Thursday, July 24, 2014

Toronto International Film Festival- Initial Press Conference July 22, 2014

The Toronto International Film Festival held a press conference to announce the first 59 films in the Gala and Special Presentation sections for the 39th edition of the event.   The titles were announced by TIFF CEO and Director Piers Handling and Artistic Director Cameron Bailey. The 2014 campaign created in house will remind people that this is their Festival, that TIFF is the peoples festival and will focus on the unscripted moments real moments that make the festival special. This year with the cooperation of the City, TTC and the Entertainment district BIA the heart of the festival village on King Street a portion of King Street from University Avenue to Peter Street will b  for the first weekend from September 4 to 7 to create Become Festival Street. Pedestrian friendly with pop up performances. The pair also discussed the new policy of not screening any non World Premiers in the first four days of the Festival and the bidding war with Telluride. TIFF are speaking to the rights owners of the films to make them aware of the policy.

The biggest announcement was of the closing night gala film A LITTLE CHAOS by Alan Richman as a World Premier. Reese Witherspoon will feature prominently this year as she is in two headlining Feature Special Presentations WILD by Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallee playing a recovering heroine addict on a 1100 mile solo hike after her destructive behaviour lead to the break up of her marriage and Philippe Falardeau's THE GOOD LIE championing a group of Sudanese young adults that have come to America to escape their war torn country.

Among the other highlights were three films that were hits at Cannes  Festival regular Mike Leigh's MR. TURNER starring Timothy Spall, Bennett Miller's FOXCATCHER set in the world of amateur wrestling and David Cronenberg's MAP OF THE STARS will be a Gala Presentation at this years festival.

Two Festival favourites Francois Ozon and Suzanne Bier return with THE NEW GIRLFRIEND and A SECOND CHANCE. The Ozon explores the relationship between two people after someone close to both of them dies.  The Bier film looks at how well meant intentions can go terribly wrong.

Lastly, the world premier of James Gandolfini's last film THE DROP by Michael R. Roskam and also starring Tom Hardy will be a Special Presentation at this years film festival.

TIFF will hold a second press conference to announce their Canadian line up on August 6th. Other titles will be announced through press releases in the days and weeks ahead.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fantasia 2014 Film Review- The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji

Director Takashi Miike has made over 80 films. He is showing no signs of slowing down and has many more first rate productions to come if The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji is an example. The film moves at a hectic pace, soundtrack blasting, edits galore in this action packed  comedic crime story romp.

Reiki Kikukawa (Toma Ikuta) is the worst police officer on the entire police force.  He was last in his class at the Academy, showed questionable morals on the job then when he finally made a bust it was of a leading politician that demanded his badge.

Reiji is fired publicly then re hired quietly for the mission of infiltrating the Sukiya-kai faction of the yakuza who are flooding the city with drugs that often end up in the hands of children.

The film has many different plots and subplots among them a tight relationship between Reiji and Masaya Hiura (Shinichi Tstsumi) a clan member with a deep love of butterflies, a burgeoning romance with fellow police officer Junna ( Riisa Naka) who provides a gift that proves valuable in a key moment of the film. Plus the psychotic Nekozawa (Takashi Okamura) leader of a rival yakuza unit looking to muscle in Sukiya-kai's drug trade.

Many of the comedic moments are physical in nature starting with a series of trials for Reiji from  being tied to the hood of a speeding car as the opening credits role to rolling through a scorching car wash without clothes while the cleaning bristles rotate at full force, a full on drag down fight with Masaya Hiura that Reiji looses badly but cements their friendship and on to the yakuza initiation ceremony where Reiji consumes s ceremonial ceramic dish.

The story is extremely complicated and features multiple characters that drift in and out of prominent  positions in the piece. Its quite difficult to keep everyone roles and inter relationships straight. The film could have used a bit more editing to achieve a lean ninety minute feature instead if it's 130 minute run time.

Toma Ikuta does well with the lead role. His acting is over the top, he tends to shout and scream but he is intimately clueless enough that the audience builds a rooting interest for his character Reiji.  Mitsuru Fukikoshi as the police chief Toshio Sakami is a great foil, he abuses Reiji, fires him, is a key contributor to the mole song chorus, then builds him back up to send undercover. Takashi Okamura is also very strong as the manic relentless, single minded rival Yakuza clan leader Nekozawa.

The Mole Song; Undercover Agent Reiji is a thrilling, comedic comic book farce although its on the log side the twist and turns, non stop action  plus the pounding soundtrack will keep the audience attention. It's a film that I can recommend and should put the viewer on alert for the next Takashi Miike production.

*** 1/2 out of 4

The Mole Song; Undercover Agent Reiji | Takashi Miike | Japan | 2014 | 130 Minutes.

Tags: Yakuza, Crime, Undercover, Japan, Rivals,

Monday, July 21, 2014

Fantasia 2014 Film Review- Jacky Au Reaume Des Filles

In the mythical world of Bubunne, women are the leaders, politicians and breadwinners while the men wear Chadors, take care of the children, cook meals, keep house and hope to be blessed to produce several strong daughters for their wives. Women hold all of the military posts and the leader of the country is the General( Anemone) with the Colonel (Charlotte Gainsboug) an unmarried  war hero next in line to rule.  The best a man can hope for in the realm is to be good looking enough to marry upward.

Our hero Jacky (Vincent Lacoste) has the highest expectations. His looks are the talk of his small village and he is hopeful, as is his mother that he can catch the eye of and marry the Colonel.

Former Comic book writer Raid Sattouf production takes a satirical look at many topics. The first being male female relationships along with religion, dictatorships and State run propaganda.

The most compelling and subtle is his comment on blind worship and following. The whole Bubonne society is cocconed from the outside world. No foreign media, books, television, newspapers or magazines are allowed in the country.  The ruling General is treated like a God coming to the balcony of the Palace proclaiming doctrines to the First Class (women) and Plebs (men) accompanied with a line of choreographed daily hangings of men dressed in black Chadors.

The whole population eat only mush that is central distributed from the palace and comes in through the kitchen faucet at each home.  The country worship horses, especially small white ones with the countries' flag and medals for military leaders being two opposite facing horses heads and manes. Residence that claim that they have spoken to or were given direction by the animals are revered.

The acting in the piece is functional and does not pro due any stand out performances.  Vincent Lacoste is watchable as the timid lead Jacky who is chased by all of the local women in town while  being regularly abused by his Uncle Brunu (Didier Bordonne) and cousins. Academy Award winning director Michael Hazanavicious plays the most memorable character Julin who rebels against the system grows fresh vegetables against the rules and leads the Menism movement.

Director Sattouf has created a production that makes the audience think and ask questions about many of the institutions and practices in today's world that are taken as normal. His film is full of compelling ideas but some do not hit the mark.

** 1/2  Out of 4.

Jacky Au Reaume Des Filles | Raid Sattouf | France | 2014 | 87 Minutes.

Tags: Satire, Dictatorship, Sexism, Oppression, Military, Propaganda, Reclusive, Religion.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Film Review- The Grand Budapest Hotel

A Wes Anderson film has certain expected core elements. An abundance of primary colours especially yellow, scenes that are framed almost picture like many featuring multiple characters with minimal movement. Geometrical structures of the sets, rectangles, squares and linear elements giving a sense of miniaturist come to life. Actors that are very staccato in their movements a kin to marionettes without the strings and the usual cast of players starting with Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray that always turn up at some point during the film.

The Grand Budapest Hotel has all of the elements and more dotted throughout the production. The opening sequence is a four layer plot within a plot very similar to opening a series of Russian dolls until you hit the essence of the story.

The narrative starts in modern day Zubrowka a fictional Eastern European location that was the centre of an Empire before being ravaged first by fascism in the 30's then communism in the years after the war. A young girl approaches the statute of a revered writer and native son, next we flip back to that writer in 1985 recounting his earlier self in 1968 hearing the story of how the Hotel came into the possession of the owner at the time Mr. Moustafa (F Murray Abraham).  Here we go back to the last layer set in 1932 where the bulk of the story takes place we meet the younger Moustafa, Zero (Toni Revolori) and his mentor, teacher and confidant  M. Gustav (Ralph Fiennes).

Now at the centre of the production the elements of a classic 1930's whodunit begin. M. Gustave  wildly regarded as the best concierge among his peers at the modern palatial hotels of the day provides excellent attention to his guests especially the older widowers who's families are essentially waiting for them to die and reap the rewards of a vast old world estates. One of these devotees Madame D. (Tilda Swinton) dies, leaves a priceless piece of art to Gustave that begins a series of confrontation between Gustave, the widow's main heir her son Dimitri (Adrien Brody) and his muscle Jopling (Willem Defoe) in a battle over the piece and the dying last wishes of the Dowager.

Writer Anderson (influenced by Stefan Zweig) lays out and adventure throughout many elevated settings in his fantastical Eastern European world.  One passage where M. Gustave and Zero go to the peaks of the continent to meet a contact that could help their case is amplified by cable cars, directions from hooded monks and snow tipped surroundings. Another is a cat and mouse game in the hotel when Gustave returns from exile with Zero helped by Zero's pastry magician wife Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) on point for the insertion. The third is the call to action of a brotherhood of concierges to aid one of their kind in need. A well done sequence including many an Anderson regulars often in the middle of a task as they spring into action employing their own particular lobby boy to take over as they exit the scene.

Ralph Fiennes is the central figure in the production. His character M. Gustave sets the tone for the lavash world of inter war Eastern Europe. Gustave has to adapt to many different situations and scenarios all hit well by Fiennes. Toni Revolori handles the major role of the naive lobby boy Zero  apprentice to M. Gustave well. He grows as the film progresses, gains in confidence and stature  particularly in one scene where he scolds his temporary replacement upon returning to the hotel for giving out private personal information.  Saoirse Ronan is very strong is a small role as Zero's wife Agatha. Fiercely loyal and honest she will not compromise the values she holds closest for the duo. Adrien Brody and Willem Defoe are both solid as the villains of the piece Dmitri and Jopling. Defoe especially shines as he tracks down the pair while imaginatively eliminating obstacles that block Dimitri from the fortune of his mother's estate.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is another trip into Wes Anderson cinematic world. However this time there are deeper layers to peel back but the familiar slow build leading to a fantastical and frantic third act still remain. If you are a lover of the Auteur then this piece is perfectly wrapped as one of Agatha's pastries. But a slight tug is somewhere in the background hoping that for his next project Anderson will pull this world apart and venture outside of his comfort zone.

** 1/2  Out of 4.

The Grand Budapest Hotel | Wes Anderson | USA / Germany /UK | 2014 | 100 Minutes.

Tags: Hotel , Concierge, 1930's , Author, Fascism, Communism, Pastries, Inheritance , Art

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Film Review- Under The Skin

Nine years after his second feature Birth, Jonathan Glazer returns with his third feature Under The Skin. Beginning with a black screen that turns into a blue dot then a bright light.  A donut shape orb drifts across space then morphs into the pupil of the films main character an alien (Scarlet Johansson) who has come to earth Scotland to be exact and sets about her task of luring unsuspecting young men into a transit van then bringing them to a remote location to process them as food.

The men in the film are truly unsuspecting. The production is so freeform that most of the men did not even know at first that they were in a film.  Glazer outfitted the van with multiple cameras and voice recorders. Johansson loose instructions were to go out, drive around town, chat the men up and get them into the van. After they chatted for a while and reached the house the men were informed of the production and signed on to the film.

Glazer the former music video director uses his trademark remarkable visuals throughout the film.  The opening post opening credit scene is in a totally white room void of furniture, structure or walls. The only two persons on screen are Johansson and the body of a woman whose clothes she's about to borrow. The film has many passages with no scripted dialogue or sound.  Instead the regular rumble of people at a mall or a crowd exiting a football match form the background ambience.

The piece truly gets to high level eeriness when the men enter her house expecting that a sexual encounter is imminent as they follow the luring Johansson into the dark space only to sink slowly into  a vat of black ooze where they marinate until ready for processing. As a victim sinks Johansson stops, gathers her clothes, her alluring expression goes blank then she walks forward often right over the spot the man sank never giving him a second thought.

Johansson breaks new acting ground in the lead role. Armed with a brown short fur coat, black wig and a posh English accent. She drives around town, stopping to ask random men for directions, gathering information on them to ask more personal questions and using her charm to get them into the van. She is completely working without a net, her conversation skills with strangers becomes the basis for much of the films dialogue.

One particularly gripping scene occurs at a beach on a cold fall day. The alien meets a swimmer and engages him in conversation. One another part of the beach a failed rescue occurs. The alien watches the events performs a violent act then leaves an innocent bystander to fend for themselves. The waves  and a haunting metronome based beat forming the undercurrent to the action.

Glazer has crafted a unique movie going experience. The film is both benign and overwhelming all at the same time. The lack of dialogue and minimal score are two elements that serve the production well.  It is a film that I highly recommend and one to root for to encourage more filmmakers and actors to take chances on projects that literally do not follow a script or formula.

**** out of 4.

Under the Skin | Jonathan Glazer | U.K. | 2013 | 108 minutes.

Tags: Scotland, Sci Fi, female alien, method acting, non- actors, Parkhead, Celtic, Glasgow,  Transit Van, Hidden Camera.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Black Fawn DVD Review- Discopath

Winner of the Best Feature award at the 2013 Blood in the Snow Film Festival and an official selection at Fantasia 2013 Discopath gets its home video release through Black Fawn Distribution.

The film tells the story of Duane Lewis (Jeremie Earp) a New York City short order cook in his mid twenties at the outset of the film who has a strange reaction to the beat of disco music stemming from a childhood trauma that leads him to violent acts.

Director Renaud Gauthier initially had the idea for the film 10 years ago.  His original concept was to make a film about a guy that kills someone in a packed disco without anyone knowing. The film starts out in New York City in 1976 for the opening act but soon switches to Gauthier's hometown of Montreal where Duane flees to the morning after a violent act.  The story jumps ahead four years to 1980 where Duane now using the name Martin Lopez is working as a handyman in a Catholic Girls boarding school where his propensity to violence is triggered again.

The audio commentary featuring Renaud Gauthier, actor Ivan Freund and composer Bruce Cameron gives some insightful behind the scenes information about the film. As Gauthier speaks about the film the viewer gets the sense of how much this is a really personal project. Gauthier talk about the vintage vehicles as the come up on screen, how much he paid to get a city bus for one scene, a chevette, to rent a school bus for another scene and for a hurst which was unfortunately white because it was the only one of that vintage he could find. Gauthier also speaks to the work of the effects department especially how they phased in the twin towers in the New York Skyline in the opening Roller Skate park scene in New York then removed the modern buildings from the skyline shots of Montreal.

But the key to the film is the music starting with Flight 76 by Walter Murphy a must have by Gauthier and the backbone of the film. Among the other tracks featured prominently in the film are I'm Your Boogie Man by K.C. and The Sunshine Band and I Was Made for Loving You by Kiss. The Quebecois song Stop Ou Encore is featured in a key scene at the Catholic Girls School. It's the perfect light airy background to the extremely violent acts that occur on the screen while it plays.  Gautier promises that the soundtrack will be out on vinyl this year.

The DVD also has a 24 minute behind the scenes featurette that gives a look of several different days of filming with comments from the cast and crew. It's an insightful view of what occurs during down time between scenes and these features are always informative on scene shooting order and the length of the shoot.

As I stated in my original November review of the feature Discopath is a very specific genre film. It's over the top and stereotypical New York and Montreal mid 70's and early 80's send ups are part of it's charm. If you like this era, slasher films and a delicate balance between horror and camp. I recommend you check out this DVD.

*** out of 4.

Discopath | Renauld Gauthier | Canada | 2013 | 82 Minutes.

Tags: DVD Release, Behind the Scenes, Blooper Reel, Director Commentary, Passion Project, 10 Years in the Making.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

NXNE 2014 Film Review- Boyhood

When we first meet Mason (Ellar Coltrane) he is a pre-schooler living with his single mom (Patricia Arquette) and sharing a bunk bed with his sister Samantha ( Director Richard Linklater's daughter Lorelei). Mason is the typical pre school kid, fighting with his sister collection rocks and animals and meeting in secret with friends. The end of the first act sees the family moving from their small town to Houston so his mother can pursue her education.

Thus begins the opening act of Linklater's unique and compelling film. A piece that shows everyday family events at one moment in time but is so much more that the sum of its individual shots on screen based on the approach and concept of the film. Linklaters concept: Follow a child from pre-school to the first day in college. The twist is that the child will remain the same throughout as will his patents and family. The reality to complete Linklaters vision is a twelve year project that could have been easily derailed by so many different variables.

 The key to the production are the triggers used to mark the passages of time. One is topical political events. At the outset of the film the U.S. is headed to Iraq as reaction to 911 George Bush is the U.S. President and his merits are discussed as the would be at the time mainly by Mason's dad ( Ethan Hawk) who drifts in and out of the production as the action is portrayed on screen. Later on in the film Mason Sr. recruits his kids to volunteer for Barack Obama leading to a memorable scene as the pair put up signs for Obama in a neighbourhood and use interesting tactics to deal with a republican one.

The other big device used is music. Starting with Jeff Tweedy's Summer Noon followed quickly by Cold Pays Yellow music is used as signposts to anchor the viewer into the current time and space of the film.  The same hold true for the last two melodies in the film the hauntingly fitting Family of the Year by Hero and  Deep Blue by Arcade Fire as the closer. Once again Linklater provides a rich vital soundtrack of indie tunes.

The last running device used on Mason himself is haircuts. When one section fades and the next one begins it's the first thing you notice on him that alerts the viewer that something has changed and time has passed.

A film that is shot a few weeks at a time over 12 years is in need of a superior editing job. Linklater's regular editor Sandra Adair does memorable work.  One standout sequence among many in the film is  the transition from discussion between Olivia and perspective new husband  Bill (Marco Perella) about their kids to a scene on a back yard trampoline with all the kids present and familiar showing that once again time has passed and the family's have combined.

Ellar Coltrane is perfectly cast as the lead. While we have seen child actors grow up on screen playing many different roles or repeating the same role over different projects. Coltrane does it all in the same production. Patricia Arquette is the adult rock of the piece as single mom Olivia. She starts out reading to her pre school kids in her bed and night, takes on a new husband to create a family life for her kids with varying results, continues her studies to become a teacher and better herself and family and is suddenly and surprisingly very emotional as her youngest child heads off to school at the end of the production.

Linklater regular Ethan Hawk is solid as dad Mason Senior popping in from time to time on his kids as they move around Texas bringing his perspective on politics and later religion to his offspring.

Boyhood is a once in a generation film. Its patience, perseverance and cinematic storytelling all rolled up into one. Its one actors childhood laid out on screen for all to see. Linknleter does an excellent job presenting the material and this will be a film that will be talked about thought the second half of the year and will be found at the top of many a year end list.  Its a film that I can highly recommend.

**** out of 4.

Boyhood | Richard Linklater | U.S.A. | 2014 | 166 Minutes.

Tags: Childhood, Texas, Politics, Religion, Education, Music, 12 year project, time-lapse.

NXNE 2014- Film Review - La Voz de los silenciados

Bleak, cruel, Heartbreaking, Hopeless and terrifying are the initial words that come to mind after viewing Maximon Monihan's La Voz De os Silenciados (Voice of the Voiceless).  The film is a silent feature that tells the story of Olga a 17 year old deaf girl from Guatemala who raises the funds to come to New York to attend a religious based school for the deaf that is instead a slavery ring forcing young people onto the subway each day to beg for money for the crew's ringleaders. If the victims doe not bring back at least a hundred dollars each day they are tasered and beaten.

The film is from Olga's point of view therefore all sounds are muffled similar to what you would hear if you place your hands over your ears or are swimming underwater.

Monihan decided to make the film after he read a story about the bust of a slave peddling crime syndicate. The viewer sees the events unfold as Olga does. Therefore the audience leads the facts about the school, consequences of a short hall, the terrible living conditions and the dangerous whims of the bosses as she does.

Monihan also new that he wanted a modern silent productions without the glib piano passages or words on screen. Instead the desperate plight of the protagonist would be enough to keep the audience attention on screen.  The only bend to the past was a move to 19 frames per second famously used in the Charlie Chaplin films.

The most gut wrenching part of the production is that the lead character and crew are in two prisons. The spend their days out on their own in the public but cannot communicate their plight due to lack of speech.  At home at night they are locked into a room with a series of bunk beds greater each morning with a knapsack thrown at them signaling that its time to get up and go to work. The other part is this is that the public on the subway cannot possibly know the individual circumstance. It's the regular routine of a deaf person entering a car passing out a card then coming back to pick it up hopefully for some small bills that we have all seen multiple times before.

The cast featured no professional actors accept for the lead boss lady who did some bit role work in the past. The cast acted as themselves with Monihan jumping in to show what he wanted if there were the odd misstep.

Los Vos de los Silenciados is a gripping, erie production that hits close to home for anyone that has ridden the subway on even an occasional basis. The film is well presented and one that I can recommend.  It makes the audience think that the next time that a deaf person hands you one of those cards closer inspection is warranted to be sure that they are doing it of their own freewill.

*** out of 4.

Los Vos de los Silenciados | Maximon Monihan | U.S.A. | 2013 | 80 Minutes.

Tags: Deaf, Kidnapping, Threats, Torture, Rape, Slavery, Criminal Activity, New York, Subway, Begging.

NXNE 2014 Film Review- Luck's Hard - Ron Hawkins & The Do Good Assassins

Shakespeare My Butt is a legendary album in the history of Canadian independent rock.  It is often listed as one of the best Canadian Albums of all times when critics or publications produce best of lists. The Artists on the album are Lowest of the Low lead by front man Ron Hawkins. The band produced one more album then split up.  Hawkins went on to solo albums, a stint with a new band The Rusty Nails and periodic Lowest of the Low reunions before he found himself in studio working on a solo album in 2011.

Session Musicians Steve Singh (Guitars), Dave Bookman (Bass) Alex McMaster (Keyboards & Strings) and Jesse Capon (Drums) backed him on the records. Hawkins found the group worked so well together that they decided to take their act out on the road formed the Do Good Assassins and cut a double album titled Rome.

Directors David Brown and Daniel Williams bring a different approach to the rock band documentary.  The normal script follows a band around on tour, focus on between performance hi- jinx plus the inevitable tension and disagreements that always arise when a band is on tour.
Brown and Williams instead use Steve Singh's home attic studio as the base and interview the band
members sometimes individually or in combination chronicling their past musical lives and giving the viewer a feel of each member's role in the band, their thoughts on other band members and on the ever changing music business. The film does have two main live performances each in the historical Lowest of the Low musical power bases of Toronto and Buffalo.

The piece is not a rock star send up as band members miss performances for other gigs and perhaps the most telling sequence where bass player Dave Bookman explains that he has to miss a show for a bartending shift which pays him the same as gets for one night performing on stage.

The personalities of the band members are the key to the piece.  The one on one interviews with Dave Bookman being the stand out gems. A  longtime veteran of the Toronto Music scene having gigged back to the 80's Bookman is an encyclopedia of the Toronto music scene that really gets going when ask to compare Toronto to  Montreal or Vancouver. Steve Singhs love of guitars is evident anytime he is on screen. He always has one on hand picking at or working on a series of chords. He sees them as pieces of art. No two sounding the same they rival any painting one would hang in their home plus as a bonus you can always pick one up and make it sing. Jesse Capon is the quiet  jazz trained drummer while Alex McMaster a classical trained musical and lone female in the band is ofter the voice of reason.

One very real incident that occurred while the cameras were rolling was an injury very similar to flesh eating disease that befell Steve Singh during filming. He was hospitalized underwent extensive surgery and the status of his leg was touch and go for a period of time.

Luck's Hard is a study in perseverance that features a legendary Canadian indie poet and performer. It recounts Hawkins early burst onto the music scene and potential path to musical success that was replaced over the years with more modest goals to get his music out to the public that deeply love his songwriting talent.  It is a film that I can recommend.

*** out of 4

Luck's Hard | David Brown and Daniel Williams | Canada | 2014 | 77 Minutes.

Tags: Indie Rock, Lowest of the Low, Songwriter, Toronto, Buffalo, Session Musicians,

NXNE 2014 Film Review - Riot on the Dance Floor

When thinking of influential live music venues in the U.S. two spots come quickly to mind New York's CBGB and Los Angeles' The Troubadour.  The first boasted initial and early performances of the Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith, The Police and the Talking Heads while the latter's roster included Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles, Elton John, The Byrds and James Taylor.

Riot on the Dance Floor points out that there was a third, City Gardens in Trenton New Jersey. Led by Promoter and former D.J. Randy Ellis (Now) City Gardens had its own share of iconic acts grace its stage along with future politics commentator Jon Stewart who worked as a bartender in the club.
The club had three simple rule printed in large lettering at the entrance NO SLAM DANCING , NO STAGE DIVING, NO SPIKES. The production is unclear on the third but judging from the pictures, footage and comments of the regulars and the bands the first two rules were broken on a regular basis

Director Steve Tozzi interviews key figures from the bands that played the venue but the main narrative comes from Randy Now the locations heart and sole. Now tells several stories of struggles to keep the audience in line, battles to get the bands on stage and several violent confrontations between the bands and the audience. Tozzi gives a history of Trenton as a point of context to the developing punk scene in the city and photographic, first hand account and video of the former car dealership turned 1,100 capacity punk rock must attend spot between New York and Philadelphia.

Among the interviewees for the piece are Henry Rollins, Dave Brokie and Bog Gorman from Gwar, HR from Bad Brains , Jon Stewart , Jello Biafra, Robby Takac from the Goo Goo Dolls and Jack Irons.

However, behind the glamor and insanity of the club was the underlining sacrifice of Randy Now to keep the music coming. He worked tirelessly to bring in many acts from overseas such as the Thompson Twins and Sinead O'Conner for their first U.S. shows.  He was often at the club past 4 AM then having to rise for his day job as a local postman the next morning, The hours of the former led him to give up the latter which significantly effected his income later in life.

City Gardens' stage boasted R.E.M., Joan Jett, The Blasters, Ministry, Dead Kennedy's, Fugazi, Husker Du, Danzig, A Flock of Seagulls, The Ramones, Joe Strummer and Sound Gardening pictures taken by Ken Salerno. A key piece to capture the performance in the film is the sharp and seemingly moving. Another useful item used through out the piece are the posters featuring the shows for that week or month featuring the headlining and opening acts for each evening.  Director Steve Tazzi has produced a documentary on an important punk and hardcore venue that may not have had the spotlight of a big American city but has an alumni that can match any in it's 15 year run.

*** out of 4

Riot on the Dance Floor| Steve Tozzi | 2013| U.S.A. | 114 Minutes.

Tags; Punk Rock, Hardcore, Trenton, New Jersey, New Wave, 80's, 90's , British Bands.