(In French, On Cable TV, July 2018) Perhaps the most noteworthy detail about Black Christmas is the date at which it was produced—1974, four years before Halloween (to which it has a clear kinship) would popularize exactly the kind of film that Black Christmas is both in subject matter, attitude and technique. Some of the filmmaking is limited by its low budget, but most of it reflects almost shot-for-shot the kind of films that slasher horror filmmakers would churn out for years after John Carpenter’s success. A made-in-Canada success story, Black Christmas does feel in advance of its time, although it certainly does not escape from its own subgenre. This being said, there are performances here by Margot Kidder, Keir Dullea and a young Andrea Martin, plus an energetic directing style from Bob Clark. Unusually (and unsatisfyingly) enough, the film does not reveal the identity of the killer nor punish him, reinforcing its futility. Alas, the flip side of anticipating the slasher subgenre is that it can and does feel like more of the same … which doesn’t help if you don’t like the kind of movie that it launched.
(Video on Demand, July 2016) The original My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a perfectly likable romantic comedy, but it’s a bit of a disappointment to realize, fourteen years later, that writer/star Nia Vardalos never quite made the leap to superstardom following the success of that film. A look at her filmography since then has revealed a stream of work (hey, I’ve seen Connie and Carla in theatres!), but nothing approaching the massive success of her breakthrough feature. I suppose that a “generation later” sequel was inevitable, and now that My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is available, we’re left to contemplate a sequel that pretty much delivers exactly what anyone could have expected from it: A gentle and familiar brand of humour equally devoted to cultural differences and family obligations. Here, the plot has something to do with unsigned wedding papers and the need for the protagonist’s parents to marry again, but it’s really an excuse for sequences with eccentric family members, reflecting on the rigours of an established marriage in which the only child is about to leave the nest, and throwing a few sitcom moments. Among the performers, Vardalos is just as likable as in her breakthrough role, but it’s Andrea Martin who gets the laughs as Aunt Voula. John Corbett once again look pleasantly bemused by the Greek-themed madness around him, while Elena Kampouris establishes her character without too much trouble—a feat given how loud the other actors can be. Some of the Greek-community jokes would approach stereotypes if they weren’t so affectionate. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is not particularly good, but it’s certainly not bad, and if the result feels too much like an extended television series finale, it does provide viewers with what they were expecting from such a sequel.
(On Cable TV, June 2014) There is one truly essential thing to understand about Three Inches: It was the pilot to a never-approved series, and it’s quite specifically geared to be a TV show. This becomes obvious minutes into the film (from the dull opening credit, modest cinematography and obvious breaks where commercials should be inserted), but it helps understand why it seems to hold back so much potential, and also appreciate how a better-than-average script can improve even a failed pilot into something interesting. Three Inches tells the story of a young man who, thanks to being hit by lightning, develops an telekinetic ability –albeit limited to moving objects a mere three inches in distance. What seems like a near-useless supernatural talent, however, is quickly co-opted by a small team of similarly oddly-super-powered individuals, teaming together to accomplish contracts for wealthy clients. Three Inches is probably best in its opening minutes, as a sympathetic hero (Noah Reid) deals with his sudden superpower while undergoing the complicated life of an underachieving twentysomething: Good dialogue, self-aware plotting and decent characters (including a short but funny turn by Andrea Martin as the protagonist’s mom.) Then, alas, it turns into a somewhat far more ordinary quasi-superhero team story, and the freshness of the first few minutes evaporates. The budget issues also become more noticeable, and as the story wraps itself to a conclusion, there’s a strong sense of an entire series premise being set up. Sadly, that potential will remain untapped, as Three Inches will now only exist as filler for cable TV channels. Still, the film is quite better than its “failed pilot” label may suggest, and there are some undeniably good moments early on.