Full Review: JOURNEY’S END (UK 2017) ****

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Journey's End Poster

Set in a dugout in Aisne in 1918, it is the story of a group of British officers, led by the mentally disintegrating young officer Stanhope, as they await their fate.


Saul Dibb


Simon Reade (screenplay), R.C. Sherriff (novel) | 2 more credits »


JOURNEY’S END about soldiers (Officers and enlisted men) during an offensive in the trenches during the First World War is a story that is already too familiar to us.  Still, it is a story that needs repeating, to remind the world of the futility of war and that orders coming down from the top brass would ultimately be executed often to the death by the men of lower ranks, who has loved ones and families back home.  JOURNEY’S END is based on the 1928 play and filmed two years later by James Whale which starred Sir Lawrence Olivier as Cpt. Stanhope now played brilliantly convincingly by Sam Catlin.  The updated screenplay be Simon Reade is by no means flawless, (words like a person needing to be sorted’. the word never used at that time; an offbeat change of scenery back to England for the reading of a letter) but serves the fiilm’s purpose.

The film begins like any war film.  There is news of the war and word of fighting in France against the Germans.  Things get real only when the audience can put a face to the goings-on.  The face in this case belongs to green 2LT Laleigh (Asa Butterfeld) who wishes to join the battalion of his old school mate Cpt Stanhope who used to be his house monitor and good friend of him and his sister.   Stanhope is found to be changed due to the strain of war.  In the trenches are Lta Osborne (Paul Bettany)  veteran who is the most stable of the lot and apparentlythe one who keeps everything together.   

When the men are ordered to attack the Germans in two days time in an effort that seems pointless, casualties increase and things come to a boil in this realities tale of men caught in the war apparently to fight in what they believe for their country. It is made clear at one point, that the assault is to take place at 5 pm so that the higher ups can discuss the results over dinner.

Despite the film’s seriousness in tone, Reade’s script is not devoid of needed humour, which is provided by stiff faced Toby Jones as Mason, the men’s cook.  If not describing his cutlets as new in shape or the yellowness of the soup to entice the blandness of his meals, the on running jokes on the meals are nothing short of hilarious.

The narrow trenches emphasizes the claustrophobia of the location complete with mud rats though only one is shown) and worms oozing out from the mud during a meal.  To Dibb’s and the production designer’s credit, the film never feels like a play.

Though one might wonder at the film’s aim, it is clear that Dibb’s message is that one is never to forget that human beings are the ones fighting the war, and there are casualties on both sides as the end credits remind both sides of the millions that have died in WWI.


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Pacific Rim: Uprising Poster

Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost, reunites with Mako Mori to lead a new generation of Jaeger pilots, including rival Lambert and 15-year-old hacker Amara, against a new Kaiju threat.


Steven S. DeKnight takes over the director’s reins from Guillermo del Toro making his directorial debut in the sequel to the 2013 hit PACIFIC RIM.  PACIFIC RIM is del Toro’s most successful film at the box-office making over $400 million worldwide at the box-office.  UPRISING costing $150 million aims to do the same.

The premise of the first film which is the backdrop for uprising is summarized in voiceover at the start of the film by Jake Pentecost (John Boyega from STAR WARS).  That film was set in the future, when Earth is at war with the Kaiju, colossal sea monsters which have emerged from an inter-dimensional portal on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.  To combat the monsters, humanity united to create the Jaegers, gigantic humanoid machine robots, each controlled by at least two pilots, whose minds are joined by a mental link.  The Jaeger was championed by General Pentecost, Jake’s father played by Idris Elba.  Jake was partying it up when the film opens.

UPRISING is set ten years after the Battle of the Breach, the oceans have become restless once again, but the Jaeger program has evolved into the next generation for the PPDC.  However, a mysterious organization has reopened the Breach for the Kaiju and a Jaeger has gone rogue.  Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost, rises up to stand against the evolved Kaiju and the mysterious rogue Jaeger, Obsidian Fury, to prevent humanity’s extinction and preserve his father’s legacy.

The film is divided into two parts.  One is the action sequences, which with its $150 million budget are executed with all the pyro-technics, metal crunching and noise expect from a Hollywood blockbuster.  The film will also be released in iMAX which boasts – “See a movie, or be a part of one.”  Regardless, be prepared to get a headache.  This is a very loud film.  The second is the camaraderie among the Jaeger group.  Jake Pentecost bonds with Mako Mori to lead a new generation of Jaeger pilots, including rival Lambert (Scott Eastwood, Clint’s son) and 15-year-old hacker Amara (Madeleine McGraw), against the new Kaiju threat.  The pilots are all buffed and ideal specimens of the human race.  The script by Steven S. DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder and T.S. Nowlin displays the normal enmity as well as camaraderie of the Jaeger fighters.  But dialogue like: “…not how you perform but what people think how you perform…” are meant to be taken tongue in cheek, playing with typical cliched lines.  The banter between Dr. Newt Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) works better.

As the first film was huge hit in China, UPRISING has a few scenes shot in China, as observed by the Chinese on the streets running away from the monists, looking like old monster movies.

Despite the efforts for making PACIFIC RIM UPRISING rise above the first PACIFIC RIM and TRANSFORMER franchise, UPRISING turns out to be a big bore with too much noise and CG effects.



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Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit Poster

People can grasp the concept of a dog show.  But people cannot grasp the concept of  a cat show.  This is the film, CATWALK’s premise and mission to put cats on the film map just as the successful dog show film BEST IN SHOW did for canines.

One difference between BEST IN SHOW and CATWALK should be noted.  BEST IN SHOW was a mockumentary that followed 5 different dogs with their owners as they showed off their dogs in different shows while CATWALK is a real documentary.  This does not mean that a real documentary is less funny that a mockumentary as the film occasionally proves.

The cats are judged by a panel according to:

what cat perfection is (agility; intelligence etc.)

the best of the breed (example: if the exhibitor does not comb out the knots of his/her long haired cat, a whole lot of points will be lost

The main cat that has won the most points by touring the catwalk circuit in Canada, when the film opens, is a white playful cat named Bobby owned by Kim. The other, is a Red Persian breed full of fluffy fur named Oh-La-La by owned by Shirley.  The film shows that the cat owners are just as interesting to observe than the cats.  When Oh-La-La is showcased on stage, the camera locks on the face of Kim, showing how jealous she is that her cat, Bobby might be upstaged.  Bobby and Oh-La-La are completely different cats.  The former loves to play, winning the hearts of the judges from its friendliness as compared to Oh-La-la who just sits proudly, unconcerned of the surroundings.  There is a scene whee the two cat owners are seen joking with each otter.  Deborah says to Kim: “I don’t think evil of you…. just of your cat.”

The film takes a distraction with a segment on Kim taking scuba diving lessons and having a new group of friends she considers her family.  There is no purpose this segment serves with regards to cats except as a time filler.  CATWALK runs at a brisk 75 minutes.

The film interviews two main cat owners/exhibitors and a few breeders while featuring a few of the show’s judges.

The main owner is Kim Langille who shows off her pride a white Turkish Angora.  Kim is also a show organizer and her enthusiasm for cats rubs off n her audience.  She as a wise pick to be the doc’s main character.  The other is her competitor, Shirley McCollow who spends hours grooming her Red Persian for the show.  There is a sweet moment of an autistic cat owner who overcomes her disability by devoting her efforts on her cat.

CATWALK is made more colourful  by the titles that appear on screen, one on purple or green or orange background.

CATWALK the film does not offer any advice to cat showers or messages for the audience.  (Oh, maybe just one message from a cat breeder: Good things come to good people who do good things.)   It is just an entertaining fun picture about cats, even for non-cat lovers like myself.




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Interview with Festival Director Amanda Drewniak (Ardor Creative Media)

 Ardor Creative Media is a “NO BULLSHIT” Non Profit for film and filmmakers. They strive to bring forth the best in Seattle Independent Film making.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Amanda Drewniak: Cine City is curated by our non-profit Ardor Creative Media. Cine City is only the piece of the puzzle for local Washington State Filmmakers. This monthly Screening encourages our local filmmakers not only to create but exposes their film(s) to audiences that may have not seen it or known about local made films in our community. Especially since Cine-City has no submission fees, we reach out to more local participants who both can and cannot afford the steepening fees of other festivals. We also have very basic rules to encourage “unknown” filmmakers to create: 1. The film overall must be playable 2. You must show up to the screening (filmmakers get 2 free tickets) and support your film otherwise you do not qualify for the “Best Of” final competition of the Year. 3. You must live in Washington State to participate.

What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2018)?

We hold our monthly screenings at Naked City Brewery and Taphouse in their screening room, it’s a small space (75 max occupancy) so it can fill up fast. During all screenings you get full food and bar service. In addition to our film screening, Jeffrey Robert (aka The Gay Uncle) a wonderful local comedian and host works the crowd, conducts trivia (with prizes) at the beginning of the event, leads the Q & A session with the filmmakers at the end of the event and enforces the rules on voting for audience favorite films. At our end of year festival or “Best Of” in November we take all the films that were voted best during the year and have them compete against one another for prizes. Films are voted on by the audience and we announce the winners at the end of the night. At this event, we have harder trivia questions (with better prizes) and a silent auction.

Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

As someone who has screened for local festivals, I really think that most festivals are revenue driven. I understand the need to cover overhead and pay your employees but I do feel more could be done to encourage our local filmmaker scene. I mean of course I have turned downed films at Cine City, you have to have a quality standard. I usually send an email explaining why the film was not accepted. Few times I have had a filmmaker comeback with a better film. I do not think there is enough encouragement of talent and cultivating a supportive scene that will ensure quality films are made locally.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Over all, we love film. We love watching films, making films. We want to see more of what Seattle has to offer. It’s hard at times and we feel we want to quit because some screenings have a tough crowd or you get your share of egos thrown at you but every month we comeback to it. We push through and cultivate the type of screenings we want to see more of. We want our neighborhoods and communities to see we have strong talent and quality local entertainment.

How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

I personal feel the FilmFreeway process has definitely made receiving submissions easier. It helps me organize submitted films into subcategories and helps me stay organized for the Best Of at the end of the year.

Where do you see the festival by 2023?

We are so low budget, I really just take it a year at a time. I hope by 2023, our screenings will become more popular and we can have several a month in different areas of the city and create a really nice Best Of that attracts audiences from out of state to come just to see what Seattle and Washington State has to offer. In general I think Seattle should be the film epicenter of the Pacific Northwest.

What film have you seen the most times in your life?

What a tough question. I am constantly looking for something new. Hmm.

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

For me, the ride. It doesn’t have to be the greatest fim created, I just have to enjoy myself. Sorry that was two sentences and this one makes three.

How is the film scene in your city?

Are you asking me to ruffle some feathers? I mean that’s what I do, in my city with film, I ruffle feathers. I love the filmmakers, I love the talent, I think it’s disorganized. I think we need a big wig or two to come through and encourage filmmakers to be proud of their work and encourage our communities to stand behind them. I am originally from Miami and it was a culture shock to see how many filmmakers rush to finish a record amount of films a year and do not slow down and cultivate a project, market a project, and support a project. It’s been a bit of an uphill battle but I am slowly winning people over. I really truly believe there is more to the Seattle film scene and Seattleites just haven’t discovered it in themselves yet. I am hopefully that by 2023 Seattle’s filmmakers will have more courage under their belt to pour their hearts into their projects. I have hope for all the talented people here.


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Film Review: FOXTROT (Israel/France/Germany/Switzerland 2017) ****

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Foxtrot Poster


FOXTROT as most people know is the name of a dance, which is performed a third through the film by a bored soldier at his deserted outpost.  It is also known in the military to stand for the letter ‘F’ when spelt out as taught in signalling courses to prevent confusion in communication.  (Alpha is for ‘A’, Bravo for ‘B’ etc.)  In the film it is also the name given to a military operation.

The film is divided into 3 parts, each almost equal in running time.  The opening sequence is reminiscent of Steven Spielberg’s SAVING PRIVATE RYAN when a mother faints after hearing the news of her son’s death during WWII.  The story begins at the home of Michael Feldman (Lior Ashkenazi) and his wife Dafna (Sarah Adler), where an army detail arrives with the news of their son Jonathan ((Yonatan Shiray).  Dafna faints and is sedated.  Meanwhile Michael spirals from anguish to anger.  He even kicks his poor unsuspecting dog.  Nothing new here, the film seems treading on water.  The film picks up when he begins to suspect that he has not been told the whole story when the army refuse to let him see the son’s body in the coffin during the military funeral.  Not soon after, there is news that the boy is alive.  Apparently, there is another Jonathan Feldman and it is this other Jonathan that died.  Michael freaks out and demands that his son be returned home right away.  Michael and Dafna have an argument, she accusing him of being nasty, he of her being too nice being sedated on drugs.

The film ends on a bright note, with a touch of surrealism.  The second section begins with the narrator describing the foxtrot dance followed by a very uplifting and amusing dance sequence.  The musical interlude jumps out of the blue and is a fantastic surprise.  The audience then learns of Jonathan’s mundane military duties at the check post, identifying everyone that drives through.  The soldiers also let a camel through.  Writer/director Maoz pulls another trick up his sleeve with a twist in the plot.  When  a passenger in a car tosses out an empty drink can, the soldiers open fire thinking it to be a grenade.  There are been more twists in the plot but they will not be mentioned in the review to prevent to many spoilers.   A few of these twists could be reduced for the film to be more effective.

The film works as a very different film audiences have never seen before.  FOXTROT is a  surrealistic film set in the midst of the israeli/Palestinian conflict, a very unlikely setting, which makes the surrealism work even better.  Maoz’s story also shows that fate plays games with people’s lives – and there is nothing one can do about it.  Michael and Dafna try to make sense of what is happening.  At their best moment, as their daughter, Alma tells them: “You two look beautiful when you are together.”  Perhaps, that is the only thing human beings can hang on to, each other in the midst of the quirky hands of fate.

The film won the Silver Lion (Grand Jury Prize) at the 2017 Venice Film Festival.  FOXTROT is definitely worth a look.


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Film Review: DEAR DICTATOR (USA 2016) ***1/2

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Dear Dictator Poster

When political turmoil forces a British-Caribbean dictator to flee his island nation, he seeks refuge and hides with a rebellious teenage girl in suburban America, and ends up teaching the young teen how to start a revolution and overthrow the “mean girls” in her high school.


DEAR DICTATOR has an usual and outrageous premise for its script.  Dictator teaches school girl how to deal with the ‘mean girls’ in her school while initiating a revolution on his own island.

When political turmoil forces a British-Caribbean dictator to flee his island nation, he seeks refuge and hides with a rebellious teenage girl in suburban America, and ends up teaching the young teen how to start a revolution and overthrow the “mean girls” in her high school.  The sparks really fly when General Anton Vincent (Michael Caine) actually appears to Tatiana (Odeya Rush).  “Don’t worry, mom!  He is not a creepy child molester.  He is just a Dictator!”  Tatiana re-assures her mother after she finds him in the closet, thinking she has hidden Danny there.  Other subplots like the one with the mother (Katie Holmes) trying to make it with her employee, dentist (Seth Green) also works the humour favourably.

Despite the highly unbelievable plot, the script makes no effort to make it more credible, which is a good thing.  The film takes it that everything as a given and totally believable and even takes things several steps further.

The film also works primarily due to the comedic performance of veteran British actor Michael Caine.  Caine seldom does comedy, but when he does he can be really funny, as he proved in his role as the father of Austin Powers, Nigel Powers in GOLDMEMBER.   I still remember his classic line in that movie “There are only two people I do not like in this world – the racists and the Dutch.”  The reason Caine is so funny is that he takes all the writing dead seriously, delivering the lines as if his life depends on it.  The result is the over-the-top humour that suits most of the writing in this film.  The film has a preposterous over-the-top premise and Caine makes it work.  And work well.  It is good to see Caine take on a variety of different roles and not old fart roles like a seniors trying to have sex or fall in love.  Other comedians Seth Green and Jason Biggs as Mr. Spines are also funny.

The film also contains many messages as well, and hilariously delivered at that.  The film pokes fun at America as the General criticizes Americans saying:” You eat and eat until you cannot speak anymore.”   He even convinces Tatiana that she has the power to change her school.  Also the General teaches her to diffuse factions as they rule by “fear or love”.

The film contains many quotable lines.  Besides Hamlet’s “Conscience makes cowards of us all”, there is the General Anton quote: “I am a rebel, I keep going until I am stopped!”

Another surprise is the film’s serious tone.  General Anton’ speech to Tatiana about doing what’s right despite hurting the ones one loves should be taken with a pinch of salt.

A smaller budget comedy that is well delivered because everyone is convinced that the material works, ends up entertaining and hilarious for audiences as well.  Many, many laugh-out loud moments.


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Film Review: TOMB RAIDER (USA/UK 2018)

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Tomb Raider Poster


Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer, must push herself beyond her limits when she finds herself on the island where her father disappeared.


Roar Uthaug


Geneva Robertson-Dworet (screenplay by), Alastair Siddons (screenplay by) |2 more credits »


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