The Belko Experiment – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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From James Gunn, the writer and director of Guardians of the Galaxy (Volumes One and Two!) comes the twisted social experiment known as The Belko Experiment.  Eighty employees of the Belko company arrive for work one morning, and are locked in their office building.  An anonymous voice comes over the PA system telling them that they have to kill thirty of their co-workers in an hour, and if they don’t sixty of them will be killed instead.  Some of the workers try to hide, some try to escape, and some turn violent.  Factions are formed, leaders are chosen, and people die.  When some of the workers try to make contact with the outside world one of their heads is remotely blown up, proving this experiment is not just a game.


The Belko Experiment was graphic, violent, suspenseful but also repetitive. Was it realistic though? Were these the reactions people would have in this admittedly absurd situation?  Yeah, it was probably pretty accurate.  James Gunn apparently came up with the idea for the script in a dream, and if this is what his dreams are made of, I’m worried about the possibilities in his nightmares.  He did a great job on the characters and there were a lot of recognizable actors involved with the project.  You liked some of them and you hated some of them. John C. McGinley was especially rotten in the movie, and it was great to see his character die. Gunn’s brother Sean has a nice little role, as does fellow Guardians of the Galaxy “Reaver”, Michael Rooker.  Tony Goldwyn was the boss in the film, and even though he could have been considered the bad guy, the cleverness of the script makes you wonder, as he was doing everything he did for his own survival.


My only complaint about The Belko Experiment was that it was a little slow because of the great character development.  I would almost have preferred it just went to the crazy action right away. The action when it did happen was pretty crazy, and the effects were quite good for what is clearly an elevated indie film.  The final scene was pretty predictable, from who would be the sole survivor, to how they would deal with their captors.  Still, it was quite entertaining and a nice release.  When I first heard of The Belko Experiment I was told it was going to be like Battle Royale meets Office Space, which I immediately made me think of the movie Operation: Endgame.  In that film a team of spies have to kill each other in their own office building, using whatever they have around them, I was very glad that Belko wasn’t just another film like that.  It was thought out very well, and was a lot more intelligent than you would think.  Dark beyond belief, it won’t be for everyone, but I did enjoy it.


Bottom Line:  I was very surprised to see Belko was put out by Orion Pictures, I had no idea that name was still around!

Phantom Boy – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Leo is a young boy who is undergoing treatments in a New York hospital (I don’t think they say it outright, but I assume the boy has cancer of some sort).  Presumably due to his treatments, he learns that he has the ability to become a “phantom” and can explore the city as a ghostly apparition. Alex (voiced by Jared Padalecki) is a New York City detective who is injured while attempting to capture the villain known as “The Face” (voiced by Vincent D’Onofrio) who has taken control of the city’s power supply, throwing the metropolis into chaos. Now, using Leo’s phantom powers, Alex’s detective work and his reporter friend Mary (voiced by Melissa Disney) as their “legs” they team up to foil the plot and save New York.


I love superhero stories, and this seemed like a nice twist on the typical cartoon or comic book hero story.  Phantom Boy is a French animation, and done by the same team that made A Cat In Paris.  The animation was hand drawn, and rather simple, but it was still remarkably well done, and had a very French feel to it.  The story keeps you engrossed in the mystery and actually can effect you emotionally.  As I said, we’re not sure what Leo’s ailment actually is, but we learn that his chances of recovery are low.  Despite that, he becomes the star of an action movie, and while some of the situations seem sad, he isn’t a sad character at all.  Leo’s powers, his adventures, all show the silver lining of life, and finding the good things in bad situations because he only discovered this ability when he got sick.


The directors (Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol who also wrote the screenplay) said something very interesting about superheroes; it’s not their powers we’re interested in, but their human side, that’s what people identify with.  It’s entertaining to watch them fly and climb walls, but that’s not what makes them captivating.


I really enjoyed Phantom Boy, it was an original story, that felt very pulp-ish, and very noir-ish and it had a lot of heart in it.  It took a slightly different spin on astral projection (  A nice thing about foreign language cartoons is that when they’re dubbed into English, you don’t notice that the mouths don’t match like in live action films.


Bottom Line: I really enjoyed the fact that even though the Face’s backstory was teased several times it was never actually revealed.  Also, I really enjoyed A Cat In Paris, which I watched the next night.

Railroad Tigers – ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

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Railroad Tigers was an interesting movie, unfortunately if you consider Jackie Chan movies to be either hit or miss, this one was probably a near miss.  Okay, first a little history (from Wikipedia) that I didn’t have before watching the movie, and that the movie didn’t provide.

The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan from July 7, 1937 to September 9, 1945. It began with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937 in which a dispute between Japanese and Chinese troops escalated into a battle. The conflict escalated afterwards. It ended with the unconditional surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945 to the United Nations allies of World War II. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the war merged with other conflicts of World War II as a major sector known as the China Burma India Theater. Some scholars consider the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 to have been the beginning of World War II.


Railroad Tigers was about a railroad worker who leads a team of freedom fighters to oppose the Japanese in order to get food for the poor.  This resistance is loosely organized and led by Jackie Chan.  Most of the “tigers” have quirky personalities and characteristics about them; you’ve got the handsome one, the fat one, the planner, the elder, the lazy one, the strong one, the inept one, the crazy one, the young one and the female one, things like that.  They mostly rob from the Japanese to feed the poor Chinese, but when they hear of a foiled plan by the Chinese Army to blow up one of their own bridges to cripple the Japanese efforts, they take on the mission themselves.


The plot sounds fairly simple but for the first half hour or so, I really had no idea why these “tigers” were doing what they were doing.  I think the film would have benefited greatly from a little bit of exposition.  Once I understood who was who and what was what, the film unfolded predictably.  The characters didn’t really leave a memorable mark on me, and I didn’t really care about them as you think you would for a band of “freedom fighters”.  Visually the film was very good, and the costuming and the scenery all looked sharp and authentic.  The stunts and action were not as fast or frenetic as I would have liked, though the final fight on the train was pretty exciting and tense.


I think the film really had two things going against it.  First, Jackie Chan is no longer a young man, and cannot carry the action of a film by himself anymore.  A lot of the stunts and fights really seemed to be recycled spots from his previous films, but now they were largely being performed by Jackie’s son Jaycee Chan.  Jaycee really looks a lot like his father by the way, and this seems like a real passing of the torch.  The second thing going against Railroad Tigers I think, is that it wasn’t sure what type of movie it wanted to be.  It took several confusing jumps back and forth between action and comedy. Overall, the film wasn’t bad, it was actually entertaining, but it was not memorable.


Bottom Line:  I think the best thing to come from my viewing of Railroad Tigers was seeing the trailer for Jackie Chan’s Kung Fu Yoga, which clearly is playing itself up to be a comedy action film, mixing Chinese and Indian cinematic styles.  I will definitely catch that one because there’s a car chase with a lion in the car.  This film will not flip flop in terms of tone.

13th Doctor – Jodie Whittaker


Good luck Jodie Whittaker…. you’re probably going to need it.


Today, after the Wimbledon final the BBC announced that Jodie Whittaker will be the new Doctor in Doctor Who.  She will be the first woman to take the role of the iconic Time Lord since the show’s inception in 1963.  A lot of the fans will be against this.  Already there are Tweet storms galore, people saying goodbye to the show forever, how a woman will ruin the show, and who the true fans really are.  I’m going to withhold any judgment until we at least get to see her in the role.


The casting of a female Doctor really shouldn’t be a surprise, but I was surprised.  Casting a female Doctor is risky, and I didn’t expect the BBC to take that big a risk with a new showrunner coming in.  Current showrunner Steven Moffat is stepping aside and Chris Chibnall is taking over for the next season.  I really wanted current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, to stick around for a season under the new runner, but it was not in the cards.  I fully expected a female Doctor to happen eventually, just not in the first year.  I know there have been a lot of hints and seeds planted over the last few years suggesting the next Doctor would be female, and there were numerous hints dropped in the Series 10 finale:

MASTER: Do as she says. Is the future going to be all girl?
DOCTOR: We can only hope.

and

BILL: But, hey er, you know how I’m usually all about women and, and kind of people my own age.
DOCTOR: Yeah?
BILL: Glad you knew that.

  • Will Whittaker get a long run as the Doctor? 
  • Is this just a quick fix to satisfy the fans who were asking for it? 
  • Will she be quickly replaced?
  • Are they setting her (and the show) up to fail?
  • Will she be a “sexy” Doctor?
  • How will they cast the 14th Doctor?
  • Will the companion be male or female?
  • How will the stories differ?
  • Will they be tailored for a female Doctor?  (I hope not actually. One of my favourite things about the show is that in a well written Who story the Doctor should be interchangeable with any of the past incarnations.) 
  • Will they be a bit more serious and dramatic or will it be played more for humour?

I really wasn’t sure who Jodie Whittaker was, but I quickly checked IMDb and see she was in Attack the Block and played Beth Latimer on Broadchurch… It’s been a while since I’ve seen Broadchurch so I had no idea who that character was until a friend told me she was the “mom of the dead kid”.  I did really enjoy her in both roles.  She is a talented actress and will hopefully bring something special to her new role.


Jodie Whittaker will be the thirteenth Doctor, and 13 isn’t a lucky number….  Ah well, as with everything with Doctor Who, time will tell….


Again, good luck….Doctor.

Wonder Woman – ★ ★ ★ ★ Theatrical Review

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So if you’re a Marvel fanboy (or fangirl) you’re not allowed to like DC stuff right?  And vice-versa?  This is the law that was handed down, right?  So if you can only like one comic book company’s movies, and I just enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, how is it even possible that I really enjoyed Wonder Woman?  Because, I really did enjoy Wonder Woman


Wonder Woman was my second trip to the theatre in less than a week, and this time there were more than just two of us in the theatre.  I think it was the second weekend possibly?  A good friend is a big fan of Wonder Woman, and since the release pretty much coincided with her birthday, the outing was made.


Now, I haven’t seen Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I haven’t seen Suicide Squad, and I haven’t even seen the final film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.  I did watch the Wonder Woman TV series from the ’70s though and did enjoy them.  As well, I think I had only seen one trailer for Wonder Woman beforehand, so I was going into the movie with very little advanced knowledge, and really no expectations.  Obviously I know who Wonder Woman is, and I know what the character’s powers are, but I don’t know really anything about her introduction to the DCEU.  I do know that you don’t usually hear a lot of good things about the films of the DCEU.  Also, why are the DC movies called the DC Extended Universe and the Marvel movies called the Marvel Cinematic Universe?


Wonder Woman was the origin story for the character that fans didn’t get when she was introduced in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it wasn’t really burdened down by that.  From what I’ve heard, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was the highlight of that film, and this followup was greatly anticipated.   Raised on the island of Themyscira as an Amazon princess, Diana is the daughter of Hippolyta (Connie Nelson) and Zeus who brought the clay statue of a daughter that Queen Hippolyta made to life.  Remember, this is an island of all women, so reproduction is a bit of a tricky subject…  Their island is hidden from the outside world (i.e. the world of man), but Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American airman crashes through their protective shield as he is chased by a German squadron at the height of World War I bringing the realities of the outside world with him.  Convinced that Ares, the God of War is behind this “war to end all wars”, Diana leaves her home with Trevor to fight alongside man, and embrace her destiny by defeating Ares and ending the threat.


As I said, I really enjoyed this film.  It had a lot of fun moments in it, lots of action, some great characters and it wasn’t slow or brooding.  There was a nice mix of humour, as we did get a little bit of a “fish out of water” story when Diana encounters our modern world for the first times.  Trying on clothes suitable for a woman in 1917, trying ice cream for the first time, walking down London streets with a sword and shield, all served to lighten the mood enough to make us love the character.  When haven’t we all felt like a fish out of water?  Once Diana and Trevor make it to the front lines, the action steps up but so does the heart of the movie.  It’s funny when you get emotionally involved with a movie that portrays recorded history.  We know that the Germans lose and the Allies win WWI, but seeing Diana emerge from the trench and attack the Germans in that No Man’s Land sequence was epic.  I had goosebumps.  Incredibly scripted, incredibly acted, and incredibly shot.  That scene, and the celebration afterwards was the entire film (and character) in a nutshell.  I like to think I’m an intelligent film watcher, and sometimes that comes back to haunt me.  I have seen far too many movies where I’ve correctly predicted a cheesy line or outcome due to what I think is obvious foreshadowing.  In the movie Diana is unfamiliar with trench warfare and is shocked when it is explained to her that they’ve been fighting there for months and have possibly only advanced a few feet further into No Man’s Land.  I fully expected an “I’m no man” line to come before Diana charged into the battle, and I even mentioned this to The Girl Who Whispered.  I was very glad that I was wrong and that it didn’t happen.  Kudos to director Patty Jenkins for not having that in her film!  Also, I may be mistaken but I don’t actually remember anyone calling her “Wonder Woman” in the film, just Diana.


At the end of the film I was pleasantly entertained by everyone connected to it.  Gal Gadot seems born to play Wonder Woman, and handled all aspects of the character well, from the naive and curious princess to the intelligent and confidant military commander.  Chris Pine is proving to be quite a good actor and has not been pigeon holed into a single role after playing Captain Kirk in the three rebooted Star Trek films.  Patty Jenkins did an excellent job directing the film.  I’ve heard people say the Zack Snyder directed films have been a bit of a tonal mess at times, and that the films are poorly lit and devoid of colour.  Wonder Woman was not a mess, was not dark, and in fact I thought it used colour and lighting quite well.


Patty Jenkins was the first woman to direct a major super hero film, and I’m a little surprised that she got the opportunity because she doesn’t appear to have directed that much.  I haven’t seen Monster, but it did win Charlize Theron a Best Actress Oscar, beyond that she has only directed a handful of episodes for various TV series and a few short films.  Directing someone to a Leading Actress Oscar is always an accomplishment, but to do it in your first film is really something so no one should be surprised that Jenkins is a talented director. I’m a little surprised though that DC chose someone with so few feature films to their credit to direct a very important piece of the DCEU.  I suppose that really doesn’t matter now, because the film has become a great financial success, and a great critical success as well.  Maybe part of DC’s problem in the past was choosing directors who weren’t fresh and were stuck in their ways?  Who knows.  I’m glad this film did well and that it all worked out for everyone involved.  To touch on my opening point about only following one company’s films, shouldn’t we as the fans of these films and as the audience want all comic book movies to do well?  The better everyone’s movies are, the more comic book movies we’ll get the opportunity to enjoy.


Bottom Line: The Marvel fanboy in me would be remiss if I didn’t mention the many similarities between Wonder Woman and Captain America: The First Avenger…  Both used shields a lot, both were set in World Wars.  Both heroes have idealistic reasons for wanting to fight in their respective wars, but have superiors who want to keep them away form the combat.  Both had mentors characters, both have love interests that are already involved in the wars, and both get a team of supporting characters (Howling Commandos and Diana’s own band of multicultural comrades). And SPOILER: At the end of the film, a heroic character named Steve (portrayed by an actor named Chris), sacrifices himself by destroying a plane that was about to destroy a major Allied city. 😉

Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2 – ★ ★ ★ ★ Theatrical Review

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the most anticipated Marvel movie of the year…until the next one was teased.  The first Guardians of the Galaxy movie was a huge and unexpected success.  Those sorts of films are hard to follow up on, and the pressure to recapture lightning in a bottle is incredible, fortunately James Gunn was up to the task.

Our band of spacefaring misfits are at it again, now they’re charged by the Nova Corps to safeguard the universe…. or to guard the galaxy.  This time though, we get some more backstory to the characters, and a few of the mysteries from “Vol. 1” are answered.  Learn! how Star Lord, a seemingly ordinary human was able to handle an infinity stone!  See! the development of a recently resurrected Floral Colossus!  Discover! the secret of Peter’s father!  Watch! as Taserface hunts down the Guardians for the Sovereign!  Shudder! as there could be a traitor in the ranks of the Guardians!  Cry! as certain key characters actually don’t survive the movie!  Laugh! at the excellent banter between the Guardians!  Be amazed! Be amused! Be entertained!  Because that’s what the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is really all about.


I managed to make it out to the theatre with my brother to see Guardians Volume 2, and we were the only two people there.  Granted, we did go rather late into the run, and we went to the late show on a Sunday night.  The nice thing about being the only two people in the entire theatre was that we could talk about the film freely without upsetting anyone.  Of course we did switch off our cell phones, we’re not animals.  We didn’t actually talk that much, but it was nice to be able to say “wow” or ask what something was, or comment or predict/guess something without getting nasty looks.


Guardians Volume 2 was a wacky, funny, action packed, fun, popcorn flick.  And I liked it just fine that way.  New characters were introduced, new ideas, and new locations in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The banter and humour was constant and well done once again.  The special effects were excellent, and everything seemed to have been amped up to at least equal the first film.  All the main characters delivered exactly what I expected, and I even managed to enjoy Karen Gillan this time around, something that didn’t really happen last time.  Michael Rooker’s Yondu got an expanded role in the sequel, and it was quickly rewarded with an excellent, almost standout, performance.  There may have been a few too many characters, and sadly, once a movie or a franchise becomes popular, all sorts of “big name” actors come out of the woodwork and are thrust into roles they might not normally take.  I enjoyed Pom Klementieff as Mantis, and Kurt Russell was really good as Ego, Peter Quill’s father, but I thought that Sylvester Stallone was just kind of thrust in there, with little explanation.  Apparently his character is supposed to be big in future movies, but I, a rather big comic book nerd, had no idea who he was, or why I should care about him, or even agree with Stallone being cast.  All that aside, you can tell James Gunn really enjoys his job, the characters and everything about the Guardians of the Galaxy, and ultimately so did I.


Bottom Line: Even though it’s one of the better selling soundtracks in recent years, I think I like “Awesome Mix-tape Vol. 1” better than Volume 2.  Sure Mr. Blue Sky by E.L.O. was nice, The Chain by Fleetwood Mac was great, and I loved George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord and Come A Little Bit Closer by Jay and the Americans is one of my all-time favourite songs, but the rest of the arrangement didn’t wow me as much.  Ah well, still a really good soundtrack.

Lego Batman Movie – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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I loved The Lego Movie.  This wasn’t The Lego Movie.  The Lego Batman Movie was written for kids, but didn’t have enough “adult humour” to hold my attention like The Lego Movie did.  Sure there were lots (and lots) of references to other Batman properties and a horde of other pop culture sources, but the humour wasn’t very clever in my opinion, in fact I thought it was pretty juvenile.  It didn’t make Batman cool, or funny, I thought it really just made the character look silly at the end of it all.  Sure there was humour, and I did laugh, but this one is definitely more aimed at kids.


It’s funny that I say it’s aimed at kids because there were a lot of inside jokes and nods to the audience that I don’t think kids would get.  Maybe the film is aimed at everyone, but the humour is just for the kids?  I guess I did appreciate a lot of the inside jokes.  You’ve got Billy Dee Williams voicing Two-Face, which is great because he was the original Harvey Dent in the first Michael Keaton/Tim Burton Batman movie back in 1989, and Harvey Dent become Two-Face.  The airplane at the beginning of the movie is the “McGuffin 1138”, referencing both THX-1138 and cleverly mixing in “McGuffin” which of course is the theatrical term for an something which is important to the characters but is actually immaterial to the plot.  They even brought in the “Bat Shark Repellent” from the 1966 Batman movie, and they even show clips of ’66s Adam West Batman.  Early on, The Joker says that his plan is not like the “two boats” plan or “the parade with the Prince music” which refers to The Dark Knight where he hijacks two boats and threatens to blow them up, and to Burton’s Batman, where the Joker has a parade to distract Gotham from his schemes.


Will Arnett who plays Batman and Michael Cera who voices Robin also played uncle and nephew (respectively) in Arrested Development, and Rosario Dawson voices Barbara Gordon/Batgirl.  I’m not sure why they had Eddie Izzard voice Voldemort when Ralph Fiennes was in the film as Alfred, and he actually played Voldemort in the Harry Potter films.  Why not have Izzard voice Alfred instead of Fiennes?  You can definitely tell that Arnett loves the role as he does put everything he’s got into his Lego Batman performances.  From the bonus features of the Blu Ray, you could see that the other cast members were also excited to be immortalized in 1 ½” of Lego plastic.


At the end of it all the movie was enjoyable, but I don’t think it will become a “classic”.


Bottom Line:  Lego Batman Movie didn’t make me want to play with LEGOs like The Lego Movie did.

John Wick Chapter 2 – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Everyone seemed to love the first John Wick movie, so you knew there was a sequel coming.  I loved John Wick, but John Wick Chapter 2 came in a few hairs short of the original.  It was still super action packed, it was still super fun, but it’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice.  If you do manage it, you probably repeated the steps you used to catch it the first time.

As soon as the film started, so did the action.  The introduction was a spectacular car chase where John Wick gets his Mustang back from the chop shop of the first film, kills many, many people in many new and creative ways.  From there the action doesn’t let up, as John Wick, who thinks that he’s “out” is pulled back “in”.  It seems the crime lord who arranged it for John to retire is calling in the favour by having him do a hit for him.  Kill his own sister so he can take her place as head of the family and sit on the crime board of directors (or whatever they’re called).  He does of course, but John wants revenge again on the man who forced him back into the game, and who put a contract out on him to make sure there were no loose ends, blah blah blah. 

Okay, I did really enjoy it, but the plot isn’t that deep or important.  John Wick Chapter 2 was two hours long.  I found the first hour to be great and action packed, not taking its foot off the gas, the next half hour I found rather slow, and then it picked up again for the final half hour, but that last half hour felt very repetitive.  One of the great things about the first film was that Keanu didn’t talk much.  He just fought and shot.  In this one, he “acts” a bit more, which is not really his strong suit…  I also didn’t like Laurence Fishburne’s character, and didn’t think he was necessary at all, except to set up a third chapter.  Based on how the film ends, and the choice Wick makes, he’ll need the help of the Bowery King, but I found Fishburne’s performance was too over the top and I couldn’t take him seriously.  And saying that a character was too over the top in these films is really saying something.  I suppose they were trying to thrill the fans by having a Neo and Morpheus Matrix reunion, but I think the way it was played killed it.  Ruby Rose however played a great character!  I have no idea who she is, but I’ve heard her name before (from kids at work) but she was great. Rose plays Ares, a deaf assassin?  Hit-woman?  Bad guy.  I don’t really know what to call everyone in these movies.  Anyway, I really enjoyed Rose’s Ares, and hope she can somehow make an appearance in the inevitable Chapter 3.  She was wonderfully controlled, understated and powerful, yet still managed to convey a sense of humour in the role through the subtitling on the screen that translated her sign language.  Naturally Ian McShane was excellent as he is still one of my favourite actors so I feel I have to mention him.

Lots of fun still, and I will enjoy re-watching it, but I fear this chapter will get a little boring, but the first one never will.


Bottom Line: They included Dog Wick as a special feature on the Blu Ray!

Brand New Testament – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

Brand New Testament


God exists, and he lives in Belgium.  And he’s a bit of a jerk… God also has a family, we know his son (J.C.), but he also has a wife (Yolande Moreau) and a daughter Ea (Pili Groyne).  This story focuses on Ea, who has become increasingly upset with the way her father treats mankind.  God sits in his office making up new rules on his computer (when you get into a bath, the phone will ring; when you’re in line, the other line will move faster) solely to torment the world.  One day when God has fallen asleep on the couch watching the hockey game (is this a Belgian film or a Canadian one?) Ea takes his keys, breaks into his office, and locks him out of his computer, but before she locks it, she releases the predetermined “death dates” to everyone on Earth to frustrate her father.  To avoid her father’s wrath, or I guess to avoid the “Wrath of God” she escapes to Earth from Heaven (which is a rundown apartment) via the spin cycle of their washing machine…

Once on Earth, Ea sets out with a homeless man as her scribe to find six disciples to add to her big brother’s twelve.  With twelve, the disciples were a hockey team (her father’s favourite sport), but now with eighteen, they’re a baseball team which is her mother’s favourite sport.  The scribe will write a Brand New Testament and it will be based on the lives of ordinary people.  Now that everyone knows when they will die, their lives and how they choose to live the rest of them are drastically altered.  Some for better, some for worse.  Some sadly, and some humourously.  Risks that would never be taken are risked, and friendships that would never have been made are made.  Some of them, for life.


Okay, it was good, but it was very French.  If you don’t like films like Amélie then you probably won’t like Brand New Testament.  The camera work, the lighting, the quirkiness of the characters, the cynicism and the absurdity, all ooze off the screen in a very European way.  Along the way we get touching stories about the chosen disciples that go from humourous to darkly sad in a few short frames.  Good performances from everyone with touching moments along the way, but the individual stories weren’t quite long enough for me.  Overall, it was entertaining, but I think it lacked focus and it wasn’t as carefree as I hoped.


Bottom Line: What would you do if you knew exactly how much time you had left to live?

Chocolat – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Chocolat is the biopic of former slave turned Parisian clown Rafael Padilla (Omar Sy).  Down on his own luck and looking for work, George Foottit (James Thiérrée) a British clown and acrobat discovers Padilla in a small circus somewhere in the France where he was playing a cannibal savage to scare the children.  Despite being an established name in the circus community, Foottit could still not sell his act to this ringmaster, but in a last ditch attempt he convinces Padilla to train with him, to rehearse with him, and to partner with him creating a new act, and the duo of “Foottit and Chocolat” are born!  As word of their act spreads, the small circus routinely sells out with everyone coming to see Foottit as the authoritarian white clown (sad clown) and Chocolat  as the “auguste” (happy clown).


News of the duo’s success travels quickly, and soon they are recruited for a famous circus in Paris where their stock and their fame continue to rise, but all good things come to an end.  Chocolat grows tired of always being the butt of the jokes, he grows tired of the racism he encounters, and he grows tired of always getting second billing.  He has greater ambitions than just being a clown, he wants to act, and takes the lead role in a production of Othello to prove that he can do it, which helps lead to the breakup of the act.  Chocolat rose to fame quickly in Paris, something he wasn’t really prepared for, and he develops addictions to women, gambling and drink which also contribute to the dissolution of the team.


I don’t know how much of the film was based on the actual history and how much of the history was adapted for the screen.  Based on a quick Wikipedia look, it seems some of the actual history was crammed together, and events in Chocolat’s career that happened with other performers were attributed to Foottit in the film, probably for brevity’s sake.


So this was a very, very interesting story!  One that I certainly didn’t know anything about, but I was searching for the trailer for a different film when I discovered this one by accident.  Omar Sy is an excellent actor and it looked like he really enjoyed this role, as Chocolat was an important character in entertainment history.  I also really enjoyed James Thiérrée and felt sorry for Foottit at times, as his career suffered when Chocolat drank too much, or gambled to excess that he caused the duo to miss shows.  Seeing Foottit trying to mentor the younger clown, to guide him, and to see his efforts fall upon deaf ears was played out very well on the screen.  The attitudes, the scenery, the costuming, everything felt very authentic for turn of the century Paris. The film doesn’t shy away from the racism that was around either, but also doesn’t glorify it.  It’s curious when you think about this film, about Chocolat and you think about racism.  Chocolat’s entire career was based around his being black and being kicked or hit or slapped by the white clown.  It’s strange to think that his success essentially came from the stereotypes, and from the ignorant cultural and racist notions of the white audiences of the time.


Bottom Line: Wow, I just found out that James Thiérrée is the grandson of Charlie Chaplin!

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