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Sample: Title; rating; principal setting; year
of release; international co-producer (if any); cast; description; scriptwriter;
director; content warning; running time.
* * setting: other
(2007) Rupinder Nagra, Naseeruddin Shah, Seema Biswas, Koel Purie, Roshan Seth, Vik Sahay, Tanisha Chatterjee, Dr. Shiva.....Story of a poor but pure-hearted New Delhi taxi driver (Nagra), the various characters in his life, such as the attractive woman (Purie) he drives every day and the street urchin (Chatterjee) he visits in hospital, and the machinations and subterfuge that ensue when, unbeknownst to him, he is named in the will of a rich curmudgeon touched by his goodness -- much to the consternation of the rich man's greedy and conniving heirs. The core plot in this leisurely drama is a bit thin, and the themes heavy handed. Yet that's balanced by its atmosphere, and if the core plot is thin, there are enough threads, and a wide cast of characters, to keep it interesting. Fine performances all around, particularly Shah (in a small part as the rich man) and the always reliable Seth (as the dead man's brother). And if the lead is a bit of an idealized paragon, many of the other characters have dimension and nuance. As mentioned, the "message" -- that money can't buy contentment -- is a little obvious, even patronizing to the working poor if taken too literally (the only people who think there's nobility and dignity in poverty are people who have never been poor)...particularly when the filmmakers equate nobility with refusing a tip (in many low-paying jobs, tips are the only way workers can actually earn money). Still, taken less literally and more as a subtle-as-a-brick spiritual parable, the strengths outweigh the weaknesses, for a generally effective, low-key drama. Sahay, the only Canadian actor in the main cast, is supposed to have been abroad...in England. What? It would've killed them to have it be he had been away in Canada in this Canadian movie? In a mix of English and Hindi. sc: Richie Mehta, Shaun Mehta (from S. Mehta's short story). dir: Richie Mehta. 101 min.
AMANITA PESTILENS *
1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1964) Jacques Labrecque, Huguette Oligny, Genevieve Bujold, Benoit Girard, Roger Garceau, Blake James, Jean Louis Millette.....Story of a suburbanite (Labrecque), obsessively proud of his award-winning lawn, and how things get out of hand when his lawn becomes infested with the eponymous mushrooms. Low-budget flick may be trying for satire, or a surreal Kafka-esque parable, or simply a drama, and the fact that it's unclear which of these it's trying for is just part of the problem in this potentially clever, but ultimately unsuccessful picture. Thinly plotted (even with the short running time it seems slow and padded) with unrealized characters. Notable mainly as Bujold's film debut (as the teen-aged daughter). In English, despite the mainly francophone cast. sc: David Walker. dir: Rene Bonniere. 79 min.
THE AMATEUR *
* setting: USA./other
(1981) John Savage, Christopher Plummer, Marthe Keller, Arthur Hill, Nicholas Campbell, Jan Rubes, Ed Lauter, Chapelle Jaffe, Miguel Fernandes.....C.I.A. paper-pusher (Savage) blackmails the Company into sending him to Europe after the east-bloc terrorists (led by Campbell) who killed his girl friend. This cynical thriller isn't much more than a rather brutal revenge flick, despite a few twists near the end. sc: Robert Little, Diana Maddox (from Little's novel). dir: Charles Jarrott. - violence.- 111 min.
The Amateurs by David Halberstam served as the source for the movie Rowing Through
L'amelanchier, a novel by Jacques Ferron,
was the source for the film Tinamer
(1999-2000) * * * 1/2 (/U.S.) C. Thomas Howell ("Dr. Alex Kennedy"), Carol Alt ("Karen Oldham"), Chris Martin ("Jimmy Stack"), Fabiana Udenio ("Pia Claire"), Tyler Hynes ("Will Bauer"), Rob Stewart ("Andrew Talbott"), with John Neville ("Elder Cole"), Gabriel Hogan ("Falconer John"), Joseph Scoren ("Elder Balaam"), Pedro Salvin ("Korakal"), Katie Emme McIninch ("Prudence"), Deborah Pollitt ("Hekka"), Julian Richings ("Elder Malachi"), many others.....Adventure/drama (with touches of mysticism) about survivors of a plane crash lost in the Amazon jungle, and meeting up with a lost tribe -- the Chosen -- descended from 17th Century English Puritans who mix tribalism and Christian fanaticism, ignorant of the outside world (or even much of their own history). The ensemble cast includes: Howell as the abrasive, intensely survivalist doctor; Alt a stewardess; Martin a garage mechanic; Udenio a spoiled opera diva; Hynes a youth caught between a Native tribe that had adopted him and the Chosen, who thought of him as their "Chosen One"; Stewart a teacher, dying of leukemia that mysteriously went into remission once he was in the jungle. Neville plays the leader of the Chosen; Hogan (son of Michael and Susan -- and if you don't know who they aare, you haven't looked around this site much) the tribe's chief warrior/hunter; Scoren and Richings other leaders hostile to our heroes; McIninich a medicine woman, sort of ostracized by the tribe; and Pollitt her sister whose husband was (accidentally) killed by "Dr. Kennedy". Salvin plays the leader of the Spider People, an Amazonian tribe locked in a kind of cold war with the Chosen. Howell, Alt, and Udenio are all American imports (well, in the case of Udenio, a Hollywood-based Argentinian-Italian) while most everyone else is Canadian. However, none of the characters they portrayed were supposed to be Canadian (except Margot Kidder who guest starred in a couple of episodes as a cannibal...hmmm). This is because it's a scientific fact that Canadians only travel by dog sled and, therefore, it would be impossible for a Canadian to ever be on an airplane in the first place. I mean, that has to be it, right? After all, who would make a series featuring an ensemble of different people from different walks of life thrown together, and not bother to make even one character representative of the country that most of the people behind and before the camera are from? Anyway...
This TV series, filmed amazingly enough largely on an Ontario soundstage (with occasional location shoots in Australia, apparently), was strikingly atmospheric and benefitted from an unusual premise for a weekly series. Though it bore passing similiarities to other "marooned" series, even Canadian ones like Mysterious Island and The Lost World, the difference was its professionalism, the relative adult approach taken, the mix of elements -- drama, suspense, horror, and wry, wittyy humour -- and the above mentioned dark, sultry atmosphere that genuinely allowed you to become lost in the jungle yourself every week. As well as just the sheer breadth of unusual concepts and the complex interaction of the large cast (the heroes, the Chosen, and the Spider Tribe). The series also had a serial-ambience to it (making it something you need to watch a couple of episodes to really get your bearings); though most episodes feature self-contained plots, the series had an evolving story arc and truly complex character development making it a true epic saga.
A bit of a sleeper, the series can take a few episodes to fully work its effect -- the first few episodes I saw struck me as O.K., and then I watched a few more, and then some more, and somewhere along the way found myself genuinely hooked. With its mix of an exotic locale, old fashioned pulp magazine ideas of lost tribes and mysticism, mixed with a modern, soap opera-y approach to storytelling, the series was, perhaps, too unusual. Critics, by and large, seemed to loathe it and the series was cancelled after one season (though that was allegedly due less to ratings and more to the fact that one of the American production companies decided to get out of fiction programs entirely, leaving the series without some of its financing). Nor was the series well-publicizied -- it wasn't that viewers turned it off, but most didn't seem to know it was even on!
Like a lot of modern series, it ended on an unresolved cliffhanger (although, in a way, it served as an appropriate climax to some of the series' threads). It's a sad problem with modern TV series (and their producers) that when a series is cancelled unexpectedly, no one thinks to commission one or two extra episodes just to resolve any outstanding plot threads, thereby making the series more marketable in syndicated reruns. Not that a show like this should be resolved fully (that is, having the characters get rescued) but merely so that it doesn't end with blatant cliffhangers. Regardless, the series overall is worth catching if the opportunity arrives and was arguably the best, and most audacious, Canadian-made series of its day. And apparently controversial, too: an episode where young "Will" undergoes a manhood ritual involving psychadelic drugs seems to have been pulled from circulation (awkward given that it's kind of a crucial episode for one of the story arcs) when it aired on Showcase (a cable network purporting to be adult n' edgy). When first queried about the missing episode, Showcase denied it, then said it was just an error on the part of distributor Alliance-Atlantis and it would be rectified then, when the omission continued to persist in subsequent reruns, stopped responding to queries about it, period. A paperback spin-off novel, sub-titled The Ghost Tribe, written by American novelist Rob MacGregor and published by HarperCollins, was set 300 years earlier and chronicled how the ancestors of the Chosen became stranded in the jungle. Created by American novelist Peter Benchley and developed by Canadian Malcom MacRury. a.k.a. Peter Benchley's Amazon. One season of 22 hour long episodes, originally aired in syndication.
AN AMERICAN AFFAIR *
* 1/2 setting: USA.
(1998) Corbin Bernsen, Jayne Heitmeyer, Maryam D'Abo, Thomas G. Waites, Rob Stewart, Robert Vaughn.....Story of an ambitious and corrupt American district attorney (Bernsen), who has affairs with two best friends (Heitmeyer and D'Abo) with murder eventually resulting. Come on, admit it: with a title like that you just knew it was Canadian, right? Odd little film kind of wanders about in a way that you aren't even sure what genre it's trying to be: a Sidney Sheldon-type melodrama, a romance, a ghost story, or a crime thriller. Not great, but oddly watchable as you can find yourself curious as to where it's all headed. Vaughn has what amounts to a cameo and Stewart is wasted in a thankless part as Bernsen's assistant. Bernsen plays a dual role as a rival senator. Bernsen, D'Abo and Vaughn are all imports. sc: Judd Laurance, Arshad Shah. dir: Sebastian Shah. - sexual content, partial female nudity, violence. - 94 min.
AMERICAN BOYFRIENDS *
* 1/2 setting: B.C./USA.
(1989) Margaret Langrick, Lisa Repo-Martell, Delia Brett, Michelle Bardeaux, Jason Blicker, Troy Mallory, John Wildman.....In '64, college-age Sandy (Langrick) and her friends go down to the wedding of her American cousin, Butch (Wildman), and then continue on to California, meeting up with draft dodgers and the like. O.K. serio-comic flick, a fictional sequel to My American Cousin, has more adult material than its benign predecessor, but tends to ramble at times. Bands Barney Bentall & the Legendary Hearts and Spirit of the West appear as a couple of bands. sc./dir: Sandy Wilson. 90 min.
AN AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CAROL
* * setting: USA.
(1979) (/U.S.) Henry Winkler, David Wayne, Chris Wiggins, Susan Hogan, R.H. Thompson, Dorian Harewood, Kenneth Pogue, Gerard Parkes, Linda Goranson.....On Christmas Eve during the Depression, elderly Benedict Slade (Winkler) is visited by ghosts to persuade him to change his miserly ways. With a title like that, you just knew Canadians had to be involved, didn't ya? This made-for-TV variation on "A Christmas Carol" is fairly sombre, with even the funny bits being a bit flat, but the main problem is that the filmmakers seem to understand the structure of the story, but not the spirit. Has its moments, but not enough. Winkler is perhaps the first film version to play both the old (in make-up) and young version of the character. Cute idea of Ghost of Christmas Future Harewood (an American, like Winkler and Wayne) in anachronistic '70s funky wardrobe. Wiggins is noteable as the Fezziwig-like character. Should a film be judged on its own merits, or in relationship to others? Because in this day of video stores and multi-channels, any version of "A Christmas Carol" is in competition with all the others and the line in the sand has been drawn by the 1951 black & white version with Alistair Sim (which actually improves on Dickens' original!)...and, except as novelties, no other version has rivaled it, let alone surpassed it. Other Canadian-made variations include Ebenezer and The Ghosts of Dickens' Past. sc: Jerome Coopersmith (inspired by the story, "A Christmas Carol", by Charles Dickens). dir: Eric Till. 100 min.
(2001-2003) * * Rick Roberts ("Jake Crewe"), Helene Joy ("Judy"), Timm Zemanek ("Bill"), Matthew Ferguson ("Eric"), Stewart Francis ("Dennis"), Robin Brule ("Mara"), Sugith Varagnese ("Aftab"), with Scott Thompson.....Sitcom about a U.S. TV news anchorman (Roberts), unable to find work in the U.S., who very reluctantly takes a job at a low-rated Calgary TV station (number three in a four channel market). Joy plays the news producer; Zemanek the station manager; Francis the arrogant head anchor; Ferguson the strung out, menacing floor director with a thing for Brule as the secretary. Varagnese plays a donut shop owner who dispenses sage advice. Former Kids in the Hall-er Thompson cropped up as "Jake"'s agent. Roberts is really Canadian while Joy is originaly from Australia.
While many recent Canadian sitcoms are black satires, or otherwise aspire to be unconventional, this one is going for an unapologetically, mainstream (read: American) style of situation comedy. In fact, the premise, with a (relatively) straight man lead joining the eccentric personnel of a low rated station, overseen by a flakey boss who'd rather be fishing than working, is evocative of the classic "WKRP in Cincinnati". In that sense it's laudable...but is it funny? The cast is agreeable, and it's got many of the right ideas -- the hero, though, abrasive, isn't unsympathetic; many of the cast are supposed to be comically odd ball; the plots look good on paper. But it still misses a lot of its targets. For one thing, the characters are too one note -- even in a comedy there has to be an undercurrent of the people being, well, people. Instead, there's the sense that (some) of the characters are trotted out to do their shtick, then put back in the closet till their next scene where they do, basically, the same routine again...and they can quickly exceed their "best before" date after a couple of episodes (conversely, Joy is stuck playing the "woman" part, intended to be level-headed, straight-faced, and unfunny...without being well enough written to score as a character, either). And hinging a series on the idea that the hero is constantly complaining, and plotting ways to leave, gets tiresome. Beyond the jokes, the series fails to craft real relationships and friendships, making it kind of coldly depersonal. This is particularly awkward given that an undercurrent is supposed to be a romantic tension between Roberts and Joy...but there ain't any! (Which is also a character paradox...how can the hero be constantly plotting to leave and hoping to have a relationship with a local woman at the same time?)
The indulgent premise of the "American" in "Canada" is also problematic. It was presumably encouraged by the success of the TV special "Talking to Americans", which demonstrated Canadians have an appetite for border clash jokes. But in a weekly series, it can get old, particularly if the vision of Canada (and America) depicted seems to owe more to a desire to conform to pre-existing stereotypes, rather than reflecting reality (though thankfully the stereotypes aren't as extreme, or derogatory to either side, as they could've been). One of the series' creators is a transplanted American, hence, presumably, the genesis of part of the premise. Steve Smith serves as a creative consultant. Created by Jebb Fink, Howard Busgang. Two seasons of half-hour episodes (and one hour long pilot) shown on the CBC.
AMERICAN NIGHTMARE *
(1981) Lawrence S. Day, Lora Staley, Neil Dainard, Lenore Zann, Mike Ironside (a.k.a. Michael Ironside), Tom Harvey, Larry Aubrey, Paul Bradley.....Concert pianist (Day) investigates his sister's disappearance, taking him into the fringe world of strippers and dealers, while those connected to his sister are being stalked by a killer. Low-budget thriller does a decent job of evoking its gritty milieu and maintaining a steady pacing. Perhaps not a great movie by mainstream standards, but on a low-budget quickie level, it's not bad, even trying for a little thoughtfulness. Familiar faces crop up in bit parts, including American actress Alexandra Paul who has a bit part in the opening scene. sc: John Sheppard (story John Gault, Steven Blake). dir: Don McBrearty. - partial female nudity, violence, casual male nudity, sexual content.- 80 min.
* 1/2 setting: N.B./USA.
(2010) Corey Haim, Frank Molina, Eric Leffler, Bernard Robichaud, Angela Cullins.....When his heiress wife is kidnapped under bizarre circumstances, a struggling artist (Haim) teams with a troubled ex-vet private eye (Molina) to find her, forced to follow various clues phoned into them by the kidnapper. Mystery-suspense has some okay ideas (including some topicality, and character stuff) but ultimately is made on a shoe string budget and it shows -- from a choppy, disjointed story, odd plot explanations (the authorities can't drag a lake for bodies because it's "sacred"), uneven performances, and even a suspicion that the actors are kind of ad-libbing some of the time -- resulting in a certain ad hoc feel. Haim's last film, perhaps giving it a bittersweet boost for his fans. sc: Jacqueline Giroux. dir: Michael Massuci. app. 90.
THE AMITYVILLE CURSE *
1/2 setting: USA.
(1990) Cassandra Gava, Kim Coates, Dawna Wightman, David Stein, Antony Dean Rubes, Helen Hughes, Jan Rubes.....Twelve years after a murder, a group of friends buy a house and find strange things start happening. O.K. performances and attempts at characterization fail to keep this quasi-supernatural thriller from falling very flat. Has little if anything to do with the more famous book and Hollywood movie, "The Amityville Horror". sc: Michael Krueger, Norvell Rose (adapted by Krueger, Rose, Doug Olson from the novel by Hans Holzer). dir: Tom Berry. - extreme violence.- 91 min.
L'AMOUR HUMAIN *
* setting: P.Q.
(1970) Louise Marleau, Jacques Riberolles, Charlotte Boisjoly, Ovila Legare.....A nun (Marleau) and a priest (Riberolles), plagued by doubts and needs, decide to leave the church and get married, only to have marital troubles ensue. Slow, unsubtle and somewhat ponderous drama seems to want to be thoughtful, but with its preoccupation with sexual problems (she's frigid), the premise -- though not the execution -- seems like one of Heroux's porno films from that time. Be warned: a surgical scene may not be for everyone. English title: The Awakening. sc: Roger Fournier. dir: Denis Heroux. - female nudity, sexual content.- 88 min.
LES AMOUREUSES *
1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1993) Louise Portal, Kenneth Welsh, Lea Marie Cantin, Tony Nardi, Sophie Lorain, David La Haye.....Story of two friends, one (Portal) whose marriage (to Welsh) may be disintegrating, while the other (Cantin) has just found a new lover (Nardi). Drearily self-important drama suffers from a leaden approach to the acting and scenes. One can't question the sincerity of those involved, but someone should have asked: is there really a story here? Welsh didn't do his own dubbing for the English-translation...making it kind of strange, and why is it that in almost every French-Canadian flick Nardi's in, the sole definition of his character is that he's Italian??? Denys Arcand, Marcel Beaulieu and Nardi are given consultation credits. English title: Whispers of Love. sc./dir: Johanne Pregent. - male nudity, partial female nudity, sexual content.- 100 min.
AMOUREUX FOU *
* 1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1991) Remy Girard, Jean Rochefort, Nathalie Gascon, Danielle Proulx, Jessica Barker.....Married man (Girard) begins an affair with an equally married woman (Gascon) and his life starts to unravel as a result. Comedy-drama is sufficiently off-beat and quirky in spots to maintain a modest level of interest, though without a main character to empathize with, it never achieves more than that. Rochefort, as the woman's husband, stands out. English title: Madly in Love. sc: Claire Wojas with Robert Menard. dir: Robert Menard. - male nudity, sexual content.- 99 min.
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