Monday, September 28, 2015


From dark family secrets to child kidnappings, Denis Villeneuve has developed a knack for delving into some of the most unnerving mysteries of life and human nature. For his latest film "Sicario", the French-Canadian director continues in the same mould, turning his piercing gaze towards the war on drugs. And like his previous efforts, what he uncovers is another hard-hitting, sobering truth.

Set around the border between the United States and Mexico, "Sicario" follows one woman's perilous journey into the grimy world of the Mexican drug cartels and the agents sent to take them down. This woman is Kate (played by Emily Blunt), a shrewd FBI agent whose ability to ascertain the links in the drug chain has proved invaluable. After one crucial mission, her skills land her in the big leagues, dropped into the middle of enemy territory. Apprehensive but determined to carry out her job, she finds herself confronted with the harsh realities of a world she thought she already knew. But as the lines between good and evil become increasingly blurred, her disillusionment becomes as inevitable as the moral compromises she'll be forced to make if she wants to get out alive.

"Sicario" begins with a doozy of a scene - shot by an in-form Roger Deakins - tracking Kate and her fellow agents as they approach a crisis situation. With immediate intensity, Villeneuve keys us into the non-stop cycle of savagery associated with the drug war, with bodies piled up like window dressing to remind us of the human toll. And with a booming brass score to set the ominous tone, the ensuing film is as disturbing as any horror.

And like the great scary movies, Villeneuve's approach thrives on the element of surprise, enhanced by the film's realism. "Sicario" isn't the first film to take a frank, cynical look at the war on drugs, but the bleakness with which Villeneuve handles the narrative really lets the rot of moral decay fester. Indeed, we are forced to stare in aghast solidarity with Emily Blunt - subdued, but always engaged and engaging as Kate - as each scene reveals the shocking levels of human depravity on both sides of the fence. The screenplay is as incisive as its characters, particularly Josh Brolin's unperturbed Matt Graver and Benicio Del Toro's menacing Alejandro Gillick (channeling rugged Brad Pitt in one his best performances), who perceive the war as one with no end in sight.

And from the looks of it, Villenueve shares the same viewpoint. "Sicario" is an intentionally punishing watch, deliberate in its pacing, merciless in its brutality. Unlike most thrillers though, Villeneuve's style resists easy audience satisfaction, framing the narrative as part of an open-ended saga. But the sheer conviction in his storytelling - and his bleak outlook - makes for a damning, unforgettable statement.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

REVIEW: Labyrinth of Lies

It’s hard to believe now, but in the aftermath of the atrocities committed at Auschwitz, there were many Germans who were still ignorant of the harsh truth. Exacerbated by the efforts of public officials who wanted to conceal their own complicity in the Nazi regime, these dark secrets were kept hidden away. But the past can come back to haunt you, as is the case in the aptly titled "Labyrinth of Lies", a fascinating account of a young public prosecutor’s courageous pursuit of justice.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


This past Sunday, the award winners for TIFF 2015 were announced and somehow, I ended up missing all the winners. But such is the nature of the beast at such a gargantuan festival, and now I have a number of films to look forward to. Of course, the big story was the reveal of the People's Choice Award winner, which has built up a reputation as a strong indicator for Best Picture Oscar success. This year, that honor went to Lenny Abrahamson's "Room", which was a slight surprise, beating out the popular "Spotlight" into 3rd place. But the question remains, will the Academy really find room (pun intended) for "Room" in the Best Picture lineup?

The answer to that question is especially tricky this year, which seems to be one of the most wide open races in recent history. Although "Spotlight" and "Steve Jobs" have launched to raves, no film thus far has received the slam dunk notices that propelled films like "12 Years a Slave" in the past. What it does prove however, is that Brie Larson will indeed be a force to be reckoned with in Best Actress, even if "Room" ultimately misses out. Additionally, the 3rd place showing for "Spotlight" further confirms that it will play gangbusters to audiences when it finally releases. I think we have our frontrunner.

In terms of the other awards handed out, their impact on the Oscar race is likely to be minimal. At best, we may see some of these being submitted by their respective countries as Foreign Language submissions next year. The NETPAC winner for Best Asian Film premiere "The Whispering Star" could also be Japan's submission next year, but they are always impossible to predict. Among the FIPRESCI critics' prizewinners, Czech-Slovak co-production "Eva Nová" could potentially follow in the footsteps of "Ida", which also won a FIPRESCI award at TIFF 2013.

As we head into the New York Film Festival and AFI Fest though, we'll soon have a clearer idea of where everything stands. For now, here's the list of award winners from the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

TIFF: Wrapping up the festival

When I first found out I would be attending the Toronto International Film Festival for the first time, I was filled with as much anxiety as excitement. With such a daunting lineup ahead of me, I immediately began stressing over my selections. Do I watch the would-be Oscar contenders? Seek out the new talents? Plunge into the delights of world cinema? Eventually, I ended up scheduling a mixture of them all, in what turned out to be a richly fulfilling experience.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Monday, September 21, 2015

INTERVIEW: Stephan James

Among many other sidebar events, one of the coolest initiatives of the Toronto International Film Festival is its annual Rising Stars programme, co-presented by the Casting Society of America. Now in its fifth year, the programme provides a platform for a selected group of promising Canadian actors, allowing them to engage in various development opportunities to boost their careers. This year’s distinguished honorees were Deragh Campbell, Stephan James, Aliocha Schneider and Karelle Tremblay; and I was fortunate to be invited to the Rising Stars Mixer, where I was able to have a quick chat with Stephan James ("Selma", "Home Again"). This talented Toronto native is one to watch, as he eyes a breakout year in 2016, when he plays Jesse Owens in the upcoming "Race".

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Sunday, September 20, 2015

INTERVIEW: Saoirse Ronan

One of my highlights of TIFF this year was the opportunity to sit down with Saoirse Ronan to discuss her new film "Brooklyn", as part of Fox Searchlight’s press junket for the film. Having seen the film a day earlier, I was eager to find out how she prepared for the role and the experience of making such a beautiful film.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

TIFF: Embrace of the Serpent

As TIFF 2015 comes to a close, my festival experience ended on an ethereal high with an outstanding Colombian film. Directed by Ciro Guerra, "Embrace of the Serpent" is a hypnotizing look at the Amazon rainforest and its varied inhabitants. With the feel of an epic tome, it tells two interconnected stories about the dying indigenous cultures and the effect of Western influence.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Friday, September 18, 2015

TIFF: A Heavy Heart

In a general sense, films are made to provoke happiness, fright, thought or sadness. As its title suggests, "A Heavy Heart" mostly falls into the latter category. This drama from the promising German director Thomas Stuber is real tearjerker, following a man coping with a devastating personal tragedy.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

TIFF: Spear

Before the relatively recent invention of cinema, the most popular modes of artistic entertainment comprised dance, music and theatre. Since the birth of cinema however, these performing arts no longer control the spotlight. In Stephen Page's "Spear", the power of all these arts come together in this refreshingly original coming-of-age film.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Thursday, September 17, 2015

TIFF: Stranger

Famine. War. Death. The premise of Yermek Tursunov’s lastest film "Stranger", probably won’t send you skipping merrily out of the theaters. Recounting one of the most turbulent periods in Kazakhstan’s history, this parable about Soviet era strife brings the struggle to vivid life.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

TIFF: River

Cinema has long been a great tool for cross-cultural discourse, with co-productions between national film industries becoming increasingly prevalent. One such example is Jamie M. Dagg's debut feature "River". In this new thriller, the Canadian filmmaker crafts a vacation from hell, as an American doctor goes through a nightmarish experience in Laos and Thailand.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

TIFF: The Wave & The Paradise Suite

On Day 5 of TIFF 2015, I was able to catch up with two more Foreign Oscar submissions. The first was Norway’s entry The Wave and the other was the Dutch submission The Paradise Suite. Here’s what I thought of both films:

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Monday, September 14, 2015

TIFF: Downriver

The TIFF website succinctly describes its Discovery section as "Directors to watch. The future of world cinema". Hailing from Down Under is a film that perfectly captures the essence of this section, Grant Scicluna’s "Downriver". At the age of 34, this Australian filmmaker displays skills that belie his years in this staggeringly impactful debut feature.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

TIFF: Truth

In case you didn’t already know, Cate Blanchett is one of the finest actors working in the business today. As if her lauded performance in Cannes darling Carol wasn’t enough, the Australian thespian has brought another outstanding performance to TIFF in the true story journalism drama "Truth". Blanchett is in crackling form in this impressive debut film from James Vanderbilt, proving that there’s hardly any role she can’t do to perfection.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Sunday, September 13, 2015

TIFF: Girls Lost

Themes of gender and sexuality are having a big moment in American cinema this year, with the likes of "About Ray", "Stonewall" and "Freeheld" about to hit theaters soon. But Hollywood is merely catching up with the rest of the world, where films like Alexandra-Therese Keining’s "Girls Lost" are tapping into the zeitgeist in exciting ways. This Swedish fantasy film is wrapped in an accessible genre package, but I’m willing to bet it’s more thoughtful and daring than most of the Hollywood LGBT dramas we’ll see this fall.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Saturday, September 12, 2015

TIFF: I Saw the Light

On the strength of "Love & Mercy" and "Straight Outta Compton" this summer, it would have been easy to declare 2015 the year of the musician biopic. But with the TIFF premiere of Marc Abraham’s "I Saw the Light", the subgenre has hit an unfortunate bump in the road. Contrary to its title, this cinematic account of the life of country singer Hank Williams is a dull, gloomy affair.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Friday, September 11, 2015

TIFF: Brooklyn

In our cynical age of contemporary cinema, purely sentimental depictions of true love are hard to pull off and rarely attempted. But fans of classic cinema will surely appreciate John Crowley’s heartfelt new film "Brooklyn", which successfully invokes the spirit of the romance dramas of the Golden Age. Starring a radiant Saoirse Ronan, this transatlantic saga is a must-see film for all the lovers out there.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

TIFF: Demolition

Through the success of his Oscar-nominated films "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Wild", Quebecois filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée has cultivated a reputation for compelling dramas about individuals in crisis. This thematic thread continues with his newest film "Demolition", starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a man coping with the tragic death of his wife. Through this introspective narrative, Vallée once again provides a typically character-driven showcase for his actors. But this time, he experiments with tone to deliver a curious mix of comedy and drama.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Thursday, September 10, 2015

TIFF: Ixcanul & The Assassin

For my first day of TIFF 2015, I watched a pair of foreign language Oscar submissions from Guatemala and Taiwan. Both similarly feature female protagonists, but the worlds they depict represent completely different social strata. Below are my thoughts on "Ixcanul" and "The Assassin":

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

TIFF: Preview

At this very moment, I'm waiting to board a flight to embark on another adventure. As of next week my bucket list will be one item short, as I finally attend the world's biggest film festival - the Toronto International Film Festival! Stay tuned for daily updates as I report on behalf of The Awards Circuit.

Click here to see my full lineup of films.

N.B. - I will no longer be watching "Born to be Blue" at the fest. A replacement will be identified soon.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

COMING SOON: The Oscar Slate

Is it just me, or did awards season come back around really quickly? It seems like just yesterday that "Birdman" was anointed with the Best Picture prize and now, a whole new batch of frontrunners have already emerged. From what we've seen already, "Inside Out" and "Mad Max: Fury Road" seem like they might have the support to go all the way and to a lesser extent, "Love and Mercy", "Ex Machina" and "The Diary of a Teenage Girl" are in the mix as well. But with many of the major prestige dramas to come, some of those early releases will inevitably fall to the wayside. With that in mind, here are the ones to watch out for this coming fall:

Monday, September 7, 2015


The Beach Boys, the band behind such classic pop rock hits as "Good Vibrations" and "Surfin' U.S.A.", have come to represent the ideal of the carefree lifestyles of California youth. But like so many other artists thrust into the limelight, their public image hides a darker private life. In Bill Pohlad's "Love & Mercy", the life and struggles of front man Brian Wilson are brought to the fore in this probing biopic.

Switching between the 1960s and the 1980s, "Love & Mercy" follows the trajectory of Brian Wilson from his highest highs to his lowest lows. In his younger days (played by Paul Dano), he's seen as a gifted singer-songwriter on the verge of a major breakthrough. Diligently at work on his "Pet Sounds" album, he secludes himself in the studio while his bandmates go on tour. Experimenting with new sounds, Wilson aspires to make one of the greatest albums in history. But his style clashes with the band's vision of further mainstream success, and when subsequent critical acclaim isn't reflected in the album sales, the bond between them begins to break. Years later, we see Wilson as a middle-aged man (played by John Cusack), struggling to cope with his failures. The music is still playing in his head, but it's affecting his ability to function normally. To make matters worse, he's under the watch of a draconian psychotherapist (Paul Giamatti), intent on keeping him constantly medicated. As the title suggests however, love and mercy are just around the corner, as a kindhearted woman (Elizabeth Banks) comes into his life at just the right time.

Based on a script co-written by Michael Alan Lerner and Oren Moverman, this tale of misunderstood genius is not your typical rousing biopic. Much like its protagonist, it experiments with formula, juggling two distinct storylines played by different actors. The 1960s section provide beautiful context for the overarching narrative, capturing a docudrama feel as the unobtrusive camera lets the music do the work. In other scenes, we get a more intimate character study, showing Wilson's creative process during his alone time. In contrast, the 1980s are more austere, with Wilson's vigour subdued by medication to control his paranoid schizophrenia. Even the romance bears a tinge of melancholy.

Yet while Pohlad displays astute directorial instincts throughout, the script takes less chances as it goes through some of the usual music biopic tropes. But you likely won't mind the clichés, due to the superlative performances which elevate the film. In the younger incarnation of Wilson, Paul Dano captivates the audience as he captures the spontaneity and insecurities of this complex character. As his future companion, Elizabeth Banks is beautiful and delicate, bringing a calming, comforting aura. But it's the heartbreaking John Cusack who deserves the highest praise, playing a troubled man battling the demons of his past and present. He hasn't been this good in years, evoking so much pain and heartache through his fragile, whispered voice.

And all three performances strike at the heart of the film's core theme, in the way that they speak to the pervading loneliness that afflicts a man of Wilson's genius. Dano's animated performance shows a man who wants to share his passion with others, yet is constantly impeded by even his closest relatives. Banks' attentive focus on Cusack conveys her own recognition of how the world abandoned him. Cusack meanwhile is the most literally lonely of them all, frequently shot in quiet, empty rooms.

Indeed, "Love & Mercy" would put up a strong argument for best ensemble of the year, if it weren't for a slightly tone-deaf performance by Paul Giamatti. His is perhaps the most "Giamatti" performance you'll see - which is usually not a bad thing - but his transparent villainy is at odds with the film around him. It's especially noticeable since the memory of his more measured interpretation of a similar character in "Straight Outta Compton" is so fresh in our minds. Regardless, Pohlad's stylistic choices and the terrific lead performers combine to make "Love & Mercy" one of the most rewarding films of the year.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


For this week's special Monday edition of Hit me with your best shot, Nathaniel clearly lost his damn mind and had us screencap "Mad Max: Fury Road". It felt so wrong to slow down this propulsive action film to analyze it in still form, how dare he! So much of the film is about constant motion.

But on a serious note, it was a pleasure to watch the film again his week. Ever since my initial viewing, I've had fond memories of its imagery. While most of the talking points surrounding the film were about its feminist themes, I derived my thrills from the sheer energy of the whole thing. For my best shot then, I went with something that I felt captured this kineticism.

In the image below, we're at the height of the chase and I love how George Miller gives us this wide shot to give us a palpable sense of the scale of the action. Indeed, all the music (check out the guitarist in the foreground) and mayhem of the film can be inferred from this image. It's so awesome that even our protagonist - himself swinging on a pole - takes a quick glance back to take it all in.

Click below for my favourite shot...

Friday, September 4, 2015

OSCAR WATCH: Mad Max: Fury Road

A few months back, George Miller took the film world by storm with a revamp of the franchise that kick-started his career. The film, "Mad Mad: Fury Road", was an enormous success, eliciting reactions that seemed to indicate a near-religious experience. The overwhelming consensus was that Miller had reclaimed the post-apocalyptic concept made popular by adaptations of young adult novels, and given the millennials a lesson on how it's really done.

The premise of "Mad Max" Fury Road" is fairly simple. In the distant future, the earth has used up almost all its most essential resources and deteriorated into a dry wasteland. Our titular Max (Tom Hardy) drifts through this landscape, until he gets captured by the henchmen of a ruthless leader named Immortan Joe, who hoards the supply of water and gasoline as a way to exert control over his citadel. To maintain his status, he uses the services of Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who ventures out into the surrounding areas to acquire more of the valuable resources. But one day, Furiosa decides that she has had enough of his tyranny, and goes on an mission to find her original homeland paradise, with Joe's precious "breeders" (sex slaves used for reproduction) in tow. When Joe is alerted to the mutiny, he sends his men to hunt her down, prompting an epic chase through the vast terrain. With the odds stacked against her, Furiosa reluctantly teams up with Max, and together they must fight for their survival against bloodthirsty gangs and a treacherous environment.

When I went to see the film during all the excitement surrounding its release, my own experience was less ecstatic than most. But even so, I was filled with immense admiration for the tour de force filmmaking on display. Months later, there's hardly a day that goes by that I don't think about this film.

Indeed, Miller has made a film that sticks with you, through its spectacular imagery and non-stop thrills. In the Namib desert, he found the perfect backdrop for his opera of mayhem, with its monochromatic orange hues popping off the screen. And on top of that, he creates a truly unique dystopia, with grungy costumes and sets accentuated with quirky details like spiky chastity belts and the memorable sight of a death metal guitarist atop a heavy duty car, strumming away in the middle of a war zone.

But what really cements its place as one of the year's finest films, aside from the visuals, is the way Miller directs the action. Taking advantage of the car chase premise, he makes the film into a propulsive ride that never eases up. The stunts are incredible and the stakes are high, making the audience feel the daring insanity of it all.

"Mad Max: Fury Road" moves at such a blistering pace that you may need to catch your breath at times. As a result, it hardly has enough time for full character beats in the plot, which is perhaps its only flaw. Of course, that's more than can be said for most action movies. In our era of conveyor belt, branded blockbusters, the mere existence of the exciting, artful "Mad Max: Fury Road" feels like a minor miracle.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


We may still be a few months away from the barrage of end-of-year critics awards, but there's already one film I suspect will stake a claim for numerous Best First Film prizes. "Ex Machina", the directorial debut of Alex Garland, is sure to be one of the most acclaimed genre outings of 2015. This uncommonly disciplined sci-film is sure to have you rapt in its exploration of intelligence and emotion, of both the human and artificial kind.

The film follows a fateful week in the life of a man named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer at Bluebook, a company not dissimilar to Google. His week begins with an exciting invitation to meet the company's CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac), who works at home from a grand, secluded estate. Caleb soon learns that he has been brought in to perform the Turing test, to determine whether Nathan's A.I. creation - an humanoid robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander) - displays proof of true consciousness. Thus begins a series of interactions between Caleb and Ava, forming a relationship that gradually uncovers some of the mysteries of this secret facility.

And so the stage is set for one of the most expertly crafted films of the year. Indeed, if you weren't aware that this was a debut feature, you wouldn't guess from Garland's confident direction. Where others would try to sensationalize the thriller elements, he shows remarkable restraint, doubling down on the film's chilly atmospherics. The score is sparse but impactful, while the art direction and cool lighting evoke a feeling of disquiet. You can practically hear a pin drop in its mesmerizingly sterile surroundings.

"Ex Machina" is far from lifeless however, thanks to the work of Gleeson, Isaac and Vikander in the primary roles. As the POV character, Gleeson is a great audience surrogate, his inquisitive eyes always searching for answers. Meanwhile as the mad scientist archetype, Oscar Isaac is truly outstanding. His casual, wry sense of humour compels you to keep your guard down, despite the script telling you otherwise. Likewise, Vikander's Ava is hardly a Frankenstein's monster, delivering an utterly convincing performance that instills empathy and gives you a character to root for. Her perfectly calibrated mix of mechanical physicality and soulful expressions display the perfect convergence of the technological and psychological concepts at the heart of the story.

Ava's desires for freedom and happiness are brilliantly elaborated in the screenplay, conveyed with all the subtlety of Garland's directing style. And though its myriad questions are deeply philosophical, the understated tone removes all airs of pretense. As such, it draws us in and begs us to come to our own conclusions about the moral implications of the entire experiment.

Ultimately, "Ex Machina" is a fascinating thesis on the limits of control, whether it relates to man over machine, our feelings or other people. For Garland however, his manipulation of our hearts and minds is a gratifying showcase of boundless talent. "Ex Machina" is a near-perfect specimen of sci-fi filmmaking, fitting all the criteria with its element of surprise, engaging scientific thought and palpable social dilemma.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Hot on the heels of the infamous Rodney King riots in 1992, a new subgenre of film emerged in the 1990s. These films came to be known as "hood films", shining a spotlight on the side effects of gentrification and the endless cycle of drugs, violence and poverty endemic to black communities like South Central Los Angeles. The most prominent of these films were John Singleton's "Boyz N the Hood" and the Hughes Brothers' "Menace II Society", which received critical acclaim and mainstream popularity. Now decades later, Keith Miller continues the conversation with his film "Five Star", which looks at gang culture from an east coast perspective.

"Five Star" takes the idea of film as conversation quite literally, as its opening scene shows one of the film's two leads - Primo (James "Primo" Grant"), a real life member of the Bloods gang in Brooklyn - engaged in dialogue with an undisclosed passenger in his car. In the scene, he describes how his greatest regret is missing the birth of his son, due to his incarceration at the time. The memory clearly had a profound effect on him, and he vows to never neglect his children again.

Shortly thereafter, we meet the passenger from the opening, a young man named John (John Diaz). As the son of another Bloods member, he is eager to carry on his late father's legacy. It turns out that this father was also Primo's mentor, thus linking the two men, who have formed a new mentor/mentee relationship. As Primo shows John the ropes, Miller delivers a unique "slice of life" narrative that eschews the typical violence-centric tropes of the 'hood film".

The psychological clarity and optimism in the film's opening perfectly captures the essence of "Five Star". Indeed, what's most striking about the film is in fact, its domesticity. Much of it takes place either in private homes or communal public spaces like parks, beaches and outdoor basketball courts, while the characters themselves are defined in relation to their families (inclusive of the gang itself). As an established gang leader on his way out of the game, Primo is therefore afforded rare complexity for such a character. He's essentially a drug kingpin, but he's hardly a Don Corleone. The film doesn't soften his edges (he's still an intimidating figure) but he's not propped up on a metaphorical throne. Rather, he's a family man trying to makes ends meet with a side job as a bouncer.

On the other hand, John harbors delusional "get rich quick" perceptions of gang life, much to the chagrin of Primo and his knowing mother. But even John's motivations are two-fold, as he also hopes to use the experience to finally uncover the circumstances behind his father's sudden death, which was attributed to a stray bullet. This underlying throughline in the plot provides most of the film's most tense moments, especially in its climatic confrontation.

Overall though, the plot is very low-key, highlighting the everyday banality of these characters' lives. Cinema has often painted a picture of ghetto living as a series of tumultuous events, but Keith Miller's vision is one of ordinary working class routine. Absent of drive-by shooting and harrowing tragedy, these people could be you or me, allowing us to relate easily with his characters. His camera gives a feeling of intimacy, tracking the characters as they walk through streets filled with happy children and busy adults. Furthermore, his leads - both making their film debuts - greatly contribute to the film's realist quality, as they are completely comfortable and naturalistic in front of the camera.

If there's one gripe to be had with "Five Star" is that its simplicity sometimes veers into dull territory. As the film gets caught up in its observational style, it sometimes seems to miss opportunities for further character development and narrative progression. In the grand scheme of things though, you can't fault Miller's approach, which feels so fresh and genuine. The film trades the tragic fatalism of similarly themed films for an authentic "slice of life" in every sense of the term. It may not portray an exciting lifestyle, but Miller's strong sense of humanity is altogether endearing. As the saying goes, he keeps it real.

"Five Star" is now available on DVD.