Film Review: PAPILLON (USA 2017) ***1/2

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Papillon Poster
A prisoner detained on a remote island plots his escape in this second adaptation of the novels by Henri Charrière.


Michael Noer


Aaron Guzikowski (screenplay by), Henri Charrière(based upon the books “Papillon” and “Banco” by) |2 more credits »


Why bother remaking the successful 1973 biography of French convict Henri Charrière nicknamed PAPILLON who escaped from Devil’s Island in 1941?  After all, that film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and starring two huge stars of the time Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman is still readily available on DVD.

A few reasons!  One would be that no one would likely remember anything about the 1973 film.  After all it is is is almost half a century ago.  I can only remember two things about the 1973 film – Dustin Hoffman eating a cockroach and Steve McQueen jumping off the cliff in the final escape scene.

The new PAPILLON is not too bad.  Despite not having as big star names, Charlie Hunnam (THE LOST CITY OF Z) and Rami Malek (I, ROBOT) inhabit their roles very convincingly.  There is no cockroach eating scene but the food served actually looks not half bad, like the consommé with diced vegetables in a tin can.  In fact, Papi (as Charrière is called in short) is tempted with the soup in order to reveal the name of his conspirator.  

PAPILLON is the nickname of Charrière likely from his butterfly tattoo on his body.  The film opens with his frolicking with his girlfriend, Nenette (Eve Hewson) in Paris after nicking some jewels from the big boss he was working for.  Thus framed for murder, Charrière, is unjustly convicted of murder and condemned to life in a notorious penal colony on Devil’s Island in French Guiana, South America.  Determined to regain his freedom, Papillon forms an unlikely alliance with quirky convicted counterfeiter Louis Dega, who in exchange for his protection, agrees to finance Papillon’s escape, ultimately resulting in a bond of lasting friendship.

For a film shot in Paris and set in France and French Guiana, not a word of French is spoken in the film.  The filmmakers must thing speaking English with a French accent is sufficient, though the 1973 original had the same flaw.  But true that commercial audiences rather hear dubbed dialogue than read subtitles.

If one can remember the 1973 version, this film is very similar as the new script by Aaron Guzikowski is based on Charrière’s autobiographies Papillon and Banco, as well as the former’s 1973 film adaptation, which was written by Dalton Trumbo and Lorenzo Semple Jr.  In fact, credit is given to the script by Trumbo and Semple Jr. in the closing credits.

PAPILLON 2017 moves fast enough for its 133 running time.  The film is not a film about escape but a film about the strained but lasting relationship of the two men.  But the film’s only escape sequence with Papi, Dega and two other prisoners (Roland Moller and Joel Bassman) is the film’s highpoint, especially trying to survive a storm in a broken boat in the wide ocean.  The hard prison conditions, though hard to watch make extremely intriguing fodder.  One wonders how inhuman human beings can be.  The film also demonstrates the triumph of the human spirit over mounting adversities.  So, despite the dim outlook of the film’s heroes, it is still a film of hope and not despair.

It would be interesting to watch both films back to back to observe the different treatment of each director and actors towards this timeless material.  Both films are equally well shot and absorbing and definitely worth seeing.


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Film Review: DR. BRINKS & DR. BRINKS (USA 2017)

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Dr. Brinks & Dr. Brinks Poster

After husband and wife aid workers, Dr. Brinks and Dr. Brinks, die in a plane crash, their grown children are reunited for the first time in years. It takes days for Marcus and Michelle …See full summary »


Josh Crockett


DR. BRINKS & DR. BRINKS must have been a project of love for writer/director Josh Crockett as he had to publicly raise funds to complete the film.  To Crockett’s credit, it is a worthy effort that is relatively entertaining but no masterpiece.

DR. BRINKS & DR. BRINKS is a dysfunctional family comedy/drama (too many Brinks spoil the broth) with more comedy than drama though the drama is still pretty intense in parts.  The title refers to the husband and wife doctor team who work with the Doctors without Borders.  They spend more time with children in underdeveloped nations that with their own.  This results in their own children not really knowing their own parents or family for that matter.  Two of the siblings who hardly see each other are brought together as a result of their sudden death from an airplane crash with disastrous results.

The story devotes almost equal screen time to the brother Marcus Brinks (Scott Rodgers) and sister Michelle Brinks (Kristin Slayman).  Marcus has a relationship with Alex (Ashley Spillers).  A bit more time is spent on Michelle with her character being right most of the time, likely because Slayman playing her is the film’s producer and the wife of the director in real life.  Marcus sports a thick beard and there is a lot of free sex (including bondage and kinky sex) involved so one can guess that director Crockett aims at the new age free spirited era of the forgotten 70’s.   The sexual encounters liven the film as well as reveal certain characteristics of the siblings.

To add fuel to the fire, Kristin begins a sexual relationship with Alex’s father Bill (Robert Longstreet).  She knows it is wrong but cannot stop it.  Bill thinks he is in love all over again and the best thing that has happened to him.  While Marcus finds out, he becomes visibly upset while Alex is unaware initially.  This incident makes up a good part of the film and is used as the catalyst to rock and then stabilize the various relationships.

The film’s main aim is the examination of the relationship between the siblings amidst varying circumstances.  Besides the problem stated, it is also revealed that the house that Marcus and Alex live in is still in the parents’ name and has to be liquidated to pay off their debt.  But this plot point could have been left out in the script without affecting much.  The actor playing the lawyer (Roger Guenveur Smith) is pretty good.

As Marcus’ vocation is singer/songwriter, the film has a nice break when a few of his catchy songs are performed.

The film lacks as strong conclusion thus creating an unsatisfying feeling for the audience  that the film is leading nowhere.  Though more comedy than drama, the comedy is light at best and the drama that escalates towards the film’s end is somewhat predictable. 

DR. BRINKS & DR. BRINKS opens in the U.S. this Friday in select theatres and is available video on demand on September 4th.


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Film Review: ALPHA (USA 2018)

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Alpha Poster
In the prehistoric past, a young man struggles to return home after being separated from his tribe during a buffalo hunt and finds a similarly lost wolf companion to start a friendship that would change humanity.


Albert Hughes


Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt (screenplay by), Albert Hughes (story by)


(This review contains one spoiler that is important to bring up in the reviewing of this film.  The paragraph containing the spoiler is highlighted in italics.)

An American film shot largely in Canada (Alberta and British Columbia) and in Iceland, ALPHA also includes lots of CG effects as evident in the endless long lists of names involved with CG in the closing credits.

ALPHA is set back in the Ice Age in Europe (it could be anywhere else for that matter) about a young man and his dog.   It all begins after a Steppe bison hunting expedition gone awry. A young man struggles against the elements to find his way home, all the while developing a friendship with a wolf. 

The film is co-produced and directed by Albert Hughes, with a screenplay by Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt, from a story by Hughes.  It is difficult to dislike a film about a man and his dog surviving the elements as evident by the rousing applause at the end of the promo screening.  But good intentions aside, ALPHA contains too many flaws.

The main flaw is continuity.  One major segment has Keda (Australian Kodi Smit-McPhee) hanging for dear life on a vertical rock face after falling off the cliff.  Rain pours.  The what seemed bottomless gorge is suddenly filled with water that allows Keda to fall in, to survive the fall.  The next scene shows him lying on the ground with hardly any water to be seen.  Following that, Keda, for no reason appears at the top of the cliff that he originally fell from.  The film does not show him climbing back up to that level.

The wolf dog first appears only after more than half the film’s running time.  Near the end, the canine is shown returning to the pack, but in the next scene is shown coming back to Keda.

The dialogue is incredibly corny.  Though the actors speak in a made-up stone age language, the subtitles read: “Lead with your heart, not with your spear.” And at the end of the film, the father tells Keda: “You earned it, my son.”

Warning Spoiler: It turns out at the end of the film that the canine is a female.  That is weird as the film title ALPHA implies the canine being an alpha male, especially when called to fight other larger animals to protect her master.  If this in part of Hollywood’s need to have more female centred themes, the idea is ridiculous.  Though personally, if I would have a choice of a male or female canine, I would pick the latter.

But in 3D and with all the location shots and CG effects, ALPHA is a feast for the eyes.  The screen also fills with green in one scene, likely from a shot of the Northern Lights as seen in Iceland.  The one famous glacier and waterfall in Iceland are both on display in the film as well.

ALPHA is all good looks but a total mess.


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JULY 2018 Female Directed & Written Stories, Screenplays, and Short Films

FEMALE 1st Scene Reading – AMERICAN PRINCESS, by Jenny Kleiman

FEEDBACK Female Film Festival

Genre: Dark Comedy

When Ellie’s mother commits her father to a mental hospital, the rich, spoiled teen must navigate her own escape and his rescue, or else embrace her new home- her babysitter’s trailer park.


Janet: Zena Driver
David: Justin Darmanin
Narrator: Val Cole
Ellie: Amrit Kaur
Lowe: Alicia Payne


Producer: Matthew Toffolo

Director: Kierston Drier

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Editor: Kimberly Villarruel

Camera Op: Mary Cox

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Female Festival Testimonial – July 28 2018

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Tara HallTara Hall

Very supportive and I love the idea behind it. Seeing a table read of my first scene is inspiring.

5 Star Review

A Film Freeway Preferred Festival:

Genre: Thriller, Horror, Crime

A serial killer roams from small town to small town, preying on abusive, sadistic men who won’t be missed when they die both mysteriously and violently.


Narrator: Sean Ballantyne
Rick Ford: Neil Bennett
Bartender: Rais Moui
The Woman: Connie Wang

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Short Film: BLOSSOM, 6min., Australia, Drama

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6116093f89 poster

Childhood the one chance we get to transition from bud to bloom.
Some memories just cannot be erased, they are like permanent markers in our own timeline.
One woman recalls everything that made her family unique, the fun, the freedom, the subjective strength of each individual along with her own mother’s love.
After bearing witness to her own family dynamic a young woman discovers her own version of strength enabling her to reconcile her past with her present.

  • Film Type:
  • Runtime:
    5 minutes 43 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    January 10, 2018
  • Production Budget:
    4,050 AUD
  • Country of Origin:
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  • Film Language:
  • Shooting Format:
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