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Tommy Dooley (London, England)
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The Backyard
The Backyard
DVD ~ Jimmy Smits
Price: CDN$ 29.95
12 used & new from CDN$ 7.96

4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, Mexican `True crime' story,, March 28 2015
This review is from: The Backyard (DVD)
Set in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in 1996 this tells the story of what happened that year to a number of women that disappeared. It transpired that they were being taken for sex and casually murdered after suffering brutal horrors. Most of these women had been drawn to the city to work in the multi national factories where they are treated just one step up from slaves for wages so low most would not consider it a living.

Then a woman cop turns up to investigate what is going on - this is Blanca Bravo and she is one of those that gets stuck in like a terrier and starts to make herself unpopular by her tenacity. We also have some of the stories of the girls this involves and the duplicitous honour code that makes people act like vicious fools.

This is a film that has a message but one that most will be aware of - that is bad things happen. The sad fact is that these `disappearances' still continue to this day. The film is `worthy' in the sense that it has something to say but I have no problem with that in the least. The acting is all brilliant, the violence is hard hitting but far from gratuitous. It is the sort of film that just holds your attention and keeps you hanging on all the way through. In Spanish and some English with very good sub titles - this is a fine example of South American cinema.

Winter Sleep (Sommeil d'hiver) [Blu-ray] (Sous-titres français)
Winter Sleep (Sommeil d'hiver) [Blu-ray] (Sous-titres français)
DVD ~ Haluk Bilginer
Price: CDN$ 31.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Somewhere between a staggering masterpiece and a self indulgent vanity project?, March 28 2015
Nuri Bilge Caylan is not known for his brevity as a film maker `Once Upon a time in Anatolia' being a good case in point from 2011. Here we have another film where not a lot appears to happen. However that is the point. Set in the beautifully picturesque location of Cappadocia in his native Anatolia we meet Aydin who is an ex stage actor cum hotelier and land lord to locals.

He lives with his much younger wife Nihal and his sister Necla who is still suffering the breakdown of her marriage. Meanwhile the winter is rapidly approaching and as the days grow shorter and the guests dwindle the three have more time to spend with each other. This also allows more time to let smouldering resentments burst into flames bordering on contempt. We also get the background issues of social inequality, the lazy rich, the injustice of public humiliation and the servile attitudes of those who rely on others for a living.

This is slower than a slow burner and at three hours can be seen by some to more than outstay its welcome. However, I was absolutely transfixed from about ten minutes in. Aydin loves an argument and can come across as being completely reasonable whilst at the same time displaying levels of hypocrisy so high that they would make most dizzy to behold. This though is all done in - mostly- subtle undertones. The real beauty of this film is that it is nor afraid to take its time to explore to the enth degree a subject with a short shelf life that somehow manages to take on a new aura purely by the weight of examination at microscopic levels.

Simple acts take on ritualistic meanings and the unspoken is often more important than the spoken word as he reveals the necessary smoke screens we use vocabulary to engender whilst hiding our true selves in open sight. As I said over three hours long, beautifully shot and with acting that is a joy to watch and good sub titles. This is, I feel, a borderline master piece and is one that will stay with me, at least, for a considerable time.

The Babadook [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
The Babadook [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Essie Davis
Price: CDN$ 18.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Bit of a frightener from Australia, March 28 2015
Essie Davies plays Amelia who suffered a car crash the night she was giving birth to her son Samuel - in that same accident she lost her husband and we find them six years later still unable to cope with the loss.

She works at an old peoples home and he is plainly dysfunctional at school - he also makes his own weapons and is a would be magician (the flowers from the sleeve sort). Then a strange book appears `Mr Babadook' and once read it can not be forgotten. From that point on their life goes from merely acceptable to utter nightmare.

Now this actually had me scared on a number of occasions, it does go for the scare in the noise and creepy voices department etc. However, there is a fair bit of the psychological stuff which I always find has more of an impact. The performances from Davies and the son - Noah Wiseman are extremely well observed and the SFX are what we have come to expect nowadays.

This is not a slasher though so avoid if that is your thing and don't sleep opposite the wardrobe after viewing, but apart from that this is a fairly good bet for a few creepy frights.

Jack Strong (DVD)
Jack Strong (DVD)
DVD ~ Marcin Dorocinski
Offered by polski_film
Price: CDN$ 34.00
4 used & new from CDN$ 16.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Polish Cold War Tale, March 28 2015
This review is from: Jack Strong (DVD) (DVD)
Based on true events Ryszard Kuklinski, was an intelligence officer in the Polish Army during The Cold War. He gets spotted by the big wigs in the Kremlin and is soon having access to Top Secret documents. This coincides with him having an attack of conscience. This is after the brutal crack down of the Gdansk shipyard workers in 1970.

He then makes an overture to the Americans and they can't believe their luck. What follows is his amazing journey as spy and ally to the West at a rime when nuclear war was a real possibility. This is quite often edge of seat stuff with an authentic cast that do an extremely good job. All the actors are from the countries that they represent, Americans, Russian, Poles etc. The period details all have a high look of authenticity too.

We get the full range of his life and those around him and the travails that they all had to endure. This is a thoughtful production, which was a modest budget affair but has not let its financial confines stifle its artistic endeavours. With a run time of over two hours and very good sub titles this is a film that is easy to recommend.

Eastern Boys (Bilingual) [Import]
Eastern Boys (Bilingual) [Import]
Price: CDN$ 24.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Be Careful what you pick up at a station, March 28 2015
Around the Gare du Norde railway station groups of East European lads gather and seek opportunistic chances for an easy buck. Daniel Muller (Olivier Rabourdin `Of Gods and Men') is a gay man who is attracted to one of them - he is not sure if they are for rent but approaches Marek and a date is arranged at Muller's apartment. Only when he answers the door he is not prepared for the visitor he gets.

That is the start and what develops goes way beyond what I was expecting. We have quite a few issues being explored here from migrant integration, crime, pay for sex and affairs of the heart. I was at times feeling uncomfortable, angry, concerned and even happy. The main thing is that it is always engaging.

Great performances from all the cast but Olivier Rabourdin was totally convincing and Krill Emelyanov as Marek as the confused yet caring Ukrainian was brilliant. This is for those who enjoy an intelligent gay themed film, but a lot of the issues here are very universal and as such I can highly recommend.

The Temporary Gentleman
The Temporary Gentleman
Offered by Penguin Group USA
Price: CDN$ 13.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Literary Majestic Tour de Force, March 14 2015
Fans of Barry will be aware of some of the referenced characters here especially so if they have read ‘The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty’ or ‘The Secret Scripture’ for example. This widens the tale by taking us on the journey of Jack McNulty – the brother of Eneas. He meets and falls in love with Mai Kirwan whilst studying in Dublin. She is a force of nature but has her own demons to fight. This is the story of their life together and his love for her and the bottle that would cause so much heart ache.

The story takes in his part during World War II and the times and politics of an Ireland almost now forgotten. This is a story of love, life, regret and a chasm full of emotion both stated and hidden.

Sebastian Barry is one of my favourite authors ever but I always have a scintilla of dread when he brings out a new work that he may have lost some of the magic – I am glad to say that it actually seems to grow, if that were possible. This is written in a prose style that makes you feel as if you are actually there; you can picture exactly what is happening in places and feel the emotion at the same time. He can make a tragedy come to brutal life with the intensity of pain and yet write it in such a way that it is filled with a beauty you had not thought possible.

Some of his passages are so well constructed that I find myself having to reread them as I was so mesmerised the first time that I have almost forgotten where I am. This is a rare talent that I feel humbled to be able to read. I don’t think I could gush like this about any other author, but may have come close. If you are a fan of Barry then you will not need convincing, if you are new to him then you have a wonderful treat in store.

The Face of Love (Le Visage de l'amour) (Bilingual)
The Face of Love (Le Visage de l'amour) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Annette Bening
Price: CDN$ 8.88
7 used & new from CDN$ 5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars You only live twice, March 14 2015
Annette Benning plays Nikki she is married to Garrett – Ed Harris -and on their thirtieth wedding anniversary he gets killed in a tragic accident. She just can’t move on and despite changing her rituals to try to come to terms with her loss she still grieves for the love of her life. Five years later and neighbour Roger (Robin Williams in a subdued role) who is also a widower is making moves on her when she sees her dead husband in town.

This turns out to be Tom, an art teacher, who has had his own life and is also single. Well she goes out of her way to get him and capture the lost love she felt with her dead husband.

Now this is not a bad film but it does suffer from the constant bad choices syndrome of Nikki. She compounds one mistake with another in a way to drag out what is in effect a very simple story. Harris is as enigmatic as ever in a role that could hardly be described as challenging, but the film lives or dies by the Benning character. And to be fair she makes a good go of what she has to play with. This won’t be for everyone but is a nice enough film for all its flaws; I would give seven out of ten but am rounding up to four stars as I like the actors so much.

Rudderless
Rudderless
Price: CDN$ 14.88
3 used & new from CDN$ 14.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Indie film with some great tunes, March 7 2015
This review is from: Rudderless (DVD)
Sam is a successful ad agency executive and wants to celebrate his latest account win with his teenage son. Then tragedy strikes and his son doesn't show up. Once he finds out why he falls apart. We roll on in time to when Sam is going through his sons old stuff. He knew that Josh was musical and when he finds his old recordings he listens and by dint of perseverance he learns some of them.

Then he makes a rather drunken appearance at an open mic night and all of a sudden people want to hear his son's music. Sam though decides to let everyone assume he is the writer and so begins his journey.

This is just a brilliant film, directed by William H. Macy who also appears as the bar owner in the film. The real stars though are Billy Crudup (`Public Enemies') as Sam and Anton Yelchin as the earnest shoe gazer Quentin. The music too is all brilliant, I kept finding myself turning up the volume and the CD is also available. This is a film that just does not put a foot wrong, Mr Macy seems to have got the very best out of everyone and he really should make more films if this is anything to judge by - just brilliant.

Comrades [Blu-ray] [Import]
Comrades [Blu-ray] [Import]
DVD ~ Keith Allen
Price: CDN$ 73.45
4 used & new from CDN$ 28.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Bill Douglas's Masterpiece, March 1 2015
More famous for his trilogy of growing up in Scotland Bill Douglas was an undoubted socialist. Here he sets out to tell the tale of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. They were a group of farm workers and labourers in the nineteenth century who decided to do something about the unfair working conditions and wages that were being forced on them by unscrupulous and over privileged land owners. So they formed one of the first ever trade unions.

Whilst this was not a crime in itself, it did not stop the authorities from stitching them up and having them `transported' for seven years to Australia to face all the privations of convict status in the burgeoning colony.

The story is told through the lens of a lanternist and there are many references to the forms of entertainment of the time. The actors are also very noteworthy, Keith Allen, Philip Davies, James Fox, Vanessa Redgrave, Imelda Staunton and Barbara Windsor to name but a few. A special mention to Alex Norton who played over ten roles including the aforementioned lanternist and I never spotted it.

This is a beautifully filmed piece of cinema with fantastic attention to period detail filmed at Cerne Abbas in Dorset. There is real filth and detritus and the grime on the convicts always looks genuine. It is long at 176 minutes (my version - the BFI restoration) but is a great chronicle of a vital piece of our history and also a unique piece of cinema - absolutely essential viewing.

Underground
Underground
DVD ~ Jeffrey Lynn
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 89.85
5 used & new from CDN$ 26.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Accomplished American Propaganda Film, March 1 2015
This review is from: Underground (DVD)
This little B movie from 1941 has been on my `watch list' for some time, and I wish I had seen it sooner. Made before the day `that will live in infamy' that is December 7th 1941 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, this clearly wanted the world to know that Hitler and co were evil.

Eric Franklen is a chemist in Nazi Germany and is working with the `underground' he is the voice of their radio broadcasts where they tell the German people the truth about the war - the stuff that the censors won't allow. Then his brother returns from the front having lost an arm - he though is a loyal party member and despite the ties of fraternity when it comes to politics they are diametrically opposed. Enter the shared acquaintance of a woman who is also an underground member, and her influence will change things irrevocably.

We have the Nazi's torturing, being vile and all dressed in their Hugo Boss finery and they all have German sounding accents (most of the time). This is done in true Warner Bros. style with a brilliantly paced script, great use of lighting, perfect editing and a cast that could not put a foot wrong. Add to that the actual story and you have a nigh on brilliant piece of film making.

The actual quality of the print does leave a bit to be desired and this could do with a well earned makeover. Plus there are issues around some of the details and factual accuracy - but this was never meant to be a history lesson; it was a rallying call to stand up to fascists and as such should be applauded. It will still have you on the edge of your seat even to this day and that takes some doing. If you have missed this then do yourself a massive favour and get to see it.

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