Review: ‘Stealing School,’ starring Celine Tsai and Jonathan Keltz

April 10, 2021

by Carla Hay

Celine Tsai and Jonathan Keltz in “Stealing School” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

“Stealing School”  

Directed by Li Dong

Some language in Chinese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed Canadian city, the comedy/drama “Stealing School” features a racially diverse cast (white, Asian and black) representing people connected in some way to the well-known (but fictional) Dupont University.

Culture Clash: At the university, a white teaching assistant/Ph.D. student faces off with an Asian undergraduate accused of plagiarism in a tribunal hearing, which will determine if the student will be allowed to graduate or not.

Culture Audience: “Stealing School” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in dark satires of how social justice issues have an effect on how universities want to be perceived.

A scene from “Stealing School.” Pictured from left to right, facing the camera: Celine Tsai, Mpho Koaho, Kayleigh Shikanai, Jonathan Keltz and Matthew Edison. Pictured from left to right, with backs toward the camera: Jonathan Malen, Michelle Monteith and Darrin Baker. (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

The astutely written “Stealing School” takes an incisive look what can happen when race, class, gender and political correctness collide in a Canadian university that wants to project an image of being progressive and inclusive. The true nature of the movie, just like some of the characters in the story, won’t always match a first impression. “Stealing School” appears to be a straightforward drama, but it’s really a dark satire about the lengths that people will go to to keep up appearances. The story (which takes place at the fictional Dupont University in an unnamed Canadian city) unfolds in layers. Viewers will be kept in riveted suspense to see if the whole truth will eventually be revealed in an investigation over a student accused of committing plagiarism.

Written and directed by Li Dong, “Stealing School” centers on an academic tribunal to determine if Dupont undergraduate student April Chen (played by Celine Tsai) will be able to pass her political science class. April is a computer science major who is a week away from graduating from Dupont. The reason for the tribunal is because April has been accused of plagiarism in an important political science assignment. The political science class is one of the liberal-arts classes that April is required to take in order to graduate. If the three-person judging panel at the tribunal decides that April is guilty of plagiarism, she’ll fail the class and won’t be able to graduate.

The class’ ambitious teaching assistant Keith Ward (played by Jonathan Keltz), who is a Ph.D. candidate in the university’s political science department, brought the suspected plagiarism to the attention of the university and filed the formal complaint against April. Keith is also the one who has appointed himself the lead person to present the case against April. He’s taking this responsibility as seriously as a prosecutor in a criminal trial. Meanwhile, April has vehemently declared that she is not guilty and she’s going to vigorously defend herself.

Sitting next to Keith during the tribunal is his reluctant supervisor Professor Alan Thornton (played by Matthew Edison), who doesn’t really want to be there. Professor Thornton is annoyed with Keith because Keith went behind Professor Thornton’s back to file the complaint against April. Professor Thornton went along and signed off on the complaint because he didn’t want to look ignorant about what was going on with April’s assignment, which Professor Thornton had tasked Keith to look over and grade.

At the tribunal, April has someone on her side who definitely wants to be there. Sitting next to her at is undergraduate student Micah Shaw (played by Mpho Koaho), who is a volunteer in the student advocacy department. Micah has aspirations to go to law school. And based on what he says in the movie’s conversations, he’s more inclined to become a defense attorney than to work for plaintiffs. Just like Keith, Micah has the type of personality where he wants to be the one to stand up in front of a room and take the lead in presenting a case.

The three people on the judging panel who will decide April’s fate are Josh Bertier (played by Jonathan Malen), an undergraduate student in the computer science department; recently hired Dupont University bureaucrat Deborah Lewis (played by Michelle Monteith), whose title is academic integrity officer; and Professor Richard Gould (played by Darrin Baker) from the political science department. Because the tribunal is being held so close to the end of the academic school year, the three panelists are a little restless and want to get these proceedings over with as soon as possible. It also doesn’t help that the air conditioner in the room doesn’t seem to be working on this sweltering day.

Bit by bit, several things are revealed about all of the people in this tension-filled room. Many of the people have personal agendas that affect the way that they act and what they say in public and private. For example (and this isn’t spoiler information), Professor Gould and Professor Thornton have known each other since they attended the same grad school together. But they have a distant relationship because Professor Gould suspects that Professor Thornton wrote an insulting letter to university officials about Professor Gould to urge the university not to give tenure to Professor Gould. Whoever wrote the letter failed in the attempt to smear Professor Gould, because he ended up getting tenure.

During a break in the tribunal proceedings, Professor Gould (who is normally mild-mannered) angrily confronts Professor Thornton in the hallway about that letter. All of his pent-up anger comes out, but Professor Thornton denies that he wrote the letter. Is Professor Gould being paranoid? Or is he correct in assuming that Professor Thornton wrote the letter? And how will this grudge affect Professor Gould’s decision in April’s case?

Meanwhile, during certain breaks in the proceedings, April (who comes from a Chinese immigrant family) talks to her mother (voiced by Celest Chong) on the phone because her mother keeps calling in excitement over April’s graduation. It’s revealed that 12 people in April’s family will be traveling to the university for her graduation. April has a very promising future. She’s a computer science whiz who created a publishing platform that was bought by a company called Snakeskin. And she already has a job lined up at an unnamed Silicon Valley company.

A series of flashbacks tell more of the story. These flashbacks go as far back as two years before the tribunal and as recently as three days before the tribunal. Private conversations with some of the characters reveal some of their conscious and unconscious biases. For example, Josh (the computer science student on the tribunal judging panel) tells someone that there’s no shortage of Asian people in the computer science department, with his tone of voice suggesting that by “no shortage,” he really means “too many.” Josh also tells the same person that April is a “unicorn” because not she’s a good-looking woman who works in computer science.

In another flashback, academic integrity officer Deborah is seen in her first day on the job having a nervous and awkward conversation with her immediate supervisor Irene McDonnell (played by Adrienne Wilson), who is the assistant vice president of academic operations. Irene invites Deborah to an upcoming dinner that will be attended by potential donors. It’s implied but not said out loud that these potential donors are from non-Western countries.

Irene tells Deborah that American universities aren’t as welcoming of non-Westerners are Canadian universities are. “We’re better than that,” Irene says haughtily of what she thinks is American universities’ bigotry. Irene also tells Debora that it’s important that the potential donors get the impression that Dupont is welcoming to people from non-Western countries.

Several witnesses are called during the tribunal, which takes place in one day. The witnesses include April’s roommate Kelly Nakashima (played by Kayleigh Shikanai); computer science professor Tim Mistry (played by Sugith Varughese); April’s writing coach Mark Lin (played by Andy Yu); and professional essay writer Elisha Sinclair (played by Clare McConnell), who freely admits that students pay her to write their school assignments. They all provide some level of comic relief when they say things that the judging panel doesn’t expect.

“Stealing School” has some sly commentary on the perceived value of a college degree. When university official Deborah asks essay writer-for-hire Elisha at the end of Elisha’s testimony: “Why do you help students cheat? Is it because you need the money?” Elisha has this snappy response: “No, we’re both shilling overpriced pieces of paper to kids too. Yours just happens to say ‘diploma’ at the top.”

One of the flashbacks reveals that a Dupont student named Russ Kasdan (played by Vas Saranga), a journalist for the university’s student newspaper, has heard about this confidential tribunal. Russ has been snooping around to try to get information about the tribunal for a potentially damaging exposé article that he plans to write for the newspaper. Someone in that tribunal ends up leaking valuable information to Russ, and this leak might or might not affect the outcome of the panel’s decision. In addition, there’s a room in the building with a ventilator where conversations can be heard from the nearby restrooms, unbeknownst to the people in the restrooms. And yes, there are are some interesting eavesdropping scenes in this movie.

“Stealing School” has some subtle and not-so-subtle depictions of power dynamics that have to do with race and gender. When Micah advises April to not testify on her own behalf and that he will speak for her, April angrily responds: “Can you please stop coddling me? I’m not a victim. I’m simply innocent.” It’s left open to interpretation if Micah would be that patronizing if April were a man.

Likewise, Adam is aggressive in his “prosecution” of April. He openly expresses hostility toward April and appears to resent that she has a cushy job lined up while he’s a low-paid grad student whose employment future is less certain. There are times when Adam acts like he thinks he’s the smartest person in the room. It’s left open to interpretation if Adam feels emboldened in acting like an “angry white man” because he knows it’s more socially accepted than if a woman or person of color acted in the same combative and arrogant way that he does.

Although all the characters in the movie play some role in the outcome of the tribunal, the biggest power struggle is between April and Adam. Their showdown is fascinating to watch because it’s clear that this battle is more than about who wins or who loses. It’s also about how they each feel that the outcome is a reflection of how the university treats students like them. Therefore, their racial and gender identities can’t help but be part of the equation in how April and Adam feel that they will be judged.

Because the showdown between these two students is essentially the heart of the story’s conflict, much of “Stealing School” relies on Tsai’s and Keltz’s performances to keep viewers interested. Keltz’s acting at times can be a little too over-the-top, but not excessive enough to ruin the movie. Tsai has the more interesting role and performance, which she handles capably, because April goes through a wider range of emotions than Adam does.

The supporting actors all have performances that range from good to mediocre. The movie’s original screenplay and wise editing choices elevate this movie, whose flashbacks could have made it a messy film if handled incorrectly. “Stealing School” writer/director Dong and cinematographer Jack Yan Chen also bring the right balance between a “bird’s eye”/observant view in some of the scenes that are in public and the “voyeur”/intimate view for the scenes that are in private. Overall, “Stealing School” is an impressive feature-film debut from Dong.

Up to a certain point in the movie, viewers will be kept guessing if April is guilty of what’s she’s been accused of doing. Although she’s the one being judged, “Stealing School” is really a clever and somewhat snarky indictment of academic institutions and how “political correctness” can be used as a weapon to cut both ways. And the movie sends a message that first impressions aren’t always the correct impressions.

Vertical Entertainment released “Stealing School” on U.S. digital and VOD platforms on February 26, 2021. The movie was released in the United Kingdom in 2020.

Review: ‘Hunter Hunter,’ starring Camille Sullivan, Devon Sawa, Summer H. Howell and Nick Stahl

January 24, 2021

by Carla Hay

Camille Sullivan in “Hunter Hunter” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films/IFC Midnight)

“Hunter Hunter”

Directed by Shawn Linden

Culture Representation: Taking place in unnamed rural area of Canada, the horror flick “Hunter Hunter” features a predominantly white cast of characters (and one indigenous person) representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: A husband, wife and their 12-year-old daughter, who live together in a remote area, have to deal with a suspected killer wolf and encounter some surprises.

Culture Audience: “Hunter Hunter” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in “slow burn” horror films that have unexpected twists.

Devon Sawa and Summer H. Howell in “Hunter Hunter” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films/IFC Midnight)

The horror flick “Hunter Hunter” has a relatively small cast, but the movie is big on gradually building suspense, which culminates in a shocking and very gruesome ending. This is not a movie for people who get easily squeamish at the sight of blood. But if you can tolerate blood-drenched scenes in a movie, then “Hunter Hunter” might make you curious enough to see what’s going to happen in the movie’s much-talked-about ending.

Written and directed by Shawn Linden, “Hunter Hunter” starts off as more of a psychological thriller before it turns into a gorefest. And it takes a long time (the first third of the movie) before any real action takes place. It’s a “slow burn” movie that might trick viewers into thinking that it’s going to be a predictable horror flick. It’s not a typical horror film, but the ending of the movie has such an abrupt switch in tone that it’s a climax that will no doubt confuse or anger some viewers.

“Hunter Hunter” takes place in an unnamed remote, wooded area of Canada, where a family of three people live in a modest wood house and get most of their food from hunting or growing food on their land. (The movie was actually filmed in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Alberta.) Joseph “Joe” Mersault (played by Devon Sawa) and his wife Anne (played by Camille Sullivan) live as quiet recluses with their homeschooled 12-year-old daughter Renee (played by Summer H. Howell), who is a very inquisitive and perceptive child. The family has also has a male dog named Tova.

Although the Mersaults live in a very primitive way (they don’t have electricity or phone service), they aren’t completely cut off from the world. They have a truck, which is the main way that they can make money for their fur trappings or get any needed help. Joe and Anne mostly have contact with the nearest general store, where they drive to get supplies and sell fur or other animal products.

This farming season hasn’t been a good one for the family. The harsh winter weather has yielded a smaller number of crops than usual. And money is tight. When Anne goes to the general store, she doesn’t have enough cash to buy what she needs. She offers to do a trade deal with the store’s manager, but it’s still not enough to get all the items that she wants.

To make matters worse, there are signs that there’s a wolf on the loose that’s been eating the rabbits, racoons and other animals that the family depends on for meat. While out hunting, Joe and Renee find a racoon’s paw in a trap, with the paw showing signs that the rest of the body was chewed off.

When Anne is at the general store, she notices a real-estate flyer on the bulletin board. The flyer is advertising a house for sale in the suburban city of Kearney. Anne takes the flyer. Astute viewers will also notice that the bulletin board also has a missing-person flyer for a brunette woman in her 30s named Lynne Petit.

While the family is having dinner, the topic of the nuisance wolf comes up. Anne and Joe suspect it’s the same elusive wolf that they’ve been trying to catch for a while. (The movie never goes into details of how Anne and Joe have been trying to get the wolf.)

Joe says of the wolf: “Something’s bringing it back. Either it’s food or it’s a female. If I could figure out what it’s attracted to, I could bait it.” Anne says, “It’s attracted to us. I already know. We’re a steady food supply.”

Whatever is attracting the wolf, Joe makes it clear that he wants to be the only one to handle trapping the wolf. He insists that it’s too dangerous for Anne and Renee. However, Renee persistently begs to tag along with her father, until he eventually relents later in the story. Joe teaches Renee how to look for signs of wolves and bears, how to lay animal traps, and how to skin animals. He also instructs Renee that if she ever encounters a wild animal that can kill humans, she should not run but instead she should calmly walk away.

Anne shows Joe the real-estate flyer for the house in Kearney and mentions that it might be a good idea to buy the home. Joe thinks it’s a crazy idea, since they can barely afford to feed themselves. Anne is insistent that they at least think about moving to a more modern home in a more populated area.

Sensing that they’re going to have an argument about this topic, Joe asks Renee to temporarily leave the table so he can Anne can have the rest of their conversation in private. It’s a tense discussion that Joe really doesn’t want to have. But in order to avoid a major argument, he tells Renee that he’ll at least think about moving, and they can discuss it later.

In another scene in the movie, it’s revealed that Joe and Anne use to have a modern life somewhere else, and it was entirely Joe’s idea to move in a remote area, where they could live off of the land. Anne is really starting to regret that decision. She also thinks that Renee should be raised in an environment where Renee can be around other children.

Anne says to Joe: “It feels like the world has left us behind. There isn’t another generation left.” Joe replies, “There is if we make one. Nothing pushes us out of our life. Not even you.” Anne says the only reason why she chose the life they’re living now is because she chose Joe.

This marital friction is later put on the backburner when strange things start happening. While looking to trap the wolf in the woods, Joe makes a horrifying discovery, which won’t be described in this review, but it’s something that most people would immediately report to police. Oddly, Joe does not tell anyone what he found. When he goes home, he pretends that everything is normal.

And then, the family dog Tova goes missing. Renee is very upset and fears that the wolf might have killed the dog. Anne suspects the same thing, which is why she won’t let Renee accompany her when looking for the Tova in the woods. When Anne goes to look for the dog, she makes a discovery that she also keeps a secret.

Later, Joe goes in the woods again to look for the wolf. And he doesn’t come back when he was expected. After waiting several hours and there’s still no sign of Joe, Anne goes out in the woods to look for him. She can’t find him.

A worried Anne then goes to the nearest place of authority to get help: the Municipal Conservation Department, which mostly responds to complaints about wild animals on people’s property and takes care of cleaning up any roadkill. The two employees on duty are named Barthes (played by Gabriel Daniels) and Lucy (played by Lauren Cochrane), who are both in their 30s.

Barthes and Lucy have a wisecracking banter with each other. They like to sarcastically tease each other with mild insults. But underneath the joking, it’s clear that these co-workers respect each other in a platonic way. When Anne shows up to report that Joe has been missing, she’s disappointed and frustrated when Barthes tells her that there’s nothing that this department can do because the Marsaults live on federal land, which is out of the department’s jurisdiction.

This is where there’s a noticeable plot hole in “Hunter Hunter,” because most worried spouses would then find out which authorities would handle this missing-person case and file the missing-person report there. But Anne doesn’t do that. She just goes home and continues to look for Joe in the woods. She might have been reluctant to go to other authorities because Barthes questioned if the Marsault family had a right to live on federal land, and Anne had a defensive reaction to that line of questioning.

One night, Anne hears some noises coming from the woods. She thinks it might be Joe calling for help, so she takes a risk and goes outside to find out who or what is causing these noises. Instead of finding Joe, she finds an unknown man with an injured leg. He’s barely conscious.

Anne doesn’t hesitate to help this stranger. She brings him into her house and treats the bleeding gash on his leg while he’s passed out. When he regains consciousness, it’s revealed that his name is Lou (played by Nick Stahl), and he says he’s a photographer who foolishly got lost in the woods. It seems as if his legs got tangled in some thorny bushes. When Anne asks Lou if he saw anyone fitting her husband’s description, he says no.

Anne tells Lou that she can drive him to the nearest hospital because he needs professional medical care. Anne mentions that she has limited medical supplies and she doesn’t want his wound to get infected. However, Lou is very reluctant to go to the hospital. Renee wonders why Anne is going to all this trouble to help a stranger, and Anne tells her that it’s what good people are supposed to do. But will this act of kindness be a mistake?

“Hunter Hunter” keeps people guessing on whether or not there’s a supernatural element to the story. Viewers won’t get a clear answer until the last third of the film, where most of the horror takes place. Linden’s twist-filled writing and direction make “Hunter Hunter” a true mystery where the clues aren’t obvious, but they make sense in hindsight to viewers who are really paying attention.

The cast members all do good jobs with their performances, but Sullivan is the clear standout. It’s not just because she has the most screen time, but it’s mainly because her Anne character goes through a metamorphosis from being a dutiful wife to taking charge of the household once her husband goes missing. Because of something extreme that happens at the end of the movie, some viewers will have trouble reconciling it with the rest of the story. However, it’s clear that “Hunter Hunter” doesn’t want to offer easy answers on issues relating to morality or death.

IFC Films/IFC Midnight released “Hunter Hunter” in select U.S. cinemas and on digital and VOD on December 18, 2020.

Review: ‘The Twentieth Century,’ starring Dan Beirne, Sarianne Cormier, Catherine St-Laurent, Mikhaïl Ahooja, Brent Skagford, Seán Cullen and Louis Negin

November 27, 2020

by Carla Hay

Sarianne Cormier and Dan Beirne in “The Twentieth Century” (Photo courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories)

“The Twentieth Century”

Directed by Matthew Rankin

Culture Representation: Taking place in in Canada in the late 1910s to early 1920s, the comedic film “The Twentieth Century” features an almost all-white cast of characters (with one Asian) representing the middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: William Lyon Mackenzie King encounters several personal and professional obstacles in his eventual rise to power as prime minister of Canada.

Culture Audience: “The Twentieth Century” will appeal primarily to people who would be interested in very offbeat films that have satirical commentary about Canadian culture and politics.

Catherine St-Laurent and Mikhaïl Ahooja in “The Twentieth Century” (Photo courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories)

The unconventional satire “The Twentieth Century” takes a madcap, sometimes gender-bending look at the rise of the political career of William Lyon Mackenzie King, who served as the 10th prime minister of Canada for three non-consecutive terms, from 1921 to 1926; 1926 to 1930; and 1935 to 1948. Viewers don’t have to know any Canadian history to enjoy the movie, although this type of historical knowledge does help. “The Twentieth Century” is not recommended for anyone who isn’t interested in any movie that can be described as “weird.” But for people who are open to seeing a very original and sometimes bizarre retelling of King’s political origins, buckle up for a wild and wooly ride.

Written and directed by Matthew Rankin, “The Twentieth Century” is his feature-film debut, and it makes a bold statement that Rankin doesn’t want to conform to the usual expectations of first-time independent filmmakers. The movie is structured and designed to almost look like a play. Cinematically, “The Twentieth Century” pays homage to the “soft glow” look of movies that were released during the 1910s and 1920s, the era when this story takes place. And the screenplay, which is divided into 10 chapters, goes off in some unexpected tangents that don’t always land well when it comes to comedy, but they’re at least memorable and attempt to show originality.

Dan Beirne portrays King, who goes by the name Mackenzie, as someone who’s not only very ambitious but also a sad sack who’s browbeaten by his domineering mother (played by Louis Negin, in one of several gender-bending roles in the film) into fulfilling her prediction of Mackenzie becoming prime minister of Canada, or at least having a high-ranking position in the Canadian government. In the movie, Beirne looks under the age of 40, when in reality, King (who was a member of the Liberal Party) first became prime minister of Canada at the age of 47. The real King died in 1950, at the age of 75.

Mackenzie’s father (played by Richard Jutras), who is somewhat of an outcast in his own home, lives downstairs while his bedridden, cranky wife lives upstairs. The father’s only companion is a white cockatoo named Giggles, which is an obvious puppet in the movie. Mackenzie has promised his father a prestigious position in the government if Mackenzie rises to a leadership position as planned.

Canada’s colonial histories with the United Kingdom and France are exemplified by the two “loves” of Mackenzie’s life in the story. He falls for a British beauty named Ruby Elliott (played by Catherine St-Laurent), when he first sees her. She’s playing a harp, and Mackenzie has never heard music before. There’s a running joke in the movie that Mackenzie keeps mistakenly calling a harp a “trumpet” because he doesn’t know the difference between the two musical instruments.

Ruby is the daughter of Lord Muto (played by Seán Cullen), the new autocratic governor general of the land. No sooner does Mackenzie try to court Ruby and try to gain clout with Lord Muto, Ruby goes away to fight in the war, which is not named but is presumably World War I. Mackenzie is disappointed that he won’t get to woo Ruby, but he’s got other things that occupy his time until Ruby can return home to Canada.

Although Mackenzie has Ruby very much on his mind, another woman comes into his life who could also become his love interest: a French nurse named Ernestine Lapointe (played by Sarianne Cormier), who works for Mackenzie’s mother but is fired when his mother gets very irritated with Nurse Lapointe for a petty mistake. Ernestine Lapointe is a character that is an obvious nod to King’s real-life political aide Ernest Lapointe. Ernestine is immediately smitten with Mackenzie, but it takes a while for him to warm up to her.

Throughout the story, Mackenzie checks in with a sick, bedridden child named Charlotte (played by Satine Scarlett Montaz), who is in a large hospital room with other sick, bedridden children. At the beginning of the movie, Charlotte asks Mackenzie if he will outlaw tuberculosis when he becomes the leader of Canada. He promises her that he will. Although it’s not stated in the movie, these hospital patients could be part of the 1918 influenza pandemic, which was going on at the time this movie takes place.

While Ruby is away at war, Mackenzie enters a political competition for a “test of leadership.” The challenges include ribbon cutting; leg wrestling; waiting your turn; being blindfolded and identifying smells; urinating in snow and spelling out your name in the snow while urinating; endurance tickling; and clubbing of baby seals. (Real animals are not used in the movie.)

Mackenzie ends up tied for second place with Arthur Meighen (played by Brent Skagford), who becomes his political rival for the rest of the movie, as Meighen (another former Canadian prime minister) was a rival to King in real life. The person who won the competition is Henry Albert “Bert” Harper (played by Mikhaïl Ahooja), who cedes his candidacy and recommends that Mackenzie be declared the winner, but the judge in charge refuses this request. In real life, Harper was a journalist who became an ally of King’s.

And now for the really weird stuff: Mackenzie has a shoe fetish. There are some scenes where he masturbates while inhaling into a shoe. For whatever reason, every shoe that he masturbates to looks like a woman’s work ankle boot.

Mackenzie hates seeing shoes that are randomly placed somewhere. When a female neighbor places her work shoes in the hallway, he complains about it being “unsanitary.” And in another scene, when a female construction worker drops one of her shoes near Mackenzie and asks him to return the shoe by tossing it back up to her, he instead runs away with the shoe and masturbates to it.

There’s a character named Dr. Milton Wakefield (played by Kee Chan), who gives Mackenzie a cactus plant. This cactus eventually grows so large that it almost reaches the ceiling of Mackenzie’s bedroom. And every time Mackenzie masturbates and climaxes, the cactus erupts with liquid substances that won’t be described in this review.

In real life, there’s a Canadian politician named Milton Wakefield, who was the Saskatchewan Party member of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan for the constituency of Lloydminster from 1999 to 2007, long after King died. There seems to be no plausible explanation for why there’s a character named Milton Wakefield in the story and why this character is interacting with King, because in real life, King died when Wakefield (who was born in 1939 or 1940) was a child.

One of the more memorable characters in the movie is Lady Violet (played by Emmanuel Schwartz), who is Lord Muto’s eldest daughter and Ruby’s sister. There’s a scene at a dinner party where Lord Muto attempts to play matchmaker with Violet and Mackenzie. Violet is brutally sarcastic and very jaded. She says lines like, “Canada is just one failed orgasm after another.”

Throughout the movie, Rankin keeps a very off-kilter tone that will thrill viewers who like unique wackiness but will turn off viewers who just don’t see the point of many of the movie’s scenes. Beirne carries the movie with a lot of admirable gusto, while the rest of the cast members give fairly good performances. “The Twentieth Century” is not a satire that makes any meaningful political statements about Canada. However, it does have enough oddball unpredictability, sly metaphors and eye-catching visuals that make it hard to look away.

Oscilloscope Laboratories released “The Twentieth Century” in select U.S. cinemas on November 20, 2020. The movie’s release date on digital and VOD is December 11, 2020.

Review: ‘Most Wanted,’ starring Antoine Olivier Pilon, Jim Gaffigan and Josh Hartnett

July 24, 2020

by Carla Hay

Antoine Olivier Pilon and Jim Gaffigan in “Most Wanted” (Photo courtesy of Saban Films)

“Most Wanted”

Directed by Daniel Roby

Culture Representation: Taking place in Canada and Thailand, the dramatic film “Most Wanted” features a cast of white people and Asians representing the middle-class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash:  The Royal Canadian Mounted Police target a young male heroin addict to set up a major drug sting in Thailand, but the botched sting lands the addict in a Thai prison, while a Canadian investigative journalist works to uncover police corruption and to help exonerate the prisoner.

Culture Audience: “Most Wanted” will appeal primarily to people who like heavy-handed dramas about international investigative journalism and the war on drugs.

Antoine Olivier Pilon and Josh Hartnett in “Most Wanted” (Photo courtesy of Saban Films)

“Most Wanted” (formerly titled “Target Number One”) is one of those “crusading journalist” movies “inspired by a true story” that gives the impression that it inflates the importance of the journalist, who just happens to be a paid consultant for the film in real life. Written and directed in a choppy and disjointed manner by Daniel Roby, “Most Wanted” is elevated by an emotionally impactful performance by Antoine Olivier Pilon. But the film is too long (a little more than two hours) and a paint-by-numbers drama about a journalist determined to uncover police corruption while trying to free a wrongly imprisoned inmate.

The movie’s several flashbacks are not shown in chronological order. People unfamiliar with the “true story” before seeing this film might be confused by all of these flashbacks. It’s mentioned in the film’s epilogue that there were several scenes that did not happen in real life but were in the film for dramatic purposes.

Essentially, the purpose of the movie is to make real-life Canadian journalist Victor Malarek (played by Josh Hartnett) look like a hero, while almost everyone he’s investigating is involved in enough sleazy and corrupt activities that the movie makes it look like they all deserved to be exposed by Victor. The movie has Victor jumping back and forth between the Canadian provinces of Ontario and British Columbia, and later Thailand, for his investigations.

Victor is portrayed as a cocky workaholic who’s obsessed with being the first journalist to scoop everyone else on major investigative stories. The beginning of the movie takes place in 1989, when Victor worked as a reporter for the Toronto Globe and Mail, and as a part-time TV journalist at a local Toronto station. Victor’s TV interviewing style is the epitome of “gotcha journalism,” since he loves to make his interview subjects squirm when he catches them off-guard with tough questions.

It’s also shown in the movie that Victor isn’t just doing these investigations for the greater good of humanity. He also wants fame and glory for his investigations. He loves being on camera. And he doesn’t just want to get news scoops. He expects his stories for the newspaper to be on the front page.

In the Globe and Mail newsroom, Victor argues with his long-suffering editor Arthur (played by JC MacKenzie), who tells this narcissistic journalist that Victor is on the verge of being fired because Victor hasn’t turned in an assignment in two months. Victor says that his investigations often take months to complete. Arthur tells Victor that he will be demoted to being a stringer/freelancer unless he delivers one article a week, and it doesn’t matter if the articles cover easy topics. Victor shouts back, “It’s not about money! It’s about my process!”

Being an abrasive and aggressive journalist has made Victor some enemies, so he’s used to getting death threats or other threats to his safety. However, something has changed in Victor’s life that has made him think twice about how his work might affect his personal life. His wife Anna (played by Amanda Crew) has recently given birth to their first child, a daughter. Like a lot of cliché wife roles in this kind of movie, Anna’s only purpose is to sit around looking worried and scold her husband when he lets his work obsessions negatively affect their life at home.

Meanwhile, a French Canadian recovering heroin addict in his mid-20s named Daniel Léger (played by Pilon) has just completed a work program in a British Columbia forest. He’s been paid by check, but he doesn’t have a bank account to cash it, and there are no banks or check-cashing places nearby. When he goes to a convenience store near the forest, Daniel buys some things, but he has no cash with him.

Daniel calls his mother to ask him to read his credit card number over the phone so that he can pay for the items. His mother refuses, and Daniel promises her that he’s not buying drugs. Daniel tells the store clerk that he’ll be right back to get some cash. Instead, Daniel steals the items and takes off on his motorcycle, with the clerk chasing after him to no avail.

Needless to say, Daniel falls right back into drug addiction after he was clean and sober for six months. One of his junkie friends named Michael (played by Frédéric Millaire Zouvi) introduces Daniel to another drug addict named Glen Picker (played by Jim Gaffigan), who has a houseboat that Glen uses for commercial fishing and tourist excursions. But how Glen really makes most of his money is through drug dealing and by being a confidential informant for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Seeing that Daniel is broke, homeless and desperate, Glen offers a grateful Daniel a job as his apprentice.

“Most Wanted” takes a long, convoluted time to get to the heart of the story, including an unnecessary detour that shows Daniel dating a pawn-shop clerk named Mary (played by Rose-Marie Perreault), in a drug-fueled relationship that ends up going nowhere. When Glen finds out that Daniel was arrested in Thailand for a drug deal, Glen foolishly believes Michael’s exaggeration that Daniel has major drug connections in Thailand. Michael even has a nickname for Daniel: Thailand Party Guy. Daniel doesn’t really correct this exaggerated perception of his clout in the drug-dealing world.

Glen passes along this information to an overzealous RCMP federal agent named Barry Cooper (played by Stephen McHattie), who’s close to retirement and eager to make one last major drug bust before he retires. Under Barry’s direction, Canada’s federal police pressure Daniel to set up a major drug deal in Thailand. Glen also has high expectations for Daniel to deliver a big drug deal to the feds.

In reality, Daniel only knows one small-time drug dealer in Thailand. Even though Daniel’s passport was confiscated due to his previous drug bust in Thailand, he’s able to get his passport returned to him, now that he’s secretly working with the Canadian government. Barry and other Canadian federal agents—including Barry’s ambitious son Al Cooper (played by Cory Lipman), who’s still a trainee—arrange to take a trip to Thailand with Daniel to set up what the feds think will be a major drug bust.

But things go horribly wrong. Daniel and some local Thai drug dealers are arrested by Thai police. During Daniel’s court hearings in Thailand, the Canadian government misleads the judge into thinking that Daniel is someone else with the same last name who has an arrest record in Canada. In reality, Daniel does not have an arrest record in Canada, but he’s been advised to plead guilty or else he will get the death penalty.

Daniel is sentenced to 100 years in prison. And somewhere in the jumbled way that this story is told in the movie, investigative journalist Victor takes it upon himself to try to get justice for Daniel. “Most Wanted” takes too long (about two-thirds of the film) showing how Daniel ended up wrongly imprisoned in Thailand. By the time the prison scenes are shown, they look rushed and shoved in as an after-thought.

And it’s too bad, because the best scenes in the movie are of Daniel’s plight in the Thai prison and what he does to survive. As Daniel, Pilon does a particularly credible performance in portraying the terror yet self-preservation that Daniel experiences while in the custody of Thai law enforcement.

Gaffigan, who usually has comedic roles, is also quite impressive in his performance as greedy confidential informant Glen, but this character is written in such a one-dimensional, sleazy way that Gaffigan doesn’t have much to do to go beyond this shallowness. Hartnett, who isn’t very remarkable in his role as Victor, has played this type of swaggering egomaniac before in other movies, so it’s not much of an acting stretch for him. And the Canadian federal agents are written as bumbling fools, so the actors in those roles are confined to playing these stereotypes.

“Most Wanted” would have been improved by cutting out a lot of the filler scenes leading up to Daniel’s imprisonment and giving audiences more insightful views of how he suffered and persevered while he spent years in a Thai prison. For example, there could have been more shown of the relationships that Daniel had inside the Thai prison system that helped him with his daunting task of appealing his case.

There’s only a hint of the type of allies that Daniel must have had in the prison, as exemplified by a Thai prisoner named Sin (played by Konglar Kanchanahoti), who helps Daniel with some important favors. “Most Wanted” didn’t have to be a “Midnight Express” type of movie, but the prison scenes are so late in the film, that it defeats the purpose of making this wrongful imprisonment the center of the story.

“Most Wanted” also erases anyone besides Victor who helped Daniel outside of the Thai prison system. For example, the movie doesn’t show any attorneys who would have been necessary for Daniel’s quest to get released from prison. The movie is so hell-bent on making Victor look like the only hero who can save Daniel, that it cheapens the story by giving an unrealistic portrayal of the legal process in Daniel’s case.

And what does the movie show Victor doing during Daniel’s prison ordeal? Visiting/interviewing Daniel once in the Thai prison and writing an article published in Canada about Daniel’s wrongful imprisonment. Victor also puts his wife and daughter into hiding in the home of a fellow journalist friend named Norm (played by Don McKellar), while Victor experiences more threats from government types who tell him to stop snooping around.

In one scene that will make people roll their eyes, Victor tells Emma that she has to be patient while “I save the world.” It’s too bad that it’s too late to save this movie from its hokey melodrama that clutters the story with unnecessary gibberish and leaves out a lot of important details.

Saban Films released “Most Wanted” on VOD on July 24, 2020. Paramount Home Entertainment will release “Most Wanted” on digital and Blu-ray on September 22, 2020.

Review: ‘Game of Death,’ starring Sam Earle, Victoria Diamond, Emelia Hellman, Erniel Baez Duenas, Thomas Vallieres and Catherine Saindon

July 15, 2020

by Carla Hay

Erniel Baez Duenas, Sam Earle, Emelia Hellman and Victoria Diamond in “Game of Death” (Photo courtesy of Cleopatra Entertainment)

“Game of Death” (2020)

Directed by Sebastien Landry and Laurence Baz Morais

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed Canadian area, the horror flick “Game of Death” has an almost all-white cast (with one Latino) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: During a house party, seven teenagers find a sinister portable electronic game that will make their heads explode unless they kill people.

Culture Audience: “Game of Death” will appeal primarily to people who want the lowest-common denominator type of horror film that places more emphasis on gross-out bloody scenes than having a coherent plot.

Thomas Vallieres, Catherine Saindon and Nick Serino in “Game of Death” (Photo courtesy of Cleopatra Entertainment)

If the sight of blood makes you squeamish, then you probably won’t be able to watch the “Game of Death,” which is essentially a repetitive, mindless bloodbath. The movie is only 73 minutes long, but it feels longer since the acting is so bad and the moronic story is even worse. Directed by Sebastien Landry and Laurence Baz Morais, who both wrote the screenplay with Edouard Bond, “Game of Death” makes a feeble attempt at being a dark comedy. But that angle to the story is essentially blown to bits, just like the exploding heads of some people in this movie.

There’s not much that can be said about “Game of Death,” because there really isn’t much of a plot. The movie, which takes place in an unidentified area of Canada, starts off at a house party attended by seven teenagers. They’re all various degrees of drunk, stoned and/or horny.

Ashley (played by Emelia Hellman) is a sarcastic “mean girl” type. Ashley’s boyfriend Matthew (played by Thomas Vallieres) is her male counterpart, because he’s equally obnoxious and cruel to others. How mean-spirited is Matthew? As a prank, he gives a drink to nerdy party guest Kenny (played by Nick Serino)—and the drink turns out to be Matthew’s urine.

Everyone at the party seems to know each other pretty well. Beth (played by Victoria Diamond) is a blonde Barbie doll type. Mary-Ann (played by Catherine Saindon) is the “nice girl” of the group. Tom (played by Sam Earle) seems like a regular guy until his true nature comes out later in the movie. And then there’s Tyler (played by Erniel Baez Duenas), a pizza delivery guy who’s a paranoid conspiracy theorist.

There are no adults in the house during the party, so the teens have free reign to do what they want. The movie has predictable scenes involving sex and drugs, but these scenes are filmed in such an amateurish way that it looks like a movie made by teenagers. And that doesn’t include the phone footage that’s supposed to represent what these partiers are filming for their social media.

After playing spin the bottle, the teens move on to another game. They gather around an octagon-shaped electronic toy called Game of Death that has a display window in the middle. It’s never explained how they got this mysterious toy, but an instruction card tells them the game’s numerical display shows how many people have to die for the game to end. If someone isn’t killed by a certain period of time (the movie doesn’t say for how long), then a game player’s head will explode. The card also warns that once the game starts, anyone playing the game can’t stop it until the required number of people are dead.

The teens think that all of this is too far-fetched to really happen, so they start playing the game. They place their fingers on the game’s finger slots. As soon as their fingers touch the game, they get an electrical shock that draws blood from their fingers. The blood dripping onto the device apparently activates the game to start.

Tyler freaks out and shouts, “That’s not even a a game! It’s an STD dispenser!” His pals tease him because they think he’s over-reacting. When one of them suggests that Tyler go to the hospital if he thinks his injury is so bad, he immediately rejects the idea because he says that the people at the hospital will experiment on him.

It isn’t long after that when someone’s head explodes, just like the game’s instruction card had warned. The numerical display shows that by the end of the game, 25 people have to die. Every time someone dies, an evil electronic voice from the game says, “One down,” and then gives a sinister chuckle. The rest of the story is basically a series of people’s heads exploding or people getting murdered. All of these death scenes are extremely bloody.

The visual effects are hit-and-miss in this film. The head-exploding scenes are fairly realistic-looking. However, a scene that looks dumb and very fake is when someone gets deliberately run over by a car, and the dead body’s splattered intestines look like elongated spaghetti covered with red paste instead of bloody human guts. To make matters worse, the dialogue throughout the film is just terrible.

While this deadly game is happening, the teens argue with each other about what they should do. Some don’t want to kill anyone. Some want to kill only “bad” people. Others in the group don’t care who they kill. The game unleashes a blood lust from two people in particular, who go on a murder spree that was clearly inspired by “Natural Born Killers.”

During all of this bloody mayhem, there are some bizarre moments that are meant to be funny but they just come across as very silly. After the first head explosion, the rest of the teens are covered in blood for the rest of the movie and don’t bother to clean themselves up, even when they eventually leave the house and do what they end up doing.

While driving Tyler’s Pizza Hawt car on a fairly deserted road, they’re stopped by a police trooper named Marilyn (played by Jane Hackett), who starts singing the Pizza Hawt theme for an interminable minute that seems like longer. When she asks the teens why they’re covered in blood, they tell her that they accidentally hit an animal with their car. It’s an obvious lie that this dimwitted cop easily accepts.

And then there’s a scene where there’s a gun showdown in a hospital hallway with a young girl hooked up to an IV pack and walking in the middle of this shootout. The problem with this scene is it’s filmed almost as if it’s a dream sequence: The hospital suddenly becomes deserted and the hallway gets that foggy look that indicates that it might be a dream.

But it’s not a dream. This gun showdown is also one of those unrealistic battle scenes where people point guns at each other, but then stand around and talk too much instead of blowing the opponent away. And one of the characters also gives a very pretentious, preachy speech about life and death.

“Game of Death” might have been intended as a dark comedy, but that only works when there’s anything that’s actually funny in the movie. When a movie is this bloody, it should either be very scary or very funny or both. “Game of Death” is neither. The only heads that might explode for “Game of Death” are when viewers get bored or frustrated with this bottom-of-the-barrel horror flick.

Cleopatra Entertainment released “Game of Death” in the U.S. on digital and VOD on July 14, 2020. The movie was released in France and the United Kingdom in 2017.

Review: ‘Dosed,’ starring Adrianne, Mark Howard, Trevor Millar, Garyth Moxey, Mark Haden and Geoff Acres

March 20, 2020

by Carla Hay

Mark Howard (right) with Adrianne in “Dosed” (Photo courtesy of Abramorama/Mangurama)

“Dosed”

Directed by Tyler Chandler

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Vancouver, the documentary “Dosed” advocates for the use of plant-based psychedelics to treat hardcore drug addiction and mental-health issues, with an emphasis on white people from the middle and upper classes.

Culture Clash: This entire movie portrays pharmaceutical medicines as the enemy and psychedelics as the best solution to certain people’s addictions and mental illnesses.

Culture Audience: “Dosed” won’t change the minds of people who already believe the agenda that this movie is pushing, but for other people who need to hear both sides of an issue in order to make an informed decision, “Dosed” falls irresponsibly short.

Adrianne in “Dosed” (Photo courtesy of Abramorama/Mangurama)

“Dosed” is the type of one-sided agenda documentary that needs to be viewed with a healthy amount of skepticism and common sense. It’s clear that the filmmakers (including director Tyler Chandler) are not objective in the least and have no background in journalism, since they’ve deliberately chosen not to present different sides of a very serious issue that can severely affect people’s health. The filmmakers’ agenda is to make people believe that using plant-based psychedelics (such as Iboga and Ibogaine) is the “best” and “safest” way to treat drug addictions and mental illnesses, such as clinical depression.

As “proof,” the documentary follows just one person who goes through this “treatment”: a Vancouver woman in her 30s named Adrianne (her last name is not mentioned in the film), a longtime friend of Chandler who says in the film that she has a long history (more than 20 years) of drug addiction (heroin, cocaine, prescription drugs, you name it). Adrianne also has psychological issues, such as clinical depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Because Adrianne frequently has suicidal thoughts, Chandler decided to make a documentary about her desperate attempt to get help for her serious medical problems by showing what happens when Adrianne uses a great deal of the psychedelic drug Iboga.

At least Chandler admitted this “I’m filming a movie about my friend” bias upfront in the beginning of the film, but it does not help the movie’s credibility when people see how irresponsibly so many things are handled in this documentary. You don’t have to have a medical background to see there’s almost nothing science-based about the “conclusions” that the so-called psychedelic “experts” in this documentary make about Adrianne’s medical condition when they “treat” her, so it’s no surprise that she ends up in the emergency room. At least the filmmakers were honest enough to not edit out Adrianne’s disastrous trip to the ER, because it shows how this medical emergency was absolutely avoidable and the so-called psychedelic “experts” who were involved in her “therapy” had to take her to get help from real medical professionals in the ER.

Most of the so-called “experts” who are interviewed in the documentary do not seem to have any legitimate medical/scientific university degrees. One of the few exceptions is clinical psychologist Rosalind Watts, who does psychedelic research at Imperial College in London, England, and who is not involved in Adrianne’s “treatment.” Watts talks about how using psychedelics can be a tool (not a crutch) in treating depression, but she emphasizes that psychedelic usage is not for everyone, and it requires a lot more work and practice in therapy for people to overcome problems like drug addiction and mental illnesses. She also doesn’t claim, like most of the non-medical people in this movie do, that taking illegal psychedelic drugs will help keep drug addicts sober, because any fool can see that taking illegal psychedelics is not being “sober.”

Two of the people interviewed in “Dosed” are Mark Haden, who’s identified as a “psychedelic researcher” from Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) Canada, and Mark Howard, one of the people with a dubious background who was involved in Adrianne’s psychedelic usage. (Howard was present during Adrianne’s psychedelic “therapy session” that ended with her trip to the ER.)

Also interviewed in the documentary are Liberty Roots Therapy founder Trevor Millar, who’s identified as an “opioid addiction expert”; Inner Realms Center founder Garyth Moxey, who’s identified as a “psychedelics provider”; and MAPS founder Rick Doblin, who’s identified as a “psychedelic researcher.” Most of the “experts” in the documentary are people with no medical licenses but who have started businesses to administer “psychedelic therapy,” when in reality they’re just glorified drug pushers. We’ll get to that issue in a moment.

Adrianne says in the documentary about her drug use: “I’m always on something, whether it’s prescribed by a doctor or prescribed by a drug dealer.” Based on the long list of drug prescriptions that Adrianne says she’s had over the years (including Zoloft, Lithium and Wellbutrin), in addition to her ongoing use of heroin and methadone, it’s incredibly infuriating that anyone would think she would be an ideal subject to experiment on like a human guinea pig. She has so many drugs in her system that so many things could go wrong. And the ER trip is proof that things went terribly wrong. Adrianne is lucky that she survived that health crisis.

Adrianne willingly participated in these experiments, but considering that she was not mentally or physically well for most of the documentary, her state of mind has to be called into question. And just as importantly, there’s no mention in the documentary that she ever told her doctor(s) that she was undergoing this psychedelic “treatment” (it’s implied that she kept it a secret from any doctors she has), which put her health further at risk. But hey, why worry about serious health dangers like that when you’ve got a documentary to make?

That isn’t the only secret that Adrianne keeps. For most of the documentary, she claims she’s only using heroin “occasionally” (whatever that means) and that the only drug she’s using daily is methadone. But one of the reasons why she ended up in the emergency room is because she lied and was actually still using heroin heavily during her “psychedelic therapy,” which is a type of “treatment” that is only supposed to be done when people don’t have serious drugs like heroin in their system. It’s only after she’s taken to the emergency room that she admits to lying about still using heroin on a regular basis.

Adrianne shouldn’t get all the blame, because the documentary doesn’t make it clear how often she was tested for drugs before her trip to the ER. People who are truly experienced in treating drug addicts know that junkies often tell lies about their drug use. That’s why people who are in legitimate drug treatment get drug tested before any further drugs are put into their system.

The documentary does not show Adrianne getting drug tested every single time before she gets psychedelic experiments that are eagerly administered to her by the people who call themselves “experts” from this non-medical organization called Iboga Soul. One of the Iboga Soul people is identified as “registered nurse” Patrick Fishley, who apparently has no qualms about being seen on camera as someone involved in illegal drug activity, which is a serious violation of a nursing license.

Apparently, the people from Iboga Soul and anyone else who encouraged Adrianne to use illegal psychedelic drugs just took Adrianne’s word for it that she wasn’t doing heroin. And the result was she ended up in the emergency room. In one very telling scene, Iboga Soul manager Geoff Acres has a shocked and terrified look on his face when he finds out that Adrianne had to be taken to the emergency room after she got “dosed” with one of Iboga Soul’s “treatments.” It’s the kind of look where he seems to be thinking, “I hope she doesn’t die and I hope we don’t get sued.”

Not surprisingly, the movie shows Adrianne sending text messages to members of Iboga Soul to go to her home and find her drug stash to get rid of it. And the documentary does show them confiscating the drugs on camera. For the cameras, they make it look like getting rid of the drugs is all about Adrianne’s health. But let’s be real: It’s also about making sure the police don’t find any of her illegal drugs in case they show up at Adrianne’s home, which can happen after a drug addict is taken to the emergency room and tests positive for illegal drugs in their system.

One of the documentary’s many flaws is that it’s so aggressive about pushing its agenda that it doesn’t honestly investigate the things that have gone wrong with this type of psychedelic use. Yes, there could be people who might benefit from using psychedelics, but how many more (or less) people go through the same “treatment,” and it has terrible effects that make their health worse? The “Dosed” filmmakers never attempt to answer this question or try to get the other side of the story from people who’ve had bad experiences from seeking this type of “treatment.” However, the movie goes out of its way to present the pharmaceutical industry as being largely responsible for people’s bad experiences in seeking health treatment. It’s obvious that the “Dosed” filmmakers only want to present a psychedelic usage story with a “happy ending.”

When Adrianne describes some of the nauseating physical side effects that she’s experiencing after taking the psychedelics, “Dosed” director Chandler can be heard asking her off camera something like, “But you still feel pretty good, right? You aren’t depressed anymore, right?” At another point in the movie, she legitimately snaps at him when she tells him that he doesn’t understand addiction. In making this movie, Chandler seems to want to think that this type of “treatment” is a straight line to wellness, when in fact there are some terrifying zig zags that can go south very quickly.

And the disclaimer that the documentary has about how psychedelics like Iboga should be administered under medical supervision is almost laughable, when “Dosed” and other documentaries just like it show that the people making money off of running these “psychedelic therapy sessions” almost always do not have the medical qualifications to administer these psychedelic drugs and monitor their effects. Some of the “psychedelic therapists” might have good intentions to help people get better, but it seems like making money is the real intention. The push to make these treatments legal has a lot to do with people wanting to get rich off of it.

You don’t have to look any further than who’s being targeted for these psychedelic treatments: white people from the middle and upper classes. Time and time again, in documentaries like “Dosed” and “From Shock to Awe” and “Psyched Out,” the participants (the so-called “healers” and the patients) are not a diverse group of people from different races and socioeconomic backgrounds, but they’re almost exclusively white people who can not only afford to buy these drugs but they brazenly put themselves in documentary films that show them (and their real names) as actively participating in illegal drug activity.

If you consider that most people who use drugs in the U.S. and Canada are white (and the numerous documentaries on drug addicts in America prove it), but most people in jail for using drugs are not white and are usually poor, it shows how much of a racial and social divide there is, in terms of who’s most likely to end up in prison for being involved in illegal drugs and who isn’t. Of course, the “Dosed” filmmakers completely ignore this major problem because they wouldn’t have a movie if certain people didn’t feel comfortable flaunting their illegal drug activity and dressing it up as if they’re better than the people who go to jail for also selling or possessing illegal drugs. Adrianne certainly fits that “privileged” profile, since she’s seen taking illegal drugs on camera and she mentions that her divorced mother has paid for Adrianne’s multiple trips to rehab.

This entire movie has a “privileged blind spot” by failing to point out the obvious: If this “psychedelic movement” really cared about helping all drug addicts and all people with mental-health issues (since these problems affect people of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds), it wouldn’t be targeting white people from the upper and middle classes to pay for these “services,” so there’s obviously a biased financial agenda behind this movement.

Ironically, the psychedelics that are being used in this agenda to target white North Americans have been used for centuries in predominantly non-white countries. Iboga and Ibocaine are made from a plant root in found in Africa, in countries like Gabon, and have been used in tribal psychedelic rituals. Mexican mushrooms are also a popular drug that’s being pushed in this psychedelic movement.

The members of the all-white Iboga Soul “psychedelic therapy group” even dress up in African clothing and use the same elements of African psychedelic rituals (tribal horns and incense paper torches) during their “therapy sessions,” which give a whole new meaning to “cultural appropriation.” If any people of color in the U.S. or Canada ever did this kind of illegal drug activity so openly in a documentary, see how fast they would be arrested.

Whether they call themselves “psychedelic administrators,” “psychedelic therapists” or “psychedelic providers,” if they’re encouraging people to use illegal drugs that could have dangerous consequences, they’re really just illegal drug pushers, but they do their drug deals in middle-class and upper-class homes, instead of stereotypical street corners. At one point in the film, Adrianne says something that is very true: Most people think drug addicts are the type of dirty, homeless junkies that you might see in crime-infested areas, when most drug addicts are actually functioning addicts who have jobs and aren’t poor.

“Dosed” also doesn’t properly address the differences in the health-care systems in Canada and the U.S., which have an effect on how drug addicts can get treatment in each nation. Canada has universal health care and usually has much lower costs for prescription drugs than the U.S does. A drug addict like Adrianne, who lives in Canada, doesn’t have to worry about paying for a trip to a hospital emergency room and she won’t get kicked out of a hospital because she can’t afford to pay the bill. As someone who has Canadian health insurance, she doesn’t have to worry about not being able to afford prescriptions because she doesn’t have the right insurance or because she no insurance. It’s yet another “blind spot” that this movie has that shows how unprofessionally this serious topic is handled by the filmmakers.

And even if “psychedelic therapy” became legal in the U.S., which is what a lot of its advocates are pushing for, it’s clear that it will probably be available only to the people who are privileged enough to afford it. That’s why it’s not being marketed to “everyone,” but only to certain people who fit a certain demographic.

The documentary also has a “holier than thou” attitude toward the pharmaceutical industry. Adrianne and other drug addicts like her can certainly make a case for how they’ve been over-prescribed prescription drugs. But at the end of the day, pharmaceutical companies and the “psychedelic providers” are drug pushers with the same agenda: get as many people as possible to buy your drugs on a regular basis, even if the side effects might damage some people’s health. It’s very hypocritical to pretend otherwise. At least you need a legitimate license to be a pharmacist, whereas the people who sell these “doses” of illegal psychedelics, under the guise of medical treatment, are not regulated at all.

The one time a drug test is shown briefly on camera is after Adrianne’s ER crisis. The test kit with negative results is quickly flashed on camera, and viewers are told that those are Adrianne’s test results. But for people who aren’t naïve enough to believe everything they see in a biased documentary, a couple of things are noticeable: We never actually see Adrianne take the test. And if she did take that drug test, how do we know she didn’t use someone else’s urine? (It’s a common way for drug addicts to fake their drug tests.) Given all the lies that Adrianne tells in this documentary, her statements should be taken with a huge grain of salt. If the filmmakers wanted to choose a “human guinea pig” for this documentary who would be credible and sympathetic, they picked the wrong person.

It should come as no surprise that at the end of the movie, Adrianne professes to be “sober” for a year, but then she also says she still uses illegal psychedelics on a regular basis. How is that being “sober”? But considering that Adrianne exposed herself in this documentary as a chronic and convincing liar who lied about all the heroin she was doing, it’s understandable if people watching this documentary question if she’s telling the truth about how “sober” she really is, thereby undermining the point that “Dosed” is trying to make.

Ironically, “psychedelic therapist” Howard says something before Adrianne’s ER medical crisis when commenting on the agenda that this movie is trying to push: “When people start getting ideas off of documentaries, that’s when things get dangerous. It is dangerous. We have seen enough to know that.”

Abramorama and Mangurama released “Dosed” on digital and VOD on March 20, 2020. 

Review: ‘Disappearance at Clifton Hill,’ starring Tuppence Middleton, Hannah Gross, David Cronenberg, Eric Johnson and Marie-Josée Croze

March 2, 2020

by Carla Hay

Tuppence Middleton in “Disappearance at Clifton Hill” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

“Disappearance at Clifton Hill” 

Directed by Albert Shin

Culture Representation: Taking place in the Niagra Falls area in Canada and the U.S., this crime thriller has a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Indian and black people) representing the middle-class and upper-class.

Culture Clash: A woman with a history of being a pathological liar sets out to solve the mystery of a kidnapping that she says she witnessed as a child, even if it means that the city’s most powerful family could be involved in the crime.

Culture Audience: “Disappearance at Clifton Hill” will appeal primarily to people who like mystery stories that are structured like detective procedurals and will leave viewers guessing until the very end.

David Cronenberg and Tuppence Middleton in “Disappearance at Clifton Hill” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

What happens if you witness a serious crime as a child, you report the crime as an adult, but people don’t believe you because you’ve ruined your reputation by being an emotionally unstable pathological liar? The mystery thriller “Disappearance at Clifton Hill” takes this unconventional approach to crime-solving by having the protagonist not as a noble detective but as someone with serious credibility issues and a troubled past. This is not Nancy Drew.

The movie’s central character is Abby West (played by Tuppence Middleton), a woman in her early 30s who has returned to her hometown of Ajax, Ontario, whose economy is fueled primarily by tourism at nearby Niagra Falls. She’s back in town because her widowed mother has died, and the inheritance needs to be settled. Abby has a younger sister named Laure (played by Hannah Gross), and they’ve been estranged from each other for a number of years.

At the reading of the will in a lawyer’s office, Abby and Laure find out that they’ve inherited their mother’s run-down motel called the Rainbow Inn. It’s the family business and where they grew up as children. Abby wants to keep the motel and take over as the new owner/manager, but Laure wants to follow the lawyer’s advice and sell the business. “Disappearance at Clifton Hill” director Albert Shin (who co-wrote the screenplay with James Schultz) grew up in Niagra Falls and his family owned a motel. That background gives this engrossing story added realism.

Someone who’s interested in buying the Rainbow Inn is Charles Lake III, nicknamed Charlie (played by Eric Johnson), who’s a descendant of the most powerful and richest family in the area. He’s the heir of the family firm CLC, which is a diversified company that invests in property. Charlie, who has a charming exterior that masks a ruthless side to him, says that the company wants to turn the Rainbow Inn into an amusement funhouse for tourists, but Abby is dead-set against it.

Abby and Laure are very different from each other in almost every way. Abby, who’s single, has a reputation for being flaky and a pathological liar who moves around a lot. The movie goes into details about how bad Abby’s lies were before she came back to the Niagra Falls area. Her emotional problems reached a point where she spent time in a psychiatric institution.

By contrast, Laure (who’s stayed in her hometown for all of her life) has settled down in a happy marriage and stable life with her husband Marcus (played by Noah Reid). Laure and Marcus both work for the Niagra Police Department: She’s a surveillance supervisor, and he’s a police officer.

Abby’s reckless lies have considerably damaged her relationship with Laure, and it’s clear that there’s still a lot of lingering resentment. When Abby tells Laure that they can’t sell the motel because “We grew up there,” Laure’s withering response is, “One of us grew up.”

As the two sisters disagree over what will become of the Rainbow Inn, Abby settles into the motel and gets a reminder of a haunting experience from her past. In 1994, when she was 7 years old (a scene shown in the beginning of the movie), Abby, Laure and their parents were on a fishing trip near a wooded lake area. Abby wandered off into the woods and saw an older boy (about 12 or 13) with a bloodied bandage over his left eye, indicating a recent injury caused him to no longer have a left eye. When the boy saw Abby, he put his index finger to his mouth to signal that he wanted her to be quiet.

Suddenly, a man and a woman appeared in a car on a road above the embankment, kidnapped the boy, and put him in the trunk of the car. From the way it happened, it appeared that boy had escaped from his abductors into the woods and had the bad luck of been caught again.

Abby, who was nearly seen by the kidnappers, was in shock the entire time. When she went back to her parents and sister to take a family photo near the lake, she didn’t say a word about what she just witnessed. As the West family was taking the photo, Abby saw the car drive by again, and the man and the woman briefly exited and then re-entered the car. That family photo and other photos that her mother took on that trip would turn out to have crucial evidence about the identities of the kidnappers.

Fast forward 25 years later, and Abby comes across the photos from that family trip, which triggers her memories of the kidnapping. And perhaps because she has a guilty conscience about not reporting it to the police, she decides to do the right thing and finally report the crime that she says she witnessed.

From a conversation that Abby has with Laure at the police station, viewers find out that Abby did eventually tell Laure about the kidnapping when they were much younger. But by then, Abby had told so many lies that Laure didn’t believe her, and Abby didn’t go to the police until now. Abby’s brother-in-law Marcus accompanies Abby when she reports the kidnapping. Marcus is more likely than Laure to give Abby the benefit of the doubt.

There’s a big problem when Abby reports the kidnapping: She doesn’t have any evidence, except for a somewhat blurry photo of the two people she believes are the kidnappers. And her reputation for being a liar has already preceded her.

It also doesn’t help that a cop named Singh (played by Andy McQueen) who takes Abby’s report is someone who’s already had an unpleasant run-in with her. He was a guy whom Abby had picked up at a bar and took back to the motel shortly after she arrived back in town, not knowing that he was a cop. Abby and Singh had an awkward sexual encounter when, after kissing and starting to take off their clothes, Abby blurted out that she was a virgin and then denied it. Uncomfortable with what just happened and sensing that Abby might be unstable, Singh left the motel in a hurry.

After meeting Abby for the first time under these circumstances and later hearing about her habit of lying from her own family members, it’s no wonder that he’s skeptical of Abby’s story. Singh is so convinced that she’s lying that he doesn’t even take notes when she tells him about the kidnapping. Abby gets angry over Singh’s uninterested response, so he reluctantly checks to see if there are any open cases of kidnappings or missing persons in the area that fit what Abby has described. He returns after a few minutes and tells her that no such case exists.

This is where the amateur detective portion of the story kicks into gear, because Abby decides to investigate the kidnapping on her own. One of the first things she does is go to the local library, where she finds archived newspaper articles that report the suicide death of a 13-year-old named Alex Moulin (played by Colin McLeod), whose body was found in a gorge. He’s the same boy that Abby saw being kidnapped in 1994.

Alex’s parents are a French Canadian magician duo called the Magnificent Moulins, and part of their stage act includes a trained tiger that’s kept in a cage. The Magnificent Moulins—known as Mr. Moulin (played by Paulino Nunes) and Mrs. Moulin (played by Marie-Josée Croze)—are still active performers, but they moved out of the area years ago after the death of their son Alex, who was their only child.

Of course, Abby isn’t convinced that Alex really committed suicide. And soon, she finds someone who has the same opinion. While walking near the wooded lake where the kidnapping took place, Abby meets by chance a scuba diver named Walter Bell (played by David Cronenberg, the award-winning filmmaker), who tells her that he’s the unofficial town historian. Walter also hosts a podcast called “Over the Falls,” which discusses unusual items he’s found while scuba diving in Niagra Falls and how these items tie into the area’s mysteries and local folklore.

Walter and Abby meet up again later, and she tells him about the kidnapping that she witnessed, while he drops hints to her about what he really thinks happened to Alex Moulin. It’s a conspiracy theory that he says involves the wealth, power and corruption of the Lake family, and he suspects that Charles Lake III is definitely part of a cover-up. Walter encourages Abby to continue sleuthing. Her skill at being a liar comes in handy when she thinks of various schemes to get to the bottom of the mystery.

“Disappearance at Clifton Hill” will keep viewers riveted as Abby gets more and more wrapped up in the case. There are a few scenes that stretch credulity, but they can be explained away because Niagra Falls doesn’t have a large police force, thereby making it easier for Abby to act like a one-person detective agency and not get too much blowback about it from the local police. She’s also investigating something that the police don’t think is worth investigating, so she’s not competing with them to solve this mystery.

The movie was filmed entirely on location in the Niagra Falls area. That authenticity greatly benefits the look of “Disappearance at Clifton Hill,” which has a memorable Hitchcock-influenced chase sequence at night on the Clifton Hill promenade. It’s an area filled with funhouses, wax museums and carnival attractions that look much more sinister in the dark.

The movie’s cast also does a very good and credible job in portraying these realistic characters. Abby’s resourceful determination and her willingness to try to atone for her past mistakes will make viewers root for her. And her sleuthing skills will almost make people think that she’s should be a private investigator instead of a motel owner. If you like suspenseful mysteries with some unpredictable twists and intriguing characters, then “Disappearance at Clifton Hill” is definitely worth your time.

IFC Films/IFC Midnight released “Disappearance at Clifton Hill” in select U.S. cinemas on February 28, 2020.

2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘Two/One’

April 28, 2019

by Carla Hay

Two/One
Boyd Holbrook in “Two/One”

“Two/One”

Directed by Juan Cabral

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 28, 2019.

Two strangers share an unknown connection until they have a chance meeting that reveals how they are linked. It’s not a new concept for a movie, but the drama “Two/One” attempts to bring a unique twist to the concept: Someone’s life is another person’s dream. Unfortunately, this first feature film from writer/director Juan Cabral has a premise that is so deeply flawed that it goes beyond a logical suspension of belief that you sometimes have to have for a fictional story.

The first three-quarters of the movie alternate between two men who don’t know each other: Kaden (played by Boyd Holbrook) is a professional ski jumper who lives in Canada. Khai (played by Song Yang) is a business executive who lives in China. Both men are so consumed by their work that their love lives have taken a back seat to their careers. Kaden’s family has also become fractured, as his adulterous father Alfred (played by Beau Bridges) has announced that he’s left his longtime wife, Kaden’s mother Olina (played by Marilyn Norry), because he’s become tired of the marriage. Even though Kaden’s father is selfish and insensitive, Kaden still seeks his father’s approval, which is an issue that Khai has with his own father.

Both Khai and Kaden are emotionally closed off, but love unexpectedly enters their lives. With Kaden, he has a chance encounter with a long-lost love named Martha (played by Dominique McElligott), who is now married and has a child with another man. Khai’s love interest is Jia (played by Zhu Zhu), a young woman he first saw in nude videos posted on the Internet, and she unexpectedly becomes his co-worker at the office. Khai and Jia have a whirlwind romance, and not long after they begin dating, she moves into his apartment. But their relationship hits a major speed bump when Khai finds out that Jia is a victim of revenge porn, and he has difficulty coping with it. It’s easy to see that Khai and Kaden have control issues when it comes to their romantic partners, whom they view somewhat as damsels in distress who need rescuing.

People watching this film who don’t know that it’s supposed to reveal the connection between Kaden and Khai will be left wondering during most of the movie, “Where exactly is this going?” When the big reveal happens, people in the movie have suffered serious injuries because of the connection that Kaden and Khai have. “Two/One” is so ambitious in its concept that it overlooks the major plot holes that ensue when the two characters finally meet. If the idea had been written more skillfully, then the issue of narcolepsy and other sleep disorders would have had more of a wide-reaching effect on the characters in the movie. Because “Two/One” takes such a slow-paced, long-winded approach to get to the big reveal, it wouldn’t be surprising if some people watching this movie will fall asleep out of sheer boredom.

UPDATE: Gravitas Ventures will release “2/1” (previously spelled “Two/One”) in select U.S. cinemas and on VOD on February 7, 2020.

2019 Juno Awards: Shawn Mendes has the most nominations; Sarah McLachlan is the host

January 29, 2019

by Carla Hay

Shawn Mendes
Shawn Mendes at the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Festival at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on September 22, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

With six nominations, Shawn Mendes is the leading contender for the 2019 Juno Awards, which will be presented on March 17 at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario. CBC will have the Canadian telecast of the show, which will be hosted by multiple Juno winner Sarah McLachlan. Corey Hart will be inducted in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at the ceremony. Hart,  bülow and Loud Luxury are the artists announced so far who will be performing.

Mendes is up for Artist of the Year, Juno Fan Choice Award, Songwriter of the Year, Single of the Year (“In My Blood”), while his “Shawn Mendes” album is nominated for Album of the Year and Pop Album of the Year. Following close behind with five nominations is The Weeknd, who is also nominated for Artist of the Year and Juno Fan Choice Award, while his “Pray for Me” collaboration with Kendrick Lamar is up for Single of the Year, and his “My Dear Melancholy” album is nominated for Album of the Year and R&B/Soul Recording of the Year.

Eligible artists for the non-international categories are Canadian-born or Canadian-based artists who released music in 2018. Artists eligible for the international categories are artists who were not born in Canada or are not currently based in Canada.

For the second year in a row, Canadian rapper Drake did not submit his name for awards consideration at the Junos, which is why he’s not on the nominees list this year. Drake and the music from his 2018 album “Scorpion” would have been eligible for multiple Juno nominations.

Here is the complete list of nominees for the 2019 Juno Awards:

Artist of the Year
Alessia Cara
Michael Bublé
Shawn Mendes
The Weeknd
Tory Lanez

Single of the Year
Alessia Cara – “Growing Pains”
bülow – “Not A Love Song”
Loud Luxury – “Body”
Shawn Mendes – “In My Blood”
The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar – “Pray For Me”

Album of the Year
Hubert Lenoir – Darlène
Jann Arden – These Are The Days
Shawn Mendes – Shawn Mendes
The Weeknd – My Dear Melancholy
Three Days Grace – Outsider

International Album of the Year
Camila Cabello – Camila
Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
Maroon 5 – Red Pill Blues
Post Malone – beerbongs & bentleys
Travis Scott – ASTROWORLD

Juno Fan Choice Award
Alessia Cara
Avril Lavigne
bülow
Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine
KILLY Secret Sound Club
Loud Luxury
NAV
Shawn Mendes
The Weeknd
Tory Lanez

Group of the Year
Arkells
Chromeo
Metric
The Sheepdogs
Three Days Grace

Breakthrough Artist of the Year
bülow
grandson
Johnny Orlando
KILLY
Meghan Patrick

Breakthrough Group of the Year
88GLAM
Dizzy
Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine
Loud Luxury
The Washboard Union

Songwriter of the Year
Afie Jurvanen (Bahamas – Earthtones; “No Wrong,” “Way with Words,” “Any Place”)
Donovan Woods (Donovan Woods – Both Ways; “Our Friend Bobby,” “Truck Full of Money,” “Next Year”)
Frank Dukes (Cardi B, “Be Careful”; Post Malone, “Better Now”; The Weeknd, “Call Out My Name”)
Jessie Reyez (Sam Smith and Calvin Harris, “Promises”; Dua Lipa and Calvin Harris, “One Kiss”; Jessie Reyes, “Apple Juice”)
Shawn Mendes (Shawn Mendes – Shawn Mendes; “Lost In Japan,” “Youth,” “In My Blood”)

Country Album of the Year
Brett Kissel – We Were That Song
Jess Moskaluke – A Small Town Christmas
Meghan Patrick – Country Music Made Me Do It
The Reklaws – Feels Like That
Tim Hicks – New Tattoo

Adult Alternative Album of the Year
Bahamas – Earthtones
Dan Mangan – More or Less
Gabrielle Shonk – Gabrielle Shonk
Rhye – Blood
The Barr Brothers – Queens of the Breakers

Alternative Album of the Year
Destroyer – Ken
Dizzy – Baby Teeth
Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams
Tokyo Police Club – TPC
U.S. Girls – In A Poem Unlimited

Pop Album of the Year
bülow – Damaged
Chromeo – Head Over Heels
Hubert Lenoir – Darlène
Shawn Mendes – Shawn Mendes
Tyler Shaw – Intuition

Rock Album of the Year
Arkells – Rally Cry
Monster Truck – True Rockers
The Sheepdogs – Changing Colours
The Trews – Civilianaires
Three Days Grace – Outsider

Electronic Album of the Year
Ekali – Crystal Eyes
Felix Cartal – Next Season
iamhill – Give It a Rest
Milk & Bone – Deception Bay
REZZ – Certain Kind of Magic

Metal/Hard Music Album of the Year
Beyond Creation – Algorythm
Cancer Bats – The Spark That Moves
KEN Mode – Loved
Kobra And The Lotus – Prevail II
Voivod – The Wake

Adult Contemporary Album of the Year
Jann Arden – These Are The Days
Michael Bublé – Love
Molly Johnson – Meaning to Tell Ya
Nuela Charles – Distant Danger
Whitehorse – A Whitehorse Winter Classic

 

Indigenous Album of the Year
Elisapie – The Ballad of the Runaway Girl
Jeremy Dutcher – Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa
Leonard Sumner – Standing in the Light
Brothers and Sister – Nitisanak
Snotty Nose Rez Kids – The Average Savage

Contemporary Roots Album of the Year
AHI – In Our Time
Donovan Woods – Both Ways
Kaia Kater – Grenades
Megan Nash – Seeker
The Deep Dark Woods – Yarrow

Blues Album of the Year
Colin James – Miles to Go
Jack de Keyzer – Checkmate
Myles Goodwyn – Myles Goodwyn and Friends of the Blues
Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar – Run to Me
Sue Foley – The Ice Queen

Vocal Jazz Album of the Year
Diana Krall & Tony Bennett – Love Is Here to Stay
Diana Panton – Solstice/Equinox
Holly Cole – Holly
Jodi Proznick ft. Laila Biali – Sun Songs
Laila Biali – Laila Biali

Jazz Album of the Year: Solo
Alexis Baro – Sandstorm
Alison Young – So Here We Are
Larnell Lewis – In the Moment
Renee Rosnes – Beloved of the Sky
Robi Botos – Old Soul

Jazz Album of the Year: Group
Allison Au Quartet – Wander Wonder
Andrew Rathbun Large Ensemble – Atwood Suites
Andy Milne & Dapp Theory – The Seasons of Being
Liebman/Murley Quartet – Live at U of T
Quinsin Nachoff’s Flux – Path of Totality

Instrumental Album of the Year
Aerialists – Group Manoeuvre
Gordon Grdina – China Cloud
Kevin Breit – Johnny Goldtooth and The Chevy Casanovas
The Fretless – Live from the Art Farm
Toninato / Thiessen – The Space Between Us

Francophone Album of the Year
Cœur de pirate – En cas de tempête, ce jardin sera fermé
Hubert Lenoir – Darlène
Loud – Une année record
Philippe Brach – Le silence des troupeaux
Tire le coyote – Désherbage

Children’s Album of the Year
Beppie – Let’s Go Bananas
Ginalina – It Takes a Village
Raffi – Dog on the Floor
Sonshine and Broccoli – It’s Cool to Be Kind
Splash’N Boots – You, Me and the Sea

Comedy Album of the Year
Chanty Marostica – The Chanty Show
Dave Merheje – Good Friend Bad Grammar
Debra DiGiovanni – Lady Jazz
Mayce Galoni – Awkwarder
Pat Thornton – Chicken!

Classical Album of the Year: Solo of Chamber
Andrew Wan & Charles Richard-Hamelin – Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Nos. 6, 7 & 8
Angela Hewitt – Scarlatti: Sonatas Vol.2
Blake Pouliot with Hsin-I Huang – Ravel & Debussy: Sonates
Gryphon Trio – The End of Flowers: Works by Clarke & Ravel
Marc-André Hamelin – Schubert: Piano Sonata in B Flat Major D.960; Four Impromptus D.935

Classical Album of the Year: Large Ensemble
Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra/Orchestre du Centre National Des Arts du Canada conducted by Alexander Shelley – New Worlds/Nouveaux Mondes
James Ehnes with Seattle Symphony and Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Newton Howard & Kernis: Violin Concertos; Tovey: Stream of Limelight
Louis Lortie with BBC Philharmonic – Saint-Saëns: Piano Concertos Nos. 1, 2 and 4
Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra conducted by Arthur Post with Gryphon Trio – Into the Wonder
Toronto Symphony Orchestra conducted by Peter Oundjian featuring Louis Lortie, Sarah Jeffrey, & Teng Li – Vaughan Williams

Classical Album of the Year: Vocal or Choral
Barbara Hannigan with Reinbert De Leeuw – Vienna: Fin de siècle
Choeur de l’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal with Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Conducted by Kent Nagano with Guest Soloists – Bernstein: A Quiet Place
Elmer Iseler Singers featuring Patricia O’Callaghan – David Braid: Corona Divinae Misericordiae
Joyce El-Khoury – Écho
Miriam Khalil – Ayre: Live

Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album of the Year
Brian Doerksen – Grateful
LOVECOLLIDE – Tired of Basic
Manic Drive – Into the Wild
Tim Neufeld & The Glory Boys – The Buffalo Roadshow
Dean Flandez – Speak Warren

World Music Album of the Year
Ayrad – Zoubida
Boogát – San Cristóbal Baile Inn
Emmanuel Jal and Nyaruach – Naath
Telmary y Habana Sana – Fuerza Arara
Wesli – Rapadou Kreyol

Rap Recording of the Year
88GLAM – 88GLAM Reloaded
Belly – Immigrant
KILLY – Surrender Your Soul
NAV – Reckless
Tory Lanez – Love Me Now

Dance Recording of the Year
AZARI – “Gotasoul”
Dzeko & Tiësto – “Jackie Chan (ft. Preme & Post Malone) ”
Jacques Greene – “Avatar Beach”
Keys N Krates – “CURA”
Loud Luxury – “Body”

R&B/Soul Recording of the Year
Anders – Twos
Black Atlass -Pain & Pleasure
Charlotte Day Wilson – Stone Woman
Jessie Reyez – Being Human in Public
The Weeknd – My Dear Melancholy

Reggae Recording of the Year
Blessed – Money Don’t Grow Pon Trees
Chelsea Stewart – Genesis
Dubmatix – Sly & Robbie meet Dubmatix – Overdubbed
Exco Levi – Narrative
Kafinal ft. Queen Ifrica – Talk or No Talk

Classical Composition of the Year
Ana Sokolović – Golden Slumbers Kiss your Eyes
Bekah Simms – Granitic
Cassandra Miller – About Bach
Nicole Lizée – Katana of Choice
Vincent Ho – Arctic Symphony

Jack Richardson Producer of the Year
Michael Bublé and David Foster
(“My Funny Valentine,” “Where or When” from Michael Bublé’s album “Love,” co-producer Jochem van der Saag)

Eric Ratz
(“People’s Champ”, “Relentless” from Arkells’ album “Rally Cry”)

Greg Wells
(“Waving Through a Window” from “Dear Evan Hansen” Original Broadway Recording; “This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Mike Wise
(“Not A Love Song”, “Two Punks In Love” from bülow’s album “Damaged”)

Thomas D’Arcy
(“I’ve Got A Hole Where My Heart Should Be” from The Sheepdogs’ album “Changing Colours”; “Love The Way You Are” from Yukon Blonde’s album “Critical Hit,” co-producers James Younger, Jeffrey Innes)

Recording Engineer of the Year
Ben Kaplan
(“Get Up”, “It’s Alright” from Mother Mother’s album “Dance and Cry”)

Jason Dufour
(“Truck Full Of Money” from Donovan Woods’ album “Both Ways”; “When My Body Breaks” from Kandle’s album “Holy Smoke”)

Robbie Lackritz
(“No Wrong”, “Way With Words” from Bahamas’ album “Earthones” Bahamas)

Shawn Everett
(“Slow Burn,” “Space Cowboy” from the Kasey Musgraves’ album “Golden Hour”)

Steve Bays
(“Flashes” PHASES – Dear Rouge, “UnAmerican” from Said the Whales’ album “Unamerican”)

Album Artwork of the Year
Gareth Auden-Hole (Art Director), Emil Mateja (Illustrator) for Jack Pine and The Fire’s album “Left to Your Own Devices”
Geordan Moore (Art Director, Designer, & Illustrator) for Joshua Van Tassel’s album “Crossworlds”
Michael DeAngelis (Art Director & Designer), Matt Barnes & Jess Baumung (Photographers) for Akrells’ “Rally Cry”
Mike Milosh (Art Director, Designer, Illustrator, & Photographer) from Rhye’s album “Blood”
Simon Dupuis (Art Director, Designer, Illustrator, & Photographer) from Les Hôtesses d’Hilaire L-A be (Let artists)’ album “Viens Avec Moi”

Video of the Year
“No Depression – Ali Eisner (Bahamas)
“Places” – Andrew De Zen (Alaskan Tapes)
“Powerless” – Andrew Hines (Classified)
“Hang Ups” – Ben Knechtel (Scott Helman)
“Have A Nice Day” – Peter Huang (SonReal)

Air Canada adds non-stop flights from several U.S. cities for 2017

December 7, 2016
Air Canada

Air Canada is adding new non-stop services from six U.S. cities,  beginning in the spring of 2017.

The airline will offer non-stop flights from these routes:

  • San Antonio, Texas to Toronto (daily, as of May 1, 2017)
  • Memphis, Tennessee to Toronto (daily, as of May 1, 2017)
  • Savannah, Georgia to Toronto (six times a week, available May 1 to October 15, 2017)
  • Phoenix, Arizona to Vancouver (daily, as of May 1, 2017)
  • Denver, Colorado to Vancouver (twice a day, as of May 18, 2017)
  • Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas to Montreal (daily, as of May 26, 2017)

Existing winter-only service from Phoenix to Vancouver is expanded to now operate year-round.

UPDATE: On December 20, 2016, Air Canada began offering non-stop service between Toronto and Port of Spain, Trinidad.