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Us and Them

a long cinematic journey into the heart of homelessness and life
This a powerful film. Not only does it enter the lives of four main characters, it is eminently clear that the filmmaker is not immune in the least from the issues that surround her key participants. One senses that, towards the end, the film, begun a decade earlier, finds itself on a sped-up treadmill. The years suddenly fly by. Death has intervened, as death will. There is hope here, but there is also the weight of the past imposing its crushing pressure. All in all, a portrait of humanity, well worth your time.

Going Furthur

A memorable tribute to the past
Going Further is not only a wonderful tribute to a long-ago time. It is an adventure story replete with modern-day troubadours who have honoured the past and excited the present.

History was not going to forget the cultural impact of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters but the directors of Going Furthur, not to mention all of the modern-day pranksters and especially Zane Kesey, have assured us all that we are not necessarily doomed to repeat the past, particularly if we do it with love, colour, music and respect.

Well done, Colby, Lindsay and Matt and all of the joyous participants.

It is always a delight to catch a glimpse of Wavy Gravy.

Going Furthur deserves a large audience.

Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story

Just Watch It: It won't be a waste of your time.
I have a personal predisposition to cook sufficient extra food that will allow for leftovers. I love leftovers. When I was a meat eater, I always made a large meatloaf and feasted on the remains for days. This stellar quality continued back in the day when I made at least one vegetarian meatloaf (the Vancouver Sun had a great recipe for this made out of walnuts.) My point is, I thought I had a grasp on food waste. My knowledge was sorely lacking. Just Eat It is a frightening film. Grant Baldwin and Jen Rustemeyer have captured a world of food waste and food rescue (spoiler alert...I could barely watch the pig slop episode) that should challenge us all to at least examine our food waste ways and hopefully guide us to altering them. (Another spoiler alert...all that hummus...going to waste...a crime.) I personally need to rebuild my relationship with my refrigerator. It's not going to be pretty.

Black Fly

a grim and intense indie thriller
I saw Black Fly in the Activity Centre Lounge on Denman Island on the evening of October 11, 2014.I went to it primarily because rarely do films also being shown at the Vancouver Film Festival make it to our little outpost especially during the actual festival. A portion of the film was shot on Denman and I assume showing it here was an offering of respect and appreciation for the reception shown during the filming.

Black Fly, directed by Jason Bourque, is a terrific little thriller. It is intense, depressing, (did I say intense?) and dark. Ostensibly based on a series of murders in New Brunswick 30 years ago, it stands on its own as a portrait of rural isolation and the violence which may be simmering just below the surface of all of our souls.

The scenes shot on Denman Island are beautiful as is the cinematography for the entire film. Though not for the faint of heart, I would recommend it to any moviegoer looking for a taste of anguish and angst.


even for a non horse person, this is good story telling
I confess this show is one of my clearly-no-longer secret pleasures. The stories of Heartland resonate with me in quite a different way then most of the pablum I watch on television. The travails of a multi-generational country family, the mix of urban experience and back to the horse-manure land operation, the western motif and the youthful tales of love, of coming of age, of environmental concern, well I find some comfort and a strong sense of just about lost values in the telling. Above all else, the story of the young horse whisperer is almost mystical. If it borders on trite from time to time, it is easy to forgive this creative slight. A very pleasant TV experience.


for a Canadian political film, this is a fun romp
The Meech Lake debacle was a pivotal event in Canadian political history. The film tells the story of Elijah Harper, a first nations icon fortuitously situated in the Manitoba LegislatureIt is, at once, a serious portrait of the times and a highly entertaining examination of Harpers life and the events which put him at the throat of Canada. The actual politics of the matter were tedious, even for a political junkie like me. This film gave me a new appreciation of the issues,as well as a valuable,and hopefully useful, perspective on aboriginal people and some of their challenging issues. Bottom line, this is a well made film, episodic and clearly designed to use humor to teach history. It should be shown in Canada's classrooms.

Bulgaria's Abandoned Children

such a sad film
This was a powerful indictment of Bulgaria and its failure, indeed the failure of the European Union as well, to devote sufficient resources to the care not only of the children profiled but the adults we briefly glimpse as well. It may be that every country has a host of forgotten children and adults but this portrait is so wrenching, so agonizingly hopeless that one can almost appreciate the failure, almost understand it. "Spoiler alert" The interview with the director seems odd and unclear, seems almost comical in how her responses are so casual and unmeasured. Can she truly not blame the government? Can she truly not accept some modicum of responsibility? Is it really the fault of the staff? A Powerful and incredibly sorrowful film.

A Hobo's Christmas

a gentle story of separation and forgiveness
I'm not someone who easily embraces Christmas. What I do like are simple, eloquent tales of folks reuniting or connecting at Christmas, examining their lives and making small adjustments. This is a compact little story of a painful past and an attempt at resolution. I found myself choking up here and there as the tale progressed, enjoying wise children, the camaraderie of people of the road and overall, the somewhat washed out images of Salt Lake City. There are plenty of sappy Christmas movies trying desperately to become instant classics. I think this might be a true contender. I enjoyed its message. I won't say what that message is but I suspect most will get it.


brilliant, sleazy, queasy, breezy espionage-crime goulash
There are very few truly alternative universes created for television. INTELLIGENCE weaves a complex, crime ridden solar system unlike any other I have ever viewed. There are palpable layers within layers, shapes and spheres within the dark inner sanctum of international intrigue, drug trafficking, prostitution and ***spoiler alert*** bulk water sales. You are irresistibly compelled to root for the ethical, misunderstood crook and the incredibly unethical lady crime fighter. The shadows are totally noir; the emotions raw and riveting. I understand some USA ripoff of intelligence is being considered, This would be a creative disaster. There is only one higher INTELLIGENCE.

Highway Patrol: Hostage Copter
Episode 38, Season 2

in your face policing from the fifties
I watched my first two episodes tonight of Highway first viewing since childhood I hasten to add. One episode told the story of a new stretch of highway and driving infractions. I have to say they took speeding seriously then...the car as murder instrument. No kidding around, we could use this sort of training TV these days because clearly something has to be done to help people learn how to drive safely. The second episode involved a robbery and kidnapping. There were lots of good helicopter scenes and the beautiful Barbara Eden was the damsel in distress. And they actually gave you almost a full half hour each. Guess they didn't know the value of commercial overkill in them days.

Panic in the Streets

a rich sweaty tapestry of chase and greed and fear
This film has, over the past ten years, become one of my favourite pseudo noir experiences. The three story-line threads given us by Kazan each have their unique and separate pleasures. The domestic chitchat between Bel Geddes and Widmark, the movement between rooms, the small gestures such as the phone book Barbara places on the chair under her son so he can reach the table, those small intimate exchanges between husband and wife, all are well crafted and natural. More than anything else, I love their porch, that second living room where it is clear they spend much of their summer time. The second thread is the professional relationship between many in the film but especially between Widmark and Douglas' characters. It may not be totally original and does get a bit blustery but all in all, it comes across as real, respectful and efficient. The third thread,the grungy tale of Blackie and his tattered little gang, gets us closest to a dark and frightening noir world.Palance's Blackie is as cold as a block of ice. This self-proclaimed business man, this self made man clearly has a complexity we only briefly tap in to. For me, this film continues to be a completely satisfying experience.


tense drama that plays with your head
I can find no information about this series which I stumbled across last night on an obscure Canadian TV channel. This first episode of an unknown number is promoted as an examination of a conspiracy originating in Iraq. I am hooked. As a viewer, I was given small tidbits of detail, a series of shocking incidents, a glimpse into the life of a seemingly tragic yet ordinary family swept up in events over which they have no control...well, I'll come back for more. The cast are pretty much new to me though I do watch a fair amount of British television. They all perform well and the conspiracy, what ever it turns out to be, is tantalizingly unrevealed thus far.

Young Jesse James

Young Jesse in Drag-briefly
I like to think I am an appreciative viewer, one drawn to a range of films. This effort starts off in typically abusive scene fashion and creates the thematic need for revenge. From then on, it rumbles into trite pap. Now pap can be entertaining and *slight spoiler alert* the image of a young Jesse James decked out in a dress and head gear is worth some of my time. And perhaps yours. I'm not sure if this flick is revisionist history (because I actually caught it on Canada's History Channel) which either gives it a credibility beyond reason or the programmers at the History Channel are so consumed by humor that the joke outweighed any common sense or talent they might have. Anyways. the lovely Merry Anders does a turn as Belle Starr and the fierce Emile Meyer absorbs the role of Quantrill. All in all, a wet Saturday afternoon diversion. Who could ask for more?

Save the Tiger

Maybe you just have to have reached a certain age
For some reason, it is only in my 60th year that I have had the chance to watch "Save The Tiger." What an incredible and intense film it is. One of the significant story telling techniques used is the compression of events into a tight time frame. In the case of "Save the Tiger," Harry Stoner's life is under a perpetual gun for 36 hours.

On a obscure note, others may have commented on this but midway in the film, we catch a glimpse of an old Bogart masterpiece, "High Sierra." Suffice it to say there are thematic intersections between the Bogart classic and this film. ***slight spoiler*** "Save the Tiger" ends on a gentle, reflective note: We watch Harry in the sun, in a park watching kids play. Early in "High Sierra" Roy Earle, just released from prison, strolls into a park to enjoy the sight of grass and trees. Kids are playing. He picks up a stray baseball and chucks it.

Harry's lost boys of summer days and Earle's brief flirtation with memory provide a wonderful cinematic link.

Diversion aside, "Save the Tiger" is a magnificent piece of work.

One Summer's Day

like a small cinematic dream, almost ethereal
I caught the tail end of this NFB short this morning on the Drive-In channel. It was no more then an idyll of lake side life half a century ago. A son learns about the water, meets a girl, swims with her and measures his maturity against hers. She is one year older but this is not a concern. Teens gather around a night fire, eating charred marshmallows and dancing. Though I never spent my summers at the lake as a child, this brief glimpse was almost as good. The merits of canoes versus powerboats is broached at one point. There is a sense of the slowness of summer days, the languidness, the gentle aimlessness that we may have once cherished in a distant past.

A Place in France

hilarious reality TV for lovers of absurd truths
I relate a lot to the pathetic machinations of Nigel Farrell. He is so desperate for an exotic life outside his own preordained rat-race that he conjures up a wealth of economic exercises to attain his own nirvana, his own peaceful existence. He seems to have an abundance of friends who tolerate his selfish indulgences.

I would have preferred to comment on Nigels Place in France, the 2005 version of his erratic escapades.

Nonetheless, I enjoy each and every step he takes. Thank you Nigel and especially, thank you Reza. Your capacity Reza to tolerate your friend has been marvellous.

Commander in Chief

how many male TV executives does it take to kill a show about a female president?
I'm watching the apparent final episode of Commander in Chief. I've watched all of them I think. You can lose track when the rhythm of regular time slots is tampered with as much as it is these days. Still, even with the cavalier treatment this show received, I found it informative, thoughtful and engaging.

Occasionally I would become confused in thinking that Geena's character only seemed so superior when contrasted to the pompous ass played by Donald Sutherland. Still, I would recover and recognize that what is being contrasted in this show is raw power versus service. Wonderful lessons to be learned here.

It is somewhat ironic that on this, the last evening of this show, the AFI institute is honoring the top 100 inspirational films. Commander in Chief was nothing less then a topical and inspirational drama, cut way too early. They should have at least given her a second term.


powerful call to action
As I write this, students in France are opposing a terrible government initiative to rob them of their equal rights to employment. In my current elderly comfort, I occasionally forget that government and officials of all stripes can easily fall into the role of oppressor. The Chicano of East L.A. in the late sixties woke up from their sad lethargy. This film portrays the reason and the calm that they displayed in recognizing the unfairness of the masters of education, the evil abuse of authority by the police, the beaten down acceptance by some in the older generation.

This film will serve as an example of the level of civic responsibility that we are sometimes called on to display. Bravo.


high octane noir
This film noir has three distinct movements. Brian Donlevy proves masterful at playing a high-powered executive, self-satisfied and in control. As in any good drama, his secure world is assaulted and turned upside down The film portrays his characters descent, loss of faith and subsequent redemption. Donlevy handles each of the stages well.

Helen Walker is brilliant as Donlevy's wife. Her ability to portray a duplicitous and homicidal spouse is immaculate in it's delivery.

I found great pleasure in watching the legal machinations and the ambivalence of the justice system.

More then anything, and I've commented on this in other film noir reviews, I enjoyed the street scenes of San Francisco a half century ago. Sometimes I think I'd be just as happy to forgo plot in favor of travelogue Also, Larkspur (whether it is in California or Idaho,) just seems like a fine little town the likes of which we now pine for. The volunteer fire department scene was reflective of my sense of small town values.

All in all, an absorbing,nostalgic and thought provoking piece of film art.


gritty sand and unbearable heat war epic
You know, I miss Rock Hudson. I miss the fake guy I guess, the guy who had to hide his sexual orientation because of the way the world is about 'manliness.' Anyway, Tobruk is a gritty little war thriller escapade that causes the viewer to sweat and recall a far away war in the desert, a war that had justification. Political diatribe aside, Tobruk reminds us about treachery, duplicity and the ever toxic fifth column that insinuated itself into WW11. Hudson is magnificent, Peppard is intense and aware and Nigel Green, a particular favourite, has that snooty, over-bearing right at all costs attitude down to a Tee. The Portman father and daughter fifth column team seem especially right.

The screenplay was written by the much under-rated Leo Gordon. And okay, I acknowledge that he must have watched Guns Of Navarone a few times. Still, its a fun war film (if that's possible.) His ferocious, simmering presence has a small but useful role in the film

The world I belong to has vagueness as an ethical base. Tobruk and films like it remind me of a more pure, righteous and simpler time. Sorry, I know that's a bit sentimental but age does that.

The Girl in the Café

love and truth can co-exist
Bill Nihby's Lawrence is such a painfully reserved character to observe that one wonders how he can possibly be effective as a policy wonk. Still, the fusion of this shy man and the girl in the cafe who has all the time in the world and a charming b.s. meter to boot is a wonder to behold. This film is clearly a piece of propaganda wrapped in a love story. The message is delivered in inescapable measure. Ultimately, the film punches out its challenge to the movers and shakers of the G8 to 'be great.' One could only wish that the real movers and shakers could accept the simple message they are being challenged with. This is such a lovely little film with plenty of gusto.

The Man from the Alamo

a ferocious western with an ethical bite
By chance, June clouds threatening, I sat down and watched this entertaining western on a Saturday afternoon. An earlier commentator ended his praise for this film by noting that it is "an excellent western for a Saturday afternoon." And it was. The ethical dilemma of leaving a field of battle (in this case the Alamo)to try and save the lives of loved ones is a powerful theme. The repercussions to John Stroud, Ford's weary but stalwart character, are scorn, accusations of cowardice and worse. The best part of the film are the sweeping shots of the Texas plains. The movie is well-composed, capturing the majestic plains and hills with a strength of purpose that demands an emotional response. One of the early films of Jeanne Cooper, who is a favorite of mine.

Water Rats

wonderful sea water police soap
"Water Rats" has been one of my small guilty viewing pleasures these past few years. It plays at 1500 hrs each weekday, a time I am rarely home. I don't tape it, prefering to accidentally stumble across it on the few occasions I might be home in the afternoon. Aside from the great characters and the magnificent Sydney harbour, what I most enjoy is the view, hopefully reflective of the lives of Australians, of the city, the lives of the people, and the similarity to what I imagine many Canadian lives are like. Well, without the amazing amount of crime they seem to have. This has been a very satisfying show to occasionally glimpse. Like many, the sudden passing of the Rachel Goldstein character a couple of years ago was a challenge to this soap opera patron's emotional equilibrium. As a final note, I would like to suggest that this show would do well in Canuck prime time.

FIX: The Story of an Addicted City

powerful argument for harm reduction strategies
It was a privilege to watch this film this evening. The format of having the Director, Nettie Wild, hold a forum at the end worked well. A street nurse and a less then credible candidate for mayor of Vancouver provided some stimulating debate. But the real story is the tale of a city and a departing mayor who accepted the need to treat addicts as people, to show them that their lives do have meaning,and that they have a right to live and flourish and not be excommunicated by those blessed with limited tolerance.A difficult film to watch but so rewarding.

Wyoming Mail

"a desert rose between two Palooka's"
It was amusing to discover that the Director of this pleasant little diversion directed it apparently between two Joe Palooka movies. Now they are tough films to watch. However, although this story line is a bit weak,the film does have a couple of things going for it. Alexis Smith is an attractive heroine. Her character has a life changing decision to make and it works well. The film also attempts to flesh out the role of the Railroad in small communities in the west. The Railroad Club comes off as another saloon but the very fact that its a club is an interesting historical footnote. Much of the exterior scenery is beautifully presented, although the hideout left something to be desired. A good wet Sunday amusement.

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