MSPIFF 2015 Review: The Keeping Room


There have been hundreds of films about life after war. Dozens about life after The American Civil War. But the consequences of war from the women’s perspective seems few and far between when it comes to the flicker show. Painting a picture of post Civil War America in the south, from the point of view of the women left alone is a wonderful concept. The world depicted is a dreadful hardship and almost surreal in nature. Not all of the parts in this machine work as well within the general idea but it’s competent enough to make a person stop and think about what they saw. And if nothing else, it’s got some tense and exciting (and brutally gruesome) action/thriller moments with muskets and revolvers.

Looking at the image above you might think you’re about to stumble into yet another zombie movie. But you’d be wrong… but in a way, you’d be right. America had ripped itself apart at this moment in time and what was left in some of the country was an utter wasteland. The men in the area were all dead or captured, fled or on some sort of political mission. The women were left fending for themselves. What men are left are drifters, scoundrels and drunkards; looking to kill, loot, rape and burn anything they come across. Which of course is partly due to being exposed to the horrors of war first hand and suffering from a then undiagnosed PTSD. They don’t know how to stop killing.

“War is cruel” opens the picture. This is of course nothing new to audiences but war can be equally cruel to the innocents left behind and the Confederacy left standing (or not standing) feels just like a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Straying too far from home might get you killed. Keeping a fire lit or firing a rifle shot might attract unwanted attention from roughians. But the worst scenario is that you’re a woman. Wearing a red shirt in a “Star Trek” episode would be safer than not having a “Y” chromosome upon this landscape. Partly because you’re a vulnerable target, but also because you’re alone. It’s not uncommon for a woman to just shoot herself or throw herself into a river than try to struggle through a seemingly never ending tribulation.
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Shorts Program: The Dancing Pig (1907)

There’s more TCM Fest stuff to come, including a rundown of the Return of the Dream Machine program, which featured films from 1900-1913 projected with an original 1908 hand-cranked projector – it was a very special evening, and introduced me to one of the most amazing, incredible, and bizarre pieces of early cinema I’ve yet seen. It affected me so much that I feel the need to share it with everyone I know, in every outlet I have. Ladies and gentlemen, behold….The Dancing Pig.

[The most amazing thing about this short is that apparently this vaudeville program was so popular at the time that there were numerous film versions made of it, by almost every studio. This one from Pathe seems to be the main one that’s survived to today.]

Friday One Sheet: Hot Docs!

Toronto’s massive documentary film festival, Hot Docs has started up and will be showcasing hundreds of documentary films over the next few days. May of these films have one-sheets that will be on display, here are two of my favourites, both framing people dwarfed by their own landscapes.

Above is the mythic American West in the 21st century, as four cattle drivers attempt a trail from Mexico to Canada with their herd in Unbranded. Below is the barren desert in Waziristan, one of many subjects tackled in the frightening documentary about the asymmetry of modern warfare, Drone.

Soundtrack Of Your Life #12: Transformers The Movie

Beyond good podcasting. Beyond evil podcasting. Beyond your mildest expectations..

Each episode, Corey Pierce welcomes a guest (or guests) onto the show who has chosen a compilation or soundtrack that speaks to a memorable era of their life. The soundtrack will play underneath and serves as a springboard to discussion about the music itself, how it works within the film, and what was going on with their life at the time of its release.

For episode 12, once again Corey welcomes 2 guests. Greg Aikenhead has been a close friend for over 15 years dating back to Sheridan College’s Illustration program and is the foremost robot and yogurt expert in Corey’s wedding party. Also welcome Shaun Hatton, a well known media personality in Toronto who currently runs Nerd Noise Night, and relevant to this episode is Rumble in Tranfromers-based band The Cybertronic Spree. We bring them together to geek out to 1986’s Transformers The Movie, the animated film bridging season 2 and 3 of the still wildly popular franchise. This hard rock and synth-score heavy soundtrack opens up various discussions surrounding nostalgia and toy marketing via childhood trauma.

Follow Corey Pierce on Twitter at – @coreypierceart
Follow Shaun Hatton on Twitter at @megashaun
Follow Greg Aikenhead on Twitter at @Greglactus
Follow Soundtrack of Your Life on Twitter at @thisisyourOST

Blu-Ray Review: Midnight Run

Director: Martin Brest
Screenplay: George Gallo
Starring: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, Yaphet Kotto, John Ashton, Dennis Farina, Joe Pantoliano
Country: USA
Running Time: 126 min
Year: 1988
BBFC Certificate: 18


The majority of films I review are first time watches or at least films that I haven’t seen for a while. This is largely due to the fact that I mainly just review screeners and don’t often take discs offered that I already own. However, when a Midnight Run press release reached me recently I went against the grain, reviewing something I own and saw (for the first time) only a few months ago. I decided to go with it partly because the original DVD release was terribly presented (see the bottom of the page), but also because I really enjoyed the film and couldn’t resist an excuse to watch it again.

Midnight Run is not quite a ‘cult classic’ in the Rocky Horror sense of the phrase. It’s more of an under-appreciated gem that picked up some strong reviews on its release and made a bit of money, but wasn’t really the hit it was expected to be (it came out on the same day as Die Hard which didn’t help) and kind of disappeared from people’s radars over the years. It has picked up a bit of a following though so the fine people over at Second Sight deemed it worthy of a brand spanking new Blu-Ray release.

The film stars Robert De Niro as bounty hunter Jack Walsh, who is hired by bail bondsman Eddie Moscone (Joe Pantoliano) to track down and bring in former Mafia accountant Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin), who has embezzled $15 million from notorious mob boss Jimmy Serrano (Dennis Farina). Jack finds The Duke straight away, but the journey back to prison isn’t so simple because Serrano’s goons are hot on their heels as well as the FBI and another bounty hunter, Marvin Dorfler (John Ashton) who wants in on the action. The unlikely central pair clash during the long journey across the country, but a friendship slowly develops despite their differences and the obvious elephant in the room of Jack’s job and The Duke’s crime.

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Ex Machina: Trailer #3

On the eve of its US release, A24 put out one more trailer for Alex Garland’s artificial intelligence thriller starring Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander. This one emphasizes the connection to actual science and social theory regarding the subject. Along with additional images and scenes from the film, quotes on the subject matter from 21st century thinkers, scientists and businessmen are interspersed instead of the usual critics blurbs.

My favourite is from Dr. Scott Phoenix: “If you invent artificial intelligence, that is the last invention you will ever have to invent.” Sounds either ominous or optimistic. Possibly, paradoxically, both.

A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.

TCM Film Fest 2015: So Dear to My Heart

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I grew up watching this film, and assumed that it was as much a part of everyone else’s childhood as it was mine, just like any other Disney movie, or other animal movies like Lassie Come Home or National Velvet. Apparently that’s far from the case, as only one other person I knew at the festival had seen it (and she’s a certified Disney fanatic who went to great lengths to obtain a copy), and most people had never heard of it until it was in the festival program. It has never been released on DVD except as a bonus through the Disney Rewards Program. I’m pretty sure we bought it on VHS when I was a kid, but it’s possible we taped it off the Disney Channel or something. As the sole person in my group who had nostalgia for the film, I found myself trying not to oversell it, fearing that it wouldn’t live up to my memories. Thankfully, while it’s definitely fairly minor Disney, its charm and winsomeness remain intact through some admittedly cornball plot development.

Young boy Jeremiah Kincaid wants nothing more than to own a prize racehorse someday (this being rural Indiana in 1903, it’s harness racing he’s thinking of, not Thoroughbred racing)…until one of the farm’s sheep has a black lamb and refuses to accept him, and Jeremiah convinces his granny (his parents are unmentioned) to let him raise the outcast. Soon Jeremiah has big dreams for the troublemaking lamb Danny, hoping to take him to the state fair and win a blue ribbon. Lots of other little vignettes fill out the story, notably a treacherous trip into the swamp for Jeremiah and his cousin Tildy seeking out a bee tree, and an overnight search for the lost Danny in a frog-drowner of a rainstorm.

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TCM Film Fest 2015: Why Be Good?

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I have a new favorite film seen in 2015.

Colleen Moore is absolutely, unequivocally the most adorable thing ever as Pert Kelly, a young girl who goes out and parties every night, embodying the carefree flapper spirit. We catch up with her when she’s agreed to go out with a super smarmy guy because he’s rich, but she clearly has limits on how far she’s willing to go. Exactly where those limits are become a sticking point when she trades out smarmfest for cleancut young Winthrop Peabody Jr (played by a very handsome Neil Hamilton) enjoying his last evening out before taking the job as personnel manager for his father’s department store. Turns out Pert is a clerk in the store, and when Peabody Sr discovers the kind of girl his son is going with, he objects – not because she’s a working girl (he’s too progressive for that), but because he assumes such a party girl has “been around,” as they say.

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MSPIFF 2015 Quick Thoughts: In Order of Disappearance


Stellan Starsgard stars in In Order of Disappearance, an amusing Norwegian gangster tale, written by Kip Fupz Aakeson and directed by Hans Petter Moland. This is the fourth successful collaboration between the director and the actor (Zero Kelvin, Aberdeen, A Somewhat Gentle Man – this last one also written by Aakeson), but only this time it’s Pål Sverre Hagen as the eccentrically neat Mafia boss, who becomes one of the best motives to watch this flick.

Set in Norway, the film opens with the exemplary Nils (Starsgard), a respected Dane who owns a company that provides snow removal services, proudly preparing himself to be awarded the Norwegian ‘Citizen of the Year’ prize. In the same breath, his son Ingvar, employee in a small airfield, is mistakenly kidnapped and forced into a van by two thugs, and then killed with an induced overdose. Unconvinced that his son was a drug addict, the modest Nils leaves the gentleness behind and becomes a merciless hitman, when he finds the gang responsible for his pain. One by one, he starts to eliminate the members of the gang as he tracks them down, but the main goal is to reach the inaccessible mad header, Greven (Hagen), a ruthless man whose only torment is the mother of his bullied son. Soon, Nils realizes that the best to get to him might be through the latter. His successive executions also trigger a gangster war between the local mob and the Serbs with whom they had an agreement to share the airfield for illicit businesses.

Death is the word of order here; you will find so many that will be hard to count them all. Sometimes the film seems to get out of track, but the sarcastic humor (have you heard about Norwegian prisons?) and Greven’s immaculate figure, keep holding out the enjoyable levels.