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Drying Up The Streets (1978)

dryingupthestreets“Ain’t nothing shaking but the leaves on the trees.”

* * * *

My posts on this blog lately have been, to put it charitably, rather sporadic. I would like to be able to share a really cool excuse for my months’ long hiatus.

Like… maybe I was doing deep undercover to break up an international drug ring.

No, that’s a lie.

The truth is duller. Full of suburban, white-collar, first-world agonies.

I was moving cities. The process was almost as spiritually smashing as a deep undercover assignment into the depths of a human cesspool of evil. Like a good undercover agent I emerged wiser, more worldly, and a little righteous …as only someone who survived something harrowing can be.

Losing your job is hard. Moving cities is hard. Starting over in the town you left almost 14 years ago, while coping with all of the aforesaid factors, is painfully hard.

Fortunately, Toronto has brought with it many, many compensations. I still feel this enormous sense of having returned home after a long, frosty exile. Seeing the CN Tower on the horizon, wandering Kensington Market, even mundane trips to the grocery store makes me feel giddy with intermittent joy. To all the Torontonians I have been randomly beaming at… I assure you, I am absolutely no threat to you.

But it wasn’t until the Toronto International Film Festival Canadian Open Vault (June 22-July 27) screening of Drying Up the Streets that I really knew things are very, very cool indeed in Toronto.

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Cool Event Alert: Royal Cinema’s Laserblast Video Night

mechanical_violator_hakaider“If this peace is fictitious, I shall destroy it!” recently moved to Toronto. So far, we have a solid suspicion that we might very well never, ever sleep again. There’s so much to do here, so much to see.

So …many …awesome …film events. Puff, puff.

What’s with this town? This one time in Ottawa we hosted a “Bad Film Evening.” A few people showed up. It was okay. There were chips.

I even purchased a copy of the execrable Myra Breckinridge  should we ever do it again.

We didn’t (perhaps for the best).

Here in Toronto, people do it up right.

Case in point: Every third Wednesday of the month – that’s Wednesday, July 16 this month - The Royal Cinema (608 College St. Toronto) is hosting Laserblast Video Night. Forward-thinking, our-kinda-people founders and hosts Peter Kuplowsky and Justin Decloux play straight-to-video films in all their crappy VHS glory on the big screen …”the way they were never meant to be seen.” So brilliant.

In fact, this is so cool, I might explode like a futuristic android being hit with a Lite-Brite cattle prod. Speaking of, this week they are playing Mechanical Violator Hakaider.

Sweet jeepers, I love this town. Check out Laserblast Video Night at The Royal Theatre or check them out on Twitter @TheRoyalCinema

Five More CanCon Pride Picks

Hacker RendersI recently saw a comment which has stuck in my mind since. In response to an article about the role of female characters in video games, someone posted, “There are no small injustices.” Which is likewise why we keep banging the LGBT drum.

I’m a big believer in equal rights, but also in being entertained; movies seem like the perfect way to get the message across.

And when you’ve reviewed many hundreds of videos, then winnowed it down to CanCon, there’s still a decent subset of pride-friendly titles. Keep whittling away the not-enjoyed ones, and others with less positive messages, and you wind up with a list like this one from 2012: Five Gay-Positive Portrayals in Canadian Film

Still, 2012 was so two years ago, and we’ve covered more ground since then, enough to generate a whole new list to complement the original. So whether you’re celebrating Pride Week in Toronto, WorldPride anywhere else, or pride in general any old time, here’s a variety of solid picks to get you in the mood.

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World Film Locations: Toronto (2014)

World Film Locations Toronto (2014)

World Film Locations: Toronto may prove useful in an ongoing endeavour, to convince my fellow Canadians of the virtues of my home town. As echoed time and again on our blog, for me there’s just “something” about Toronto. It’s as close as I come to faith, a sense of devotion not yet overcome.

Perhaps it was meeting the actor Don Lake (Terminator 2), while filming at a local school yard. He’s since gone on to feature in the beloved films of Christopher Guest’s don’t-call-them-mockumentaries series. At the time, however, I knew him only vaguely from ads and SCTV. Yet here he was in person, in my neighbourhood, delivering the magic of showbiz. I remember him as gracious and engaging, duly signing whatever I proffered.

Not so warm was a later incident with an actor I still grudgingly respect: Al Pacino brushing past me with a snarl, on the set of Sea of Love. Who did he think he was, this ruffian, intruding on my territory?

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Torment (2013)

Torment_2013“Family is forever.”

Barns. Isolated cottages. The outdoors. Stuffed animals. Step parents. …Families.

Me? I find all this stuff creepy.

Now a spooky new Canadian horror film,  Torment, has gone and made that worse.

So much worse. Thank you so much, Jordan Barker.

After two near heart attacks, and a film moment that left Hacker Renders convulsing rather convincingly in his recliner (turns out he was fine … physically), I am ready to write my review.

Here goes.

…I’m also scared of garden shears. Right… almost that forgot just now.

Come to think of it: Did I lock up the garden shears before I came in to write this? Or are they outside? Wheeze, wheeze.

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Five Canadian Videos I Want ASAP

Hacker Renders
English-speaking Canadians don’t seem much for supporting homegrown. For every Michael, Tuesdays and Thursdays – which finally appeared for sale on Amazon after a stretch only on iTunes – there’s still a Canadian Conspiracy or Time Is All You’ve Got. (The latter is great; the former not so much.)

It’s entirely possible many memorable works will never appear in our homes . . . popularity, artistic merit, or critical recognition notwithstanding.

Over recent years, keeping my eye on Canadian content, I’ve come across things I loved or wanted to see, but couldn’t obtain on video. It’s frustrating knowing I missed a chance, or only slightly less if they never existed in the first place.

So here are just five CanCon contenders I’d love to see more widely released.

Or even, you know, at all.

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Five Great Geeky Christ Figures

Hacker RendersWhat I know about religion comes down to the teachings of Coke and Hallmark. With the possibly-notable exception of a Philosophy of Religion course — taken out of youthful curiosity — I have no interest in it to speak of.

I don’t accept a spiritual world, systems based on belief-as-proof, or looking to others (who are likewise flawed) for guidance in general. It’s not that it isn’t all interesting, I just don’t find it compelling.

All of which makes a movie the perfect delivery medium. If you’re going to present a religious motif, then couch it in an entertaining experience. Even if I miss the allusion, at least I enjoy the piece on other levels.

What follows are five of my favourite works built around the idea of a saviour, defensible viewing to the faithful around us, over an Easter weekend in mixed company. Better than egg hunts and sugar crashes, at least.

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