Film Review: SWEET YOYO

This 18 minute Canadian Film is a gut wrencher in the best possible way. Perpetually exhausted single mother Hannah has her life turned upside down when her nine year old daughter Yoyo is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Getting a crash course head-first into the confusing and terrifying world of managing a chronic and life-long condition, Hannah and Yoyo need to figure out together how to work around the hurdles of childhood- a challenge made all the harder by Hannah’s fear of needles.

The film is exceptionally well shot, boasting a glossy and gorgeous production value. Moreover, the performances of both mother and daughter are excellent. What is superb about this work is the combination of performances and writing.

The performance behind Hannah’s character is strong and compelling- the audience believes the burning sheer force of will that is a mother’s love for their child. The lines ring clear with truth and are matched in intensity by the performances and the show’s production quality.

SWEET YOYO is a poignant and beautiful example of striking Canadian cinema.

Review by Kierston Drier

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

SWEET YOYO, 18min., Canada, Family/Drama
Directed by Mark Cira

Nine-year-old Yoyo must confront the reality of being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes with her single mother Hannah.

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Film Review: JOYA MIA

A bright an innocent look at the heartbreaking illness of Alzheimer’s, through the eyes of a granddaughter. JOYA MIA is, astonishingly, written and directed by the young filmmaker Ella Warner.

It recounts a close-to-the-heart tale of young Julia, who witnesses the decline of her grandfather’s faculties as she grows into adulthood.

JOYA MIA is packed full of heart and emotion, and a special nod much be given to the directorial chops of this young filmmaker. The emotion of the familial relationships in the work is clear and easily accessible any audience. The truth and tragedy are easy to feel and the performances convey authenticity and honesty.

Ella Warner is a name we should watch, the dedication is takes to make a film is nothing to be overlooked. A talent on the rise.


Review by Kierston Drier

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

JOYA MIA, 5min., USA, Family/Drama
Directed by Ella Warner

The prompt for this film was “ever since that day, things will never be the same”. The story of a girl, Julia, and her grandfather. Julia grows up with a fierce bond with her grandfather, and as she gets older, so does he – and his memory is disappearing. One day he sees Julia as a complete stranger, and that devastates her, and must learn how to cope the best way she can.

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A 13 minute animated joy-ride, THE LEGEND OF RASPUTIN is full to bursting with cinematic delight. Following the historical (yet often apocryphal) account of the life of Raspuntin, mystic, healer and prophet to the Russian Elite during the final days of reigning Tzar, this is a film that is boasts exceptional quality.

The story of Rasputin larger than life on it’s own- but director Jamie Shannon puts a highly colorful spin on the already roller-coaster tale. There is bright, raucous humor weaved into the story that is satisfying to all ages- side-long jokes (both verbal and visual) will have the older viewers chuckling, while the modernized tone and other-wordly style of production design will delight younger audience members.

The writing is wickedly sharp, and the action tight, but a special note must be given to the design. THE LEGEND OF RASPUTIN is done with puppetry- a style rarely seen in the age of animated CGI. The effect of puppetry in this show gives the work a look and feel rather like the youth-aimed films Henry Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach) or Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Corpse Bride).

What is perhaps most compelling about this short, is how clear the director’s vision is- every detail is carefully crafted and the result is a lovingly enjoyable, historical (yet satirical) look at a fascinating life. A film worthy of attention!

Review by Kierston Drier

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

THE LEGEND OF RASPUTIN, 13min., Canada, Family/Animation
Directed by Jamie Shannon

Mystic, prophet, healer, love-god – Grigori Rasputin’s unique talents bring him to St. Petersburg’s luxurious Winter Palace to heal the dying Prince Alexei, heir to the throne, in the waning days of Tsarist rule. When Rasputin succeeds, he becomes spiritual aid to the royal family, and infamous national celebrity to a public that is becoming increasingly critical of its rulers.

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

Film Review: MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT (USA 2018) ***1/2

Mission: Impossible - Fallout Poster
Ethan Hunt and his IMF team, along with some familiar allies, race against time after a mission gone wrong.


Christopher McQuarrieBruce Geller (television series)

The 6th instalment and touted last of the Mission Impossible franchise sees Tom Cruise reprise his role as IMF’s Ethan Hunt who went rogue in the last film and getting into more trouble in this one.  Christopher McQuarrie, a veteran of action picks as in MI: ROGUE, X-MEN, THE MUMMY and the two Tom Cruise JACK REACHER films, writes and directs FALLOUT, a non-stop series of action setups punctuated by a forgettable story line or one that does not really matter.  It thus plays like a James Bond movie, which is a good thing, as success at the box-office has proven.

Cruise is back, though looking more his age.  No nude or even upper body shots of the actor who is now 55 years of age, but still hunky-looking as a true action star.  He still has the chops.  His crew is back which includes Luther (Ving Rhames) and technical field agent, Benji Simon Pegg), the new IMP Secretary Hunley (Alec Baldwin) and new director of the CIA, Erica (Angela Bassett).  New to the cast is Superman Henry Cavill in the odd role of August Walker, a CIA agent who is initially on Ethan’s side then sanctioned to kill him.

When the film begins, an IMF mission ends badly and villain Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) escapes custody, the world is faced with dire consequences.  McQuarrie allows the villain 5 minutes to deliver his spill on terrorism, which is funny and somewhat logical in a twisted sort of way.  As Ethan Hunt takes it upon himself to fulfill his original briefing, the CIA begins to question his loyalty and his motives.  Hunt finds himself in a race against time, hunted by assassins and former allies while trying to prevent a global catastrophe.  Like most action films, the world needs saving, and just in the nick of time (James Bond in 007 seconds, Ethan Hunt in just one) by the film’s titular hero.

The skydiving sequence at the film’s start is a real nail-biter though this one is topped.  The fight scenes are violent, fast and well executed like the one in a club toilet.  The only credibility point is the few people in it.  At a typical packed club, the toilet is always full with customers lining up for the stalls, urinals, right up to its entrance.  There is a bike chase with Hunt on a motorcycle again, though not on a bright red Ducati as in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2.  This one has Hunt unable to start his bike, starting only in the nick of time when the cops show up, an excuse for another chase.  Just as one might think McQuarrie has run out of ideas, he comes up with one of the most inventive and exciting climax in an action film ever.  Though the film runs a lengthy 147 minutes, the extended action sequence with Hunt and Walker battling it out on a  perfectly smooth vertical rock face after their helicopters crash into each other is nothing short of amazing.  The sequence also shows how difficult it is to climb up a taut tight rope (to the helicopter).  Added to the thrills is suspense as Hunt has to retrieve a detonator as his team dismantle two bombs simultaneously.  It is an impossible task.  The film emphasizes this, but one has to remember that this is, after all, a Mission Impossible film. 

A solid actioner that should leave MI fans wanting for more.  Maybe one more really last MI film in the franchise.


Film Review: THE BLEEDING EDGE (USA 2018) ****

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The Bleeding Edge Poster

A look at the unforeseen consequences of advanced technological devices used in the medical field.


Kirby Dick


THE BLEEDING EDGE is a Netflix original documentary that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and will launch globally on Netflix this week. Co-written and directed by Kirby Dick, this is another of the docs that he specializes in – the expose doc.  In THE INVISIBLE WAR and THE HUNTING GROUND, he exposed the military and university campuses for female abuse.  His target this time around is the medical industry – narrowed down to medical devices.

The film begins with praises in the technological health care system.  From ultrasound before birth, to health testing of delivered babies to adults, devices have aided human beings in their health monitoring.  A talking head Jeanne Lenzer with the title on the screen ‘The danger Within Us’ adds her praise.  Those familiar with director Dick’s films, know that he is priming the audience to take the bait.  America has the most technologically advanced health care system in the world.  Dick bang-on reveals that medical interventions have become the third leading cause of death, and the overwhelming majority of high-risk implanted devices never require a single clinical trial.  With his producer/writer film partner Amy Ziering, they turn their sights on the $400 billion medical device industry, examining lax regulations, corporate cover-ups, and profit driven incentives that put patients at risk daily.  Weaving emotionally powerful stories of people whose lives have been irrevocably harmed, the film asks: what life-saving technologies may actually be killing us?  Dick covers the FDA, the government agency that approves medical devices and exposes the defect in the system.

Dick finally narrows down his film, systematically to a few targets – hip replacement devices and hence, the hip replacement companies; the metal tube inserted into the women by  the company ESSURE to prevent pregnancies.  His whistle blower is Dr. Stephen Towers who not only has a medical practice but a hip replacement.  After trashing his hotel room one day, a result of chrome poisoning (the metal was discovered in his blood after blood tests) from his medical devices in his hip poising his body including the brain, he gets the device removed only to miraculously discover all his previous pain and ailments disappeared.  The two main organizations targeted are Johnson and Johnson and the agency, the FDA.  

Essure is indicated for women who desire permanent birth control (female sterilization) by bilateral occlusion of the fallopian tubes.  Essure is currently no longer available in Canada.  It is still available in the United States.

The ultimate question asked is whether the risk of medical devices is worth the benefits reaped from them.  Dick’s answer is a clear no but leaves the audiences to make an educational decision given the relevant facts.

Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering have given audiences another disturbing but entertaining and cautionary winner.  The film ends with guidelines to follow for anyone considering medical implants.



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Film Review: SHOCK AND AWE (USA 2017) ***

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Shock and Awe Poster

A group of journalists covering George Bush’s planned invasion of Iraq in 2003 are skeptical of the president’s claim that Saddam Hussein has “weapons of mass destruction.”


Rob Reiner


As the film title might imply, the fictionalized events of a true story is intended to shock and awe.   But the title of the film, SHOCK AND AWE (technically known as rapid dominance) is a military tactic based on the use of overwhelming power and spectacular displays of force to paralyze the enemy’s perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight.  This doctrine was applied by the United States in the Iraqi invasion

The film, based on a true story (that it proudly declares at the start of the film) is an account of the journalists investigating the assertions by the Bush Administration concerning Saddam Hussein’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction as an excuse for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.   Two determined reporters, Jonathan Landay (Woody Harrelson) and Warren Stroebel (James Marsden), their boss, John Walcott (Rob Reiner), and war correspondent, Joe Galloway (Tommy Lee Jones), lift the lid on abuse of power at its highest level and expose the truth about what led us into the longest and costliest war in American history.  

Written by Joey Hartstone and directed by Rob Reiner (A FEW GOOD MEN, LBJ, THE PRINCESS BRIDE), SHOCK AND AWE is unfortunately no ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN.  Part of the reason appears to be the writer and director’s over eagerness to please.  This means getting the blood of the audiences riling with anger at the injustices done to both the American people and Iraq.  The dialogue is always full of one-liners and punch ones with insults frequently thrown at the guilty (Donald Rumsfeld is called ‘looney tunes’) for the pleasure of the audience.  

But the script distracts with the female presence, no doubt put in to entice female audiences to see the film.  Warren’s romantic fling with neighbour, Lisa (Jessica Biel) leads nowhere as does Jonathan’s wife, Vlatka’s (Milla Jovovich) objections to the danger her husband might have got himself into.

In the words of Joe Galloway, When the government fucks up, the soldiers pay the price.  This is illustrated by the story of a black soldier put into the story.   Adam (Luke Tennie), has his spinal cord severed in an explosion just three hours after he landed in Iraq.  The incident is emphasized on the day Adam enlists to what he believes, in serving the country. His angry mother points out that he does not even know where Afghanistan and he wants to travel there to fight.  And worse still in a war that is lied about by the Bush Administration.  The film poses the question as to who is the most detestable U.S. President in history.   It would be a tough fight with George W. Bush as the frontrunner. 

Director Reiner gives himself, playing Journalist Night Ridder chief, John Walcott the best role and the best lines.  “Bossman got balls!”  Warren tells Jonathan at one point in the film.  And “We don’t write for people that send other people’s kids to war!” says Walcott angrily – another best line.

Reiner’s film achieves its purpose in whistle blowing the Bush Administration and with shock and disgust rather than awe.  In being more entertaining, the film loses a little of its dramatic effectiveness though audiences should not be complaining.


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Festival Reviews

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Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood Poster
2:30 | Trailer
A portrait of unsung Hollywood legend Scotty Bowers, whose bestselling memoir chronicled his decades spent as sexual procurer to the stars.


Matt Tyrnauer

Many have not heard of Scotty Bowers.  Who is this man and why is it that important for a whole documentary be devoted to him?

Director Matt Tyrnauer’s (VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR) begins his doc with a grand introduction of Scotty Bowers.  He is celebrating his 90th birthday.  His rise to fame is attributed to the gas station he operated that served escorts to a host of Hollywood stars.  Everyone loves a scandal.  Stephen Fry interviewed admits:  “Scotty only made these Hollywood stars real by giving them what they want.”  

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