Film Review: JAKE & JULIA (USA, Comedy)

JAKE & JULIA is a film for any kinky couple who decides to jump into the deep end of the sexual adventure pool without their floaty wings. During a one-night hotel stay, Jake and girlfriend Julia decide to throw caution to the wind and try to pick up a third for a sexy night of fun.

Problems arise almost instantly when the couple realizes they don’t really know how to get a third person, and decide to go the old-fashion way and pick someone up at the bar by the hotel.

What follows is a larger-than-life comedy about two quirky and authentically hilarious people, just trying to get laid and failing miserably. Until they wind up succeeding, that is. But sometimes getting exactly what you wish for isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The power behind JAKE & JULIA as a film, is a combination in strength of the writing (which is rapid-fire wit and charm) and the strength of the preformanances. Jake and Julia are independently quirky, lovable, awkward and each equally comically robust. The audience can instantly feel how the two of them are together, and they banter and charm gives the illusion of best friends who fell into becoming lovers.

And addictively funny film you can’t stop watching, JAKE & JULIA is sure to please.

PLAYED at the January 2018 Comedy/Drama Festival. 

Review by Kierston Drier

WATCH the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

JAKE & JULIA, 12min, USA, Comedy/Relationship
Directed by CJ ColandoDuring a one-night hotel stay, a young couple decide to pursue a spontaneous erotic fantasy.

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Film Review: TOO SOON? (UK, Comedy)

 A sharp witty comedy coming out of the UK, TOO SOON, directed by Natalie Neagle and Sally Samad, is a fun and political romp down the rabbit hole of politically correct law breaking.

When a young shopkeeper stops an Egyptian woman from shoplifting, the tables are turned with the rule-breaking breaks into a passionate breakdown of who really owns the bread. Is it the European store, or the country the bread came from- this lady’s country, she might add.

Humorously uncomfortable, gritty, witty and bright, TOO SOON must be commended on several key points. It boasts dazzling comedic performances from both actresses, has a smooth, glossy visual appeal and strikes very current in our modern age.

Perhaps another element of story that must be noted, is the efficiency of story. With one scene, approximately two shots and only three minutes, a full story is generated, complete with conflict, dramatic tension, comedy and a killer twist.

Well done, TOO SOON. A delight and savvy comic romp.

PLAYED at the January 2018 Comedy/Drama Festival. 

Review by Kierston Drier

WATCH the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

TOO SOON?, 3min., UK, Comedy
Directed by Natalie Neagle & Sally Samad

In this short, we see an awkward encounter in a supermarket car park as a new comedy duo take a satirical swipe at imperialism.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!


Film Review: MONOLITH (Italy 2016) ***1/2

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Monolith Poster
A mother and her son plan a surprise visit to Los Angeles to see her husband/his father. Halfway there they get into a terrible accident in the middle of nowhere and now must fight to survive.


Ivan Silvestrini


Elena Bucaccio (screenplay), Roberto Recchioni (story) |3 more credits »

MONOLITH is an effective thrilling Italian entertainer made for Sky Pictures.  Director Ivan Silverstrini loves and as well as knows how to tease his audience.

This, Silverstrini does at the start of the film.  The MONOLITH car is explained, a 4 by 4 all terrain vehicle that can self-drive and enter into armour mode.  The car is absolutely modern and protective but these features eventually cause deadly problems to Sandra. The car is so well explained that the film could pass off as a real documentary.  (The narration at the start:  With the MONOLITH, we introduce a car in the safest possible environment…). The film shifts gradually to horror mode.

The plot involves the safest car in the world turning into a death trap when Sandra (Katrina Bowden) and her son get into a car accident in the middle of  a scorching desert. With her son gets trapped inside a car known for being bullet-proof, Sandra must fight to save him.

Silverstrini plays with the background in many instances.  The first is observed when Sandra is video calling her husband and there is a knock on the door of the husband’s room.  The audience never sees who is at the husband’s door and the audience hopes of course he is not cheating on Sandra.  The person is never revealed.  Another has her toddler son suddenly gone missing after a stop at a convenience store.  She finds her son with three teens and pulls him apart from them scolding them.  In reality the teens picked the kid up from wandering outside the store.  “You are a bad mother,” quips one of them.  As it turns out, Sandra is quite the bad mother.  She also buys David a bag of marbles, and it is shown through the car’s rearview mirror that he is about to put one in his mouth.  Sandra also smokes causing David to cough and keep letting him play ‘turtle’ on her cell phone to keep him quite, though resulting in a disaster.  Yet she tries her best to be  good mother and husband.

It is also good to see a male director deal so well with a female protagonist, giving Sandra a strong character though not without weaknesses.  Bowden does a good job portraying the mother, down to a scantily  lad outfit because of the desert heat.  Silverstrini elicits a  fantastic performance from the young child actor playing the son.

For this modern vehicle, the special effects provided are quite cheesy yet enhance the film’s entertainment value.  The glowing ring, the tooting noises and the voice of ‘Lillith’ are hilarious.

The film’s genuinely scariest parts involve the car sliding backwards (the child locked inside) towards a cliff and the other with Sandra hiding underneath the vehicle with a hungry coyote looking for prey.

MONOLITH emerges as a very effective and satisfying low-budget film with a completely identifiable character with weaknesses that audiences can still root for.  The film proves that a little imagination can go a long way in making an entertaining thriller.



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Film Review: BIRDLAND (Canada 2017)

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Birdland Poster
An ex-cop whose marriage is on the rocks hides surveillance cameras in her home and watches her husbands transgressions, becoming a voyeur of her own life.


Peter Lynch


BIRDLAND is a heralded DGC (Directors Guild of Canada) film from DRG veteran Peter Lynch who made the successful ARROWHEAD and PROJECT GRIZZLY.  The special screening I attended was followed by an extensive Q and A session with director Lynch, his wife, the film’s editor, Caroline Christie and its production designer and Patricia Christie moderated by Canadian director Atom Egoyan.

Described by Lynch himself as a 60’s style European art movie, the film follows an ex-cop, Sheila Hood (Kathleen Munroe) whose marriage is on the rocks.  Sheila hides surveillance cameras in her home and watches her husband’s (David Alpay) transgressions, becoming a voyeur of her own life.  When the husband, Tom Kale is suspect for two murders, she is forced to question her motives.  The script by Lynch and Lee Gowan bring in current events of oil and fracking into the story.  If all this sound straight forward, the film isn’t.  Lynch’s film is very difficult to follow.  When asked about this, the reason given is to keep the audience on their toes.  But it seems more an excuse than anything else.

The film was shot in 6 weeks on a minuscule budget with $6,000 devoted to the production. It is therefore not surprising that the film looks so badly edited and confused.  To the production designer Patricia Christie’s credit and the Director of Photography, the film looks stylish and expensive.  Lynch apparently borrowed artwork from friends and filmed in a friend’s very expensive and plush apartment as well as at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Surveillance is the common thread in the story.  Human beings are seen as if living in a birdcage with all their actions observed.  The song BIRDCAGE is also performed a few times in the film.

BIRDLAND is too stylish and artsy for audiences to feel for the characters.  Besides the story being difficult to follow, the film requires full concentration.  Lynch in the film’s defence, said that it is necessary for the audience to get lost in the film.  The result is quite a few of the audience ‘politely’ leaving the theatre (including my guest) midway during the film.  Lynch says that the film should be watched at one go, maybe on a computer, something that very few directors ever say about their movie.

The plot leads nowhere.  Despite having the topic of surveillance on display, Lynch never leads the topic anywhere either, nor does the film contain any clear message on surveillance in the 21st century.  Lynch is also fond of repetitive scenes.  The one with Sheila looking up at he closed circuit cameras and tapping on the lens is one example.  Another is the one with a subway rider listening to her headphones before pressing the emergency stop break as a result of an accident (a victim thrown from the bridge on to the train.)

To the film’s credit, Lynch has made a film that looks expensive despite its low budget.  This is not enough a good reason for this terrible film.



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Midnight Return: The Story of Billy Hayes and Turkey Poster

The documentary, “Midnight Return” explores the enduring and emotional power of film as seen through the lens of the blockbuster success, “Midnight Express”.


An incredibly watchable movie because of is subject and also because it is derived from one of the most controversial films of all time, Alan Parker’s MIDNIGHT EXPRESS that was written by Oliver Stone.

MIDNIGHT EXPRESS is the slang for prison escape.  MIDNIGHT EXPRESS is the American extremely box-office successful prison drama that tells the real life prison escape of 23-year old American Billy Hayes from a Turkish prison in the 70’s.  Billy Hayes was jailed for smuggling a large amount of hashish across the Turkish border.  MIDNIGHT RETURN, which had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, explores the making of the cult classic Academy Award winning film MIDNIGHT EXPRESS as well as the international controversy it started with Turkey and the true story around Billy Hayes’ infamous imprisonment for drug smuggling.

Based on True events!  This does not mean that the film is 100% or even 50% true, as in the case of the film MIDNIGHT EXPRESS.  Hayes’ escape from prison was glorified while Turkey put down as one of the worst places in the world to live in. 

MIDNIGHT RETURN tackles three issues.  First is the life of the film’s real life hero Hayes, as he benefits from the riches from telling his story.  Second is the filmmakers’ points of view.  Writer Oliver Stone who won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay saw his career advanced by the film.  Director Alan Parker reveals that he and Stone never got along despite the film’s success.  The third issue is the Turks who have been shamed from the film, which has grown even more popular after Turkey protests.

It is advisable that one sees MIDNIGHT EXPRESS before (if not, at least after) watching the doc, so that the audience can get a good perspective of the issues in MIDNIGHT RETURN.

The doc features the real Billy Hayes in almost very scene.  Hayes loves the camera and is more than keen to tell is story, in the making of both the doc and in the original MIDNIGHT EXPRESS movie.  He puts a real person into the story and makes the film both believable and personal.  He is also quite a good-looker, very much like the actor Brad Davis (who died of AIDs in 1991) who portrayed him in the film.

To make her film more entertaining, director Sussman injects some insight and humour, especial in the making of the film.  It is revealed for one that the prosecutor apparently babbling at Hayes in the courtroom in what is assumed to be Turkish is not, but a combination of Turkish and other languages.  Parker said he wanted the effect that Hayes would be scared at not knowing what is happening to him in court, so whatever was said was immaterial.  Parker also reveals that no one had known that it was Hayes’ 4th attempt at smuggling drugs.  If it had been known, the film wold probably never had been made.

Sussman’s trails Hayes’ revisit to Turkey as the film’s climax.  In this, she reveals the inner personality of Hayes and what kind of man he is.   In the process, Sussman also demonstrates how life could be dramatically altered from a single event.  The film ends on a light note with Hayes describing how he got his medical marijuana license.

The insightful and entertaining MIDNIGHT RETURN: THE STORY OF BILLY HAYES AND TURKEY will be opening theatrically in Toronto on January 30th. 


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Film Review: HOLLOW IN THE LAND (Canada 2017) ***

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Hollow in the Land Poster

A woman with a troubled past sets out to find her missing brother.


Scooter Corkle


Written and directed by Scooter Corkle, this moody crime suspense thriller uses the backwoods of British Columbia as the new underbelly of the inner cities for the backdrop of the story.  The nearby town is a paper pulp town that prospered from the local timber industry.

When the film opens, a bar brawl has just taken place.  Brandon (Jared Abrahamson from HELLO DESTROYER) has to be bailed out of jail by his sister, Alison (Dianna Agron).  Alison tells him that she has had enough and cannot keep doing this, while Brandon claims he is doing his best.  This no win situation gets worse, when Brandon gets caught, in what has been described by the unsympathetic local sheriff (Michael Rogers) ‘in a mid-fuck’ by his girl’s father, whose body has just been found.  Brandon, who is now chief suspect goes missing.

Alison is not a liked character in the local town.  She is known to be having a same-sex relationship with Brandon’s girl’s mother.  Whether the lesbian relationship is necessary in the story is questionable, as there is enough already going on in the film.

If the story all sounds quite straight forward, the story is actually quite difficult to follow in the film.  For one, it is only a third through the film that it is revealed that Alison is Brandon’s elder sister. It is natural to assume that Alison is Brandon’s mother at the start.  It is then confusing if the affair Alison is having is with the girl’s mother or maybe the girl’s sister.  Other identities are also blurred.  One wonders if it is the intention of writer/director Corkle to keep the audience on their toes to decipher the story or if it is unintentional.  The time setting of the story is also left unclear.  There are clearly no cell hones used at all in the film, but one could argue that no one needs one in the backwoods.

Though HOLLOW IN THE LAND is a nitty gritty drama set in a male dominated town, it is more of a feminist film. Corkle is a Not only is the protagonist female, but the story leans towards the female in more ways that one – including the lesbian relationship and all the other strong female characters, which is good given the way females are so less represented these days in film.  (The director Corkle is male.)  But that does not mean that all the male characters have to be weak ones, like the characters of Brandon and their father (who is ono shown at the end, of the film, with one tooth missing.)

To director Corkle’s credit, the atmosphere of dread, terror and suspicion are effectively created in the moody film.  The audience is also kept on their toes from start to end, and the film builds to a satisfactory climax.  It also helps that Agron delivers a power-packed performance as the reluctant heroine.

HOLLOW IN THE LAND ends up a better than average atmospheric thriller with well developed characters that the director makes sure the audience cares for.


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Film Review: JUST CHARLIE (UK 2017

Just Charlie Poster
Football star Charlie is a girl trapped in the body of a boy. Rejected by her Father and teammates will she ever play football again?


Rebekah Fortune


Peter Machen

Film Review: BADSVILLE (USA/Canada 2016)

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Badsville Poster
A violent greaser gang is ripped apart when their leader finds love and is determined to leave Badsville – a town where love doesn’t exist.


April Mullen


BADSVILLE is about bad people in the town of Dodge.  The main character is a scary gang leader called Wink (Ian McLaren) whose mother has succumbed to cancer.  The mother makes Wink promise to leave town as it is a bad town.  Never mind a lot of the badness is Wink’s own doing.  With gang members like his (The Badsville Kings) especially his best friend Benny (Benjamin Barrett), who needs enemies?

The Badsville Kings enemy is the rival gang called the Badsville Aces, made even nastier by that gang leader’s father (Robert Knepper).

There is not much story in BADSVILLE.  It is a heart-felt gangster drama with older gang members that still behave like teens.  They try to let go of the past which somehow keeps creeping back into their lives.  Wink meets and falls in love with a local girl Suzy (Tamara Duarte).  The pleasure of the film is the film’s nitty atmosphere and watching the shady characters destroy each other.  Note that the film is no easy watch.  Most of the make-up in the film consists of doing faces with dried blood and fight scars.  The time of the film is not stated, but there are no cell phones, so one can likely say the film is set in the 60’s or 50’s.

The film contains a lot of anger.  One scene has Wink siting in his car banging the steering wheel and the roof for a full 2 minutes.  If not anger, the characters are wallowing in self-pity.  Wink’s girl spends time explaining how she should be felt sorry for with her sob story of her mother and drunken step-father.  Not that the audience really cares or made to care.

The real mystery of the film is why Will just doesn’t just leave town instead of just moping about it.  Just do it!  

If Will and his Badsville Kings gang are not beating each other up, they are either bashing up other gang members or fucking their girlfriends.

One of the film’s flaws is the main character, Will which the audience is supposed to be sympathetic with.  But the actor playing him is 59, and really creepy looking with slick hair, an over-wide smile and tattooed fingers, besides having a good body.

BADSVILLE also contains dialogue that is corny at best.  Wink to Little Cat: “I made a promise, we have to keep promises.  I want you to make a promise.  To Leave Town!  There is no love in this town.”

The plus in this film has is its nitty-gritty atmosphere.  BADSVILLE is a male dominated world where violence, sex and hate persists.  It is surprising that the film was directed by a female, April Mullen (BELOW HER MOUTH, REAL DETECTIVE) – to her credit!  Despite it being a Canadian/American co-production, the film was shot largely in L.A. and in the U.S.



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La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes Poster


Chosen as this year’s Canada’s Top 10 films of the Year, the Quebecois film LA PETITE FILLE QUI AIMAIT TROP LES ALLUMETTES receives a deserved run this weekend at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.  It is a strangest of all the 10 films and rightly so because the novel (by Gaétan Soucy) it is based on is indeed a strange one. This novel was chosen for inclusion in the French version of Canada Reads, broadcast on Radio-Canada in 2004, where it was championed by actor, film director, screenwriter, and musician Micheline Lanctôt.

The story is about two siblings who live in complete isolation with their father. They are both his “sons”.  One day the father kills himself by hanging and his sons decide one of them needs to go to the nearby village to get a coffin.  While in the village it is unveiled that the one son is actually a female although she has no idea of that (she has no idea of sexuality and thinks she was castrated when she was very young and that is why she doesn’t have testicles). It also become apparent she has been being used for sex by her brother and eventually becomes pregnant with child.

The film takes certain liberties with the novel and director Lavoie changes a few things to make it more believable.  Lavoie lets the audience know from the beginning that one of the siblings is a girl and not a boy.  This is a wise decision as the actress playing the part looks more feminine than masculine despite the male clothes and short hair.  The father only hangs himself at the 30 minute mark of the film.  The evil things that go on are revealed while the father is alive while he has a part to play in them.  In the book the girl thinks she was castrated while in the film, she is told by her father that her pee-pee dropped off when she was a child.  Her Prince Charming in the film is a land surveyor for the government and not a mine inspector.

The story is a dark one.  Twists in the plot show up every 15 minutes or so, and they are not for the better.  But the girl is strong willed and able to resist her brother, the villagers and her unknown fears.

The film is even creepier with the existence of the unknown monster kept in the shack outside the main house.  Who or what is this creature?  Director Lavoie teases the audience, led to believe at first that it would be the siblings’ mother. 

The film is a worthy and well plotted adaptation of the novel.  Wisely shot in black and white with choral music in the soundtrack to give the film a Gothic look, the film captures both the creepiness and innocence of the girl in the story.  A  disturbing film undoubtedly due to its theme, but indeed a Top 10 Canadian film of the year! 


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Film Review: FOREVER MY GIRL (USA 2018)

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Forever My Girl Poster

After being gone for a decade a country star returns home to the love he left behind.


Bethany Ashton Wolf (screenplay), Heidi McLaughlin (novel)


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