After winning stunning reviews this summer at the 2012 Montreal Fringe Festival, the play Let’s Start a Country is back in full force  for a four day run at Mainline theater. The play is an interactive experience in which actors Gerard Harris and Shane Adamczak (replacing Asaf Gerchak, who co-created the play with Harris) play off audience suggestions to not only create amusing stand up comedy but, as the title suggests, a whole new country!

front_lsac_amerrev_1_8x11One of the sad things about covering a great festival like the Montreal Fringe Festival is that there’s never enough time to see everything you want to see. And while I saw amazing stuff like Kirsten Rasmussen play TOUGH! and Drag Queens ride tricycles, Let’s start a Country was one of the shows I sadly missed, so I was thrilled when Mainline theater invited Forget The Box to come check out the show on opening night. The basic idea of the show is this; with Harris and Adamczak as the founding fathers and the audience as the Parliament, you spend 60 minutes coming up with your new country’s name, national fighting style and even a flag!

I was slightly disappointed not to see the show with Asaf, who I always enjoyed as a co-host at the Edge of the City live podcasts. But Adamczak, who I’ve also seen perform at Edge of the City shows, is an equally energetic and funny man who was more  than up for the task of stepping into Asaf’s shoes. Be it with weird history facts about founding countries or demonstrating the way people pray to their gods, the mood of the evening was unbelievably silly. With audience participation crucial to the success of the show, a lot rides on the performances of the actors. Not surprisingly, both Harris and Adamcazk were so charming that as an audience member you can’t help but smile and go along with it every crazy request they throw your way.

The great thing about the show is that every time it’ll be different; while I got to be part of creating the great nation of Beeravoot, who’s national fighting style is snuggling and who’s national flag had an octagon and Rosemary’s baby, you’ll get to experience something completely new!

Let’s Start a Country runs until Saturday. For more information contact Mainline Theater.



Starring: John Cameron Mitchell and Michael Pitt

Written by: John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask

Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell

Distributed by: New Line Cinema

91 minutes

If you happened to be at the Catacomb theatre last week for the Fringe Festival, you would have seen me sitting in the audience,  singing along loudly  to the stage version of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I know every word to every song in the play about an East Berlin transgendered rocker because the film version has long been a personal favourite of mine. Screw singing orphans or Austrian nannies spinning atop mountains; no other musical I’ve seen has the raw emotional power or epic songwriting of this one.

Usually when you watch a musical, the experience is about losing yourself in mindless fantasy; a fantasy world where beautiful people express their love for each other by breaking out into song and a few dance steps. And while it’s fun and entertaining, it doesn’t mean anything. Hedwig is different because while it’s thoroughly amusing, the writing explores love, individuality  and sexuality in a much more honest and thought provoking way.

Through each of the songs,  Hedwig (John Cameron Mitchell)  explores such issues as:  What does it mean to be a man or a woman?; am I meant to love a man, or a woman?; or  does true love even exist?

Some of my favourite songs include the upbeat “Sugar Daddy”, in which impoverished Hedwig declares she’ll do anything for the dream of a jet set life (“So you think only a woman/can truly love a man/well you give me a dress/I’ll be more woman than a man like you can stand”), and the final number, “Midnight Radio”, a power ballad about love, acceptance and being proud of who you are (“And all the strange rock and rollers/you know you’re doing all right/so hold onto each other/you gotta hold on tonight).

While there are other characters in the story, it’s hard to remember anyone except Hedwig. Indie bad boy Michael Pitt is perfectly cast in the film version as Tommy, the religious boy who becomes famous by stealing Hedwig’s songs, but even he  then  disappears from memory the moment he leaves the screen. As self-involved and sometimes just plain crazy as Hedwig is, both the other characters in the film love her anyways – and as an audience member, you just can’t help but love her either. She radiates fabulousness.

As the original star of the Broadway play and the star and director of the film version, Mitchell knows this character in and out. While I thoroughly enjoyed catching the Montreal production recently, only John Cameron Mitchell can truly rock your world as Hedwig.

It’s a performance, and film, that you never forget.


Whether you enjoy discovering foreign films at festivals or catching the latest Hollywood blockbusters at your local Cineplex, Montreal has a wide range of film related events to keep cinephiles happy all summer.

With a plethora of festivals and events all across the city, one never has to worry about not having anything to do during a Montreal summer. Readers can expect in depth coverage from Forget the Box  on the Jazz Fest, Infringement Festival, Folk Festival and much more. For all you cinephiles out there, Friday Film Review is happy to share some of the film related events happening in Montreal over the next few months.

First off, there’s Cinequanon Montreal. Cinequanon is a group that does free screenings every Friday  in  the Plateau.  Look out for Friday Film Review’s review of the Cinequanon experience  in the future. The group runs from now until the fall.  You can check out their Facebook page.

While the official dates haven’t been announced yet, in July you can get your funny on with the 15th annual Just for Laughs Film Festival.    The festival is a decent mix of Hollywood, local and indie features  and shorts.  This is also  a good festival to check out if celeb spotting is your thing, as many  come to town for  Just for Laughs.  The website hasn’t been updated for this year’s festival yet, but should be shortly.

The festival that this film critic is most looking forward to is the  Fantasia Film Festival. Running from July 14th to August 7th, Fantasia  is the premiere and largest genre  festival in North America.  One of the things that’s most exciting about attending film festivals is catching those films you know are never going to get a commercial  theatrical release, and this festival is chock full of them. Also really worth checking out is Spectacular Optical, Fantasia’s year-round webzine, which has a lot of really interesting film related  articles and interviews.

While Fantasia is a great way to discover unknown films, summer is also the time when some films get more exposure than any of us have the stomach for. While smaller films like the Ewan McGregor/Christopher Plummer drama   Beginners, and the Steve Carrell/Ryan Gosling dramedy Crazy Stupid Love, will definitely be getting my money this summer, I can’t deny that I’ll also be amongst the crowds at Scotia Bank Cinema catching what is likely to be the biggest blockbuster of the summer:  Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows Part 2. If comic book films are more your kind of thing, Ryan Reynolds is looking pretty sexy in  his  Green Lantern costume.

Finally, while I’m sadly off in Toronto while this is going on, I urge all of you in Montreal to check out the Montreal World Film Festival, taking place from August 18th-28th.   From my experience attending in the past, the festival  is a great way to catch the premiere of  Quebec films, both in features and shorts. Whatever your preference for films though, the great thing about this city is that there’s always something to keep everybody entertained.


Fantasia photo from


Starring Jay Baruchel, Emily Hampshire and Scott Speedman

Written and Directed by Jacob Tierney

Released by Alliance Films

100 minutes

I admit I went into Jacob Tierney’s latest Good Neighbours with completely the wrong expectations. Two years ago at The Toronto International Film Festival I saw his last film, The Trotsky, and fell in love with its sweet offbeat style. Besides having many of the same stars though, the two films couldn’t be more different. While I loved every moment of The Trotsky, this film is incredibly uneven and I can’t say I left the theatre completely satisfied.

That’s not to say there isn’t plenty about this film to like. Bumbling grade school teacher Victor (Jay Baruchel), waitress Louise (Emily Hampshire) and Spencer (Scott Speedman), bitter after a car accident left him handicapped, are interesting characters that are well performed by the actors. Of the three leads, Speedman shines when as Spencer he nails every sarcastic line. Spencer is a dick, and yet with a face like that how can you not want to be around him?

Set during the 1995 Quebec referendum, the film begins with Victor moving from Ottawa to the building in NDG and forming a strange friendship with Spencer and Louise. The early scenes in the film are filled with nothing but smart, dry wit. I feel if the entire film had been devoted to exploring the great chemistry of this trio amongst the tension of the referendum, Good Neighbours could have been a great film.

But instead of sticking with what he does well; silly, sweet and sarcastic, Tierney introduces a serial killer to the mix. Eventually the comedic moments fade and the thriller aspect takes over the film in some dark and brutally twisted ways. I won’t give away the specifics, but one scene with Hampshire especially made me the most uncomfortable I’ve felt sitting in a theatre since I went to go see Precious by myself.

You’ve got to respect a filmmaker for trying to exploring new things with each project, but I felt like Tierney should have stuck to either a comedy or a thriller. It’s disappointing because like Xavier Dolan (who has a small supporting role in the film) Tierney is a great young Montreal filmmaker with allot of promise. Comedy- Thrillers have the potential to be great; one that springs to mind (that also stars Baruchel) is Just Buried (2007). Good Neighbours though never manages to find the right balance between the comedy and the thriller.

We all have them.

Movies  that are permanently imprinted into your brain. Movies you’ve watched  so many times you can act out entire scenes in your kitchen on a Sunday afternoon…and have. Some people have comfort foods, I have comfort movies. And many of my comfort movies are those I’ve loved since childhood.

If you don’t have movies like this in your life, I  feel sorry for you.  These movies still hold  a magical quality for me because if nothing else for those briefest of moments, I can feel the thrill of being  a kid again.

Here, in no particular order, are my top ten  favourite movies from childhood:


As a child I  loved this animated story of a ghost dog trying to avenge his death with the help of an orphan girl who can talk to animals. As an adult I respect this movie for its examination of the not exactly idyllic issues of death and homelessness. Its also pretty amusing to the me that this movie bills Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise as its star voices.


When my family moved from a duplex  to a house in  the fourth  grade I was thrilled when I discovered there was a separate garden along  one of the sides of the house. My very own secret garden! This was the first book  I ever read on my own, and as soon as I saw this  film adaptation  it quickly became one of my favourite  movies as well.  It tells the story of a spoiled British girl raised in India who is then sent to live at her uncles enormous creepy mansion after she’s orphaned. The adult movie geek in me still loves this movie for its beautiful cinematography and a brilliant performance by Professor Minerva McGonagall herself Maggie Smith.

3.  NOW AND THEN (1995)

I’ll always  remember going to this movie with friends in the sixth grade because it was the first movie where I was confronted with sexuality; girls my age where talking about sex and even spied on boys skinny dipping and talked about their you know whats :). I still enjoy the movie about a group of friends in their tween years and in their thirties because of the great cast of Christina Richie, Gaby Hoffman, Demi Moore and everybody’s favourite grandma, Cloris Leachman.


Everyone has their favourite Disney movie, this one is mine. I  love this movie so much that I still have in my possession a Little Mermaid comb that I got for Christmas in the third grade. The story of a mermaid, aka the ginger goddess Ariel,  who does anything to win the heart of a human prince is still pure magic to me. I watched this movie again recently with the child of a friend of mine and the whole time I couldn’t help thinking to myself; A big, sassy supporting character (Ursula) a pseudo gay best friend (Flounder) and a totally Daddy’s girl? I think its about time Christopher Nolan gave The Little Mermaid a live action reboot and set it in the Valley. I would like, totally watch it.

5. ANNIE (1982)

When I worked at Avenue Video I remember a father and his young son who would come in often, always to rent the same movie. One day as his son  ran around the store the father leaned into me and whispered desperately “Please. Please tell my kid the movie is OUT.” When I was a young kid, this was the movie that I  drove my parents crazy with  as I watched it over, and over, and over. In all its mushy goodness whenever I’m feeling  depressed or  too narcissistic I like to put this movie on to have Annie remind me that the sun will come out tomorrow.

6.   MARY POPPINS (1964)

Watching this movie as a child created an instant love affair with the incandescent Julie Andrews, which lasts to this day. While I’ve seen the other movie of hers where she also plays a singing nanny just as many times, I have to say Mary Poppins always wins in the end.  Besides the beautiful musical numbers, I love the pro woman message in this movie; Poppins is a strong working woman, Mrs. Fairbanks is a suffragette. This movie will also always be memorable for me because it was the first time I developed a movie star crush- what can I say ladies and gentlemen Dick Van Dyke circa 1964 was one fine looking man.


This movie is also based on a book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of The Secret Garden… as you can tell I’m a big fan. I remember  my mom bought an old movie adaptation of this book at the supermarket on VHS for 9.99 in 1991. It starred a child actress you may have heard of, Shirley Temple. I’m kind of ashamed to admit this is the only Shirley Temple movie I’ve ever seen, but I’ve watched this movie so many times that for me she will always be that girl who is sent to live at New York boarding school.


You don’t ever have to have seen this awesome fantasy movie, made the year I was born, to know that watching a scene where a unicorn dies is really sad. I remember watching this movie with my mom sobbing and she tried to comfort me by saying “Sweetie, it’s alright, unicorns don’t even really exist.” Learning this fact only made me start crying more.

9. HOME ALONE (1990)

Yes old Macully Culkin slapping his cheeks has kind of become a joke now, but for a while when I was a kid I watched this movie on repeat. And even now occasionally when its on TV I’ll watch it and smile.


I remember being really impressed at the special effects in this movie as a kid and twenty odd years later I have to say they’ve held up extremely well. This movie is a love letter to animation, which in the days of CGI I adore. I also remember as a kid immediately being blown away by the curvaceous sex symbol Jessica Rabbit, another ginger. Hey what can I say, it just might be my love of movies as a child that caused this blonde haired Norwegian girl to become a redhead  all throughout her twenties.

So FTB readers, what’s your fave childhood movie? I leave you today with Carol Burnett singing my favorite song from Annie:


Starring: Rutger Hauer

Written by: John Davies

Directed by: Jason Eisner

Distributed by: Alliance Films

For all you who don’t know the origins of Hobo with a Shotgun, an instant cult classic of epic proportions, here’s the lowdown:  In 2007 Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez held a contest for the fake trailers that would bookend their double feature Grindhouse. Hobo with a Shotgun was one of the lucky winners, and is now the second trailer (after Machete in 2010) that has gone on to full feature treatment. Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s move on.

Exploitation is definitely not my kind of movie. Anyone who reads this column even semi-regularly knows I’m a quirky indie/serious drama kind of gal. But in my love of supporting Canadian movies, desire to expand my horizons, and most importantly get my butt off the couch, I decided to make a night of Hobo with a Shotgun recently. I mean come on, just take a good look at the poster. How could you NOT want to see this?

So last Friday, my friend Ron and I met up for a few after work cocktails before heading over the Scotia Bank theatre to catch a late screening of the movie.  After the bar Ron and I walked down  St-Catherine briskly, and the topic of  our  animated conversation was how  much we were looking forward to  being entertained by some cheesy one-liners and gratuitous sex and violence. The martinis were without a doubt the classiest part of the evening.

The “plot” (just imagine me making the biggest air quotes you’ve ever seen in your life)  of the film is when a lone hobo (Rutget Hauer) comes riding into town, hoping for a new start. Instead he finds himself a vigilante in a town consumed with murderous and sadistic lust, with his only companion a vulnerable hooker with a heart of gold (Molly Dunsworth). Will this hobo be able to deliver justice…one shell at a time? (Answer: he does kill allot of people, and it’s really graphic.)

While I appreciated the fact that the extreme violence was supposed to be amusing, I   have to admit there were several moments where I turned my head away. Call me squeamish, but sometimes you just don’t feel like watching a hooker get her head sawed off by a psychotic crime boss, ok? I know the blood is horribly fake, and that a  hooker isn’t really getting her head sawed off, but, any film that has a cameo from Robb Wells, aka Ricky from Trailer Park Boys, is going to find it impossible for me to take it seriously.

Getting a head sawed off is just really friggin’ gross.

What is it about the  exploitation  genre that we relish in the awfulness of it? The horrible lighting, and camera angles, over the top acting and cheap special effects- why did it make the hundred or so of us who had decided to catch a movie that Friday night laugh so much?

When the movie was over some of us, myself included, cheered. We stood up and cheered that we’d just watched one awful piece of filmmaking.

Well it’s definitely refreshing to see movies that don’t take themselves too seriously.  In all my indie drama loving ways, even  I  can’t help but roll my eyes at the crap produced every year  for my demographic. No one in this film is obsessed about winning themselves an Oscar, they’re clearly here to have fun.

These kinds of movies remind me of the thrill I had as a young teenager making horror movies in my high school basement. While I highly doubt I’ll become a devotee of the exploitation genre, it’s impossible to deny that films like   Hobo with a Shotgun are some utterly ridiculous bits of fun.

If Kevin Smith has taught us anything, it’s that working as a video store clerk does not offer opportunities for career advancement. The thing it does offer meanwhile, is something that we geeks out there value more than air itself; the opportunity to discover a seemingly endless supply of films and televisions shows. Who needs a real career anyways, right?

It was while working as a video store clerk during a typical horrendously busy shift, (is it possible to detect sarcasm when it’s written down?) one day, that  I discovered the BBC television show Absolutely Fabulous. My love affair with “Ab Fab” remains to this day, evident by that fun for me/annoying to anyone else quality where I can quote any episode verbatim.

(I just have to take a moment to give a shout out to my old stomping ground, which closed its doors for good a couple of weeks ago. With Blockbuster and that other little company called Netflix around, this small independent  store gave the good fight as long as it could.  RIP Avenue Video. It makes me sad to think that my future children won’t know what a real video store was.)

Absolutely Fabulous is the adventures of two hedonistic London fashionistas, PR rep to the stars  Eddy (Jennifer Saunders) and her fashion director/best friend Patsy (Joanna Lumely). With jobs they rarely work at and access to more booze and  drugs then a hipster on a Saturday night,  Eddy and Patsy have two goals in life: 1.  Buy gorgeous things and 2.Have fun.

When you look beyond the obvious frivolity, it’s not hard to notice that  Absolutely Fabulous has more charm and guts then anything marketed to a North American female audience. And yes, I say that fully aware of another show out there about a group of fashionable New York ladies. If those ladies could get their own movie spin off, two in fact, then certainly the movies gods should realize the desperate need for an Eddy and Patsy adventure on the big screen.

Sadly just like Arrested Development coming back on the air or having gone through life not knowing who Snooki is,  I know an Absolutely Fabulous movie is a  pipedream.

First off, one  can’t deny that star/creator/writer Saunders and former Avengers babe Lumley  are getting up there in age.  NOT that that would stop me as a fan to going to see their movie.  I mention age simply  because I  doubt the ladies would even be interested in playing these characters  anymore, and there’s no way in hell that Absolutely Fabulous would work without them.

Eddy and Patsy are two of the biggest egomanics and addicts in television history, and yet you can’t help but love them. Making these characters likeable is  a testament to the brilliant work of these two  comediennes.  In 2009 Fox attempted to produce an American version of the show, and thankfully the pilot wasn’t picked up.

But the main reason I think  is Ab Fab would realistically never make it to the screen is  that for some reason, people don’t want to watch a female-driven  movie that’s about women simply having fun. Why does  the idea of a females going on an adventure in the movies  have to end  with them either driving off a cliff or getting married?

In the Absolutely Fabulous movie I imagine Eddy punching Anna Wintour  in the face and Patsy getting shit faced with Pete Doherty, all while they wear their Lacroix and film  a season of their reality show across London, Paris and New York. Now that’s a movie you’d want to see, wouldn’t you?

I don’t know. In my ideal world, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie would be a international sensation after women everywhere realized it was ok to watch silly movies about ladies being fabulous. We didn’t have to pack ourselves into a theater to watch an uptight Katherine Heighl flirt badly with Gerald Butler. There would also  never be another bad sitcom or movie  out there where a beautiful skinny lady is married to a fat lazy dude. Tina Fey would be the biggest movie star in the entire world, and Sofia Coppola  the world’s greatest director. That’s just me.

Who would you want to see play Eddy & Patsy if they did make a movie?


It’s still strange to me how technology has affected the way society  takes in  information. 40 odd years ago families gathered around their television sets to hear Walter Kronkite tell them the news that John F. Kennedy had died.  Cut to the present day,  where  I discovered Wednesday morning  the news that Elizabeth Taylor had died. Was I gathered by family and friends as we shared a moment  together morning  one of the greatest stars ever to come out of Hollywood? Nope.   I was  sitting in my underwear eating my cereal  with  my  laptop next to me, looking at my twitter feed. Immediately after seeing the news of course,  I changed my Facebook profile picture to honour her. What can I say it’s my 21st century way of saying you meant something to me lady.

Your life  was one crazy ride, and you will never be forgotten.

Taylor was the original diva and never once did she have to flash her crotch to get the attention of the cameras. What Taylor did have was two Oscars, eight marriages,  chronic illness and addictions. But during her life aka a tabloid publisher’s wet dream, she also made a few films as well. Good ones. So  for all  you readers out there who have never watched one of her films before, or just interested in some suggestions to plan your marathon, here’s a list of my favorite Elizabeth Taylor films:

1. A Place in the Sun (1951)

This film stars Montgomery Clift, who along with James Dean nailed the I’m a tortured, damaged soul but you  know you can’t help but love me anyways” style of performance. In this film he stars as poor boy George who  while dating a girl at his uncle’s factory Alice  (the amazing Shelley Winters, who sadly often got cast as the girl the hero didn’t want) meets socialite Angela (Elizabeth Taylor). Entranced by  Angela’s beauty and extravagant lifestyle George decides he must do anything he can to have her, even after Alice declares that she’s pregnant and expects to get married.

2. Giant (1956)

This big sprawling epic of a film stars Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean telling the story of a Texas family over several generations. Taylor plays the liberal eastern wife to Hudson’s conservative Texan rancher who has a uneasy friendship with the sexy helper boy James Dean. This was Dean’s third and last studio picture before he got himself killed in a car crash and one of my favorite performances by Taylor. Leslie isn’t just a look a me I’m a pretty girl character, but she gets to have some real moments. The scene where she stands up for  herself as a woman in front of her husband and all  his cattle rancher friends makes me especially happy in a film from the 1950s.

3. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

This film, based on a Tennesee Williams play, about an alcoholic ex-football player (Paul Newman)  who spends his time drinking instead of spending time with his wife Maggie (Taylor) is one of those great melancholy stories that only a writer like Williams could have produced. Oh, and the hot, hot chemistry between Newman and Taylor is pretty dam exciting to watch as well.

4. Who’s afriad of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

Believe in love? Just like the devastating Blue Valentine released this year, after watching Taylor and Richard Burton (Taylor’s  on again, off-again husband in real life)  play an aging married couple who rip each other new assholes one night while entertaining a younger couple. Both performances are so angry and raw this is one of those films that you can’t stop thinking about long after you watch it.

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What the Lightbox was starting to feel like after no sleep...

Unlike a lot of my fellow Montrealers, I enjoy being in Toronto. So when asked, I was more than happy to be a part of the team that went to cover Canadian music week for Forget the Box. As much as I love festivals I have to admit I’m a cranky little girl without my sleep, so I thoroughly enjoyed dozing off in the car ride back to Montreal on Sunday as the FTB gang listened to all the great new music we’d collected. After what felt like the longest shower of my life and a full night’s sleep for the first time in four days, I feel energized and ready to share hopefully a more detailed and coherent account for you of my time at CMW Film Fest.

My first comment about the film festival should be obvious to anyone who attended one of the screenings; it desperately needs to be promoted better. Of the seven films that I saw over the two day festival there were never more than a hundred people in the theater, and it only ever got that high when Sammy Hagar showed up.

Everyone I spoke to in Montreal and in Toronto was surprised to hear that there even was a film festival portion to CMW. Obviously the live music is the most important part of the festival, but that doesn’t mean there should be so little love for the film side as well. So what would I suggest to get butts in the seats for next year’s CMW film fest?

Panels are definitely one way get flocks of film geeks to come to your festival. I loved the short talk that co-writer/star of the film Johnny Dowers gave after his film Pickin’ and Grinning so much that I would have loved to have seen a full panel discussion about what it’s like to write songs for films.

Another easy way to get a film geek excited is showing more screenings of rare prints, like Quadrophenia on 35 mml on Friday night. When a film geek loves a film they never shut up about it, and then when people ask us about it we say, “Oh yeah, I saw it at the CMW film fest.” Quadrophenia, the coming of age story of a young London Mod kid named Jim whose journey of self-discovery is set to the soundtrack of The Who definitely was my favorite of the films I saw at CMW.

Going in to see Quadrophenia

On the whole I was extremely pleased with my CMW Film Festival experience although it needs to expand if its going to have any sort of real impact. We film geeks are more than happy to come out and support you music people. After all, if music wasn’t in film, brilliant moments like John Cusak holding up his boom box to Ione Sky in Say Anything, Gene Kelly dancing and singing in the rain or the empire being destroyed in Star Wars wouldn’t mean anything.

I wish could show you a real clip from the film but this YouTube video sums up my new favorite movie.

Photos by Stephanie Laughlin