Film Review: MA VIE AVEC JAMES DEAN (My Life With James Dean) (France 2017) ***


My Life with James Dean Poster
Invited to present his first feature film “My life with James Dean” in Normandy, the young director Géraud Champreux has no idea this film tour is about to change his life. From wild …See full summary »


Dominique Choisy


The first thing to note about MY LIFE ABOUT JAMES DEAN is that there is no James Dean in this movie.  He does no appear in the film (except in a poster and a cut up figure in a dream sequence) or is this an American film.  MA VIE AVEC JAMES DEAN is the title of the fictitious French film that the director brings to a small town in picturesque Normandy.

When soft-spoken film director Géraud Champreux (Johnny Rasse) arrives on France’s Normandy coast for screenings of his latest art-house movie, there’s nobody there to greet him.  But he somehow manages to attract a motley crew of locals who bring their own drama along on his little tour.

There is the cinema projectionist (Mickaël Pelissier) who falls besides coming out for 

Géraud.  Nathalie Richard plays a lovelorn cineaste who is supped to organize the event but falls apart when her fame lover god with a man instead.

The film contains some quirky insights common to French films.  “Love is a burden, I hate being in love,” says the woman who organizes the film event.  But that makes life exciting, is Géraud’s retort.  She likens love to getting gum stuck on the sole of ones shoe and continues that there are hundred of gums on the street.  One scene later on shows a woman walking along the street trying to get the gum off her shoe.

Choisy’s film is also typical of the old gay films that teases with promising gay love or gay sex.  The audience gets a first glimpse of Géraud without his shirt on – displaying a nice chiseled upper body.  Later when he is drunk, the female hotel receptionist and male projectionist take off his clothes to let him sleep (as he is dead drunk) in his underwear.  Thee is also a nice shot of the projectionist and Géraud in one frame as they watch his film through the projectionist’s window, a gay film where two naked men indulge in the act of sex.

Choisy plays his film with Kafka-ish touches.   Géraud asks a resident where the Hotel de Calais is, right outside the hotel.  The hotel receptionist tells him that there is no working telephone in room 5 in which he is put in.  She then gives him the hotel telephone from under the counter.  A resident Géraud first meets when he enters a bar speaks with fish metaphors.

Choisy’s film is a small production, very much like the film Géraud has brought to Normandy.  It is well made and well-though through and immensely entertaining in its own odd way.  It still shows the freshness of first love and coming-out.

One segment that occurs out of nowhere has a band in the night outdoors performing a song with spectators all sporting sunglasses.  The scene is reminiscent of Aki Kaurismaki’s films where bands often perform and his characters often wear shades.  One wonders if Choisy is paying a bit of homage to Kaurismaki considering that quite a bit of the humour is deadpan.  The film could also be considered a nod to the Woody Allen classic PLAY IT AGAIN SAM  where Humphrey Bogart nudges Allen’s character towards romance, in which case it is James Dean 

nudging the projectionist on with his love or Géraud.

MA VIE AVEC JAMES DEAN is an entertaining sweet little quirky gay comedy with likeable characters with sufficient inventiveness to make it a good watch.


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TIFF 2018 Review: SHARKWATER EXTINCTION (Canada 2018) ***

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Sharkwater Extinction Poster

Discovering that sharks are being hunted to extinction, and with them the destruction of our life support system – activist and filmmaker Rob Stewart embarks on a dangerous quest to stop … See full summary »


Rob Stewart


Rob Stewart


SHARKWATER EXTINCTION is the follow-up of the 2006 documentary SHARKWATER that filmmaker, marine biologist and shark lover championed to convince the world not to eat sharksfin soup.  Sharks have been killed just for their fins.  

According to this new doc, sharks are now killed for a variety of other reasons, thus diminishing the shark population to dangerous extinction levels.  Writer/director Stewart takes his film to Costa Rica, Cape Verde, the Bahamas, Panama, and the US to explore the myriad of ways sharks continue to be in peril.  

Stewart’s aim in the film is clearly twofold: to shock the audience and also to educate them to want to be a fighter for the environment.  The film is not as good as the first but is still moving in its effectiveness.  As most of the world knows by now, the Toronto filmmaker was missing in January 2017 during a dive, making this film his sweet swan song. 

 One can admire the hero for his dedication to the preservation of sharks that eventually took his life.



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Film Review: THE LITTLE STRANGER (UK/ France 2018)


The Little Stranger Poster

After a doctor is called to visit a crumbling manor, strange things begin to occur.


Lenny Abrahamson


Lucinda CoxonSarah Waters (novel)

THE LITTLE STRANGER is a gothic supernatural horror drama directed by Lenny Abrahamson (best known for the sleeper-hit HOUSE) and written by Lucinda Coxon, based on the novel of same name by Sarah Waters.   THE LITTLE STRANGER is a different type of sleeper – one of the slowest moving films of the year a sort of THE SLOW AND THE FURIOUS.

The subject of the film is Dr. Faraday,  As a small boy, he was fascinated by Hundreds Hall, even stooping so low then, to stealing while entering the grounds.  Grown up now, Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) is a country doctor.   During the summer of 1947, he tends to a patient at Hundreds Hall, where his mother once worked as a housemaid.   The Hall, which has fallen into decline, is home to Mrs. Ayres (Charlotte Rampling) and her two children, Caroline (Ruth Wilson) and Roddy.   After taking on the new patient, Dr. Faraday finds the Ayres family’s story will soon become entwined with his own.  ‘The house does not like us.’

Director Abrahamson appears fascinated with the English countryside, thus making it his priority to create atmosphere instead of gothic mood.  The scenes are often dimly lit with natural light, and he is fond of scenes set during dawn when the sun first begins to appear.  If there is light in the house, it is usually in the background, so that the figures in his images are only often silhouetted.  All this is fine as the film looks great, thanks to his cinematographer.  But with atmosphere, the film is stuck in the mire of looks, as if unable to burst it out of the story it so wishes to tell.

The film feels at many times wanting to burst back into the past through flashback but only seldom does.  Most of the part is revealed through dialogue and musings.

Characters come and go as fleeting as the morning dew.  The film could see more of the story’s most interesting character, Roderick (Will Poulter), the facially disfigured war veteran being treated by Faraday for PTSD symptoms.  Not much is revealed of Carolyn’s sister or the origins of the dark forces that could be inhabiting Hundreds Halls.   Roderick mysteriously disappears after a third through the film.  Though set two years after World War II, nothing is ever mentioned of the war, safe for the Roderick character.

The feeling of ‘it could be or it could not be supernatural” is always sustained.  In many films, this tactic creates more mystery but in this film, it creates more annoyance with the feeling of indecision as to where the film is heading to.

Gleeson as Dr.Faraday appears stoic and sleeping walking through his role.  Rampling does her usual ‘there is something odd about this woman’ character.  The romance between Faraday and Carolyn unfolds so slowly, it feels non-existent, though one might argue that that was the purpose in mind.

For the few scary or death scenes, the audience is always warned that something is  going to go wrong from the dialogue.  “What can happen in the nursery?”  or “There is something in the house that frightens me.”

THE LITTLE STRANGER ends up with more period gothic atmosphere than genuine scares.


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 The FIC AUTOR (Author’s International Film Festival) is interested in unique and artistic films that exceed the limits of traditional storytelling. We look for Feature and Short Films that reflect the director’s personal creative vision, and a style that is distinct enough to shine through the collective process.

We don’t care if your films have recognized stars or unknown names; we are against the politics and bureaucracy that floods the film industry. We want to be recognized as an objective festival. We don’t want to build our reputation based on how many superstars are in attendance; what we want is the truly best world cinema in our theaters!

The 2nd edition of the FIC AUTOR will take place from November 13 to 17, 2018 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, México and Tequila Jalisco. We will present the very best films from around the world, and workshops and Master class for filmmakers and students who want to perfect their craft. FIC AUTOR will strive to be one of the most important cultural events in the city. We aspire to become an international spotlight for new directors!

Our first edition included the world premieres of “Brooklyn Roses” and “Nowhere Mind,” as well as the start of a tight-knit and talented filmmaking community. We held our closing festivities and a well-received outdoor screening of “Brooklyn Roses” in Tequila, about an hour outside of Guadalajara. The filmmakers enjoyed a few of the town’s tequila distillery tours, which includes more than a few tastings…

-The 13 winning Authors will receive the WINNER LAUREL, plus FIC AUTOR trophy or rings and sponsor’s prizes.
-WINNERS will be announced one month before the award ceremony, so all the nominated filmmakers can decide beforehand whether they want to travel to the festival.
-The award ceremony will take place in the CINEFORO the Saturday 15 November, 2018. The Cineforo is one of the biggest cinema theaters in the city with 440 seats, and is the most prestigious.

We are not like other bulls**t festivals, YOU DONT have to pay for your prize. IT’S A PRIZE, NOT A DEBT! And we don’t give metal or glass trophies… Our trophies are 100% made from silver and semi-precious stones! As independent filmmakers we know the things we love and hate about film festivals, so we want to avoid all the negative things we have found the in past years, such as exorbitant, unnecessary fees, teenage judges and of course.. trophies you would rather hide in the closet.


Submit to the Thunderdance Film Festival

Thunderdance film festival is a bi-annual event set in the heart of East London and the Dalston area. Winning films will be screened in local cinemas and followed by meet and greets/afterparties. Thunderdance is a festival for the ultimate in new wave London film culture.



    Actor – Blade Runner, Hobo with a Shotgun.

    Director – Game of Thrones, Band Of Brothers.

    Producer – ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ ‘The Taking of Pelham 123’ ‘Armageddon’ ‘Bad Boys II’.

    Actor – ‘James Bond’ ‘Resident Evil’ ‘Alien vs. Predator’.

    Beauty Director of Conde Nast International.

    Owner of Wizzo DOP representatives.

    Director – ‘Goal III’ ‘Highlander III’ ‘Guns N’ Roses: Bad Apples’ ‘Murder In Mind’.

    Fashion and art world influencer.

    Global Executive Producer of Great Guns.

Film Review: CARDINALS (Canada 2016) ***1/2

Cardinals Poster

When Valerie returns home from prison years after killing her neighbour in an apparent drunk driving accident, she wants nothing more than to move on – until the deceased’s son shows up at … See full summary »


Grayson Moore


CARDINALS is a thoroughly enjoyable dry comedy/suspense drama written by Grayson Moore and and directed by him and Aidan Shipley, both Toronto’s Ryerson University graduates.  It stars Sheila McCarthy who is always ever so good in movies like these, since she shot to fame in Patricia Rozema’s I’VE HEARD THE MERMAIDS SINGING.  McCarthy plays a mother, Valerie just out of prison from a drunken driving crime that killed her neighbour.  She is so good in CARDINALS that one cannot get enough of her.

The film is a bit disorienting.  For many a segment, it begins blurry with the audience not knowing what is going on.  For example, one scene starts with two women talking in a car before it is revealed that they are Valerie’s two daughters.  Another begins with a male visiting Valerie’s house before the male is revealed to be Valerie’s husband.  Moore’s script requires the audience to concentrate on the film, often providing surprises that titillate the senses.  It is recommended that the film be watched in its entirety in a cinema or if watched at home, without any interruptions.  The flow of the film’s narrative should not be interrupted.

One has to love the dialogue.  Wants what’s best for your mother.  Not so easy when your mother is just out of prison.  Example is the daughter to mother conversation when Valerie is just out of prison and the daughter wants the mother to make a few friends again.  “Did she suggest going out or did you?”  “She called and asked when you were coming out.” “Then she suggested.”  “How do you know I want to see her?”  Valerie is smart talking all the way and knows what she wants, likely that she had a decade in prison to plan what she was going to do when she got out.

As if the film is not without sufficient surprises (a good thing of course), the directors insert a spring swan parade that Valerie attends out of the blue.  Apart for the weird exhibits and odd swan hats and attire, the attendees wear it is snowing in the open.  These quirky and other highly original scenes distinguish and make Moore and Shipley’s film their own, creating a unique personality that is impossible to copy.

The role of Valerie’s parole officer is brilliantly written.  Though he is shown as a kind of asshole, he does make valid points and observations contributing to the story.  All this is evident in the scene where he mediates a meeting between Valerie and  (Noah Reid), the son of the man Valerie ran over.

As the film goes on, it becomes apparent all the incidents are not what they seem.  A flashback shows Valerie opening a bottle in the car to have a drink after she had hit the neighbour.   She enquires if her friend, Wendy who worked at the plant told the reason she had left weeks after Valerie went to prison.  Something is afoot and directors Moore and Shiokey piques the interest of the audience like a true Hitchcock suspensor.

CARDINALS remains one of the quirkily films Canadian directors used to churn out in the 80’s like Atom Agoyan, Patricia Rozema, Guy Madden and others.  One can hardly wait to see Moore and Shipley’s next project.  And stay for the closing credits to listen to the sweet little creepy song.


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TIFF 2018 Review: TITO AND THE BIRDS (Tito e os Pássaros)(Brazil 2018) ***

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Tito and the Birds Poster


Eduardo Benaim (screenwriter), Gustavo Steinberg(screenwriter)

From Brazil and in Portuguese comes an unusual animation fantasy TITO AND THE BIRDS, created using oil paintings, digital drawings, and graphic animation.  The story concerns a young boy Tito who with his two friends, Sarah and big eyed Buiú set out on a mission to find his father’s missing research on bird songs — the one thing that just might save their world from an epidemic where being afraid makes you ill.  

As explained by Tito’s father the only thing to fear is fear itself and he invents a therapy bird machine that explodes with Tito inured.  Father is banished by the mother and disappears.   It is clear that the filmmakers imitate Disney’s features with its family story and attention to charm. 

 The metaphor of fear and disease is emphasized a bit too much which also will not be appreciated by the younger audience.  What stands out in this feature is the stunning oil colouring.




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TIFF 2018 Review: STYX (Germany/Austria 2018) ***

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Styx Poster
“Styx” depicts the transformation of a strong woman torn from her contented world during a sailing trip. When she becomes the only person to come to the aid of a group of refugees …See full summary »


Wolfgang Fischer

In Greek mythology STYX is the river that separates the human world from the underworld.  Wolfgang Fischer’s second feature, STYX, begins with a well filmed night accident in Gibraltar where an emergency doctor comes to the rescue.  This doctor is the film’s subject. Rike (Susanne Wolff) leaves for on a solo voyage across the Atlantic (reason not given).   

She decides to take on the high seas with her 12-metre yacht but gets more then she bargained for.  She encounters a monster storm followed by a mammoth human decision on a moral scale as to what to do when she encounters a sinking refugee ship.  

Not much story and with minimal dialogue so that the film lags a little, but still occasionally full of emotional impact, STYX is magnificently shot with stunning cinematography by Benedict Neuenfelsthat that will leave one spellbound.  The night storm scene demands mention.



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TIFF 2018 Review: SEARCHING FOR INGMAR BERGMAN (Germany/France 2018) ****

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Searching for Ingmar Bergman Poster
Internationally renowned director Margarethe von Trotta takes a closer look at Bergman’s life and work and explores his film legacy with Bergman’s closest collaborators, both in front and …See full summary »


Margarethe von Trotta (concept), Felix Moeller (concept)


German director Magareth von Trotta pays tribute to Swedish director Ingmar Bergman in honour of the centennial of his birth. Margarethe von Trotta presents a detailed account of his life and his impact on filmmaking through excerpts of his work and interviews with family and contemporaries (Olivier Assyas, Mia Hansen-Love, Ruben Ostlund). 

 Her film begins with a segment of THE SEVENTH SEAL with actor Max Von Sydow and explanation of each shot in detail.  Many of his other films are also displayed  and put into perspective by actresses like Liv Ulmann who speak fondly of the man.  His thoughts and inability to love his own children are also revealed.  The film whets the appetite for watching Bergman films, a retrospective of the Master’s work that will be presented by TIFF Cinematheque this fall.  

Extremely insightful and a  treasure for cineastes!  Von Trotta’s own film THE GERMAN SISTERS was selected by Bergman as one of his favourite films.


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TIFF 2018 Review: MARIA BY CALLAS (France 2018) ***

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Maria by Callas Poster
An intimate look at the life and work of Greek-American opera singer, Maria Callas, as told in her own words.


Tom Volf


Tom Volf ‘s MARIA BY CALLAS offers fresh insights into one of the great talents of the 20th century via recently rediscovered writings and interviews with the Greek-American soprano.  Maria Callas has been praised by many as the greatest singer of the century.  Callas was born and bred in New York City though many think she is of Italian or European origin.  

The film is comprised of beautifully restored archival footage with her own words from her letters and writings as narrated by American opera singer Joyce DiDonato.   The Greek-American soprano rose to fame after World War II and became a star attraction in all the major opera houses. This film offers fresh insights into her public and private lives, especially her long-time romance with Aristotle Onassis, the affair that made headlines as both were still married at the time.  Callas’s music is obviously paramount in the film.

  The film’s real treat is Callas’ complete performances of the arias from the operas Norma, La Traviata, Carmen, and Tosca.  Also insightful and funny is the footage of the David Frost interview with Callas telling Frost, “If someone really tries to listen to me, he will find all myself there.” 

 The doc feels longer than its running time and could have been edited to a tighter 90 minutes.


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