A veteran photojournalist on the arts and entertainment scene, Julian Bynoe is a Toronto-based cartoonist, artist and arts blogger. From 1996 to 2014, he was the arts/entertainment editor for the street publication The Outreach Connection, and has had articles featured in Realms Magazine, among others.

EDITION #134 - WEEK OF MAY 8-14, 2017

Engaging Guardians sequel too comfy in its zone

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Marvel Studios)

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoë Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel

Director: James Gunn

Producer: Kevin Feige

Screenplay: James Gunn; based on the Marvel comic book series by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and characters by Steve Englehart, Steve Gan, Jim Starlin, Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby, Bill Mantio and Keith Giffen

Film Review

That renegade band of misfit space superheroes that became the unexpected runaway success of 2014 with The Guardians of the Galaxy are back for more in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 with all the trappings expected from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and then some. While it’s a pretty engaging (and lengthy two-and-a-half hour) follow-up, the film doesn’t quite have enough sizzle to emerge it from the first one’s shadow.

Now working as legitimate heroes-for-hire in the Nova Empire, the Guardians under Peter “Star-Lord” Quill (Pratt) tries to keep his ragtag partners and pals Gamora (Saldana), Drax (Bautista), Rocket Racoon (voice of Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (voice of Diesel) on the straight and narrow – with the odd disagreeable flare-ups – when their latest mission in protecting the energy source of a ultra-perfectionist species known as The Sovereign goes awry, courtesy of Rocket’s talent for thievery; brings upon them their wrath.

In making their getaway, they run into the celestial entity Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell), who happens to be Peter’s long-lost father looking to reconnect with him. Taking him, Gamora and Drax to his own home world to teach him of his heritage and vision while Rocket repairs their ship and keeping an eye on Gamora’s cybernetic sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) they have prisoner, Ego’s empathic companion Mantis (Pom Klementieff) reveals all is not as altruistic as this family reunion appears to be on the surface which threatens to destroy the entire galaxy.

Writer/director James Gunn, who also adapted and helmed the previous film, maintains the same pace, humour and pop culture references only with more action-packed thrills than last time and manages to squeeze in some moving moments between the characters about family and relationships working in its favour here. Yet it’s also the film’s Achilles heel in a sense in where, despite a well-thought script and decent acting from the cast, relies too heavily on the formula for its own good.

The returning line-up play off on each other like members of a family, dysfunctional as it the center of Vol. 2 ’s core, especially the sexual tension between Peter and Gamora, the bitter sibling rivalry consuming Nebula over Gamora and Drax continuing grapple with his social skills (or lack thereof) with others, in particular with Mantis, is still funny watching, including Cooper’s rascally lovable Rocket. And who knew that Baby Groot would end up being such an adorable comic relief here?

Also back are Michael Rooker as Ravanger leader Yondu playing off as the father figure to Pratt’s Star-Lord while dealing with a mutiny from his crew, as led by Chris Sullivan’s Taserface; in direct competition to Russell with his seductive mannerism working him as Ego in finding the meaning of life and existence he spins is a winning role for him. Canadian-born Klementieff makes a splash as the new member of the Guardians with her naïveté emitting from her character, but not so that it hampers her in helping them out. And check out (a real good) Sylvester Stallone, Michelle Yeoh, Ving Rhames, David Hasselhoff plus, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them, Rob Zombie, Miley Cyrus, Don Johnson and Seth Green in the all-star cameos.

Add to that the bombastic special effects, closing-end cliffhangers, a solid old-school mixtape soundtrack and other surprises, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 makes for a relatively good romp across the stars even in its familiarity it finds itself just a tad too comfortable in its own shell.

Street casting call; Tropic Thunders

CONTACT Photography Festival 2017 Reviews

Part 2 of a 5-part series

Sam Cotter: On Location

TIFF Lightbox, 350 King Street West, corners of King and Widmer Streets

Through May 31; 24/7

A corner-wrapped outdoor photo essay on the Toronto film industry at TIFF Lightbox, On Location is Cotter’s exposé of Hollywood North that we call home as our streets are invaded and converted into exterior shots by local and foreign film and television crews as the 14x17’ montage show of trailers, cables, film props and whatnot scattered about. His photos are raw and untidy but an honest depiction of the showbiz in all of our temporal environs of the elements to its subconscious “encouragement” for the citizenry to blend into whatever scenery is required as we go about our daily lives, unbeknownst to how these temporary inconveniences contribute to our economy.

Jalani Morgan: The Sum of All Parts

Metro Hall, 460 King Street West, corners of King West and John Streets

Through May 31, 24/7

In the last two years of the Black Lives Matter movement coming at the tail-end of the Obama era in the United States, Morgan’s black and white coverage of its Canadian branch around Toronto in The Sum of All Parts shows that civil rights and civil disobedience hasn’t died out in the supposedly “Just Society” we strive for.

Along the thirteen 8.7x6.5’ inkjet prints on vinyl portraits along the south façade of Metro Hall near Pecault Square show all the emotions conveyed in each panel – including one mention regarding the disappearance of First Nations women nationwide – are etched with defiance, moral outrage and confrontation, yet hope remains on each face that their message will take notice for the better.

Andrew Blake McGill: Two Half-Hitches Could Hold the Devil Himself: Photographs from Glencoe, Ontario, Canada

St. Lawrence Market South Entrance, 99 Front Street East

Through August 26; Tuesdays-Thursdays 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Fridays 8 p.m.-7 p.m., Saturdays 5 a.m.- 5 p.m.

You’ll (almost) miss this one if you don’t look upward at the ceiling inside the historic marketplace for these twenty-two 110x110’ inkjet on vinyl prints about the rural Ontario township as seen by the photographer in his ongoing series, but it could be said for any farmland anywhere else. As the title suggests, as quoted by the artist’s great-grandfather farmer, it shows us the people, scenes and their normalities of the obvious archetypes of rural culture and thinking rooted in traditions, yet doesn’t mean these photos or areas lack any sense of character.

And placed at the upper concourse of St. Lawrence Market with all their food stands and produce sections, this exhibit couldn’t have picked a better place to bring attention this aspect of Canadiana to the forefront.

Group Exhibition: City Life/Rural Life

Latitude 44, 2900 Dundas Street West

Through May 31; Tuesdays-Fridays 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.

Latitude 44’s annual CONTACT group show took on a smaller affair with only three artists participating this year, yet proved to be full of context. Starting with Brian Anderson’s Yellow Cloth series with the titular four-paneled photos – actually shot in black and white – of said shredded fabric submerged into Lake Ontario waters going with the current, whilst focused on the ripples and sunlight to bring depth (no pun intended) to the pieces; as his companion series Ode to Analog of pinhole camera photos taken in 2013 in taking landscape shots (“Pond No. 1”, “Bridge” and “Tree”) hail the origins of photography.

Rural Scenes has life in the slow lane taken by Michael Lindon about Prince Edward County which has been his home for the last couple of years after leaving city life for all its quaint simplicities, like jumping into a swimming hole (“Suspended in Time in Milford”) and tapping for amber sweetness from the maples (“Maple Mystery”), as it also looks not too far away of the familiarity of a car graveyard amidst a sparsely wooded area (“Field of Broken Dreams”) and a couple shots of life at American coastal cities (“Venice Beach Boarder,” “Coney Island Bench Guys”).

And Golrohk Keshavarz dives into the local nightlife with her In Living Colour series where one can feel her work move in all directions, imbued from time-lapse photography, whether you’re seeing clubbers grabbing a late-night bite outside an eatery (“Post Club Munchies”), the kinetic movement and electric vibrancy of a streetcar passing through Yonge-Dundas Square (“Toronto Square”) or the Toronto Police on duty at a evening gone possibly wrong in the downtown nightclub district (“Yellow Tape and Purple Light”).

Group Exhibition: Projects for the Page

Earl Selkirk Gallery, ARTiculations, 2928 Dundas Street West

Through May 31; Mondays-Fridays 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m.- 5 p.m., Sundays 12-5 p.m.

Indie publisher Anchorless Press hosts Earl Selkirk Gallery’s yearly show for CONTACT in showcasing their recent releases of local artisans’ photobook publications, Projects for the Page, that sees more of the artistic value than what the average coffee table book can offer.

As one can see with Marco Buonocore’s Testnegativ (2015) looks at old-fashioned darkroom test photo sheets of the geometrical (“Unknown”, “Rowi Testpositiv”) to the optical-illusional (“Danes Picta LensFo”) designs that sadly faded in the era of digital photography done, ironically enough, on silver gelatin print.

Kirby Pilcher and Luke Strosnider has a series of untitled c-prints from their 2013 book Crater about some dusty American Southwestern town that uses their meteorite crater crash site as a tourist trap, complete with a close-up of concrete dinosaurs and makeshift Native American tipi near a roadside stop; is a oddball mix of kitschy and the yawning spectacular of nature of how small we really are in the universe.

While the two c-print excerpts from Alice Dixon’s To Come to Earth Again (2014) show the intricacies of tropical botany and the environment (“The Last Greenhouse” I and II) seem kind of basic, it is Aaron Friend Lettner’s Doorways (2017) with his geometric “Moons,” humorous “Tim Again” and overlapping inter-cuts of “Caspars” on grainy aluminium printing plates and the science-fictional Anthony Randall/Robyn York five-part “Floating in Space” series (2017) in the window gallery section are the most artistic in the group; as one then discovers how these practical these “unconventional” books truly are.

Jim Blomfield: Grand Motion

West Toronto Paint, 2975 Dundas Street West

Through May 31; Mondays-Wednesdays 7 a.m.-6 p.m., Thursdays-Fridays 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturdays 8 a.m.- 5 p.m., Sundays 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Through a swing lens camera, camera rotations and artistic shutter speeds, Jim Blomfield’s latest solo show is his most abstract yet with Grand Motion. A series of eleven rectangular silver gelatin fibre-based prints taken during a southwestern Ontario road trip from Fergus to Brantford of water going over several dams along the Grand River, with its circular swirls taking on a dizzying vertical nature in viewing.

Richard Kuzniak: Night Vision

Coolearth Architecture, 386 Pacific Avenue

Through May 31; Mondays-Fridays 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m.- 5 p.m., Sundays 12-5 p.m.

One could easily dismiss Night Vision as another exhibit from another nightowl photographer, yet Richard Kuzniak shows a much darker underbelly where shadows and blacks enhance the dimly-lit subjects of his camera. You won’t find a more nadir feel from a Miles Davis street mural next to the neon glow of a nearby bar (“Kensington Market”), richer reds of a alleyway brick house (“Bicycles, Plymouth Avenue”), the vastness of darkness against Art Deco architecture (“Harris Filtration Plant”) or the ominous vibe of a black cat seemingly guarding a open doorway of a lit staircase (“Watcher, The Junction”) than the one Kuzniak reveals here.

Meera Margaret Singh: Jardim

Zalucky Contemporary, 3044 Dundas Street West

Through June 3; Wednesdays-Saturdays 11 a.m-6 p.m.

Isolationism is nothing new as a theme in the photographic arts. But when it comes from a sense of quiet oppressiveness, it takes on a different perspective in by the award-winning photographer/anthropologist Meera Margaret Singh’s Jardim. Doing a two-month residency in a lonely Brazilian industrial outpost of Jardim Canada in 2012, Singh was the only woman among three male artists at the residency and was advised not to venture out into the tropical hamlet at night (along with most of the local women).

Given that Brazil has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world, Singh uses this to convey her feelings of enforced solitude by roaming the empty streets at daylight in photographing the stagnancy of her surroundings, where earth tones make the density of factories, warehouses and temporary shelters for transitory workers, mostly being swallowed up by the creeping rainforest in this backwater town.

As much as there’s a beauty in the eight photos and looping seven-minute video To Become a Storm on display, it’s a sad if eerie one at that when its vacancy looms large in them when it’s a female photographer taking these pictures by herself in a unsafe corner of the country that seems almost unthinkable in this day and age. But instead of feeling victimized, the exhibit is a testimony of one woman artist unwilling to let fear define her and treat it more as an act of defiance with just one camera alone.

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CONTACT 2017 currently running through May 31. Most venues are FREE. For information, call 416-539-9595 or visit scotiabankcontactphoto.com.

Comics art superstar’s bio-pictures

Guy Delisle: A Babe in the Woods of Autobiographical Fiction

Venue: Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge Street, 3rd Floor

Dates/Times: Through May 31; Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 1:30 -5 p.m.

Admission/Information: FREE. Call 416-395-5577 or torontocomics.com

Gallery Review

As part of the 2017 Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) this weekend (May 12-14), the organizers have put together a mini-exhibit at the Toronto Public Library’s Metro Reference branch the work of French-based Canadian cartoonist superstar Guy Delisle, A Babe in the Woods of Autobiographical Fiction, to mark the release his latest graphic novel, Hostage (Drawn & Quarterly).

Mostly in French – with an available English cheat-sheet – and a couple of pantomimes in between, the smallish exhibit has his best moments in regard to his critically-acclaimed travelogues Pyongyang, Shenzhen, Burma Chronicles and 2012 masterpiece Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City and a few offshoots regarding his young son’s misadventures (“Louis Goes Skiing”, “Louis at the Beach”).

So whether it’s observing the complicated if tense-filled atmosphere of the Middle East where he notices an armed man wading through a crowd without much notice by the throng during a morning sketch at a café in the Old City to pointing out sartorial details of Burmese militiamen’s uniforms in showing off puffed-up military decorations during its military rule period, his artwork is a mix of aesthetic flawlessness and humorous commentary thrown with a childlike wonder, to show how far he’s risen in the comics art world in the last few years.

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Guy Delisle makes an appearance at TCAF 2017 this Saturday (May 13) at the Toronto Reference Library and at Marriot Bloor-Yorkville Hotel (May 14; 90 Bloor Street East, 2:45 p.m.), The events are FREE. For information, visit torontocomics.com