Free Web Hosting by Netfirms
Web Hosting by Netfirms | Free Domain Names by Netfirms
hipCRANK - cinemaSCOPING
spins
books
film
chat
search
links
faq
blather
stuff
contact
hipCRANK home
empty
bigempty

.....YOU FOUND THE INVISIBLE TEXT YOU SCAMP

THE VILLAINESS

KICKASSASSIN
john sekerka

This is a great movie. Then it's a lousy one. Then it's great again.

As opening action sequences go, there's not much that can top this visceral, first person carnage extended take. Our heroine/villainess zips through a building's claustrophobic maze, shooting, chopping and kickassing her way through endless waves of hapless henchmen (one henchman at a time of course). The action is tight, colourful, zippy, acrobatic and jaw-dropping awesome. Woo and hoo!

Unfortunately there is a convoluted plot to suffer through before an action finale almost as delicious as the opening salvo. Yes, yes, there must exist a reason for all the vengeful mayhem, but there are way too many curves thrown into what should have been a fairly straightforward recipe: a murder, a bad guy, and maybe one twist, that's it. Instead we have a Bourne trilogy squeezed into one film, complete with mysterious agencies, insufferable romantic interludes, and an exponential body count. Still there's no denying the sheer cartoony thrill of the inventive action sequences, and that's where the movie shines.

Kim Ok-bin is extraordinary as the ruthless kickassassin, especially when navigating a car from hood top, but oh so ordinary as a mundane love interest dealing with a sappy neighbour crush.

Ya can't have everything.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

INGRID GOES WEST

SOCIAL GIRL
john sekerka

So close, oh so close.

As an edgy, black comedy about a sympathetic but unbalanced internet stalker, "Ingrid Goes West" has all the pieces in place for cinematic gold. And for most of the duration, it gets it right. Aubrey Plaza as the mousy, cute yet conniving and vindictive Ingrid, is a character handful, morphing her desperate, klutzy loner self into a confident socialite.

Tricking an internet personality into a fabricated friendship, Ingrid's lies pile up quickly, and we know this can't end well. And though her methods are immoral, Ingrid is easy to cheer for as the outcast in search of acceptance. Using Social Media as a friendship platform is a brilliant stroke: it's all based on likes and follows and emojis. So what exactly is a friend these days? And who is real? "Ingrid Goes West" asks some very pertinent and timely questions.

Clever, but incomplete. Or at least a film that kinda loses it's way at the end, as the fibbing train derails, things turn dark, and when a killer ending is needed, a kind of sappy conclusion is inserted instead.

Oh well, still a pretty damn good film for the most part.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

BRIGSBY BEAR

FUZZY
john sekerka

The fish out of water scenario never gets old - it's almost like they're in a barrel.

Place all SNL movie prejudices aside, this is one sweet flick well worth the screening. Current tv regular Kyle Mooney writes and stars in a deliriously charming story of James, a sheltered manchild taking baby steps in the real world, with the help of his childhood VCR fixation.

Brigsby Bear, a fictional character doling out life lessons amidst interstellar adventures, and the only friend to a clever, lonely boy, is actually much more than that. Not all is at it appears. This lifelong television obsession threatens what is deemed a normal existence once James is introduced to the real world, and we are off to the races.

Kyle Mooney is exceptional in a sweet, wide-eyed role, one that could easily fall flat in self-parody, but retains an honest innocence throughout. When serious, life-altering issues arise, tough answers are left on the table as James forges ahead with optimistic zeal on his magical journey, never wavering or falling into cliche realization or self doubt.

Yipee!



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE GHOUL

LOOPER
john sekerka

Best pay close attention here, as not all is as it seems.

Twisty movies can be god fun, but as is the case with "The Ghoul", they can be quite unsettling. What starts out as a standard police drama slowly melts into an endless, dark, psychological journey, where everything is gradually turned upside down.

Not an easy watch, this: a dreamy, hallucinatory, moebius strip thriller with an agonizing performance from the spiralling lead (the excellent Tom Meeton). Filmed in dark, bleak confines, "The Ghoul" works, not inspite of it's micro budget, but because of it - relying on claustrophobic interaction from the players.

Fans of linear cinema need not apply, but those wishing for a jarring, thought-provoking experience will be rewarded.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

BABY DRIVER

ONE GEAR
john sekerka

Boo! ..... Booooo!

Bring it on. I can take it. Despite a plethora of gushing reviews, "Baby Driver" is not a great movie. Passable, but not great.

How can this be? Car chases, tricky heists, great cast, and director genius Edgar Wright at the helm. Surely this must be one helluva grand cinema going adventure? Well, it is, but only in very short spurts.

Cartoonish characters, good and bad, in any action flick worth it's salt lick, gotta have some, um, character. Something sorely lacking over here. Normally juicy actors Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx, are wasted in one dimensional, dry roles. Totally forgettable. Worst of all is newcomer Ansel Elgort, who fits the title profile - he can drive and has peach fuzz - but brings nothing to the table.

The opening scene is great: primo, clever four wheel and six barrel action with super cool tunes a blaring (Jon Spencer). Wright films style like no one else, but here, he forgets to pepper the thing with substance. "Baby Driver" is a coupla hours of drivin' and shootin'; nothing more than an average video game offers.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE BAD BATCH

BURNING WOMAN
john sekerka

Hoo boy. This movie requires some effort. What starts off as a brutal exploitation flick, surely to weed out the meek, evolves into an absorbing treatise on primal human conditions in a barren, deserted wasteland.

While Ana Lily Amipour's sophomore effort contains pulpy roots, littered with outrageous characters and circumstances, it also tackles some grand topics. Our white trashy heroine Arlen is unceremoniously turfed out of society to fend for herself behind a Texan fence, where lawlessness and depravity are the rule of the day. She is soon captured by a tribe of cannibals, and mayhem ensues.

Dystopian futures as these don't seem all that far fetched any more. "The Bad Batch" may serve as a warning, but chiefly it serves as dusty entertainment. Much like the "Mad Max" franchise, it is a world full of crazies scrambling to survive in glorious sunbaked vistas.

Sporting a primo porn stash, Keannu Reeves pops up as a bizarro, robe clad cult leader. Giovanni Ribisi slips in several rambling, asylum escapee diatribes, but it is an unrecognizable Jim Carrey who absolutely steals the movie as a wizened bagman.

"The Bad Batch" has the art junk, lost inhibition, drug and music orgy feel of Burning Man, and because it's stealthily asking tough questions, has much more going for it than the cheap veneer may indicate.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE BIG SICK

COMA LUV
john sekerka

Halfway through this syrupy, heartwarming gushfest, Pakistani boyfriend wannabe tells an edgy 9/11 joke to the very white American father of his comatose love interest: "tragic, we lost 19 of our best men". Silence. There's enough of these gloriously awkward moments in "The Big Sick", to bring much needed levity to the very tired romcom Hollywood game.

Maybe because it's based on the pretty crazy life experiences of comedian Kumail Nanjiani, "The Big Sick" resonates better than most cookie cutter plots. Sure there's sparks, joy, conflict, and tears, but there's also religion, racism, and history. Best of all, there's great chemistry between the leads and the various convoluted familial web players.

Plus Holly Hunter. Yup, Holly Hunter is in this, and of course, she is fabulous. Almost steals the movie. Almost. In fact all the performances are great, including several juicy supporting roles.

Nothing can get in the way of Kumail and Emily's fabulous love story. Hilarious, charming, and sneaky smart.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE HERO

THE MOUSTACHE THAT ROARED
john sekerka

Lifetime character actor Sam Elliott was born to play this part, or perhaps this film was written specifically for Sam Elliott. Whatever the case, the big screen's most famous moustache finally lands a career changing role as a septuagenarian.

Once, and only once, Lee Hayden was a big screen cowboy presence. Now, now he gets by with voice overs for barbecue sauce. But oh what a voice. Real life parallels abound: Elliott is best known for small cameos, tv and commercial work, but is still a much loved and recognized celebrity.

As the ticker is about to roll 72, Hayden is given some terminally awful news, giving the ol' coot some pause to ponder a stalled career and failed family life. A December - May romance gets the ball rolling, as our hero sets out to make some amends.

What could have been a terribly sappy piece of fluff, is actually a lovely paced rumination on the very complicated topic of existence, with a wonderful, understated, and vulnerable performance from Elliott: Hollywood's new leading man.

Warning: guns are drawn, and poetry is read.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

CITY OF TINY LIGHTS

LONDON DICK
john sekerka

Private eyeing in present day Britain is a rough proposition. Guns are illegal, and then there's the whole immigration tension going on. Tommy Akhtar (wild eyed Riz Ahmed) is a typical, hard-drinking, tough talking, fistcuffing gumshoe with a heart of gold, trying to solve a missing Russian escort case whilst his very complicated past comes back to further cloud the perpetually rainy skies of London.

Ahmed is perfect in the lead, offering equal parts macho and empathetic soul; the gutsy dick able to take a beating, romance a good woman, and stand loyally by his loved ones.

"City of Tiny Lights" uses interesting political bents with religious, racial and drug tensions seething in the background, showing England for the explosive melting pot it truly is. Beautifully shot in wet, dark London, sparkling with Christmassy bokeh lights popping out of ominous shadows, this is one gorgeous looking film.

A little messy and cacophonic at times, this stab of celluloid is saved by a splashy, vibrant style that is pure eye candy.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

T2 TRAINSPOTTING

SEQUELICIOUS
john sekerka

Twenty years on and the lingo is still half penetrable at best. No matter, this is why the good lord invented subtitles: so's we can keep up with the Scots.

Sequels are dicey propositions, especially after such a long nap, but Danny Boyle's in charge, and he makes sure not to mess with a good thing. And "T2 Trainspotting" is indeed, a good thing. Our mangy quartet of Spud, Renton, Sick Boy and Begbie, have fermented quite nicely with time, retaining their youthful vitriol but now faced with the dread of middle age. Makes for a more complex series of mini plots, whilst retaining the vinegar and piss spirit of the inner children running about. As Begbie, Robert Carlyle steals the film with his ridiculous mix of comedy slapstick and scary sadistic sides, but all the characters have their moments.

Guilt, spotty money schemes, back-stabbings, betrayals and a tricky romantic triangle, bring the gang reluctantly back together again, for some whipsmart, stylish cinematic moments courtesy of Boyle.

Best of all, while T2 just looks and feels great, it also completes the dangling story lines of the original in a tidy, satisfying matter. Cheers.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

AWAKENING THE ZODIAC

TRAILER SLEUTHS
john sekerka

The real life, unsolved Bay Area Zodiac killer case gets a fictional exhumation four decades after the murderous spree, when a trio of junk collectors stumble upon canisters of incriminating film. This clever retro take on the YouTube crime clip phenomena presents our innocents with a chance at a $100,000 reward. And we're off.

For the most part, this is a terrifyingly terrific movie, full of creepy, shadowy scenes, hair-raising tension and clever comedic quips. Our trio of trailer trash Sherlocks are very engaging as they stagger into a complicated and dangerous world, not so much for possible riches, but also for adventure. Taunting cryptogram clues, a sinister hood, and creepy voice messages; the Zodiac put the "K" in killer.

Great stuff, but it is almost ruined with a messy, straight forward, by the numbers, uninspiring climax. Which in turn is then inexplicably thrown under the bus with an attempt at an open ended, confusing conclusion. It really does suffer from a proper wrap. "Awakening The Zodiac" needs a rewrite tweak focusing more on mystery than monster. Still a pretty good thrill ride.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER

MEH
john sekerka

In order to gain favour of a rising politician he is courting, Norman offers to buy him a pair of fancy shoes. The stealth bribe turns comical as Norman finally eyes the ridiculous four-figure price tag upon transaction. The nuanced shock, is quietly covered up with a secretly resigned, awkward purchase. Norman is Jewish, and even though he has successfully gained the trust of a very powerful man, he is deeply wounded by getting gouged.

Richard Gere of all people, pulls off this complex character with just the right mix of disdain and empathy. There is no backstory to Norman. There is no family to dote on. No home to go to. Nothing exists but the layers of clothes on his back, a bulging satchel, and the constantly ear-budded smart phone. Norman is an overeager pitchman, constantly on the move, chatting up everyone in his path, promising connections left, right and centre, and hustling his best to make good on his little white lies.

What a refreshing movie! It's all talk and no action. And it's the career film of the very surprising Gere, whose charmingly obnoxious Norman is easy to love and despise in equal doses, but oh so difficult to ignore.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

BUSTER'S MAL HEART

BUST A MOVE
john sekerka

As former Yankee catcher and accidental prophet Yogi Bera once uttered, "when you come to a fork in the road, take it"*. There's a crucial scene in this puzzling maze of a film, that borrows that classic Yogism*, helps explain some of the many parallel plot runs, yet leaves the door wide open for heated discussion. Easy answers be damned.

Wide eyed Rami Malek is hotel concierge Jonah, working alone, late nights, cleaning expansive rooms of various shades of brown. It's reminiscent of "The Shining". And like Jack Nicholson before him, Malek's character is quite complicated, with the line between reality and illusion basically a stretchy skipping rope.

"Buster's Mal Heart" is an adventurous, ambitious, challenging film, pushing boundaries with an improvisational flare, messing with traditional story structure to dig deep inside the mysterious human condition. Without a brilliant, terrifying, sympathetic and comedic performance from Malek, this film may not have worked at all. He dominates every scene, and is terrific, whether he's playing playing with his precocious daughter, or pooping into a kitchen pot.

Swell part about this engrossing, conspiratorial, head scratcher of a flick - apart from the ensuing, post-viewing dissections - is the sheer entertainment value, casting the lure for repeated viewings.

Bravo!

*yogisms



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

HOUNDS OF LOVE

COUPLE OF MONSTERS
john sekerka

Great movie about horrific stuff. There ya go. Evelyn and John cruise Perth school yards, fishing for teenage girls with friendly Aussie banter and car ride offers. The pleasantries end right there.

As the secret predator couple in the neighbourhood, Emma Booth and Stephen Curry are spectacular in their complicated performances. Charming and congenial, slick and methodical, brutal and sadistic, vulnerable and suspicious; all bases are covered. "Hounds of Love" is about serial sexual homicide, and it is as brutal as that sounds. Not in an exploitative manner (most of the cruelty is off screen), but in its believable depiction of perversion, and the matter of fact execution by the monsters.

Sporting a cheesy moustache, Curry presents a tiny, unassuming wimp - he is humiliated and berated about money owing. Yet deep inside he is a tight wound ball of explosion, and the creepy manipulator of all crimes. Evelyn is a more than wiling accomplice, but she has a wounded past, shows some semblance of sympathy, and is thus the weak link in the monster couple. How all this plays out in the most recent triangle is expertly framed by newbie filmmaker Ben Young.

"Hounds of Love" is a difficult watch, but it's also difficult to ignore.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

JEREMIAH TOWER: THE LAST MAGNIFICENT

TOWER OF FOOD
john sekerka

The original celebrity chef, Jeremiah Tower is finally introduced via film to receive his due. Thanks to a biased push courtesy of present foodie king Anthony Bourdain (producing this doc and offering visceral cameos), "The Last Magnificent" is a bit of confusing celluloid.

It's all a very juicy story: the lonely rich boy, left to his own devices, becomes a revolutionary chef after his career in designing underwater housing is derailed. And that's just a mere sip of the nectar. Our chef is indeed a towering figure, transforming the culinary world with American Cuisine, and inventing the celebrity cook persona which he was born to berth and star in. Chez Panisse, Stars, Tavern on the Green: this is the glory trifecta of eateries, and Tower ran them all.

Food aside, there's much more to the delicious history here, which, unfortunately is handled clumsily at times. A stormy, love/hate relationship with Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters is touched on but left dangling, while footage of Tower wandering in sandals among Mayan ruins is used as contemplative segues.

His sudden retreat and decade long hibernation from the restaurant world, is never truly explained. As much as this film is chock full of glorious revelations, it is missing large pieces of the Tower puzzle. A pompous, arrogant, entitled, talented character who elicits both disdain and admiration with alarming frequency, the mythical Jonathan Tower remains a true enigma, and quite possibly, the next reality television star.

Intriguing, charming, exotic, insufferable and frustrating; Tower and film both.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE ART LIFE

ERASERHEADTRIP
john sekerka

Much like a David Lynch film, the documentary on said subject "The Art Life", mixes surreal tales, uncomfortable silences, and gorgeous photography.

Sure to befuddle many, this moody documentary concentrates on Lynch's visual art, barely touching on his filmmaking claim to fame. Revealed solely through his smoking words, "The Art Life" presents absorbing childhood recollections while Lynch creates his stark art pieces. It's beautifully shot, methodically paced, with a rather unsettling quality.

There is no external opinion to be had, as the film exists entirely in Lynch's world. We see him making art, talking art, pondering art, and then making more art. He is obsessed, focused, but friendly and charming, whether in the midst of molding a creepy canvas, groping his shock of white hair, planning his next canvas move in a cloud of smoke, or interacting with his tiny daughter. The mystery of Hollywood's extreme outsider remains deliciously intact.

Absorbing.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

FREE FIRE

WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
john sekerka

Guns are hilarious. Especially when John Denver's joyful country pop hybrid is emanating sweetly from the van's 8-track. Yup, this is Quentin Tarantino territory, and director Ben Wheatley has done his homework.

Filmed in glorious western-hued yellow-brown, "Free Fire" is a tense, late night gun deal gone wrong, pitting the itchy-fingered buyers against the itchy-fingered sellers, in a dusty warehouse shootout. As plots go, this is pretty pedantic. Sure there's a nice little twist here and there, but this film succeeds on the hilarious interaction of the many quirky characters.

Everyone gets shot, often several times, and treat their wounds as irritating inconveniences. Soon the warehouse is full of crawling, bitching wounded. Plenty of stars aside, this is Sharlto Copley's movie. As the slick polyester-suited, South-African accented arms salesman, Copley's cartoonish character steals every scene. With Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson and Armie Hammer crowding the cast, that is no small feat.

"Free Fire" may not be game changing cinema, but it is a slapsticky, wickedly clever, sensory hoot, and well worth your ninety minutes.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

WINDOW HORSES

STICKY SITUATION
john sekerka

Immigration tales couldn't be any more timely, so it is with good reason Ann Marie Fleming dusted off an old story to unfurl it in glorious animated colour.

A west coast Canadian of Chinese and Iranian heritage, Rosie Ming is a young poet enamoured with Paris. It's a bit of a cultural mess really. And when she receives an invite to a festival (her first), it opens a hallway of doors, and possible answers to many burning questions.

Raised by her Chinese grandparents, the thrilling mystery of Rosie's missing parents is soon revealed, as is her place in the world. The Western - Eastern - Muslim triangle is handled impeccably through Rosie's adventure, some well placed history lessons, and bouncy animation.

Yes it's a heart-tugging, feel good flick, but when told this well, goes over ever so swell, and it looks great on the big screen.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

DONALD CRIED

BACK TO THE PAST
john sekerka

Squirm.

Poor Peter. Years after successfully escaping his small-town for the big city, the dapper financier is forced to return to collect his grandmother's ashes. This leads to a very uncomfortable reunion. Peter has obviously moved on, literally and figuratively, but not his old neighbour pal Donald. Nope. Donald is still the same old high school hoser, super keen to rekindle the good old days.

It's a classic premise, that works well on a cringe, comedic level, as Peter, the desperate, reluctant hostage tries valiantly to escape the eager clutches of the oblivious Donald, who seems to be dealing with some disturbing baggage.

"Donald Cries" twists that old formula just enough to explore several deeper issues, and the film grows fuller as the characters reveal themselves.

Writer, director, star Kris Avedisian is quite the talent, and his take on the wide-eyed, gung-ho man-child Donald is a character for the ages.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

HELLO DESTROYER

HOCKEY NIGHTMARE IN CANADA
john sekerka

Damp, grey concrete hallways lit by flickering, greenish fluorescent tubes, are the sad and depressing norms of junior hockey league arenas everywhere. They are but a rudimentary channel for the mindless cattle to shuffle to the icy killing field.

As hockey movies go, this is no "Mighty Ducks". Filmed in dungeon hues, where nothing, and I mean nothing is ever presented in a good light, "Hello Destroyer" is a tough, brooding, slow, depressing slice of adolescent life, and perhaps, the most truthful film on the subject ever made. Anyone who's ever been privy to a dressing room screaming tirade from a demented coach will know.

There's very little spoken - only groaned and grunted - as is customary in the Canadian junior leagues that is littered with hopeful, but immature athletes. Scholastics are not high priority here. Sporting a prisoner of war hair crop courtesy of the customary hazing ritual, Tyson Burr is a tough rookie, elbowing his way into the macho club clique, and stumbling quietly and dutifully through the only life he knows.

Very few actually succeed at hockey, and Tyson's path is derailed quickly after an unfortunate on ice incident. Hung out to dry by his team, the sensitive teen's career, and life, now hang in the air.

"Hello Destroyer" pulls no punches in dissecting the ruthless nature of a win at all cost sport, the pressure of dead-end careers in small town Canada, and the harsh barriers in an old school family that struggles with communication.

A spellbinding and very important film.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS

THE HUNGER
john sekerka

For the most part, Zombie movies suck. Their premise: that walking dead corpses who slither around at snail's pace, with very little left of any thinking capacity, can pose a problem to quick, healthy, smart humans, is frankly, preposterous. Without reproducing abilities, the "hungries" are really not much of a threat - you wait out one generation and presto: problem solved.

The trick to any relevant movie going experience is to draw the viewer in, and the only way to jump ridiculous plot holes is with exceptional smoke and mirrors movie making. "The Girl With All The Gifts" is all that, and so much more. Not only a heart pounding thrill ride, it posits a scenario that actually makes for suspense sense: that zombies can reproduce, and successive generations are evolving.

Melanie, a creepy, vulnerable and quite smart, hungrie girl is at the story centre, posing a possible solution for the dwindling human population. Scientist wants to dissect her. Soldier wants to kill her. Teacher wants to nurture her. This rag tag bunch on the run have depleting options in what could spell the boom or bust future of Earth. And in true, sci-fi kickass tradition, "The Girl With All The Gifts" has a brilliant, twisty ending that would make Rod Serling proud. Well done.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

A MAN CALLED OVE

OI-VEY
john sekerka

Grumpy old Scandinavian man alert.

Ove is a regiment nut, running his little neighbourhood complex like a prisoner of suburban camp, locking gates, checking latches, writing parking tickets, updating signage. His favourite: chasing any car that dares drive through the transportation banned alleyways. He is gruff, curt, belligerent, and brutally honest. He's also trying, unsuccessfully, to kill himself.

In a romantic attempt to join the deceased love of his life, lonely Ove tries over and over to leave his mortal coil, but the nosy, pestering, interrupting neighbours keep botching things up. Soon there is enough distraction that Ove's extended life might not seem so pointless.

"A Man Called Ove" balances the comedy with the drama just right, keeping the sappy moments (yes of course they exist) to a tolerable minimum. The old school meets new school generation gap set up never gets, uh, old. And Ove's forced relationship with his spark plug Iranian neighbour is not only totally believable, but avoids complex political issues to present the story in a fresh, uncluttered manner.

How Swede it is.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

ARRIVAL

CIRCLE GAME
john sekerka

This is one dark movie. Very dark. Need a flashlight dark. It adds to the gloomy, ominous tension, in the latest alien encounter Hollywood blockbuster. Here's the good news: instead of turning into some crazy CGI battle zone, "Arrival" keeps on keeping on with the intellectual storyline, which as it turns out, is pretty damn engrossing.

Clever is just the start here. "Arrival" is brimming with original, quirky, brain-teasing quandaries on various levels of the human experience, and how an alien intrusion could turn everything we know upside down.

Not only is the narrative quite delicious, but the circular unfolding of events, the inventive communication mysteries of another life form, and the questioning of scientific knowledge, is revelatory. Saying more would spoil this carefully concocted, multi-layered masterpiece. Be warned: there may be repeated viewings in your future to decipher all that flows off the big screen.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE DANCER

20 UP
john sekerka

16 million hits. That's success. In modern times. For anything. Let alone ballet.

Yes ballet. But this isn't your gran's ballet, this is mercurial, tattooed, P. Diddy fan, cocaine bad boy Sergei Polunin. The youngest principal dancer whistle still a teen, for the British Royal Ballet Company. That's a big deal. Then, as he seemingly had it all, he walked away from it all.

Documentary time. "The Dancer" follows the infant terrible seemingly right out of the womb - "the doctor was amazed how flexible he was" - as grainy video footage provides proof of narrative. Life in the Ukraine is tough, so father travels to Portugal for work, Grandma to Greece, while Mother transports the golden child to all the right schools. It works, as success is achieved, yet at familial costs.

Polunin is a magnetic star alright, whether soaring across stages in tighty tights, or just goofing around with his friends. His story, with as many ups and downs as Nutcracker jumps, is extraordinary, culminating in his supposedly swan song Youtube clip. Although a tad slow to start, once it gets going, this is a terrific film.

Where he goes from here is anyone's guess, but probably his driven, guilt-trip crazed mother will have a say. Stay tuned.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE FOUNDER

WHATTA KROC!
john sekerka

Ray Kroc always claimed to be the founder of the biggest fast food joint in the universe. Turns out McDonald's was the invention of the McDonald brothers. Huh.

A great story here. After several stalled starts, the brothers perfected the fast food assembly line, drive up model, complete with golden arches and several southwest franchises. Enter milk shake machine huckster Ray Kroc, who sees dollar signs everywhere he looks, and convinces the brothers to partner and go national. The rest as they say, is burger history. Except that Ray wrassled the chain away from the controlling brothers, to become the name and face of the world's most dominant restaurant.

Capturing the excitement of a wide open, business exploding, post war America, the movie chugs eagerly along as millions, then billions are served. It looks fifties fabulous. Kroc and the brothers butt heads over crucial details and business acumen, and we have conflict. If left to the brothers it's clear that McDonald's would have been a great, friendly operation, but not the global phenomena Kroc whipped it into.

"The Founder" follows Kroc, from his humble and humiliating beginnings, all the way to the very top. And as with every business success, there's casualties along the way. As the driven, clever and manipulative Kroc, Michael Keaton delivers a surprisingly, sympathetic angle to a very unsympathetic steamroller, even as friendships, marriages and partners are left in the dust. Not an easy act, and one that really makes this movie.

Turns out the late career Michael Keaton resurrection is no fluke.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

GOLD

SMELLY BRE
john sekerka

Don't be fooled by the American angle, this is the Canadian Bre-X mining scandal on film. Details of which serve as spoilers for what is a terrific and utterly amazing story. "Gold" is worth a see just for the crazy - truth is stranger than fiction - plot unfold. Too bad there's too much Hollywooding going on to make it a great film.

What in tarnation were they thinking' - casting manhunk Matthew McConaughey in the role of beer-bellied baldie David Walsh (Kenny Wells in the film version)? The whole movie is dominated by an awful bald wig and way too many gut shots over whitey tighties. Yeah, we get it: McConaughey is ditching his good boy looks, transforming his body into a sweaty mess. What a trooper! What dedication to his craft! Pass the Oscar!

Uh, not so fast.

As good as McConaughey is, and he is pretty good, there's just no getting past the point that we are watching an act, instead of the real deal. It really takes away from the film, which could have been truly epic instead of just pleasantly passable. Great story though.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

LONDON TOWN

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?
john sekerka

Whenever fifteen year old awkward teen Shay is introduced, the reply is always "Guevara?" It's a good-bad line, much like the herky-jerky nature of this well-meaning movie.

"London Town" is a coming of age story amidst the explosive background that was England in the late seventies, set to the music and vitriol spirit of The Clash. Caught in a private maelstrom of his own - thrust into parenting his little sister, and keeping the family piano business afloat - Shay is swept up into intoxicating big city punk life courtesy of a bubblegum snapping lass. Ah, puppy punk love.

Rather quickly and surprisingly often, Shay is running into lead singer and political spokesman of a snotty generation, Joe Strummer, and gets immersed in the London scene. It's a dream - nightmare scenario, filled with exciting adventures and lower-class struggles. In short: perfect movie fodder.

"London Town" almost pulls it off, but relies a bit too much on The Clash angle instead of focusing on the family. Still it has plenty of charm, and the music of course, is spectacular.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

KRISHA

OFF THE RAILS
john sekerka

Trying to make her way through a parking car maze to the big house, Krisha steps into some muddy water and throws up a beautiful, cuss-filled tirade. Oh goody - a Thanksgiving dinner family train wreck. No funny stuff here though. Even the potty mouth film intro reeks of ominous drama ahead.

Krisha may have arrived empty handed, but she comes with plenty of baggage. Filmed in a stark, dark, documentary style, the movie lingers on every awkward familial interaction, building a weird form of tension. Krisha comes for redemption, offering to cook a big bird to show her demons are long past.

Whether the turkey gets cooked or not, is never the issue. The unravelling of Krisha and her history is what's on the menu. As the larger than life lead, Krisha Fairchild (real life aunt of director Trey Edward Shults) absolutely dominates the screen as a bellicose powder keg, stumbling through a few hours of attempted normalcy.

It's a tough watch, but totally worth it.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

20TH CENTURY WOMEN

GIRLHOOD
john sekerka

What appears to be a coming of age feminist flick, turns out to be a wonderfully honest portrayal of multi-faceted relationships in a tumultuous time. When is time not tumultuous? Exactly. It's the late seventies, the soundtrack is punk, America has a wonderful president (although they don't know it) in Jimmy Carter, and the hippie aesthetic of the sixties is being put to the test.

As mother hen Dorothea, Annette Bening is wonderful in a complex role that requires strength, vulnerability and passion. Single mother to her teenage son, Dorothea asks her artsy boarder, and Jamie's platonic girl friend, to help raise the boy.

What could have easily spiraled into a mushy, messy, melodrama, is instead a visceral slice of life, where shit happens, folks react, drama ensues, some resolution is found, some is not. And amid all the drama, there are bits of clever humour sprinkled in for levity. There is no clear, point to point plot trail here, just an extended family dealing with life as it unfolds.

The performances are exceptional across the board, with Bening a likely Oscar candidate. Superb.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

OPERATION AVALANCHE

KA-MOON!
john sekerka

Finally, the faked moon landing conspiracy nuts get their proof, and then some.

Not only does "Operation Avalanche" tell the cold war truth of America's ridiculous claim to lunar escapades, but it's also a nifty espionage thriller, complete with gun play and classic car chases. A pair of documentarians, originally hired to sniff out a Russian mole, soon hatch a plot to film the impending (impossible) moon landing with some clever cinema magic. A tricky plan for sure, but when spy agencies heat up the cold war plans, our filmic nerds are in for the ride of heir life.

Filmed on crackly old stock, old school, old film, "Operation Avalanche" captures the bizarro undercover adventures of the CIA, when the fate of everything America felt near and dear to her heart rested on conquering a barren, grey hunk of space rock.

Could this found footage documentary be the real deal? You decide, and along the way, enjoy the greatest in-car filmed chase since "Bullitt".



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

MAGNIFICENT SEVEN

LUCKY STRIKE
john sekerka

Wait, you're not expecting Oscar material right? Right. As big-screen, popcorn entertainment goes, "The Magnificent Seven" delivers, and delivers, and keeps on delivering, until it can't deliver any more.

Updated from the equally edible original, the latest remake brings a multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-colourful aspect to the wispy white genre of the western, but aside from assembling a United Nations posse (whoops, that's a nasty word) to kick some bad guy butt, this film gives Hollywood icon Denzel Washington a chance to play with horses and guns. Woo-hoo! Denzel's good. He makes a great badass good guy. Uh, you know what I mean.

And yes, the script is quite predictable. And yes the bad guys drop like it's a video game. There is no down time. Nobody eats, sleeps, or goes to the bathroom. There's no time. The escapism is fantastic, and thankfully the line between good and bad is crystal clear, there are no grey areas, and rooting for the right side is as easy as apple pie. Who wants to think when popcorn munching is on the agenda?



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

OLD STONE

CHINESE TAXI DRIVER
john sekerka

Never mind Uber, the taxi drivers in China have much bigger problems on the go: accident victims who won't die. That's right, a corpse is better than a convalescing victim, since the driver is on the hook for all the medical bills.

That's the predicament our good samaritan driver Lao Shi has fallen into. Very quickly his bank account is depleted, and everything in his world is spiralling out of control. Shi's various good-willed attempts to right the situation crumble in a series of comedic and tragic, bureaucratic, communist red tape. His friends, family and work fall by the wayside, and Shi grows more and more desperate.

Pretty good plot device, and thankfully first time director Johnny Ma presses all the right buttons, painting a magnificent canvas on the screen, culminating with a glorious, thrilling, bright red finale. Robert DeNiro would be proud.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

BEING 17

LOVE AND FISTS
john sekerka

Oh those French.

What looks like a fun, coming of age high school yarn, turns a seemingly bullying conflict into a basic sex conundrum, that slips in some family, racial, political and class conflicts to boot.

There's a lot going on here. A lot. But director Andre Techine is totally up for the task, revealing the story in a natural, unromantized manner. Everything moves along as in life: bumpy, full of challenges, but never stopping for time.

The two leads, Kacey Motten Klein and Corinten Fila, are excellent as the privileged white boy and the industrious, hard working brown boy, discovering their relationship through wildly fluctuating emotional and physical means. Their growth through much turmoil is fascinating to watch. So go watch it.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

DON'T BREATHE

BLIND AMBITION
john sekerka

Scary.

You still here? Ok. Not everyone's up for frights, but if watching a movie in the fetal position is your thing, "Don't Breathe" will get you there.

It's a pretty neat twist on the home invasion genre: where the victim turns the tables on a threesome of smarmy teen thieves, and we get a clever cat and mouse game inside a house trap. Manipulating the audience always works well, as loyalty to certain characters on screen keeps shifting, in what is a wire-tight tension thrill ride. There's big money on the table, and that's what leads to all the trouble, but soon enough there's much more at stake, and the good/bad dynamic starts to get mighty cloudy. Clever.

Shot in deep, dark, rich, and often long sequences, "Don't Breathe", is a throwback thriller that eschews choppy, frenetic edits for moody pans, and creepy pauses. Your nails will hate it.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

GHOSTBUSTERS

DEJA WU-MEN
john sekerka

As preposterous as it sounds: remaking a rather unremarkable film, except with females as the leads, the new "Ghostbusters" actually contains half a pretty good movie.

Much like the first time around, all the fun is in the comedic riffing between the characters, and then the lousy special effects take over. Ugh. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon, have excellent chemistry and just the right amount of weirdness to keep things fresh. Throw in toy candy Thor dude Chris Hemsworth as the ditzy blonde secretary, and we have complete sexism reversed. Nice.

Sure, sure, the CGI is what the kids dig, and it is technologically awesome, but crap, is it ever boring. Stay for the quick banter and catchup on emails during the fight scenes.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

BRONZE

GYMTASTIC
john sekerka

Anyone longing for a good dose of mid-America white trash awesomeness, step right up. Channeling figure skating queen Tonya Harding, tv star Melissa Rauch jumps on to the big screen as former gymnast darling Hope Annabelle Greggory.

Living on past glory, Hope struts around town in her U.S.A. warm up suit, dishing out sneers, eye-rolls and contempt for anyone and everyone who dares cross her path. She abuses her doting dad (Gary Cole in a juicy, subserviant role), verbally, physically and financially, whilst running roughshod over the hapless locals. She is one perfect piece of nasty.

Unsustainable as her lifestyle is, it all comes to a head with an inevitable transition from star to coach. Suddenly a new, young, perky attention grabber is in the picture. Throw in an old nemesis, a wide-eyed love interest, and we have plot.

Look, this ain't Oscar material, but if a raunchy, silly ninety minutes is lacking in your weekend calendar, you could do worse. Rauch is ruthlessly radiant as the potty-mouthed Holly; a female jerk with a weirdly loveable side, who happens to be the lead in a Hollywood flick. Yes.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

SCARRED BUT SMARTER: life n times of drivin n cryin

THE HARD ROCK
john sekerka

Drivin n Cryin was a typical college radio sweetheart band back in the day. They cranked out a bunch of pretty great, overlooked albums, jumped to a major label, made the charts, made some money, and quickly got swallowed up and spat out by the music biz machine. Their story is one of dozens, except that the music has managed to keep a strong resonance after all these years. Why that is, is what "Scarred But Smarter" tries to answer.

Kevn Kinney, a hater of vowels and punctuation, the driving musical force behind the band, is not pretty. He has a mouthful of scattered teeth, and a hat covering what was once a healthy crop of long hair. But he can still play. He can still write. And he can still sing - with that singular, unique voice few are blessed with. No wonder he's still out there, making music.

Look backs in this nice doc include the perfunctory fan and band recollections of what was and could have been, and concludes very little, outside of bad luck, was responsible for the meandering history. "Scarred but Smarter" works as nice time capsule of a much loved band (by very few), who made ridiculously catchy rock, but didn't know anything about career moves. The sun shines on some bands, for others, a dark cloud follows.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

HACKSAW RIDGE

MAD MEL
john sekerka

The return of Mel Gibson, is a tough call. In a blatant attempt to right all previous (personal) wrongs, director Mel unleashes an American flag wave to end all American flag waves. It's a tsunami.

"Hacksaw Ridge" tells the astounding true life tale of World War II, enlisted pacifist Desmond Doss, the first decorated soldier who refused to carry a weapon. As platoon medic, Doss was solely responsible for returning 75 casualties from battle at the horrific Okinawa conflict. The film shines during this ridiculously heroic ordeal - a superhuman feat carried out under terrifying circumstances - with heart racing tension.

That is a great movie, but unfortunately there's a very clunky, stereotypical, corny, introductory movie tacked on as well. Instead of revealing the complex Doss character through his war actions, Gibson visits his apple pie small town past to introduce an abusive, alcoholic, shell-shocked father, and a devoted, squeaky clean girlfriend - two major characters who are sorely out of place in what quickly turns into a gritty, violent, body count flick.

The compulsory basic training portion of a war movie is executed thoroughly with its cast of colourful characters, who against all odds, overcome their differences and prejudices to become a close knit unit. It's classic war movie making 101. Folks eat this stuff up.

But when heads explode and legs are severed, folks throw that stuff back up. Gibson has made a pretty good American war epic, hitting all the red white and blue buttons for the generic audience at large, but he missed the boat, cuz with some editing, this could have been truly extraordinary.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

LITTLE SISTER

GOTH NUN
john sekerka

Colleen is mousy petite: a quiet, dedicated nun to be. She is also another kind of sister, a kid one to her older brother Jacob. Jacob is back from Iraq, and so when her mother summons Colleen home, she comes.

The simple quietly unravels into the complex. Disfigured from his tour of duty, Jacob is a recluse, and neither his loving fiance, nor his well-meaning but impotent parents can reach him.

It's easy to see where this story is going, but not so easy to see where Colleen is going. She digs back to her childhood past, which includes a very serious Goth stage, to connect her fractured family, all the while her Mother Superior keeps hounding her to return to the convent.

A seemingly simple little movie, "Little Sister" covers some very big topics: family, addiction, tragedy, love, politics, faith, life and death, without being at all preachy about any of the subjects at play. It's really quite good.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

LONG WAY NORTH

SEE ICE
john sekerka

This French animation feature about a Russian expedition feels like a big time Japanese (Studio Ghibli) production. And it all works.

"Long Way North" is a sweeping historic drama presented in grandiose, panoramic backgrounds, creating a majestic, old timey, epic movie feel. Sacha is a spunky and smart teen, who leaves an entitled life to find her Arctic explorer grandfather's ship. Not an easy task, especially in 1882, when resources were scarce, and women were in their "place".

Capturing the bleak and cruel nature of the Arctic is one thing, but unravelling it as a series of gorgeous paintings is truly an achievement. Once "Long Way North" gets rolling, the sumptuous colour palette makes way for a fast paced adventure with a terrific and totally believable heroine in the lead. A viceral, historic yarn well spun.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

GIRL ASLEEP

BIRTHDAY POTTY
john sekerka

A quirky Aussie film that veers from picture perfect Wes Anderson droll to Scott Pilgrim fantasy, "Girl Asleep" is all your geeky movie needs rolled into one.

High school awkwardness, aka cinema gold, is punctuated by a forced 15th birthday party from vivaciously embarrassing parents, creating a muddled intersection of Greta's very complex and confusing life. There is a boy. There is a rather frightening and creepy school clique. There is a mysterious, unpredictable sister's boyfriend. There is a mystical forrest beyond the white picket fenced backyard.

What starts out as a swinging seventies kitch fest, complete with glorious short shorts, shag carpeting, and a kicking disco dance celebration, morphs into a haunting, hallucinatory journey of self-discovery.

It's a mishmash adventure film where record sleeves come to life, and parents morph into mythical creatures. As if adolescence isn't crazy enough. Perhaps it's all a bit over the top, but it sure is a fantastic, top notch theatre watch.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

MEAN DREAMS

TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN
john sekerka

Bill Paxton is bad. Really bad. Sneaky, snaky, snarky bad. Bad in a good way. His soothing, southern drawl and calm demeanour, belie a seething monster. A crooked cop. An abusive father. Evil.

As victims, we get two sweet teenagers stumbling through a crush, saddled with life in a a bleak farming community, who, due to unfortunate circumstance, become fugitives on the lam. It's meat and potatoes cinema: good vs. bad, with little chance of anything going right. Afterall, the cops are the bad guys: whatcha gonna do?

"Mean Dreams" captures vast landscape loneliness, no future hopelessness, tense survival conflict, with fumbling teenagers groping for their footing in life. It's a tense, gripping thrill ride that offers no easy answers, and very muddy avenues. A great down and dirty movie, in the literal sense.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

LAVENDER

FAMILY FARM
john sekerka

An old fashioned ghost story where suspense and mystery drive the plot down a series of winding, but scenic roads, "Lavender" is a chilly watch that takes it's pretty little time. But like with most such matters, is totally worth the wait.

There's something up with Jane. She lives a normal, family life, until she starts to experience hazy visions. A car roll really gets the story moving. Soon well dusted history is being unravelled, and the creepiness creeps in.

Driven by an ominous soundtrack courtesy of the squeaky (a tad over the top) violin by Sarah Neufeld and guttural baritone sax of Colin Stetson, "Lavender's" ghostly intensions are very clear from the outset, yet the development of the reveal is superbly played out for a frenzied finale.

A Halloween staple? Why yes.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE GREASY STRANGLER

MIDNIGHT SCREAMING
john sekerka

B-movie shlockers may be a disappearing act, but as long as there's demented cinemafiles eager to slither over for a midnight screening at the local revue theatre, then there will be blood. Or at least syrup. Perhaps some gratuitous nudity. And if lucky, a few glorious moments of movie madness.

"The Greasy Strangler" checks the scorecard on all bullets, and then some. It's absurd family fare in the best/worst John Waters tradition, brimming with overacting, scintillating wardrobe, bizarre plot twists, fast food sexiness, and offers depravity with a capital D cup. All the stuff that seems hilarious in a half filled theatre at a very late hour. Dad is a sketchy disco tour guide, a connoisseur of everything greasy, abnormally horny, and the chief suspect in a series of gristley crimes. What is a son to do?

As this genre goes, "The Greasy Strangler" seeps above the normal low budget fare with some primo cinematography. Something this bad shouldn't look this good. Or maybe that's part of the revolting charm.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

LOVERS AND THE DESPOT

IL ADVISED
john sekerka

If you thought "The Interview" was over-the-top crazy, then have a seat. "Lovers and the Despot" tells an absolutely ridiculous true story that can only exist thanks to the long line of loony North Korean dictators.

Back in '78, Kim Jong-il decided to ramp up his floundering movie industry by importing some primo talent from the South. Importing is code for kidnapping. And the talent is the boffo international film darlings, husband and wife team of Shin Sang-ok and Choi Eun-hee.

Told matter-of-factly by the famous leading lady, this story of espionage, entrapment, and suffering, creates way more questions than answers. The events are sketchy. The circumstances cloudy. The evidence is muddy. It's hard to paint a clear picture. Or movie.

Throughout the wild and wooly ordeal, one thing stands out: the surreal life adventures of North Korean dictators is Hollywood gold.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

EIGHT DAYS A WEEK

BIGGER THAN JESUS
john sekerka

The Stones or the Beatles?

Really?

An unabashed loving doc by Opie Cunningham (Ron Howard) looking at the gigging years of the world's greatest rock and roll band, makes for a surprisingly fresh, feel good watch.

Howard expertly splices raw live footage, some nice insider bits, classic interview witticisms (John: "I'm Eric"), with gushing celebrity fans (Whoopi Goldberg, Sigourney Weaver), and some pretty insightful observations by Elvis Costello, into a perfectly paced overview that hits the fan sweet spot. Ringo, Paul and George go just deep enough with their recollections to offer some interesting insights without getting all maudlin.

Devoid of any controversies nor the usual tabloid fodder, "Eight Days a Week" works by telling a great story, presenting the facts, and not lingering. The live footage is great, and shows just how good the band was in the very early and experimental days of stadium rock (in spite of the atrocious technical shortcomings).

The film ends in 1966 when the tired four, ceases touring to concentrate on a studio career (a mere four more years), freeze-framing the boys at a crucial, creative junction.

Always go out on top.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

DEMON

WEDDING CRASHES
john sekerka

A Polish wedding party is ruined when a dead girl's spirit decides to inhabit the groom. And as we all know: possession is nine tenths of the law. Juicy.

"Demon" is billed as horror, and yes there are some hair-raising scenes, but this is really a macabre thriller, sprinkled with political commentary, and a dash of sly comedy. And, it's all pretty good.

Polkas are played, vodka is chugged, and the groom starts to unravel. Seems like a typical wedding, as the partying guests keep on partying. An ambulance shows up. An exorcism is performed. The skies pelt everyone with an end-of-days storm. And still, the party goes on ("more Vodka!")

The Poles are resilient.

"Demon" cleverly employs a wide range of offbeat characters for levity, making the absolute creepiness of the circumstance quite palatable. And when all is said and done, there is an uneasy, disturbing after taste that lingers when the credits roll. So, yeah, a success.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

TRANSPECOS

THREE'S A CROWD
john sekerka

There's the Mexican border, a lot of dust, and nary a wall. What could go wrong? Quite a bit as it turns out.

"Transpecos" starts with a nonchalant piece of brutal violence befitting a Coen Brothers film. It is shot wide, from a fair distance. No introductions needed, the shot sets the slow burning fuse on fire, laying the groundwork for the suffocating tension throughout.

A quirky prelude to the inevitable action introduces three very distinct border guards, with three very distinct agendas. Quips are made in jocular fashion as jittery rookie, grouchy veteran and calm mainstay, pass time in the vast wasteland.

Border crossings are few, and offer brief respite to the daily drudgery, until all hell breaks loose. Then it's off to a day at the races as three desperate men are thrown into a dusty fight for their lives.

Shot in stunning panoramas, acted with superb nuance, and scored expertly, "Transpecos" is a desert classic without the island.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

RABID DOGS

RAT PACK
john sekerka

A botched heist - turned kidnapping road trip with a pretzel twist ending, this stylish film noire never skips a beat.

A botched heist - turned kidnapping road trip with a pretzel twist ending, this stylish film noire never skips a beat.

Actually a remake of a Mario Bava obscurity, "Rabid Dogs" is a very French film that gathers three desperate robbers out of their element, dragging three bystanders as safety shields in a Volvo station wagon. A dysfunctional family road trip to be sure.

As if matters were not bad enough, each and every stop of the getaway brings new challenges to the group, escalating already fragile personality conflicts, building methodically to an explosive ending. We know this can't end well, but how it ends is well worth the wait.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

MEN AND CHICKEN

FOWL IN THE FAMILY
john sekerka

Perhaps the strangest thing about this very odd little movie, is the ridiculously deadpan comedic slant that stoic actor Mads Mikklesen brings to his role. "Chicken and Men" is a head-shaking, slapstick masterpiece that turns "The Island of Dr. Moreau", into a horrifyingly comedy.

The plotline starts with a couple of odd, and odd-looking half brothers, on a quest to find their long lost birth father, who happens to be a very mad scientist. Matters get weird very quickly with the discovery of an extended family, and a mansion teeming with hybrid animals.

The terrifying and grotesque circumstances unfold to the pace of brilliant physical comedy, and small-town quirkiness taken to the extreme. It's a dark film, with a lot of giggles in all the wrong places, and some of the weirdest moments on the big screen. So yes, highly recommended.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE SHALLOWS

BAITWATCH
john sekerka

Surfer girl meets Jaws, plain and simple. Sometimes a pure adrenaline rush, action survival movie is what the doctor ordered. And like a pizza boy in an adult film, "The Shallows" delivers.

Sure there's a brief plot setup, something about family, blah blah blah, but soon enough we have bikinis, surfboards and an all-gender eating shark. Wahoo!

Stuck precariously on a rock in the middle of a shiny blue bay beach, Blake Lively spends the whole of the movie battling a nasty giant white monster, and she totally pulls it off.

"The Shallows" is more of a survival movie than a womano a sharko punch out. Surfer girl has to try and outwit the beast, and we get ninety minutes of surprising tension and intrigue. While LIvely looks lovely, it is her medical student brain that is really on display here.

Not only an action driven thrill ride, "The Shallows" proves an invaluable lesson on how to deal with pesky sharks.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

TUNNEL

DIG IT
john sekerka

Trapped inside a Korean disaster movie for two hours should not be this much fun. Trapped inside a collapsed tunnel certainly is not. Welcome to Jung-soo's world. A dedicated Kia car salesman, this young family man is on his way to celebrate his daughter's birthday, when inconvenienced in a most dastardly manner.

Thankfully he has some water courtesy of a bumbling gas station attendant, and some food - he has cake and he can eat it too. But is that enough? The countdown is on, as the difficult rescue effort drags on. The event becomes a nationwide sensation, and a juicy reality show for all the news, and government bigwigs to pounce on.

Full of suspense, drama and unexpected humour, "Tunnel" mixes a suffocating, claustrophobic plot with a quirky look at Korean life. When victims reach out, they first apologize for inconveniencing everyone else, then desperately excuse themselves from their work places, before getting to their families, and lastly, their selfless selves. It plays like a communist parody of the highest order.

Shot starkly in close, dusty quarters, "Tunnel" is one super tight flick, well worth the time.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE MUSIC OF STRANGERS

YO MAMA
john sekerka

A documentary that follows world renown and much loved cellist Yo-Yo Ma as he gathers his Silk Road Ensemble, is not just a film about music, but aspires to answer some very big global questions.

Virtuoso players from various world corners come together to create lively music parties under the jovial, motherly hen direction of Ma, and tell their stories. Stories of oppression, suppression, and struggle. Riveting stuff, though not enough time is spent on each tale (an impossible task), so we are left with enticing snippets, hopefully to be fully explored at a later date.

Fear not, there's enough here to warrant a view, even in the guise of a wonderful, long form music video. "The Music of Strangers" is beautifully shot, features extraordinary aural bits, and introduces a series of interesting characters. Intended as a some sort of artistic love-in to counteract the world's ills, this doc actually works better as a glimpse into the crazy world of gifted geniuses, and their determination to create their craft as outsiders. And it swings.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE MEDDLER

MOMMY DREAREST
john sekerka

Susan Sarandon as a gum-smacking, controlling Brooklyn mom, making life for her single, adult daughter a frustrating heck, should be a pretty good watch.

Should be. And for the opening set up, it is, but sadly, it loses momentum halfway, and just kinda wobbles to the finish line. For some it may be enough. Sarandon is her charming self, dealing with a different kind of mid-life crisis: the loss of a husband, focusing all her energy on her very tolerant but weary offspring. This little conflict is enough to develop a story line, but gets muddled with a rash of alternate mini plots, none of which really adds anything to the proceedings. Just filler really.

There's a requisite new romance angle that should have been explored further, or at least with some gusto. It's J.K. Simmons with a cowboy moustache and a Harley for gosh sakes! Instead we get pleasant sunset scenes, and a lot of half-hearted smiles.

A movie that starts with a very sharp edge, gets a bit dull by the final frame.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

LO AND BEHOLD

WEB DREAMS
john sekerka

A very eager Leonard Kleinrock slaps, caresses, and smells a rather large, bomb proof server in the corner of a sterile UCLA computer lab. Thus starts Werner Herzog's latest documentary feature: a multi-chaptered look at the internet.

Much like a surfing experience, "Lo and Behold" ping-pongs all over the map, delivering a multitude of unconnected stories that work well as individual snippets, but do not create a cohesive whole. No matter, in fact, that may be Herzog's point.

Tackling such a monumental topic is an impossible task, so Herzog settles for little stories (good, bad, humorous, scary) and characters (ditto), to subvert the technology on display with a very real human factor. Is the internet a saviour of the human race, or the end of it? Could be both, but boy oh boy, the people behind it, and the people in front of it, is what fuels the film. Herzog, channeling some Philip K. Dick, asks repeatedly of his subjects whether the internet dreams of itself, as if it is a living, breathing, growing entity. An ominous, sci-fi question for sure, but the answers usually go in totally unexpected directions. And that is Werner's genius: posing odd quandaries, then letting his subjects improvise (usually uncomfortable) on the spot responses as the camera rolls.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

EDGE OF WINTER

HERE'S DADDY
john sekerka

There's a taught tension from the get go here, and it lives in the powderkeg portrayed by Joel Kinnaman. Father and sons bonding movies usually play out a bit differently: there is adventure, there is conflict, there is triumph, there are tears, and there are end credits over silhouetted hugs as the sun sets. Not here.

"Edge of Winter" is the inevitable unravelling of a divorced dad, facing multiple bleak life options, trying desperately, one last time to connect with his distant kids. There is adventure, but it involves guns, beer, and Canadian winter. There is conflict, with everyone involved, and it only escalates. There is, well, there is a pretty damn good movie that follows a disturbing path.

As daddy going wrong, Kinnaman rots beautifully form the inside, whilst his astonished brood attempt some semblance of damage control. How this plays out is secondary to the dead on performances from the excellent cast.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE

BLOODY FUN
john sekerka

Gangster mobs, drug trade, a father's revenge, and snow plows. If this smells like a Coen Brothers movie, it should, except we are in Norway, so it sounds a tad different.

"In Order of Disappearance" is, as the apt title suggests, a systematic body count; most of the bloody variety, and most sprayed on virgin white snow. Quite lovely, in a morbid fashion. The bad guys are nasty, but also genuinely funny. The good guy is all business, understated, and also quite funny, though in a deadpan manner.

Scandanavian acting legend Stellan Skarsgard owns this adorable, nasty little film from the start. Whether it's clearing the local roads, contemplating suicide, or dumping corpses over water falls, he brings a wonderful stoic detachment to the job at hand. You will never watch a snow plow with the usual ambivalence again.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE

FINDING RICKY
john sekerka

From the slightly askew New Zealender film clique who delivered the charmer "Boy", comes a similar offbeat piece of celluloid. And that is very good news indeed.

A lost boy and a lost grump adventure in the bush story, manages to ride a silly string of slapsticky events without derailing from the well placed, plot line tracks. Chock full of oddball characters, and misunderstood happenstances, "Hunt For The Wilderpeople" bridges that rare gap that exists between wholesome family fare, and biting adult comedy. Big time actor Sam Neill slips effortlessly into his low-key role, as the misunderstood backwoodsman, who turns out to be the lone sane person in the escalating ordeal.

The reluctant buddy buddy on the run scenario is nothing new, but only works if there's chemistry between the leads. Check. Add in some gorgeous Kiwi landscapes to liven up the chase, and we have a nice little movie here.

Sappy story? Yup. But sappilicious.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

MILES AHEAD

DIET COKE
john sekerka

There's a funny bit where Miles Davis shows obvious disdain for "Kind of Blue", considered universally as a (if not thee) jazz standard, preferring the overlooked "Sketches of Spain". "Miles Ahead" is a musician's movie through and through, exploring the process of making great art, often to excruciating detail, and the suffering of other parts of life at the cost of creating said art.

The bizarro, mad genius world through the rainbow coloured glasses of Miles himself is one crazy ride. Writer, director, star, Don Cheadle becomes Miles, plain and simple. We get a hallucinatory, fictional snippet of Miles' in the wilderness, cocaine fuelled, late seventies drought, cut jaggedly with his meteoric early days (which plays like a standard biopic).

Miles' complicated, thrilling and troubled relationship with dancer Frances Taylor is the core of both periods (before and after the loving), offering up his chief dilemma in life: choosing art over love, since he is not capable of balancing both.

The film plays like a combination of Miles' early and latter records, one part smooth, straight ahead narrative, the other a surreal, hazy, improvisational trip, revolving around a mysterious, much in demand tape. This will no doubt elicit devout fanaticism or utter disdain from the audience. Or both. Much like Davis' music. So, a total success.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

BLACKWAY

DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN
john sekerka

Anthony Hopkins, Hal Holbrook, Ray Liotta, Julia Stiles ... done deal right?

Yes indeed. In what amounts to a Hollywood shake up, "Blackway" delivers an old school film, which moves at an even pace, features calm dialogue, and stays clear of any sensationalism. When folks drive, they take it nice and easy. When folks are saddled with confrontation, they stay clear. When folks get slugged, they stay down. This is the damp, dark, downtrodden life of a logging town held hostage.

The story is dead simple, and plays out, pretty much as expected. After Lillian (Styles) moves back to her childhood, sleepy town, she quickly becomes the target of a local thug, who is running the place with fierce brutality. After several dead ends, she manages to enlist a couple of idle locals to make things right. And we are off.

"Blackway" is terrific little film, guiding a fairly straight ahead plot with a steady hand. It brims with nuanced performances, especially Anthony Hopkins as the mysterious senior with some closet skeletons, Alexander Ludwig as his simple sidekick, Styles as the focal point of reason, and Liotta as the seething crazy (of course).



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

I AM THOR

IT'S HAMMER TIME
john sekerka

Seventies rock is all about comebacks, and who wouldn't want a return of the Norse Thunder God? Redundant question. Don't worry about it.

Right up there with the fabulous, and oddly similar "Anvil", "I Am Thor" documents the pipe dream of ex-metal screamer, and body building legend Jon Mikl Thor. The comeback try is a long and painful one (began in 1997), and as with any such tale of perseverance, is full of cinema gold.

Too good to be true, this riveting doc is filled with wonderful, Spinal Tappy moments, like Thor erroneously (and repeatedly) pulling up his skull belt before his chest plate, then scolding himself. Or when a couple of scantily clad dancers exiting stage left during a gig, knock over a stack of amplifiers. And how about when Thor gets stuck between security doors, eventually having to slither his way out of the trap. Then there is bumbling drummer Mike Favato approaching a young group of metal fans in Finland, and being miffed when he wasn't mobbed, let alone recognized.

Though Thor is the hustling, loveable centrepiece of the story, Favato - who has remarkably kept his frizzy, jet black mullet in tact all these decades - is indispensable, and totally awesome.

Though a lot of his muscles have made their way south, and his various medical ailments seem like a roadblock too concrete even for the hammer god, Thor keeps on delivering the goods. Hopefully, as with Anvil, this film will spur some much deserved glory.

There are some ridiculous and all to brief early story lines involving Vegas, nude musicals, The Merv Griffin Show, blowing up water bottles, B-movies, kidnapping, and one-eyed starfish. Too much material for just one movie really. It's like a twofer. In an attempt to bring some seriousness to his music craft, Thor claims his lyrics are "almost Dylanesque, they are prolific". Yes, yes they are.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

HOW TO BUILD A TIME MACHINE

TIME'S UP
john sekerka

Finally, a "how to video" with practical applications, though not for the Youtube attention span generation.

The long sought sciency magic theory of time travel is approached analytically and very seriously by physicist Ronald Mallet, who spins Einstein's Theory of Relativity in a convincing demonstration that involves really cool lasers and dry ice. Convincingly and calmly explaining the relation between gravity, time and light, and the problem with funding such a sci-fi experiment, Mallet shatters the mad scientist mould.

The other half of this doc features animator Rob Niosi, who since viewing the H.G. Wells' classic adaptation "The Time Machine" (1960), has nursed a rather unnatural obsession with said contraption. So much so, that Niosi has spent the last decade building an intricate replica from the ground up.

"How To Build a Time Machine" tells these time travel hopeful stories in a warm, and engaging manner. Beautifully shot to boot.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

OUT OF PRINT

CUT!
john sekerka

An unabashed love letter to repertory cinema, "Out of Print" focuses on L.A.'s legendary Beverly Cinema, and serves as a reminder of yet another technology going the way of the Dodo bird: film. Real film. Celluloid. Of the non-digital variety.

This doc is one easy watch, as local celebs (Seth Green, David Lynch, Edgar Wright ... the list is long) take turns with glowing cameos, espousing the glory of 35 mm film. The cool retro feel of the Beverly is the perfect stage for hip film lovers to gush fondly over classic double bills, and surprise Q and A sessions with big wig Hollywood types.

Pretty cool stuff, warms the hearts of any old timey film watchers, and ensures that the Beverly is on the "to do" list next time we all jetset to La-La land.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THREE

TWO OUT OF THREE
john sekerka

Tough call, this one. Fans of Honk Kong cinema will be all over "Three". Director Johnnie To (totally awesome name) has that Tarantino magic: threading complex, twisty plot lines into a tight, explosive knot, and then, uh, exploding it.

"Three" pits, wait for it, three characters in a tense hospital room drama. A killer, a cop and a surgeon, play cat and mouse, and another mouse, in an ultra stylish, super sharp 87 minutes of tension. The killer has a bullet in his head, six hours to live, and is refusing life-saving surgery. He has lots to say, and plenty up his sleeves. If he had sleeves. Unravelling the story lines is half the fun. The other half comes with the sweeping camera work. Very cool.

Still, it suffers dramatically from ultra stiff acting. Everyone is extremely starched, walking around with pickles up their butts (figuratively of course). Not sure if this takes getting used to, but it is hard to ignore. The carefully choreographed paintball finale may be a technical achievement, but slapstick drama is a cold viewing experience.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS

GO COUGAR GO!
john sekerka

Doris has missed out on life. Closing in fast on retirement age, she is the poster girl for "spinster": a single, hoarding, cat lady, stuck in her late mother's house, dealing with a thankless job, boorish family, and various underlying obsessive disorders. Oh, by the way, this is a comedy.

As the quirky Doris, Sally Field doles out a juicy performance that requires a delicate balancing act, veering from unstable senior to crush-filled high-schooler. Jumping off the pages of her teenage yearbook, Doris finds meaning in a seemingly unhealthy infatuation with the new office boy toy.

With the help of a precocious teen, she manages to stalk her prey on Facebook, and slowly, infiltrate her way into her future love's life. Dresses in vintage chic, and carrying a devil may care attitude, she quickly ingratiates herself to the younger set. It's a tough act to pull off, but Field manages it without stumbling into parody.

The chase is certainly entertaining, and only crosses the absurdist line in a few of fantasy sequences. It's a fun ride, that doesn't skimp on harsh realities.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

ALMOST HOLY

HOLY CRAP
john sekerka

A Ukraine is a hellhole, and here's just one seedy look at what's going on. Steve Hoover's no-nonsense documentary puts the cameras on pastor Gennadiy Mokhenko, a bigger than life, mountain of a man who dishes out tough love to the street kids of Maripul.

These kids live in the sewers. They are castoffs. They are junkies. Crocodile Gennadiy, as he is called, takes them in - sometimes to his rehabilitation centre, sometimes right into his expansive family. There's no sweet talk to the kids, the dealers, the abusers, the implicit pharmacists. No one is spared.

Shot in beautiful green and blue shades by John Pope, "Almost Holy" brings a jarring aesthetic to the real life horrors on screen. It's a disturbing film documenting a superhero single-handedly wrestling a catastrophe, and often winning. It answers one of life's toughest questions: "what can I possibly do?" Quite a bit as it turns out.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

LOLO

SEX IN THE VILLE
john sekerka

A Julie Delpy project, which means "Lolo" is clever, wordy, sexy, and very, very French. The funny is a bit of a surprise.

Rich with evocative dialoque, this complicated mother-boyfriend-son triangle veers from comedic to astute, to confusing, to combative. It has life. It has spirit. It has great performances. It has Paris. And yet, it never quite comes together. Perhaps there's just too much going on; a cluttered film assembled with good intentions.

Delpy's middle age, single fashionista in search of romantic adventures would have been enough, but the plot is muddled with a silly IT story, and a rather disturbing Oedipus bent.

"Lolo" does have its charms, especially the slapstickler Dany Boon, but requires more than a passing knowledge of the Euro jetset to properly enjoy the razor sharp skewers. Works swell in parts, but not in the sum of.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

BOREALIS

NORTHERN FIGHTS
john sekerka

Taking the typically fraught, father and teenage daughter relationship to extremes, "Borealis" throws three mammoth wrenches into the already stinky stew: the daughter is going blind, the father is a gambling addict, and the mother has passed. Here we go.

In hopes of familial reconciliation, bad dad decides a road trip to see the Northern Lights in Churchill is the cure-all. Or at least the best idea of the moment, especially since a couple of thugs are sniffing around for money owed.

Yes a road trip. Connecting the cliche dots is actually quite fun, for despite a bevy of depressing plot lines, the film slips in some comedic flare to keep the engine running. It's a truly Canadian experience: leaving the city, driving across wide expanses, fueling up on coffee and gas and black jack games in remote small towns, searching for the light at the end of the tunnel.

"Borealis" tackles a lot of heady issues, often unsuccessfully, but at the core, remains a charming little film with a lot of heart, and top notch acting from the leads.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

AMERICAN HERO

MARVEL-LESS
john sekerka

Cutting to the chase: this is not, thankfully, another super hero blockbuster. Though a block does get busted. But enough with the spoilers. Let's move on.

Tough to tell just what the hell "American Hero" is all about. A faux doc? A sappy family tale? A gritty drama? A twisted comedy? Whatever. There is something entrancing about this little indie film, in spite of its various personalities. And that something is Stephen Dorff, who manages to morff his way through a glorious mess. As Melvin, he's a good buddy, a party animal, a bad but trying hard dad, and the owner of some crazy kinetic powers. A barfly superhero with a tarnished heart of gold, Melvin keeps trying to do the right thing, and for the most part, failing miserably.

The wicked special effects are a surprise in such a seemingly small time film, and though that bit of smoke and mirrors should totally derail the story, it all actually works.

Enjoyable to say the least. Surprising to say the most.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

TOO LATE

FULL CIRCLE
john sekerka

Shot in five, stupefying long takes (on film!), "Too Late" is more than just a technical achievement. It's a brilliant, stylish film noire with enough juicy twists to warrant some theatre going excitement.

It's a slow burner, that takes it's pretty little time, but as soon as screen magnet John Hawkes pops up, we are off to the races. For a gun-toting, bloody-soaked, seedy L.A. tale of thugs, strippers and private dicks, "Too Late" is one heckuva pulpy, talkie movie.

Told in a clever, scrambled time sequence of five acts, "Too Late" delivers the goods with a grand finale, which uh, is really the opening salvo. Private eye Hawkes tries valiantly, as does the audience, to solve a mighty tangled web of intrigue and mystery, which actually leads to a delicious and satisfying reveal.

Do yourself a favour.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING

CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
john sekerka

Simon Pegg + Monty Python + Robin Williams = a royal mess. Damn. What an absolute shame: a wasted gathering of some primo comedic talent and saddling them with a lazy, connect the dots script plays nicely as a pedantic Disney-style feature, ... except for the f-bombs, and a tasteless dick joke. What the hell?

Too bad, too, too bad. No really, this is bad.

Nice premise: an everyday bumpkin gets the magical power to do, wait for it ... absolutely anything! Fun right? Was fun. Was called "Bruce Almighty". Still, could've been alright with that zany British humour on board, and no matter what Pegg is saddled with, he is an enjoyable screen presence. Yet the jokes miss, there's no riveting storyline - an achievement when aliens (a reunited Monty Python gang), a talking dog (Robin Williams' final hurrah), and the end of days are involved.

Edit the naughty adult bits out (which add absolutely nothing anyways), and go straight to kiddie video. Please.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

TEN THOUSAND SAINTS

APPLE CORE
john sekerka

Rebellious teenagers, screwed up adults, sex, drugs and rock and roll; "Ten Thousand Saints" is an enticing mess that tackles well worn movie conflicts with fresh perspective.

The kids ain't alright, and their hippy-dippy parents may be worse. Small town tragedy leads to big city problems as everyone tries to come of age in am unexpected short time frame. Set in the tinderbox eighties of New York City, "Ten Thousand Saints" chronicles a rather complicated family web that unwinds during a city wide upheaval. Riding a turbulent father and son bond, it revolves around a couple of terrific performances from Ethan Hawke and Asa Butterfield, whose openness, foibles and vitality are reminiscent of "Boyhood". Not a bad comparison if one is needed.

What happens, and a lot happens, gives all the characters a chance to grow up. How they step up, back, or sideways, propels the film from generic, cause and effect fodder, to a thought-provoking and engrossing piece of celluloid.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

COCONUT HERO

LOVE AND DEATH
john sekerka

Suicide is painful, especially when it is botched. Botched up good.

Mike Tyson is not a boxer. In fact he's an average, gangly teen, struggling with growing pains, which range from family strife to bullying at the hands of a younger kids. He dreams of a better, heavenly place, and decides to bypass the normal scenic route most take to our demise. Methodical, caring and metucilous, he leaves a reminder note for Mom to feed the fish, and prints up an obituary in the local paper. This is small town life, with small town futures, small town quirks, small town time.

Unfortunately for Mike, and fortunately for the film's plot, he fails. His ensuing journey of self-discovery is a sweet one, filled with much silliness from various elders who offer misguided guidance, and seem oblivious to Mike's undeterred pursuit of his one goal.

Only love can stick a fork in Mike's road, and the charming and surprising way it plays out, makes this little gem quite a worthwhile watch.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE PROGRAM

LANCE A LOT
john sekerka

A rather scathing Lance Armstrong story - what a surprise.

Starting off with Armstrong's introduction to the holy grail of cycling, Le Tour de France, "The Program" wastes little time developing character, but instead jumps cannonball style into the chemical pool. It's very simple poetry: to compete, you have to cheat; and young Lance hops on board. The rest is well documented history: a brutal fight with testicular cancer, a miraculous recovery, some balls jokes, seven Tour victories, cancer foundation glory, millions of dollars, the fall from grace, the end.

Telling nothing we don't know, "The Program" relies on documenting the most sensational scandal of sports doping history in a methodical, well-paced manner. And as juicy as the story may be, the film fails to generate anything in way of sympathy, outrage or tension. We don't really get to know who the hell Lance Armstrong is, where he came from, how he compared with his chief rivals (Jan Ullrich is not even mentioned), and what his personal life was like (we see a quick marriage and glimpses of kids, but nothing else).

"The Program" is so Lance centered that it lives and dies with its lead. Ben Foster does an admirable job as the stoic cyclist, but his deadpan performance is as lifeless as Armstrong's public persona. There is never any depth revealed, nor hinted at.

Recommended for those not familiar with the crazy tale, if such an audience exists.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

I AM DEAD BUT I HAVE FRIENDS

ROCK ON
john sekerka

The sad fact of aging rockers is that the romantic notion of going out in a spectacular flame and leaving behind a beautiful corpse is but a distant dream. Instead, life is an endless gig at puny pubs, where greying beards and beer bellies have usurped any cutting edge that came naturally with youth. Still, the music lives on, and the magic of rock and roll endures.

"I Am Dead But I Have Friends" tracks the journey of a goodtime band that loses their singer on the eve of a comeback tour, and scrambles to complete their final act. This turns out be a multi-buddy road trip movie, that diverts a group of jovial Belgians from their L.A. destination through a myriad of comedic fumbles, which lands them in Innu territory Schefferville.

Handling life and death situations with slapstick can be dicey, but the genuine comraderie between the players keeps this runaway train on the tracks. It helps to have a fondness for rock and roll lifestyle.

What an odd little movie.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

MY GOLDEN DAYS

SO FRENCH
john sekerka

Harking back to the glory days of French cinema, when Francois Truffaut introduced super cool Parisian chic to the world, "My Golden Days" (a terrible translation of "Trois Souvenirs de ma Jeunesse") colourfully captures the carefree escapades of wild, romantic youth.

Everyone is cool. Everyone smokes. Everyone is busy living the life they will soon relish only in glazed-eyed memories. This a well acted, lovely tale of a couple of kids, stumbling through adult weight emotions, baggage and heartbreak. "My Golden Days" isn't so much a fond ode to lost youth, as it is a reminder that the crux of life may come at any time, and can be cruelly short.

The French love it, bestowing a slew of film awards as proof, and you may too.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

DEADPOOL

MARVEL THIS
john sekerka

Look, Marvel movies have their place: they offer comic style fun, action and escapism, and well, little else. The plots are silly. The fight scenes are ridiculously endless. The acting is tolerable in a tongue-in-cheek kinda way. And the product placement is outta this world. The films take turns trying to outCGI one another. Oh, and they make a helluva lotta dough.

Even though there have been a couple of pretty good adaptations, most in the series are forgettable fluff. That's the starting point here, but with a twist. "Deadpool" is the ultimate anti-hero: a wisecracking vigilante with a scarred mug and an obsession with self-pleasuring. This movie is filthy with cuss words, explicit kills, and kinky sex. Keep the kids at home for pete's sake!

Though the plot and fighting suffer from the usual Marvel pitfalls, there's enough biting hilarity here to make it the company's most outlandish film escapade. Ryan Reynolds fires one liners as fast as his Desert Eagles, and he's deadpan charming during both. Slick pacing and witty banter makes for a thrilling, fun ride.

As in most Marvel cinema projects, company kingpin Stan Lee pops up in a quick cameo, except this time it's in a peeler bar. Har!



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE EYE OF THE STORM

LIFE SOLDIER
john sekerka

African child soldiers make irresistable press fodder; combining the heartbreaking innocence of the young with misguided political atrocities of the old.

"Eye of the Storm" zooms in on one particular case, that of a captured rebel, who has spent his life fighting in the brutal Burkina Faso mines conflict. Caught, caged, and treated like a wild animal, the soldier acts the beast reputation that accompanies him. Enter a well to do female lawyer, tasked with representing the prisoner on his way to the gallows.

Naturally, not all is as it seems (otherwise we would not have much of a movie), and matters get mighty complicated as the case develops.

Marred by a rather crude, low budget, cinematography style, "Eye of the Storm" is saved by the stellar leads. Maimouna Ndiaye and Fargass Assande dominate every scene, and their complicated, engrossing relationship raises this film above the standard preachy mode.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE LEGEND OF BARNEY THOMSON

SHAVE AND A HAIRCUT
john sekerka

Barney Thomson is not having a good day, nor a good life. Relegated to third chair in a small barber shop, and about to have that chair pulled out from under him. Aren't we all?

Best known for incendiary characters, Robert Carlyle steps infront and behind the camera (he directs) to create a jittery, bumbling shmoe whose mundane life is a notch below non-descript. What barber wears a slicked back mullet? Barney. Who's a middle-aged, wimpering Momma's boy that serves his berth donor's every whim? Barney. Who's life is suddenly turned into a series of very unfortunate events which threaten to spiral into cataclysmic erruption? Barney.

Carlyle is superb. Emma Thompson, as his overbearing mother, is even better. Hardly recognizable, Thompson is a stormy force: the queen bee to Carlyle's worker. Sporting vertical wrinkles, a leopard coat, and garish lipstick, the bingo enthusiast drops a suitcase in the middle of nowhere, and Barney obediently scurries to fetch it. Hilarious.

Hilarious, and dark. There's a record body count piling up. Freezers are beeing filled. The coppers are hot and cold on the trail. Whatever will Barney do? There's only one way to find out.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

PERFECT DAY

GIMME THE ROPE
john sekerka

How many foreign aid workers does it take to extract a big, bulbous body from a drinking well?

Good question, especially when dealing with a war torn, mid-nineties Bosnia. Benecio Del Toro is the gruff but sentimental leader land-rovering around the mine-filled countryside, helping the locals any which way he can. A hilarious Tim Robbins, a dead pan interpreter, a fresh newbie, an ex-flame, and small village boy are along for the seemingly endless drives, searching for a rope. Yup, a rope.

Whilst all this seems rather ridiculous, and there certainly are comedic moments, this is really a dark stab at war ravaged survival at its bleakest. Trying to bring some semblance of order, the aid gang encounters endless roadblocks of various kinds, nationalities and priorities.

"Perfect Day" is a terrific film, which uses absurdist situations to lighten the mood, yet never strays from the real horrors of the situation at hand. The perfect, and absolutely apt ending seals the deal.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE HATEFUL EIGHT

HANGIN' AROUND
john sekerka

Why the hell would Tarantino shoot a claustrophobic talkie in glorious 70mm? Cuz he's a filmmaking nutbar. Some say genious. I say nutbar.

Gathering a carefully sculpted cast of mysterious, misfit characters in a wooden cabin, in the middle of a winter blizzard, with plenty of guns and plenty of motif to use said guns, is a delicious recipe for clever word play, tricky storytelling, and the inevitable flying bullets. Yeehaw!

Like a western "Reservoir Dogs", the focus is on character reveal, deception, revenge, and plenty of cuss words. Great performances, outlandish twists, ridiculous situations, and a rousing score by spaghetti western king Ennio Morricone - how can ya go wrong?



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

INGRID BERGMAN: IN HER OWN WORDS

THE PACKRAT
john sekerka

Every ten years, movie starlett Ingrid Bergman changed her life: countries, husbands, studios, directors and sometimes children. She loved life, and lived it to the fullest, often to the chagrin of complacent society, but always to the utter delight of the paparazzi.

In an exhaustive two-hours, Stig Bjorkman gathers together endless streams of photographs, film clips, home movies and diary passages, from movie's biggest packrat. We are whisked from Sweden, to America, to Italy, to some island that I can't remember anymore. It's all quite dizzying. Her children speak fondly of her joie de vivre, and the all too brief time she actually spent raising them.

Bergman was truly an original, an actor who sandwiched a couple of Oscar nods with an eight year "penance" exile, for her indiscretions.

It's all rather engrossing, for about an hour. But rather repetitive after that.

In the end, this document is but a very large canvas brimming with juicy stories, desperately in need of a ruthless editor.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE REVENANT

GRUNTWORK
john sekerka

This is one big film. Big stars. Big story. Big landscapes. Big adventures. Big bear. Makes for blockbuster gold, especially with Hollywood golden boy-man Leo DiCaprio taking an absolute beating throughout. Getting mauled by a bear (repeatedly), and buried alive in a frozen wasteland, Leo Lazarus rises and crawls around in search of redemption. It's the ultimate survival dude show.

Anyone ever forced to start a fire in adverse conditions will be amazed what Leo can do in the dead of blustery winter, without a shelter, matches, nor a propane tank. It's astonishing.

Please sit down.

There's more. Leo is so beat up he can only gurgle and grunt, which makes communication rather difficult. When were losanges invented for pete's sake? Grunting through most of the film is a major acting feat, right up there with not washing his hair, and the ability to cross fast moving rivers without getting a soaker. Most would have called in the park ranger long ago, but not Leo.

"The Revenant" has a lot going for it: star-power, a gripping revenge story, beautifully choreographed fight scenes, grungy pioneer dudes, spectacular photography, some nifty, eye-popping scenes, and apparently a randy bear who loves him some Leo. Don't we all?



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

2 NIGHTS TILL MORNING

LANGUAGE BARRIER
john sekerka

Oh hey, the perfect one night stand: a couple of buff travellers from far away lands (Finland, France) on a brief Vilnius stopover, conveniently connect without the awkward hinderance of language. What could go wrong?

How about volcanic ash grounding planes? Ouch. Everyone has hidden baggage, just waiting for that escape flight, but when delays force the issue that luggage starts to come out.

Turns out there's way more to each of the strangers than meets the eye, and the series of reveals makes for quite a yummy movie. Tackling the age old male-female push and pull battle is twisted smartly here, as attraction and assumption makes for a dicey equation. What starts as a plain romance tale turns into a nifty cat and mouse game that eschews physicality for cerebral ventures.

Relationships, even those quickies, are damn complicated. Who knew?



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

LOUDER THAN BOMBS

TICKTICKTICK
john sekerka

Hiding in a dark drama vehicle from Norway, Jesse Eisenberg delivers a staggering performance that tops his ridiculously prolific, yet young career. Sparring with heavyweights Gabriel Byrne and Isabelle Huppert (and excellent newcomer David Druid) , Eisenberg stealthily steals scenes as a multi-facetted, complicated character, wading through classic family tumult: tragedy and birth.

Broken families need fixing, but sometimes there are too many pieces to pick up, and are often broken further during clean up. Nothing new here, but told in a clever manner, unravelling a complicated story that focuses back on the three male characters, each dealing with a major life transition.

"Louder Than Bombs" is jarring in it's honesty, capturing the nuance of first world, present day generational conflicts, with a third world backdrop.

An important film that lives long after a screening.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

ROAR

ERROAR
john sekerka

Remember the early days of colour tv, when Sunday afternoons were filled with cheapo Disney vignettes starring rascally vermin getting into all kinds of home alone mischief? Pesky raccoons in the kitchen? Sly foxes in the den? Silly monkeys in the dining area? How about man-eating lions in the family room?

Meow.

What the hell was Noel Marshall thinking way back in 1981? Not only did he invite lions into his home, but tigers, cheetahs, and cougars as well, and then his whole family, just to see what would happen. You can't make this stuff up. Marshall, a Hollywood producer ("The Exorcist"!), his animal rights advocate wife/actress Tippy Hedron, and their chirpy kids, actually lived with several big cats (mainly zoo castoffs) in their California digs, before they decided to take it to the next level.

Hoo boy.

The ensuing movie features about 150 carnivorous felines chasing the family in very close quarters, in what amounts to a bizarre comedy snuff film. Hilarity vies with sheer terror for screen time as the cats turn from chummy snuggling to full on attack mode.

"No animals were harmed in the making of this film, but 70 people were"!

That includes a cameraman who was scalped, and daughter (future starlet) Melanie Griffith who required facial reconstructive surgery. That's the back story, the front story is almost as crazy. Since the unpredictable cats dictated onscreen action, coherent shooting was next to impossible . There must have been a plot, but as years passed (17 in fact), budgets ballooned, and workers fled for their lives, what was left was a mishmash of chase scenes. But what chase scenes. Up close and very personal, "Roar" is an unsettling series of vignettes in glorious technocolour, that is always on the precipice of real life tragedy. Like "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom", if Marlin Perkins got mauled in the bush. There is absolutely no way to keep your eyes off the screen. Is the public ready for this three decades on?

We may never be ready.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT

FRANK MEETS ALFIE
john sekerka

In 1963, during the frenzy stirred by "Psycho", fresh French filmmaker Francois Truffaut interviewed Alfred Hitchcock in a series of interrogation style questions. The resulting book became an insider's bible to movie making 101. It was long, dry, and very clinical.

Why the hell would anyone think this would make a watchable documentary? Well, thankfully Kent Jones did. Unearthing original audio tapes of the friendly interrogation shows the conversation to be a lively and thrilling one; something film nuts would eat up.

Adding complimentary commentary from the likes of Martin Scorsese, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Wes Anderson, brings the whole event to a new level. This was a monumental meeting of two of the greatest directors of all time [one just starting out, one already peaked] dissecting the medium in a thrilling lesson format. All that, and revisiting some of celluloid's greatest moments, makes this a class not to be skipped.

"I have a perfect cure for a sore throat: cut it." - Alfred Hitchcock



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

I SMILE BACK

NOT FUNNY
john sekerka

Hoping for a rib-tickling hijinx escapade with razor sharp witticisms from Sarah Silverman? Not happening.

Instead, "I Smile Back" slaps audience faces awake with a desperate housemom coke binge scene. Its realism is disconcerting, and quite shocking. Laney is living the dream: suburban home, steady income hubbie, a couple of cute replicants; what could go wrong? Laney goes wrong. Addictively wrong. Drugs and extramarital sex seem appropriate escape mechanisms from dullsville, but in Laney's case, there is something deeper and darker within, that fuels her self-destructive behaviour. She's smart enough to sneak her vices, for a while, but depression wins out in the end.

Struggling with demons is especially hard when searching for reason where reason may not exist. People wanna help. Laney wants help. But they don't know how, and besides, life keeps interrupting. "I Smile Back" is an exercise in frustration, much like life itself. Silverman delivers an astounding performance, which covers various personalities (druggie, charming gal, selfless mom, slut, victim, drunk, bitch) with equal aplomb.

It's a tough transition from comedic icon to dramatic actor. Robin Williams almost made it. Steve Carell is there. And now, Sarah Silverman.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

WILD LIFE (VIE SAUVAGE)

GRID OFF
john sekerka

Living off the grid sure sounds romantic, but unfortunately in real life, living off the land, romance is not top priority.

"Wild Life" traces a drastic family separation when the mother decides to escape a communal hippie culture she no longer believes in. Kids are involved, and it gets messy. Based on true events, this film tracks a decade long, on the lam odyssey that features a dedicated but devoted to his cause father, and his sons. Their's is an idyllic, simple life, which grows ever so complicated as the boys grow into men, and their mother elevates her familial search.

As Paco, Matthieu Kassovitz delivers the right mix of fatherly love, staunch stubbornness, with just a hint of madness. There is little right in any of the events, especially the French justice system which seems geared toward creating animosity, instead of proper mediation. When confronted by the authorities, Paco retorts to charges of cult behaviour with, "If it's a husband and wife and kids, then it's not a cult. It's a family."

The film avoids taking sides, and leaves with a handful of thought-provoking questions. Be prepared for heated, post viewing discussions.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

ENTERTAINMENT

EXCRUTIATING
john sekerka

This, without a doubt, will be the toughest watch in recent memory.

Terrible stand up comedians have their place, and can offer entertainment value in some form or another. Enter Greg Turkington, who as his alter ego Neil Hamburger has been mastering the craft of truly unremarkable, offensive, deplorable, mundane stand-up comedy, for decades. It is a disconcerning experience, watching an uncomfortable, struggling bomb go off on stage. There is heckling, there is groaning, there is long awkward silences, there is confusion, there is laughter, and sometimes, there is mayhem. Neil Hamburger is not for everyone. The act is a performance art piece, that relies heavily on crowd response, whether it be indifference, warmth or explosive hatred.

It is a tough act to pull off on the big screen.

Instead of documenting this bizarre phenomena, "Entertainment" uses the Neil Hamburger experience as the centerpiece in a hazy, dreamy, mind and road trip that mixes equal parts Antonioni and Lynch. Filmed super wide, it revels in deserted expanses, adding extra bleak factor to the snail paced non-action. It just feels weird.

Shit happens, but seems irrelevant to any story line. John C. Reilly and Michael Cera pop in for oddball cameos, but leave no marks. Hamburger (unnamed for some reason) trudges across wasteland deserted towns to perform before indifferent crowds, with predictable results. Much time is spent on the between gig down times.

Is this a joke? Is this art? Is this a movie? Is there anything to "get"?

What it is, is a truly unsettling and painful experience for everyone involved, especially you.

That may be the point.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

LIFE

SNAPPING JAMES
john sekerka

Troubled photographer. Moody, genius actor. LIFE magazine. Sounds like cinema bonanza.

Almost.

Dennis Stock's iconic still of a sopping wet James Dean wading through Manhattan is a grand piece of art, and former NME photog Anton Corbijn attempts to translate that magic on to a moving screen. Corbijn has tread similar waters with an excellent look at Ian Curtis in "Control" (young, troubled, moody, dead), but instead of telling the story, he seems to be reaching for something special here.

Though reaching is understood. Dean was a mumbling mystery; an original maverick, who would reshape the Hollywood landscape in three classic films (two posthumously), before driving his racing Porsche into immortality.

As a hustling freelancer trying to get his foot in LIFE magazine's door, Stock locked on to Dean, knowing he was something special: his ticket. Their complicated, short relationship, from professional and subject, to drinking buddies, to something only hinted at, is the crux of "LIFE".

Poster boy Robert Pattinson is oddly awkward and unlikable as the shutterbug, whilst Dane DeHaan plays the wicked rebel as a whispering softie. It's an oddball movie, filled with oddball characters, in an oddball time. The performances are sublime, and Corbijn delivers the time capsule (1955) perfectly. The film is quite fascinating, but like Dean's career, it seems a tad incomplete.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

JAMES WHITE

BLACK AND WHITE
john sekerka

It's all about James.

James White is a young, upper middle class New Yorker, eager to party, easy to anger. He is hard to like, but easy to pal around with. James is a happy drunk, but only for a minute. James is attempting adult life, while his parents are leaving it.

With a wide open world to explore, James is begrudgingly forced into a caregiver roll, suddenly throwing his carefree, priveleged ways upside down. James is a selfish, conniving man, and often makes questionable decisions based on his lifelong lifestyle. This leads to fights, missed opportunities, and relationship conflicts.

The brunt of this brutally honest movie is spent taking care of his terminally ill mother, played with a perfect blend of physical helplessness and mental toughness by Cynthia Nixon. Their's is a bumpy relationship born out of guilt, stubbornness and blood bonds. As James, Christopher Abbott is terrific, dominating the screen (he is in every shot), eliciting alternating waves of empathy and vitriol for a character as naked as can be.

There are no easy answers, just a string of tough questions. Conflicted human behaviour has seldom been tackled so succinctly on the big screen.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE GRUMP

THE FINNISH LINE
john sekerka

In the 1976 Olympics Lasse Viren cemented his place as the premier long distance runner in world with a 5,000 and 10,000m double, matching his 1972 feat. Not much has gone right for Finland since. At least not according to grandpa.

Grumpy old men is a long standing comedic device in the film industry, for very good reason. Generation gaps leads to the funny. Throw in country versus city living and we have the knee-slapping funny. Add the futuristic fangled electronic age devices to the mix and the rib-hurting funny ensues.

Pretty standard stuff, but there's a nostalgic sadness when grandpa is thrown into modern city life. He's sexist, racist, overbearing and stubborn. And sometimes he's right. Lessons are learned, both from the old man, and from his ultra modern offspring, as classes and generations meet, argue, fight and crash cars.

Looking back with rosy glasses, grandpa pines for the good old days, though when the glasses come off we see a history much more complex. In the end, it's not a matter of who is right, and who is wrong, it is just about being, and moving on.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

KAUBOJI (COWBOYS)

I WANNA BE A COWBOY
john sekerka

Small town, local theatre productions can be utterly delicious in their awfulness. Now imagine such a venture featuring a band of Croatian misfits stumbling to produce a western play.

Not as far fetched as it sounds.

Westerns are huge in eastern Europe, and the most famous book/movie/tv series, Winnetou was filmed in the Croatian mountains.

Not as slapsticky as it sounds.

Inspite of the cast of colourful characters, the humour is subtle, and drole, in need of a rimshot or two. "Cowboys" perfectly apes the agonizing process of creating art from deep within. A process that opens up complex avenues well worth traversing.

Not as complicated as it sounds.

A play is busy berthing, while a director is busy dying, characters are busy evolving, and everything makes a weird kind of sense in the end.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE SINKING OF SOZOPOL

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE
john sekerka

Be prepared for a soaking. This is one wet film.

There is rain, there is ocean, there is vodka. Ten bottles worth in fact.

When Chavo returns to the seaside village of his past, he stocks the fridge with alcohol and nothing else. This is a mission. With nothing left, the plan is to drink and leave to join the others. Is there life after Vodka?

What seems like straight forward, gloom and doom Euro fare, turns out to be a time slipping exercise that introduce dead characters and crucial plot lines, which only come together at the very end.

A very bleak, gray, stormy trudge, "The Sinking of Sozonol" is a visual ordeal that tweaks curiosity with every little reveal. Kinda like life itself. Known for documentary work, Bodev's foray into fiction borrows the awful truth baggage approach from his previous works, yielding an interesting hybrid feel to cinema.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

BABY(A)LONE

Bonnie and X
john sekerka

The kids are not alright.

"Baby(a)lone" is an unsettling primer about disenfranchised youth dealing (poorly) with contemporary first world problems. It is also a very good looking piece of cinema.

Like a kiddie version of Bonnie and Clyde, the story deals with early teeners struggling through life whilst adults insist they behave as innocent children. A laughable impossibility in today's times.

The kids strike out on their own in an "us against the world" salvo, which of course, is unsustainable. The short adventure is full of life - some good and plenty bad - and that is their goal. There is smoking, drinking, driving, fooling around, and violence. The violence ranges from pillow fights to lead pipes. Kids being kids. Kids being adults.

"Baby(a)lone" has plenty of layers brimming under the major plot line. The unnamed boy appears to have a split personality, acting up at the urging of his nasty self, the wise allecky Johnny who has a large X on his hoodie. In the end it becomes a bit of a mystery as to exactly who he is running from.

This is Luxembourg's entry for the Oscar race, one helluva stylish film, and the introduction of a dazzling actress in Charlotte Elsen as the hypnotizing Shirley.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

MAN VS.

CHECK MATE
john sekerka

Back in 1971 at the Crystal Palace Bowl Garden Party, Pink Floyd slipped dry ice in the lake to kick off their very loud set, killing all the fish. There's a scene in "Man Vs." where a loud explosion is followed by ex-fish floating on the surface of a lake. Sadly, this is no trippy Pink Floyd concert movie, but a bizarre survival man reality show gone awry. Gone very, very awry.

Armed only with a handful of video cameras, tv reality star Doug is dropped in a remote Northern Ontario location to film his five day survival escursion. Doug is smart, resourceful and quite handy. He builds a nice shelter, starts a fire with a pop can, traps rabbits, and plays chess solitaire.

This makes for a very informative YouTube instructional, but a rather dull movie, so director/writer Adam Massey decides to turn this pleasant little nature adventure upside down.

Doug soon finds himself not so alone in the remote wilderness, but is a little daft in putting together all the clues: the boom, dead fish in lake, his sat phone disassembled, chess board maneuvres, life sized rabbit traps. He thinks he's in "Deliverence", but we know better.

The lead up is well structured, with just the right amount of mystery and suspense, but the final, over the top reveal is a bit of a clunker. A more ambiguous ending would have worked wonders.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

THE GAMES MAKER

BOARDING SCHOOL
john sekerka

Warning: this is a silly, tangent-loving, art deco carnival family film that Disney used to crank out before Walt became a popsicle. Meaning kids with a short attention span will dig it, and stuffy adults should revert to their carefree days and just go with it.

There's a helluva lotta colourful crap crammed into this bursting bit of celluloid, leaving very little time for contemplation, which is fine, cuz the ride is the joy here. The crazy plot involves board game inventors, balloon rides, sinking schools, an invisible girl, and of course Ed Asner.

Creating whimsical magic worlds can go horribly wrong, but "The Games Maker" is smart enough to keep the action moving fast enough to distract from gaping plot holes, and enhanced with a cool retro vibe, it is a wonderful feast for the eyes.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP

DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: THE STORY OF NATIONAL LAMPOON

FOOD FIGHT!
john sekerka

Animal House, the Vacation movies, Saturday Night Live ... all the glory resides on screens big and small, yet the germ of subversive, frat boy comedy under the National Lampoon banner belongs in print. And it takes a documentary film to hammer that point home.

Aside from a bevy of great early performances by the Lemmings comedy troupe (many would go on to SNL), and the Lampoon Comedy Hour radio bits (ditto), the rightful focus here is on the subversive comedic rag that morphed from the Harvard Lampoon back in 1970, to become the adult version of MAD magazine. Started and run by two ridiculously prolific smart asses Doug Kenney and Henry Beard, the monthly satire lowered acerbic taste levels to new found depths.

Buy this magazine or we'll shoot this dog. Check.

Hitler alive and on tropical vacation. Check.

If Ted Kennedy drove a Volkswagon he'd have been president. Check.

Taboo? What's that?

All great stuff here, and way too much for just one doc, so Tirola smartly zips through the obligatory John Belushi clips and focuses on mad genius creator Doug Kenney, whose story is crazier than anything he created in fiction. A Doug Kenney documentary (who?) would have bombed, so kudos for pulling a fast one.

Absolutely riveting.



whoa mule ... BACK UP TOP