys of Montreal and Fantasia 2016

By Greg Klymkiw

Montreal is the perfect setting for Fantasia. Just down the street from the festival's de Maisonneuve headquarters at Concordia University, one will often stumble into the Irish Embassy, the fest's main post-screening hangout on Rue Bishop.

Eventually, when one is in search of late-night comestibles to soak up all the Celtic Brew, what, pray tell, do cinephiles encounter on Rue Metcalfe? Two blazing blood-red signs, which share the same towering, grey wall. 

One announces the availability of "Dunn's Famous Smoked Meat". 

The other, ever-so quaintly beckons with the simple word "Massage".

This is Montreal.

This is Fantasia.

THIS IS Genre Cinema which smacks you in the face with a two-by-four of brilliance, all manner of brew to consider said cinema over, peppercorn-and‐fatdrenched slabs of meat (for sobering thoughts) whence one discusses tres cinema guignol with Fest Co-Topper Mitch Davis and for dessert, the tender touch of a masseuse (who may or may not offer added, shall we say, services).

The Film Corner's Greg Klymkiw recently sallied forth across Cyberland Street to the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) website where he reviewed a whack of celluloid delights from this year's edition of FANTASIA.

Friday, 19 August 2016

WAR DOGS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Lame Arms Dealer Shenanigans Lacks Focus

War Dogs (2016)
Dir. Todd Phillips
Scr. Phillips, Jason Smilovic, Stephen Chin
Starring: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana de Armas, Bradley Cooper, Kevin Pollak

Review By Greg Klymkiw

War Dogs is about assholes. That the picture is based upon real-life assholes certainly takes it out of the usual territory of male mayhem director Todd (The Hangover) Phillips has specialized in to date. Alas, aside from a knockout performance from Jonah Hill and superb support courtesy of Bradley Cooper and Kevin Pollak, the picture never quite lives up to its potential to explore the savagery of international arms dealers.

From an article, then full length book ("Arms and the Dudes") by investigative reporter Guy Lawson, the screenplay cobbled together by Phillips and his co-scribes Jason Smilovic and Stephen Chin never takes flight into the territory of black humour and/or outright satire that might have been its saving grace, especially since it never really works as a straight-up drama, nor a comedy.

Charting the story of old school chums Efraim Diveroli (Hill) and David Packouz (Teller) who team up to secure government contracts to provide arms to the U.S. military, the film reduces most of their actions to cliches. Packouz is a loser facing the responsibilities of being a husband and father who is swept up by his flamboyant buddy into the legal, but morally dubious world of supplying implements of destruction. When the temptation of riches beyond their wildest dreams dangles before them, they acquiesce to illegal activities which will ultimately lead to their downfall. Though fact-based, we've seen stories like this before and a movie like War Dogs needed far more than the derivative bargain-basement Scorsese-like voiceovers and montages driving it.

The film required genuine savagery. Perhaps it even needed to go into Robert Altman-like M*A*S*H territory to make its protagonists even vaguely understandable. If anything, the film seems like bargain-basement Todd Phillips. A lame fact-based version of The Hangover films with arms dealers replacing the hapless clowns of the aforementioned comedy trilogy just isn't very compelling.

Jonah Hill, however, continues to dazzle and display his remarkable range and gifts as an actor. He attacks his role with ferocious, maniacal and nasty glee that injects considerable life into the otherwise blah proceedings. Bradley Cooper pops up as a slime ball arms dealer infused with an oddly friendly malevolence and Kevin Pollak lights the screen up with both humour and slime whenever the dry cleaning mogul he plays shows up.

The entire domestic subplot involving Packouz's wife (Ana de Armas) is a drag, sucking the life out of the proceedings and once the story takes genuinely dark turns, the movie continues to go through the motions, doing very little to shock or move us.

By the end of the film, we're left with a perfunctory wrap-up of the actual events, but never do we feel like we've waded in the utter hell of the world these two men crawled through. They're ultimately less than assholes, they're slugs and vipers and how we're supposed to feel about either of them is finally one big question mark. We don't have to "relate" to them or even empathize with them. It might have been nice if we could have even mildly revelled in their sheer scumbaggery, but the movie doesn't even afford us that one meagre pleasure.


War Dogs is in wide release via Warner Brothers.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

WHITE COFFIN - Fantasia 2016 Review By Greg Klymkiw at Electric Sheep Magazine

Argentinian Shocker with babes and blood.

White Coffin (2016)
Dir. Daniel de la Vega
Scr. Bogliano Brothers
Starring: Julieta Cardinali, Rafa Ferro,
Fiorela Duranda, Damián Dreizik, Veronica Intile

Review By Greg Klymkiw at Electric Sheep - a deviant view of cinema

Imagine a strangely perverse reworking of George Sluizer's classic 1988 shocker The Vanishing, wherein a smelly guy searching for his mysteriously missing girlfriend is substituted with a mega-hot babe searching for her sweet little girl amongst a sect of evil-infused torture-hounds. Add plenty of supernatural frissons, a wham-bam no-nonsense 70-minute running time and some to-die-for action and you get the rich cocktail of powerful 100-proof homebrew that is White Coffin.



White Coffin enjoyed its world premiere at Fantasia 2016.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

SUICIDE SQUAD - Review By Greg Klymkiw - David Ayer Delivers Pure Comic Book Joy

Suicide Squad (2016)
Dir. David Ayer
Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Cara Delevingne,
Karen Fukuhara, Jay Hernandez, Jai Courtney, Joel Kinnaman,
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Adam Beach, Aidan Devine

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Oh, to be a kid again! What pure, unadulterated joy! And I have writer-director David Ayer to thank for this happy blast into my past. Having discovered both DC and Marvel in the 60s, their true golden age, my memories were tweaked by Ayer's snappy, colourful, darkly funny, occasionally nasty and wholly exuberant dive into everything that made comics so special for me.

Suicide Squad has cool heroes, even cooler villains, high stakes for the world of the film (and its characters) and most of all, it's infused with sacrifice, sentiment and a big heart. It's also gorgeously shot, snappily edited, overflowing with a great selection of immortal classic songs, an original score that pounds with power and replete with a juicy ensemble cast.


What's not to like? Or, for that matter, love?

We all remember that Superman died like a Jesus made of steel at the end of Zack Snyder's epic Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and this is the milieu greeting the American government at the beginning of Ayer's film. Sans Christ Kent's powerful alter-ego, the powers-that-be are quaking in their boots that alien hordes and super villains will wreak havoc upon the earth.

Tough military strategist babe Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has an answer - collect the nastiest incarcerated super villains and offer them reduced prison sentences in exchange for fighting on the side of all that is good. The Pentagon balks, but eventually, even the most vocal balking General (Aidan Devine) has his mind changed with the advent of annihilation at the hands of an ancient witch.

It doesn't take long before we get a comic book remake of The Dirty Dozen - one that still manages to resonate with freshness and originality. The simple idea of villains/criminals being used to fight evil drives the picture and Ayer's wonkily wonderful script offers up a fun first third which provides lively origins for the various criminals who will make up the suicide squad of super heroes.

What a team!

Will Smith's Deadshot is a hit man with a conscience, Boomerang (Jai Courtney) is an Aussie psychopath handy with blades and the Down Under implement he's named after, Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) the mutant half-man, half crocodile has a mordant wit to match his massive appetite for humans and crocodiles, El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) turns into a human flame thrower when he gets riled up, Katana (Karen Fukuhara) is the lethal samurai with a sword which holds her late husband's spirit within it, the very cool SlipKnot (a great Adam Beach, but sadly underused) and last, but not least:

Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie).

Harley via Robbie's nutzoid performance comes close to stealing the show, but that honour is ultimately reserved for Jared Leto as the suave, giggling madman the Joker - Harley's lover and the man responsible for transforming her (via shock treatment no less) from a prison psychiatrist into a highly skilled and dangerous psychopath. Together, this loving couple of wackos rival Mickey and Mallory Knox, Sailor Ripley and Lula Fortune and, lest we forget, Bonnie and Clyde - all rolled into one.

Have I mentioned how to-the-heavens sexy she is? A deadly sexpot with a potty mouth who's handy with firearms and a baseball bat - she's as sex-drenched a film character as they come. The one rival in the ultra-sexy department is June Moone (Cara Delevingne), the honey-glazed archeologist babe who becomes possessed by the arch-villainess The Enchantress, an ages-old evil superpower bent upon the world's destruction. (Seeing The Enchantress writhe in front of her technicolor doomsday machine like some Paul Verhoeven-imagined pole dancer will inspire erections and/or love-juice-drenched putty-tats to rival those that Robbie inspires as Harley.) And no wonder the squad's team leader, the "mortal" ace soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) is all hot and bothered. He's madly in love with June Moone, but sickened he'll have to kill her when she's in witch enchantress mode.

Given the insane number of characters the film must juggle, Ayer pulls off the impossible and creates individuals we like, love and care about. Damn, even The Joker is pretty goddamn loveable. (Oh, and bothering to compare Leto with the late Heath Ledger is a mug's game. They're both great and different enough that comparing the characters/performances is virtually in apples and oranges territory.)

The action scenes are skilfully staged - perhaps a few too many closeups and rapid-fire cuts for my taste - but there isn't a single shot less than perfect thanks to one of my favourite contemporary cinematographers Roman Vasyanov. He's obviously one of Ayer's favourites since this is the third film they've worked on together.

David Ayer is one of contemporary cinema's great treasures. He directed one of the new century's best crime pictures (Harsh Times), one of the best cop pictures since the 70s (End of Watch) and one of the best war pictures in decades (Fury). With Suicide Squad, he's made a superhero picture that's up there with the best of the best (all three Sam Raimi Spiderman pictures, plus Zack Snyder's Man of Steel and Batman v Superman).

Ayer's also a great screenwriter. Lest we forget he delivered scripts for Training Day, Dark Blue and The Fast and the Furious. His writing is tough, uncompromising and often gritty to the max. He's also got a terrific sense of humour which serves him well. Most of all, he's got considerable heart. There's a sequence towards the film's final bloody climax when the heroes assemble in a bar to assess their lives and situation. Reminiscent of the great moments in the Mexican whorehouse followed by the bloodbath in Peckinpah's western masterpiece The Wild Bunch, Ayer plumbs the humanity of criminality in the face of evil.

It's here where we realize that David Ayer is the real thing and so is his movie.


Suicide Squad is in wide release via Warner Brothers.

Monday, 18 July 2016

LA RAGE DU DEMON - FANTASIA 2016 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Evil Méliès Possessed?

La Rage du Démon (2016)
Dir. Fabien Delage
Starring: Christophe Gans, Alexandre Aja, Philippe Rouyer, Jean-Jacques Bernard, Christophe Lemaire

Review By Greg Klymkiw

It is said that in 1897, famed magician and father of fantastical cinema Georges Méliès (legendary director of A Trip to the Moon and dramatized in Martin Scorsese's Hugo), directed a film so horrifying and powerful that some believed it to be possessed by a demonic force so abominable that it forced audiences into rages of an unholy nature. Thought to have be lost, if not outright destroyed, a print of the film surfaced in 2012. Screened for a select audience, the film inspired similar violent outbursts.

A group of contemporary filmmakers and cineastes were assembled to provide their feedback for La Rage du Démon. Alas, it turns out to be much ado about nothing. The film is such a lame mockumentary, that most of the interviewed subjects aren't able to pull off the charade with anything resembling believability. Worse yet, the mostly dull talking heads affair reveals not much of anything. There are several Méliès clips used with some perfunctory archival footage, but we never buy any of it for a second.

There's never an attempt to provide clips from the abomination itself, presumably because they're too horrifying, but mostly because this woeful low budget affair would not have been able to afford such recreations.

What we're left with is the promise of what might have been a great horror film - a pure shuddery fiction a la Hugo, but sans anything resembling "feel good". This poor, pointless mockumentary leaves us wondering if there ever will be a great picture made within the premise of a long-dead genius having made a deal with Satan, thus delivering a film so infused with evil that its audiences become minions of the diseased pieces of light flickered upon the screen.

La Rage du Démon is not it, but we're allowed to dream about it. Maybe one of the great filmmakers forced into the mock interviews here will deliver the goods.


La Rage du Démon enjoys its North American premiere at Fantasia 2016

DEMON - FANTASIA 2016 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Polish Dybbuk Terrorizes Montreal

Demon (2015)
Dir. Marcin Wrona
Starring: Itay Tiran, Agnieszka Żulewska

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The dybbuk has always been one of the most bloodcurdling supernatural creatures, yet its presence in contemporary horror films has, for the most part, been surprisingly absent. Rooted in Jewish mythology, it is the spirit of someone who has suffered a great indignity just before death and seeks to adhere itself to the soul of a living person in order to end its own purgatorial suffering. Alas, it causes as much nerve-shredding pain to the spirit as it does to the body of the one who is possessed. Invading the physical vessel in which a fully formed spirit already resides is no easy task and can result in a battle of wills, which not only implodes within, but tends to explode into the material world with a vengeance.

Demon successfully and chillingly brings this nasty, unholy terror to where it belongs, upon the silver screen, as opposed to the natural world. The late Polish filmmaker Marcin Wrona (who died suddenly and mysteriously at age 42, just one week after the film’s world premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival) hooks us immediately and reels us in with an almost sadistically gleeful use of cinema’s power to assail us with suspense of the highest order.

On the eve of his wedding to the beautiful Zaneta (Agnieszka Żulewska), the handsome young groom Peter (Itay Tiran) discovers the remains of a long-dead corpse in an open grave on the grounds of his father-in-law’s sprawling country estate. He becomes obsessed with this ghoulish treasure lying within the unconsecrated earth of a property bestowed upon the couple as a wedding gift. Not only will the nuptials be performed and celebrated here, but the happy twosome have been blessed with this gorgeous old house and lands as their future home.

Much of the film’s stylishly creepy events take place over the course of the wedding day. Wrona juggles a sardonic perspective with outright shuddersome horror during the mounting drunken celebrations at this extremely traditional Polish wedding. As the band plays, the guests dance between healthy guzzles of vodka, whilst the dybbuk clings to the poor groom, his body and soul wracked with pain.

When Peter begins to convulse violently, the lone Jewish guest at the Roman Catholic wedding, an elderly academic, is the one person who correctly identifies the problem.

Wrona’s camera dips, twirls and swirls with abandon as the celebratory affair becomes increasingly fraught with a strange desperation. Are the guests merely addled with booze, or is the estate a huge graveyard of Jews murdered during the Holocaust?

Is it possible that an army of dybbuks is seeking an end to their lonely, painful purgatory?

Demon raises many questions, but supplies no easy answers. What it delivers, however, is one of the scariest, most sickeningly creepy horror films of the year. If anything, the dybbuk has finally found a home in the movies, and we’re the beneficiaries of Wrona’s natural gifts as a filmmaker, as well as the largesse of this ancient supernatural entity, which so happily enters our own collective consciousness as we experience its nail-biting havoc over a not-so-holy matrimonial union.


DEMON enjoys its Montreal premiere at Fantasia 2016 in Montreal. This review was first published at Electric Sheep - a deviant view of cinema.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

THE LOVE WITCH - FANTASIA 2016 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Witchy Carnal Gymnastics

The Love Witch (2016)
Dir. Anna Biller
Starring: Samantha Robinson, Gian Keys,
Laura Waddell, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Robert Seeley

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Babes, witches, devil worship, black magic and sex, sex and more sex were the mainstay of a lovely sub-genre of 70s Euro-Horror that nobody in their right mind could outright dismiss. American counterparts amongst these garishly-coloured bonbons never quite lived up to the titillation quotient of Euro sleaze masters like Jean Rollin, Jesus Franco, et al, but no matter, director Anna Biller more than makes up for Uncle Sam's lack of quality output with her very own contemporary masterwork of delectably naughty feculence.

Mega-babe Elaine (Samantha Robinson) has left San Francisco and a mysteriously malevolent past behind her. Resettling in a small town in Redwood country at the behest of some "white" witches, Elaine soon unleashes her genuine powers of "black" magic upon a variety of studs. Plenty of carnal gymnastics, nudity and murder follow. We should all be lucky enough to have someone like Elaine to love us to death.

Biller creates a sumptuous, sex-drenched tale, shot in gloriously garish colour (in 35mm no less), parading ritual and rapture in equal measure. Those acquainted with the cinematic world she recreates (with a few new frissons) will have nothing to complain about. Those who aren't quite as abreast of it, might still derive pleasure from this diverting carnal romp. The rest can go to church.


The Love Witch is an Oscilloscope Release enjoying its Canadian Premiere at Fantasia 2016.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

THE EYES OF MY MOTHER - FANTASIA 2016 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Slaughter Slog

The worst exploitation pretends to be art.
The Eyes of My Mother (2016)
Dir. Nicolas Pesce
Starring: Kika Magalhães, Will Brill, Paul Nazak, Flora Diaz, Clara Wong

Review By Greg Klymkiw

At only 77 minutes, The Eyes of My Mother feels like it's never going to end. It's one of the more disagreeable pictures I've recently had the displeasure to experience. Offensively boring (and just plain boringly offensive), it's a pretentious, nasty and misogynistic art-house-horror slug of the lowest order. What we're essentially dealing with here is a bottom feeder hoisted to heavenly heights by its makers to bamboozle audiences into thinking they're watching something lofty. Worse yet, its makers even think they've created something high-toned, but have, in fact, generated a movie squarely aimed at pseuds who will laud its affectations rhapsodically.

Director Nicolas Pesce is obviously not a nincompoop. He's put his thinking cap on for this one and he's also gifted visually, creating dense monochromatic images guaranteed to stay with you. You won't really want them cluttering your cerebral cortex, but they'll adhere to it anyway, like globs of agglutinative faecal matter tossed against a wall to see if they'll stick.

This sordid slice of rural Americana begins with a mother of Portuguese descent dissecting the head of a cow for her daughter Francisca and removing the eyeballs to teach her little lassie about the wonderful world of vision. (Oooohhhh, this is getting heady already, mais non?) As bad luck would have it, Mom allows a serial killer into the house and when Dad gets home, he discovers Francisca sitting in the kitchen whilst his wife is being hacked and bludgeoned in the bathtub.

No matter. Dad subdues the serial killer and chains him in the barn - still alive, naturally. With Francisca's help, he hauls his wife's body into the woods and buries it.

Wouldn't you?

Mother teaches daughter facts of life:
How to best remove eyeballs.
We flash forward a few years later and Francisca has blossomed into a fully grown babe (rendered in stultifying monotone by actress Kika Magalhães). Dad is constantly morose. One might think it's because he misses his wife, but since he's always watching "Bonanza" on TV, we naturally assume a steady diet of the Cartwright family is contributing to his ennui.

Francisca seems a tiny bit happier. She's surgically removed the serial killer's eyeballs and spends her days torturing and humiliating him. Eventually, when Dad dies and she tires of bathing, then sleeping with his smelly corpse, she gets a might horny and begins to seek ways to satisfy her natural urges.

This leads to her own serial killer-like tendencies coming to full fruition.

Lacking the razzle-dazzle and dark humour of something like Lucky McKee's The Woman (which it bears a few similarities to) and fraught with far too many dull Terrence Malick-like stretches, The Eyes of My Mother is little more than a wank-fest for its director and an even bigger masturbation-o-rama for the aforementioned pseuds amongst both paying audiences and film critics, all of whom want to impress each other with their nonsense-infused justifications for the sheer, nasty, empty malevolence of this horrendous picture.


Lowest Film Corner Rating.
For elaboration on its history, usage and full meaning,
please visit HERE.

The Eyes of My Mother is an Unobstructed View release enjoying its Canadian premiere at Fantasia 2016

Friday, 15 July 2016

IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE - FANTASIA 2016 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Ti West Goes West

Ti West serves up Sweet Revenge in Texas.

In a Valley of Violence (2016)
Dir. Ti West
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Taissa Farmiga, John Travolta,
Jason Ransone, Karen Gillan, Larry Fessenden

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Who doesn't like a good western? Aside from a few knobs, pretty much everyone likes one. Writer-director Ti West (The Sacrament, The Innkeepers, You're Next) clearly enjoys westerns so much that he strapped six-shooters upon his cinematic mojo and damn well just made one.

And you know what? In a Valley of Violence is a darn tootin' good oater. Mildly revisionist, but mostly straight-up, the picture is replete with nods to Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter, Sergio Leone and Budd Boetticher whilst holding its own as a solid cowpoke revenge programmer.

Paul (Ethan Hawke), a former soldier with a mysterious past, stops in the one-horse Denton, Texas to replenish supplies. Accompanied by his beloved dog, he becomes acquainted with the spunky, sexy Mary-Anne (Taissa Farmiga), the restless little sister of hotel keeper Ellen (Karen Gillan). Local baddie Gilly Martin (James Ransone) moronically picks a fight with Paul and is soundly thrashed by our hero.

As these things must go, Gilly exacts revenge upon Paul, leaving him (and dog) for dead in the desert.

Bad idea.

Paul comes back to town, driven by hate.

The inevitable killing spree ensues.

Travolta's biggest challenge: Idiot Progeny!

West's script is lean, mean and sprinkled with plenty of witty dialogue. As per usual, he displays a first-rate eye for action, editing the picture with hard-driving aplomb and garnering solid performances from his all-star cast. Hawke makes for a stellar and stalwart cowpoke hero, the villains (especially Ransome and Larry Fessenden) ooze the proper amount of nasty Peckinpah-like scum-baggery and the camera utterly adores the spunky Ukrainian-American Princess Farmiga (Vera's lil sissy) who spits her lines out like some perverse cross twixt Maddie Ross and Addie Pray.

The real fun is seeing John Travolta as the town marshall, a beleaguered father to a moron son. Dad doesn't want to kill, but he will if he has to defend the rotting fruit sired from his seed.

In a Valley of Violence might not be the most wildly original western ever made, but it is a damn solid one and offers considerable entertainment value from a filmmaker who is fast becoming one of the most reliable and talented young directors in America.

Finally, no summation of this picture's virtues would be complete without a special nod to Abbie the dog, a sweet animal who delivers a lovely performance. What happens to the dog shouldn't happen to a dog, but no matter. You will rejoice in the sweet revenge on the animal's behalf. It's a bloody beautiful thing.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ Three-and-a-half Stars

In a Valley of Violence enjoys its Canadian Premiere at Fantasia 2016.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

SHE'S ALLERGIC TO CATS - FANTASIA 2016 - Review By Greg Klymkiw: **** 4 Feature Debut

Can a schlub video artist get to home plate with a mega-babe?
She's Allergic To Cats (2016)
Dir. Michael Reich
Starring: Mike Pinkney, Sonja Kinski

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Every so often, I see a film that reminds me of the joy I experienced during those halcyon days when I produced a whack of no-to-low-budget feature films. The accent was always on the love of cinema, innovation and most of all, cool shit that I and my colleagues would be happy to pay money to see ourselves. Given our collective cinematic predilections, our only nod to "marketplace" was knowing there had to be whack-jobs like us "out there".

My personal credo was thus: If you're making a movie for very little money, it better goddamn well be something that puts you and the film itself on a map. Impersonal "calling card" films had only two results: Making something competent enough that you might end up in regular network series television or worse; not being able to overcome the meagre production value and generating a movie that nobody would want.

She's Allergic To Cats made me happier than happy. From the opening frames to the magnificent cut from a hilariously poignant final image to the first of the end title cards, I found the picture endlessly dazzling, deliriously perverse and rapturously romantic. This is exactly the kind of first feature which an original filmmaker should generate. Writer-director Michael Reich boldly announces his presence with a friendly fuck-you attitude, a great sense of humour and a visual style that should make some veteran directors be ashamed of their by the numbers camera jockey moves.

Though there is no official genre called "schlubs who get to successfully seduce babes", She's Allergic To Cats would definitely be leading the charge if such a thing did officially exist - it's kind of like a Woody Allen picture on acid through the lens of wonky, nutty 80s video art.

Are you a schlub? Don't worry. Babes await you.

Mike Pinkney, the actor, plays Mike Pinkney, the lead character - a schlub extraordinaire who works a day job as a dog groomer and in his off hours, makes retro-styled video art and/or endlessly watches the horrendous, compulsively watchable 70s TV movie with John Travolta, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. These viewings include Mike eating sweet, unhealthy breakfast cereals. His home is also disgustingly infested with rats who seem to devour everything - from bananas to condoms. The landlord's only solution is to eventually "look up" a solution on Wikipedia.

Mike's dream is to make a feature film homage to Brian De Palma's Carrie - with CATS!!! His producer thinks it's the stupidest idea he's every heard. Mike is dejected and persistent all at the same time. Amidst the slacker/McJob existence he leads, Mike miraculously hits it off with Cora (Sonja Kinski - Nastassja's daughter, Klaus's granddaughter) a mega-babe who happily agrees to a date.

Here, director Reich deserves to win some manner of official accolade for creating the most depraved "meet-cute" in cinema history. All I will say is that it involves the incompetent clipping of a dog's nails on the quick, causing them to bleed.

The entire love story is mediated through Mike's filmmaking/video-art perspective. The result is a chiaroscuro-like melange of garish "video" colours, cheesy (though gorgeous) dissolves and plenty of sexy video tracking errors.

Though the film's final actions can be seen from a mile away, "surprise" is hardly the point. There's a sad and deeply moving inevitability to where things go. Reich achieves the near-impossible. We laugh with his main character, we laugh at him and finally, we're given a chance to weep for him.

Yes, on many levels, She's Allergic to Cats is a head-film extraordinaire, but it has heart and soul. This is something of a miracle. Then again, this should come as no surprise. Getting the film made must have been a miracle and what Reich's efforts have yielded is nothing less than revelatory.


She's Allergic To Cats enjoys its World Premiere at FANTASIA 2016