Conversion Screening Saturday June 29th, 2013

A different kind of film deserves a different kind of screening!

 Four years ago, indie filmmakers Dominic F. Marceau, Kate MacDonald and Paul Ash decided to make a movie called ‘Conversion’. And so they did. Without government or private funding, without going through any of the usual channels to recruit talent or technical staff, without relying on a major studio for distribution and relying on technology available to virtually everyone. Now, they’re ready to reveal their creation to the world.

Conversion trailer

Flash forward and the film that defines the word “independent” is having its premiere at the Maxwell-Cummings Auditorium at Montreal’s Musée des Beaux Arts on June 29th. The fact that the filmmakers decided to have their big night at Montreal’s prestigious Fine Arts Museum is indicative of the non-traditional history of the film.

Paul Ash, known locally as the host of several successful comedy nights, including the weekly Kick Ash Comedy Show, takes the lead alongside MacDonald- the screenplay’s author in her debut performance- in the story of two thirty-something city-dwellers who desperately want to get home at the end of the night. The cast also features a number of cutting edge performers from the Montreal’s alternative comedy scene, as well as new and exciting actors proving that the city’s well of talent runs very deep indeed.

Director Dominic F. Marceau gives the city a starring role as well- the film was shot in various locations throughout Montreal and features some iconic views as well as some little-seen back alleys that give the city its unique character.

 “Really, Montreal is playing itself,” he says. “The rest of us are just interacting with it.”

The filmmakers’ plans for distributing the film are as DIY as the process of making it. Following the premiere, they plan to make it available through online distribution, charging a nominal amount for people everywhere to access it and see what a determined crew of inspired indie producers can do.

‘Conversion’ was shot using DSLR technology- a still photography camera that can capture high-resolution video. The result is shocking in its quality and shows that it is absolutely possible for aspiring filmmakers to accomplish without relying on outside funding to complete their projects.

 “I can’t say how critics or other filmmakers will respond to the film,” MacDonald says, “but I hope it gives them an idea of what can be done by someone who just really wants to make a film and is willing to work hard to make it happen. That’s really the investment that we’ve made here: a lot of hard work.”

‘Conversion’ will be screened at the Maxwell-Cummings Auditorium, 1379 Sherbrooke St. W on June 29th at 8p.m. Admission is free and donations can be made to assist in the further distribution of the film.

For further information please contact Kate MacDonald: 514.451.3469/ or Dominic Marceau: 514.779.3437/

End of June Beginning of July in Paul Ash Comedy

Something special is going to be shown soon


Here’s where you can see Paul Ash in the coming two weeks

Monday June 24th, celebrating Bon Fete and my daughter’s birthday with Krash Production’s Something Funny’s happening at Blue Dog hosted by Ali Hassan and featuring Jon Bennett of Australia (Fire in the Meth Lab, My Dad’s Deaths, Pretending Things Are A Cock).  Also on the bill are Jason Yearow, Dan Derkson, Karl Knox, Emma Wilkie, Gino Durante, and Tim Riel (Ottawa)

Tuesday June 25th has a double happening, one for both languages – first up at 8pm is GladiaCOM 3.  Mathieu Dignard host’s the French version of BattleCOM at CoOp Katacombes (doors at 7:30pm) at 1635 St-Laurent.  This month’s Battlers (or Gladiators) are:
François Tousignant ( Champion du Gladia-Com II)
Marie-Lise Dominguez
Maxime Lacoste-Lachance
Jonathan Guérin À Beauharnois
Reda Saoui
Claudy-Marc Moreau Duvivier

At 9pm Grinders Comedy Night at Theatre St-Catherine kicks off and Paul Ash will be there to close the show.

The week ends with something very special.  Conversion is a film project that Paul Ash was very proud to be part of.  Written by (and co-starring) Kate MacDonald it was directed by Domenic Marceau and, though it’s not a comedy film, features many from the Montreal Comedy community.


Dan Derkson, George Hamilton Braithwaite, Faisal Butt, Asaf Gerchak, Demelza St-James, Joel West, Stefan Peterson, Kris Dulgar & Morgan O’Shea (plus many background cameos!)ONE NIGHT ONLY!

After years of hard work, we’ve decided to punch convention in the junk and do our own damn premiere! We could have done a screening earlier, but we wanted to be able to do something truly special- something that was worthy of all the effort that was put into the project by so many of you.CONVERSION tells the story of two thirty-something friends who head out on a Friday night to escape the drudgery of their daily grind. Unfortunately, they miss the last subway home and circumstances lead them into an increasingly strange series of misadventures with incresingly strange people. Contact with the night’s idiosyncratic characters proves entertaining, frightening and ultimately enlightening. F SQUARED MEDIA presentsC O N V E R S I O Nstarring PAUL ASH & KATE MACDONALDGEORGE HAMILTON BRAITHWAITE HEATHER NANGREAVES & DAN DERKSONdirector of photography D.J. MATRUNDOLA edited by BEN GOLOFF sound design by KYLE STANFIELD music by MICHELE MARTINproduced by KATE MACDONALD DOMINIC F. MARCEAU D.J. MATRUNDOLA PAUL ASHwritten by KATE MACDONALD directed by DOMINIC F. MARCEAUFeaturing music by: Hypnoskull, Xeno & Oaklander, Byetone, Orphx, Subliminal, Ramleh, Ait!, Slater’s Sons, Hyperbottom, Dianes in Danger, and more!Running time: 92 MinutesScreening will take place in the Maxwell-Cummings Auditorium, Door A1379 Rue Sherbrooke OuestMontreal, QC H3G 2C6CanadaFREE ADMISSION (Donations accepted)

Sunday June 30th
A Very Comedy Nest Canada Day
Comedians from different parts of the country unite in a stand-up show that celebrates being Canadian.  Hosted by bilingual Just-For-Laughs/Juste-Pour-Rire veteran SÉBASTIEN BOURGAULT, with Montreal’s JOEY ELIAS (CBC’s Just For Laughs), Toronto’s MATT SHURY, Halifax’s PAUL ASH (The Comedy Network’s Great Canadian Laugh-Off), and some international perspective from New York’s DeANNE SMITH (The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson), plus surprise guests!

Tuesday July 2nd Paul Ash hosts the Kick Ash Comedy Show as one of the Kings of the Mountain.  Also on the show are:  Mo Arora, Jason Yearow, Shawn Stenhouse, Stefan Petersen, Eric Arsenault, Paul Worrel and Dan Derkson and closed out by Jess Demers!

Thursday to Saturday (July 4th – 6th), keeping the hosting train going, Paul Ash will be hosting for K. Trevor Wilson at The Comedy Nest in the AMC Forum

Conveniently, also at the Comedy Nest is July’s BattleCOM, the 6th BattleCOM show at the Comedy Nest!  Battling are Greg Hamilton (OTS, Thunder Tickle), Terence Bowman (RFV, Improv Ronin), Tim Riel (Ottawa), Walter Lyng (Pitching Knife Fight and Drop the Gloves, last month’s Grand Champion), and Mathieu Dignard (GladiaCOM).

Comedy Nest July 5th

Comedy Nest July 5th

Film Review: A Good Day To Die Hard

This is a pocket review of Die Hard 5: A Good Day To Die Hard.  Starting this I realized I’ve only ever done one other film review in blog form, and that was for Looper, another Bruce Willis film.  (For my 140 character reviews check out my Twitter look for #FilmReview.)  I’ve never thought of myself as a Bruce Willis fan, looking back at his filmography there are some amazing hits, as well as some spectacular bombs.  I’ll present my observations, and let you decide where this film falls.


You can’t talk about a sequel without mentioning the film that started the franchise, in this case, 1988’s Die Hard.  Die Hard took a television actor (personally I never got into Moonlighting), and made him a bankable movie star.  What’s remarkable is that Bruce Willis was allegedly the seventh choice for the role – and it made his film career.  Nowadays it’s far more frequent for actors to drift between television and film, but at the time it was considered a big move (up).  What made the original Die Hard’s John McClane live so strongly in my imagination was his mortality.  He got hurt, felt pain, he didn’t go looking for trouble but he didn’t back down from doing the right thing.  He was a hero that all of us hope we are deep down.  And he did it with a sense of humour.


Now is the time to start talking about Die Hard 5: A Good Day To Die Hard.  I’ll leave a warning for spoilers and and obvious extro at spoilers end, just prior to my summation.

The Die Hard franchise has had it’s ups and downs, but has always delivered somewhat in the same style: tongue in cheek humour, darkest before the dawn and one or two major stunt set pieces and a strong nod to family.  This one is not majorly different.  Yet the start felt very different, more akin to a Daniel Craig Bond, or a Bourne film.  With the popularity of those ‘thinking man’ action films evolving the genre (and the fact that Willis’ own Red fits into that category) it would make sense to reinvent the franchise.  Without seeing any promotional material I probably would have felt very confused by the action, the location…  pretty much everything – even having a general idea of what the film was about and seeing the title credits I wondered if I walked into the wrong theatre.


The opening action scene was filled with quick cuts, an avoidance of faces (for the most part), obviously showed an Eastern European city and a set up to some brief unexplained violence.  Finally we get a glimpse of John McClane, and he seems different.  He’s respected, low key and maybe even a bit broken by life, or hurt in a way we’ve not seen before, because of his fractured relationship with his son.  It’s only because I read an article about the film prior to going in that I knew that Jack McClane was dishonourably discharged from American special forces – which was just a cover for his move to the C.I.A.

After a cameo from Lucy Gennaro we get a taste of the old John McClane, his charm, his ability to relate to different people and finally his wit.  It almost feels like I’m watching a mashup of two movies.  After much hijinx, explosions and generalized mayhem father finally comes face to face with son, and neither is happy with it.  This makes me feel that Valentine’s Day was not a good weekend for this film’s release, as Father’s Day would obviously be more appropriate.  This quickly devolves (thanks to some gunfire) into the first major action piece of the film.

The car chase.  You’ve seen bits of it in the trailer, and trailers are famous for showing all the good stuff from a film, but I was not disappointed.  Car chase is a serious misnomer, cars are minor annoyances to the vehicles involved – it’s only called a car chase because delivery van / armoured vehicle / flatbed truck / Mercedes SUV chase is too long.  Through this chase we meet the first villain who displays character and panache, Alik (aka the dancer).  This scene is why I go to Die Hard films, explosions, comic book over the top violence, very real world danger and pithy retorts shouted between characters who couldn’t possibly hear one another.  The chase came a hair’s breadth from being too long and any belief in real world physics was completely thrown out the window by the end – but ended beautifully, barely forwarding the plot.

Unfortunately this was the last interesting thing in the film.  After losing their way out of Moscow / Russia (they never explained how far they needed to go), they end up at a safe house where Cole Hauser quickly gives exposition and is deleted from the film as quickly as he entered – so much for 7th billing.  More father / son moaning goes on (and by now, it’s moaning – hug already) as they try to rescue their asset, gain his key and daughter and make for safety.  But it’s a Die Hard film, and nothing is that easy.

A face to face stand-off with Alik (and I’m beginning to like this guy).  He makes references to 1986 causing John and Jack McClane to laugh; which at first made me think he was referencing the events of Die Hard 1 – but that was set in 1988, after getting home and researching I realized it was the year of the Chernobyl disaster…  Way to earn sensitivity points.  We glimpse shadowy men running things in the background, an air of ‘bigger than you can imagine’ badness, helicopter shooting up a building (Die Hard 1 meets True Lies) and then a strangely quiet road trip where a car travels as fast as a helicopter over what seems half a day (or longer) travel.  For some reason, when it’s not cloaked in cartoony violence logical stretches like this lose their appeal.


Seriously, how do you hide around a city until nightfall, steal a gangster’s car and then make a nearly 12 hour drive faster than a Hind.  Plus, it was night when you stole the car – and 12 hours later it’s still night?  Russia, what a country!

Father and son patch their relationship, and finally decide to be a team just in time for the final action set piece.  And it is a piece, a piece of crap.  After so much real world, “can’t be CGI” amazing that was the car chase scene we’re treated to a green screen nightmare version that would fit better as a 2009 music video.


Even the insides of the building felt like a douchebag nightclub, not the leftover ruins of one of the worst nuclear disasters on the planet.

Major spoiler

Then Alik, a flunky but became the fun villain, was unceremoniously killed.  The true villain was finally revealed, and you know what – huge twist that it was meant to be, I didn’t care.  Much more explosions, some pain, bloodshed and a walk off into the sunrise leaving the world a much safer place.  Yawn.  It’s a Die Hard film, that’s what’s supposed to happen.

End of spoilers

Was this film worthy of the Die Hard franchise.  Yes, barely…  It’s greatest weakness is that it lacks any true villain.  Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) didn’t need to tell everyone he was brilliant and evil because he WAS brilliant and evil.  To have a great hero, you need to challenge him with a great villain.  Reading their C.V.’s I could see how someone would mistake DH5’s bad guys as villains.  Yes, they are bad men (and women) who’ve done horrible things and they want to have it all swept under the rug.  But it didn’t come across on the screen.  Even posturing seemed weak, their plans held together by weirdly implausible coincidences.  Hans Gruber didn’t count on coincidences, he anticipated the law’s response and included them in his plans.  If John McClane hadn’t been there, he would have gotten away free and clear.  If only ‘the dancer’ could have truly cut lose with his sociopathic tendencies could we have seen a good villain.

I understand that they wanted to make this film a cross generational McClane saga – maybe take the franchise to a new level, being able to survive different incarnations of the lead (an American Bond?).  With so many shadowy background players, and so many locations (I tried to not enter the ‘Die Hard is best contained’ debate) traveled to so illogically, I felt the film was muddied.  No clear enemy.  Even the launch date seemed wrong – Valentine’s Day?  This film screams Father’s Day, and it just seemed another poor choice in a string meant to undermine my enjoyment of this film.  The first set piece did put me on the edge of my seat… but the rest of the film made my ass a bit numb.

Will I look forward to the next Die Hard?  Yes, like any (sucker) fan, but I hope they don’t try to shine any lights on shadowy players again.  Or if they do, that these are the Shadowy Men in question.



Special Tonight: Yarn

Tonight, Wednesday Oct. 3rd, 2012, I’m participating in a story teller show, which is new to me.  Even though I like to consider myself a story teller style comedian, this is the first time I’ve been asked to participate in this type of show.

I’ll be telling the possibly true tale of how I may possibly be the material witness to a murder.  If I may say it’s a rip roaring good tale filled with uncomfortable interactions, Irish Mobsters, heroin bars, and many many false endings.

Where it’s going down is Cagibi 5490 St-Laurent, in Montreal.  Showtime is 8pm and also includes:
True stories by Taylor Tower and Jeff Gandell
Fiction by Katrina Best and John Paul Fiorentino
Improvised story by Joshua Budman

Follow up the evening by staying at Cagibi for a night of the musical stylings of DJ Kali and Mr. DNA’s Caustic Lounge – where they intend to possess you (sonically) for a night of audio infestation.


Film Review: Looper


Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt and Pierce Gagnon, directed by Rian Johnson.

Okay, I’m a bit of a sci-fi nerd and a movie fan. That said, I usually find time travel based stories to be simplistic and / or gimmicky. Looking at Looper, I was on the fence; a dual lead film, two good actors (one rising star, one… more of a skilled entertainer than master thespian) and a relatively new director with a small (but good) body of work. Add to that mix, $30million budget, 1.5x the budget of The Brothers Bloom (Johnson’s previous film) and much higher than any of the TV episodes he directed since that film’s release. I tense up when I see wads of cash handed over to a ‘newer’ director, as it leads to self indulgent film making, sometimes, even in seasoned directors.J. Gordon-Levitt

Add to this trepidation the big ‘gimmick’ of the film, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis will be playing the same character, just at different ages, who actually meet thank to the main ‘gimmick’ of time travel – and the much touted prosthetics that JG-L would be wearing. Seeing some of the early poster art, my immediate thought was that he looked more like a young Sean Connery than a young Bruce Willis – this could be really bad. If the technology existed for Eddie Murphy to play 8 characters who interact with each other in The Klumps in 2000, couldn’t they have casted a single actor to play both roles? Surely they could find an actor that could play young and old – Matt Smith’s Doctor Who does so on television without tons of makeup, sometimes in the same monologue cutting from youthful enthusiasm to the weight of age. Maybe they were afraid of the logistics, even in the age of CGI, of getting the shots with eye lines and emotive context, that the constant reshoots necessary to secure a scene with one actor playing two roles would inflate the budget even further.

More likely, Gordon-Levitt is still too new a name to carry a film with this budget, so he needed to be paired with an established (bankable) property, Willis. Willis’ everyman hero, established so well in the Die Hard franchise (great films) was easy to identify with, like Harrison Ford’s Han Solo; just more bad ass, like we all wish we could be. Variations on this archetype has cemented Willis as the star he is, evolving as he aged, Fifth Element, 16 Blocks, Red. In Expendables, he seemed like the only actor who got it that he was to parody himself. But does Willis have the emotional range to recapture that youthful swagger needed by the young hitman, could he convincingly pull it off? His Planet Terror character definitely had layers, including a smoldering menace. Maybe he could have, maybe I’m only saying that after seeing the dynamic job he did in Looper. This film is more like a passing of the torch to the next generation of thinking everyman action stars, which seems to be a niche JGL is fitting into nicely (Inception).

But a friend won a free pass, so I could see it with no risk. The movie tag line seemed less than inspired:

“In 2072, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits.”

Sigh, gangsters with time travel. But the cast is solid. Shortly into the film, it’s obvious – care was taken with this production. The set design is solid. The dystopian world, the looper contract, the various mob roles are all explained with very little exposition, most can actually be gleaned in the interactions and the world that’s shown. From the little things, such as currency, old vehicles that have been retrofitted for electric power, to the masses of homeless, people scrounging and thieving to survive living in old office towers and sewers contrasted by the high life of a looper, or a person with connections, the sparkling skyline, access to pleasures and above the law it is obvious that this story is part of a much richer and fuller world. As the film rolled, it became easier and easier to immerse myself in the story. The prosthetics on JGL were still noticeable, but it was his impression of a young BW that shone through.

My recommendation is that you go see this film

Minor SPOILERS may follow

Little things really helped flesh out the world. The Economic disparity, the references to the hobo wars, that so few vehicles were new (mainly converted to run on solar power), reference to the TK gene, even drug use being most fashionable via eye drops all paint a plausible world, futuristic but still with ties to our world.  Such dedication to world building made me wish Rian Johnson had been at the helm of In Time, a film that suffered from an incohesive world view.

The looper contract, and the criminal organization it spawned (in the now, run by Jeff Daniels) appears simple but works on many levels. The looper contract itself “doesn’t attract many forward thinking individual”. “Loopers are well paid, they lead a good life…” and they do, up until 30 years after their retirement. Loopers kill people sent back in time, because disposing of a body in the future is now incredibly difficult. So they send them back, to the time of the movie, so they can be killed and disposed of. Loopers are contracted to do this until the person they kill are their future self, closing the ‘loop’, hence the job title looper. Then they are then retired to live life on their savings for 30 years at which point they are captured and sent back to be killed. Hence not “forward thinking”. Loopers are provided with a weapon, a single shot blunderbuss, with a range of 15 yards, impossible to miss at short range, impossible to hit beyond 15 strides. Loopers also have to check this weapon when they visit the ‘office’. Policing the loopers were the gats, goons with a slow firing pistol (of the ones shown in the movie, some seemed single shot, some were revolvers). The gats’ guns have a longer range and more accuracy than a blunderbuss but are still archaic by today’s weapon standards. Why did the organization use such obviously flawed and outdated weapons? The film does go to show that the ‘organization’ does have access to better quality weapons (P90s were being used at one point), but in a way it acts a policing of the organizations underlings. The loopers, such as Joe (played by JGL / BW) are not really being hired for their intelligence; they are not ‘forward thinkers’. They are selected for their lose morals, hunger for a better life and a willingness to sell out their future for a better today. Such people may be prone to voice displeasure at management with an ill advised takeover attempt, attempts made difficult with the limitations of the tools available to them. Same goes for gats, who seem to chafe at the good life that loopers lead, but lord their ability to police the loopers over them.

Most of the problems in the film seem to come from the fact that Joe was the youngest looper ever recruited, and proved to be much more intelligent than most of his peers. Something realized by Abe (Jeff Daniels), but not immediately recognized as dangerous.

Major SPOILERS alert

The early example of Seth (played by Paul Dano)went to demonstrate not only the danger of not closing your loop, but also the nature of time travel. Choices made affect the future, but only when they’re made, so when future Seth made the choice to sing a childhood song that made now Seth pause, and prevent killing him, all the bad things that followed did not immediately catch up with future Seth, they only happened once the actions were taken by and upon now Seth. If future Seth hadn’t been removed from his timeline, the actions taken against young Seth would have appeared instantaneous to him, but since the actions taken were after he travelled to the now, their affects only appeared as they were done to young Seth, to gruesome effect. Bruce Willis’ Joe described it as foggily remembering the actions of now Joe (JGL) but only as, or after, now Joe had done them. He maintained many of his memories, even after he had changed the past (as shown in the fast forward dreamlike sequence of his life after he had ‘originally’ killed himself). One thing to note, and something I’m not clear on (and a reason to see the film again), the woman future Joe loved and married, the woman who managed to get him of ‘drops’ (Joe’s drug of choice) face morphed in Joe’s memory into a blend of the original (Qing Xu) and Sara’s (Emily Blunt) after Sara took the time to ease now Joe’s withdrawal, winning his affection. It is after this scene that old Joe is very protective of his picture of his dead / future wife, and it’s not seen on screen again, potentially, because it’s been changed.

In marketing the film, they glossed over, almost failed to mention the TK element in the film. This greatly reduced my (as a film goer) expectation of its importance. I was very happy to see this, as too many films (even TV shows) give away too much information in the trailers that make it impossible to not figure out the major plot points – the tendency to ‘show all the good parts’. They could’ve even cut a trailer showing the film as a sort of ‘reverse terminator’ – a looper sent back to the past to prevent the takeover of the mob by a blood thirsty, brutal maniac known simply as “The Rainmaker”. If I was to continue this list of ‘what they did right’ – this review would be even longer. I will switch gears to little things that could have been done better. Much was done to show that vehicles had been converted to run on solar power, and electricity in general BUT in several scenes as these trucks rumbled past, they rumbled with the sound of a combustion engine. Bruce Willis’ delay in getting into the time machine (to face his death) somehow caused a delay in his exiting – wouldn’t the time machine be set for a certain time and place? If bodies were so hard to get rid of in the future, how come Bruce Willis, a hit man again, in the future, wasn’t in jail? What was done with his wife’s body to prevent authorities looking for her? And for that matter, why risk sending live bodies back at all? Why not kill someone then zap them back in time to a volcano, to dispose of the body?

Most of these questions are minor at the least, and I’m sure they could be relatively explained in a satisfactory manner with a greater fleshing out of the world – which isn’t necessarily needed. All it boils down to is this: Rian Johnson’s directorial style seems like a blend of Martin Scorsese and Terry Gilliam. Great characters and great set pieces lead to a great escapist movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance (almost impersonation) of a young Bruce Willis, overcame the limits imposed on him by the prosthetics.

An interesting subtext to the movie is consequence, most time travel movies deal with that (Butterfly Effect), but one obvious question comes up – what is the difference between young Joe and old Joe that would make it reasonable to old Joe to kill a child. For young Joe, it’s repugnant. For old Joe, it does seem unpleasant but something that he feels he has no choice but to do. It comes to that old theoretical question, if you were able to go back in time, would you go back and kill Hitler as a child? Theoretically, you’d be killing an innocent, would his future crimes justify the killing of that child?

Everything else being said, the performance put in by Pierce Gagnon as Cid was lynchpin in pulling the story together. As a child actor, his ability to convey both innocence and menace is amazing, and I’ll not take from Rian Johnson’s ability as a director by saying so. This child, introduced so innocently midway through the second act of the film becomes the line in the sand and the impetus to all that happens. Watching him at such a young age you can see the life choices as they’ll become laid out for him, and the influences on his future decision process that the other characters (will) play.

This film is a win, it’s a good bet you’ll enjoy it if you’re a scifi fan, or a good story fan, even as a romance (Blunt’s performance as an ex addict dealing with guilt and an extraordinary burden is very good) it’s a win. I think anyone wanting quick answers and simplistic plot may (and that’s just may) be disappointed in this film – and I, as one, am glad films are still being made for people who enjoy being challenged.