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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.
ANCHOR ZONE *
(1994) Nicole Stoffman, Michael Luke, Mark Critch, Pheilm Martin, Andrew Younghusband, Henry Czerny, Ron Hynes.....Near future story of some teens who befriend an escaped little boy (Luke) who's part of an intelligence experiment conducted by the sinister corporation that rules the city. Science fiction suspense-drama comes frustratingly close to working thanks to some imaginative touches and intelligent characterization, but still suffers from low-budget stiltedness and ultimately a lack of push to the story. And characters that, though well-rounded, aren't especially compelling. Newfoundland accents add a welcome freshness. sc: T.H. Hatte. dir: Andree Pelletier. 82 min.
"AND I LOVE YOU DEARLY" *
(1972) Karina Tonisso, Pierre Dufresne, Jean Coutu, Pierre Lalonde.....Story of a young woman (Tonisso) who has a series of affairs with older men before finally finding true love. Low-budget drama may suffer in the execution (poor writing, directing and acting), but the premise itself seems kind of ill-conceived and unfocused to begin with. sc: Gemma Barra, Anton Van De Water. dir: Anton Van De Water. - partial female nudity.- 112 min.
AND THEN YOU DIE *
* * setting: P.Q.
(1987) Kenneth Welsh, R.H. Thomson, Wayne Robson, Graeme Campbell, Maggie Huculak, Pierre Chagnon.....Business for an Irish-Canadian mobster (Welsh) gets complicated both by an upset in the local Mafia hierarchy and by a sociopathic cop (Thomson) determined to bring him down. Good direction, performances and dialogue in this gritty made-for-CBC TV suspense-drama. The unsentimental approach to the story may make it more authentic, but also somewhat cold and distancing. It received Geminis for Best Actor (Welsh) and Supporting Actor (Robson). sc: Wayne Grigsby, Alun Hibbert. dir: Francis Mankiewicz (his first english language feature). - violence.- 115 min.
(2000-2005) (/U.S.) * * 1/2...* * Kevin Sorbo ("Capt. Dylan Hunt"), Lisa Ryder ("Beka Valentine"), Keith Hamilton Cobb ("Tyr Anasazi") (-3rd), Lexa Doig ("Andromeda"), Gordon Michael Woolvett ("Seamus Harper"), Brent Stait ("Rev Bem") (-2nd), Laura Bertram ("Trance Gemini"), Steve Bacic ("Gaheris Rhade/Telemathus Rhade"), Brandy Ledford ("Doyle") (5th), with Carmen Moore, others....."The long night has come..." Big budget science fiction about an elite, High Guard starship, the Andromeda Ascendant, and its captain (Sorbo) -- sole occupant after a mass evacuation --- who emerge from a time distorting blackhole 300 years after the galactic civilization they knew, the System's Commonwealth, has collapsed, leaving a de-unified galaxy of warring planets and corruption. Teaming with a misfit crew, they set out on the Quixotic mission to restore the Commonwealth...and civilization. Ryder plays the hard-boiled skipper of the salvage ship, Eureka Maru; Cobb a Nietzschean, a race of self-styled supermen whose main ethic is personal survival, making him an uncertain ally (and Cobb's erudite, Shakespearian delivery made him a memorable character); Doig three variations of the ship's sentience, appearing as the computer, a hologram, and as a solid manifestation (refered to as "Rommy"); Woolvett the brilliant-but-flakey engineer; Stait a member of the savage Magog race, but who was himself a follower of a pacifist religion, the Way (though his adherence to pacifism seemed to come and go depending on the episode); and Bertram a guileless but enigmatic alien with vague foresight, who then evolved into a battle-hardened, but equally enigmatic, version of her future self. Bacic cropped up periodically, first in flashback scenes as "Dylan"'s former first officer -- a Nietzschean -- who betrayed him 300 years before, then in modern scenes as that character's good guy descendant; he eventually became a regular crew member after Cobb left. Ledford joined for the final season as another android. Moore appeared occasionally in later seasons as the head of the restored Commonwealth. Sorbo and Hamilton are American, everyone else is Canadian.
Another TV series based on an idea by the late Gene (Star Trek) Roddenberry, though unlike Earth: Final Conflict, this was inspired more by vague notes rather than a detailed outline (perhaps explaining how it could have superficial similarities to the TV series "Farscape", a U.S.-Australian co-production from around the same time). The series, initially, boasted a great premise (with shades of the King Arthur legend) and could be seen as oddly Canadian -- what is the High Guard but a glorified R.C.M.P., preaching the values of peace, order and good government? But the characters (surprisingly quickly) managed to restore a version of the Commonwealth...though that created its own problems and dilemmas.
You don't have to be 14 years old and a fan of monster truck rallies to enjoy this series...but it probably helps. Although initially seeming as though trying for a Classic "Star Trek"-type mix of thoughtful drama and moral issues with action and adventure, the series has unfortunately shifted more and more to being just a big, noisy, action show emphasizing flippant banter (though not necessarily funny banter) rather than real, human, interplay. All of which is a shame, because the series started out quite promising.
Like many SF series, it seems torn between wanting to be a Liberal series, expressing views of tollerance and peace, and having an infatuation with militarism, Gestapo-black colour schemes, and Right-Wing rhetoric. But that balance keeps shifting to the right, where righteousnous is largely defined by whoever has the bigger lazer guns and a preponderance of episodes that amount to nothing but extended shoot-'em-ups and huge body counts. Though not especially graphic, it is arguably the most violent series on TV (wresting that dubious distinction away from Lexx) and can induce queasiness with its love of wholesale slaughter. Even the basic premise -- restoring the Commonwealth -- has been given a new spin. Originally the goal was to establish a social/political alliance to bring peace and justice to the galaxy, but later the heroes want to build a military alliance to combat a coming Magog invasion. Even the fact that the series' resident pacifist -- Rev Bem -- has been written out of the series takes on added significance (though the official claim was that actor Stait developed an allergic reaction to his make up). One can imagine Gene Roddenberry is rolling in his grave.
All of that may explain why, in flashbacks, the original System's Commonwealth seemed to be heavily militarized and constantly at war, undermining the assertion that the Commonweath was a Utopic golden age. But maybe to the show's makers, that is their idea of Utopia!
It still has its "Liberal" moments, and boasts a better percentage of non-white (that is, mainly black) guest stars than comparable American SF series. Oh, sure, not so that it accurately represents the diversity of the human race, or even the North American population, but you take what small victories you can.
Like a lot of modern SF series (presumably inspired by the U.S. series "Babylon 5", a self-described novel for TV) it relies heavily on vaguely foreshadowed story arcs, and half-developed on-going sub-plots that take away from the episode-of-the-week plots...without always convincing you they have some great, epic story blocked out in their heads. With the increasing emphasis on keeping things fast and furious and a sometimes suspect grip on the niceties of plot development, later episodes can be surprisingly hard to follow. The series suffers from an overall cartooniness, with flashy characters that have failed to evolve into flesh-and-blood people with flesh-and-blood relationships. And the series' makers seem to have confused philosophy with personality. The characters have differing philosophies...but most have the same personality. Most are belligerently macho, A-type personalities, which can get a bit repetitive.
Though set in a far future, removed from earth, the series still manages to work in American references, but not Canadian ones. Developed by Robert Hewitt Wolfe, an American TV writer who'd previously worked on some of the Star Trek spin-off series. But Wolfe left/was fired in the second season, supposedly because executives weren't happy with his emphasis on vaguely foreshadowed story arcs...yet the series has grown even more mired in such story arcs since his departure! The original theme music was by guitarist Alex Lifeson of the Canadian rock band Rush, and was accompanied by a pithy opening monologue delivered by Sorbo...but both those were changed to something more bland and generic for subsequent seasons. a.k.a. Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda. Five seasons of hour long episodes, shown in Canada originally on CanWest-Global.
L'ANGE DE GOUDRON *
* * setting: P.Q.
(2001) Zinedine Soualem, Catherine Trudeau, Rabah Ait Ouyahia, Hiam Abbassa, Robert Clouthier, Kenza Abiabdillah, Marc Beaupre.....Story of a struggling but upbeat Algerian immigrant (Soualem) who is shocked to discover his son is involved with community activists/urban terrorists and, after the son goes into hiding, tries to track him down before immigration finds out, hooking up with the son's Canadian girlfriend (Trudeau). Understated, effective drama, with nicely drawn characters, well played (particularly Soualem), and moody, wintery scenery. Hurt a little by the over-the-top-ending which seems there more to make a political point, rather than because it suits this story. In fact, the film is more effective as a human drama than as a political polemic...despite showing activists, the filmmaker fails to actually articulate the political ills he's raging against. Nice moment of Canadiana: a group of Middle-Eastern men, playing soccer in ankle deep snow, speaking French. English title: Tar Angel. sc./dir: Denis Chouinard. - partial female nudity.- 98 min.
L'ANGE ET LA FEMME*
* 1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1977) Carole Laure, Lewis Furey, Stephen Lack, Pierre Giard.....A mysterious man (Furey) magically resurrects a murdered woman (Laure); she has amnesia so they play music, make love, and ruminate on life and love until she grows restless to find the men who killed her. Slow, odd-ball little fantasy, filmed in black and white, squeaks by on atmosphere and novelty. Furey provided the music and Laure spends a lot of time in various stages of undress. English title: The Angel and the Woman. sc./dir: Gilles Carle. - female nudity, brief male nudity, violence, explicit sexual content.- 86 min.
THE ANGEL AND THE WOMAN see L'ange et la femme
ANGEL SQUARE *
* * 1/2 setting: CDN.
(1990) Jerry Radick, Guillaume Lemay Thivierge, Marie Stefane Gaudry, Sarah Meyette, Nicola Cavendish, Brian Dooley, Leon Pownall, Ned Beatty, Michel Barrette, Vlasta Vrana.....During the first Christmas holidays after W.W. II, a boy (Radick) -- given to flights of fancy -- and his friends try to discover the culprit who beat the Jewish father of one of their friends. Well-acted family film manages the rare task of blending whimsical fantasy sequences, serious issues, comedy, drama and "adult" coming of age material into a seamless whole (though the latter material may make parents consider it inappropriate for younger kids). And manages to be consistently fun, too. A few too many negative cliches (like a crippled baddie), but still a winner. sc: James Defelice, Anne Wheeler (inspired by the book by Brian Doyle). dir: Anne Wheeler. - violence.- 107 min.
1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1977) Sophia Loren, Steve Railsback, John Huston, John Vernon..... Restaurant owner (Loren) becomes romantically involved with a younger man (Railsback) who turns out to be her long-lost son. Huston plays a gangster in this dreary, uninspired drama. Score by the famous American composer Henry Mancini. sc. Charles Israel. dir: Boris Sagal. 100 min.
ANNE OF AVONLEA a.k.a. Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES (TVMS)
* 1/2 setting: P.E.I.
(1986) (/U.S.) Megan Follows, Colleen Dewhurst, Richard Farnsworth, Jonathan Crombie, Patricia Hamilton, Schuyler Grant, Marylin Lightstone.....At the turn of the century an elderly farming couple (Dewhurst and Farnsworth), intending to adopt a boy to help around the farm, mistakenly end up with a precocious, fanciful girl (Follows). This O.K. made for CBC TV adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic novel was a ratings hit, firmly entrenching Follows as Anne for a whole generation of viewers and making producer/director Sullivan a commodity. Swept the Geminis and followed by two sequels: The Sequel and The Continuing Story. Four hours. sc: Joe Wiesenfled (from the novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery). dir: Kevin Sullivan.
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES: The
Continuing Story (TVMS) * * *
(2000) Megan Follows, Jonathan Crombie, Cameron Daddo, Schuyler Grant, Greg Spottiswood, Nigel Bennett, Janet-Laine Green, Shannon Lawson.....Third "Anne" mini-series (13 years after the last one) isn't based on anything written by L.M. Montgomery and has Anne and Gilbert (Follows and Crombie) moving to New York where he's a doctor and she works to be a writer, then back to Green Gables only to have Gilbert go off to World War I. When he goes missing in action, plucky Anne follows, seeing the horrors of war and becoming involved in espionage. If you stop to remind yourself "hey, this is Anne of Green Gables", you'll probably start giggling, it bears so little resemblance to the source material. Taken on its own, though, it's an enjoyable, somewhat pulpy saga but suffers from being too episodic, with supporting characters and plot threads cropping up, but never really developing properly. Even the espionage plot is less flashy than it sounds. Still, Anne fans should enjoy the reuniting of actors from the original mini-series, and the film lacks the kind of distancing artifice that Sullivan's productions often suffer from. Lots of noteworthy actors appear in kind of nothing parts (Douglas Campbell, Barry Morse, Martha Henry, Colette Stevenson, David Gardner, Victoria Snow, others). And what's next? Anne as a Private Eye? Anne, Space Explorer? I suppose the possibilities are endless. 4 hours. sc: Kevin Sullivan, Laurie Pearson. dir: Stefan Scaini. - violence.-
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES: The Sequel (TVMS) * * 1/2 setting: P.E.I./N.B. (1987) (/U.S./U.K.) Megan Follows, Colleen Dewhurst, Frank Converse, Jonathan Crombie, Schuyler Grant, Patricia Hamilton, Rosemary Dunsmore..... Anne Shirley (Follows), now a young adult, tries to become a writer and goes off to New Brunswick to teach at a girls school. Not bad, not great sequel is on a par with the original...and was also a ratings hit. Geminis received include Best Mini-Series, Actress (Follows) and Supporting Actress (Dewhurst). a.k.a. Anne of Avonlea. Followed by the TV series Road to Avonlea which featured some of the same supporting characters and, thirteen years later, another sequel. Five hours. sc./dir: Kevin Sullivan (from novels by Lucy Maud Montgomery).
ANNE TRISTER *
* setting: other/CDN.
(1986) Albane Guilhe, Louise Marleau, Hugues Quester, Lucie Laurier, Nuvit Ozdogru, Guy Thauvette, Kim Yaroshevskayo.....Female painter (Guilhe) arrives in town and slowly becomes attracted to a woman child psychologist (Marleau). What can be said about Pool's second film except the standard review: for those who like really slow movies with spartan dialogue and opaque performances, here it is. Others, though, might want a little more energy...and story. Received two Genies. In French. sc: Marcel Beaulieu, Lea Pool. dir: Lea Pool. - partial female nudity and brief male nudity.- 102 min.
ANNE'S STORY *
* setting; Ont.
(1984) Karen Woolridge, Brent Carver, Elva Mai Hoover, Hardee T. Lineham, Cicely Thompson, Timothy Webber, Richard Donat.....Story of a young woman (Woolridge), molested as a child, and how it affects her, and her relationships, as an adult while she struggles with her desire to play country music in local bars. Made-for-CBC TV movie is well-intentioned and, despite a certain roughness, has decent performances and some effective scenes so that you kind of care about the character...but as a "story" it just kind of drifts about in its low-key "slice-of-life" way without much direction or drive. Even the resolution seems a bit abrupt and simplistic, as if even the filmmakers weren't quite sure how to deal with it. sc: Grahame Woods. dir: Graham Parker. 77 min.
* * * setting: NWT/Alt.
(2003) Tina Keeper, Dakota House, Hugh Thompson, Ron White, Timothy Webber, Lubomir Mykytiuk, Lori Lea Okemaw, Wilma Pelly, Tamara Podemski, Lawrence Bayne.....Lynx River Chief, TV (House) travels south to big city Calgary hoping to scuttle a Hydro-Electric project, only to be charged with murder. While he tries to survive in jail, Constable Kenidi (Keeper) must try and prove his innocence. Fourth TV movie folowing the successful TV series, North of 60, is a pretty good suspense-drama, blending the mystery aspects with drama and social issues (like racism), nicely anchored by series' regulars Keeper and House. Unlike, say, the first of these movies (In the Blue Ground) it's not tied into the series' continuity especially, so even a viewer unfamiliar with the TV series shouldn't have trouble following the action. sc: Peter Lautermann, Andrew Wreggitt. dir: Gary Harvey. app. 90 min.
ANOTHER WOMAN *
* * setting: Ont.
(1994) Justine Bateman, Peter Outerbridge, James Purcell, Kenneth Welsh, Amy Stewart, Jackie Richardson, Elizabeth Lennie.....An amnesic (Bateman) discovers that no one, not even her husband (Outerbridge), particularly likes her because she was a mean and bitter person...but she doesn't know why. Meanwhile, a mysterious fellow (Purcell) is stalking her and her husband. Surprisingly effective made-for-TV drama with its off-beat variation on the amnesic theme. Well put together with a genuinely unanticipated revelation. Nice performances, particularly Outerbridge, though American Bateman could have been better. The best of the mid-'90s Harlequin films (see that entry for details). sc: Jim Henshaw, Lee Langley, Lyle Slack (from the novel by Margot Dalton). dir: Alan Smythe. 88 min.
ANSWERED BY FIRE *
* * * setting: other/P.Q.
(2006) (/Australia) David Wenham, Isabelle Blais, Alex Tilman, Fatima Almeida, Damien Garvey, Felisberto Araujo, Jose DaCosta, Toni Scanlon, Linda Cooper, Ron White.....Story of U.N. observers in East Timor during that country's tumultuous, and bloody, 1999 referendum on independence from occupying Indonesia, focusing inparticular on a veteran Australian (Wenham) and a novice Canadian (Blais), who find their political hands are tied as often as not, and on their East Timorese interpreter (Tilman). Blisteringly effective made-for-CBC mini-series is a nice reminder that when TV is good -- it can be very good. Superbly acted all around, though with special nods to Wentham and Blais (the latter having a few scenes where she reacts without dialogue that are particularly fine bits of acting), authentic feeling, and doing a nice job straddling being a raw, gritty, relevant film...with enough human drama, character development, and plot threads to make it a compelling story, not just a well-intentioned document. A film that reflects both the failures, but also the success, of the U.N. (East Timor did, ultimately, gain independence). Granted, it's a premise that's becoming increasingly familiar as filmmakers wake up to the realities of modern geo-politics, but still effective. The best of the CBC's recent "international aid worker" dramas which include Human Cargo and Whiskey Echo. Despite the heavy Australian componnt of the production, the premise originated with Canadian co-scripter Samuels. Four hours. sc: Katherine Thomson, Barbara Samuels. dir: Jessica Hobbs. - violence.-
* setting: Alt.
(2001) Cameron Daddo, Ed Begley, Jr., Allison Hossack, Joanna Cassidy, David Keith, Jan Rubes, William B. Davis, Brian Markinson.....Alberta mountie (Daddo) gets caught in the middle when hysterical local ranchers, including his own wife (Hossack), blame a local research lab for an outbreak of anthrax -- while a mysterious man (Keith) shows up, pursuing a more sinister agenda. Slow moving suspense-drama tries covering a lot of bases (from small town paranoia to international espionage) but with the result that it ends up a little meandering, unfocused, and awkwardly structured. The drama scenes aren't that convincing, and the thriller scenes aren't that suspenseful. Heavy handed music score gets kind of intrusive, too. Despite U.S. imports Cassidy, Keith, and Begley, Jr. (the latter in a smallish part) it actually admits it's set in Canada, even with a few critical jabs at the U.S. (with Davis as a sinister U.S. official). sc: David Schultz (story Bruce Harvey). dir: Rick Stevenson. - brief male and female nudity.- 92 min.
ANTIVIRAL * *
(2012) Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon, Douglas Smith, Joe Pingue, Nicholas Campbell, Malcolm McDowell, Sheila McCarthy, Wendy Crewson, Salvatore Antonio, Matt Watts, Dawn Greenhalgh.....In a near future where celebrity obsession has led to an industry supplying people with the diseases of their favourite celebrities, an employee (American actor Jones) of one such corporation gets embroiled in corporate espionage after infecting himself with a rare strain. The first feature from the son of David Cronenberg seems to show not only does the apple not fall far from the tree -- it hasn't even dropped from the branch! The movie is very much evocative of Cronenberg Sr's work -- back when he was still working in the SF and horror genre. Albeit, in some ways slicker, more expensive looking (though sometimes disjointed and confused). There's the same aloof, sterile atmosphere, the focus on shock and "biological horror", and the pretension to being "smart." Unfortunately, it also has the same flaws. It's thin, and repetitious, never digging beneath the surface of its superficial satire of the cult of celebrity, and with little characterization or emotion. The main character is largely a plot device, with no real personality, motive. Some movies you can hear the premise, and when you see them realize there is so much more going on -- in terms of plot, character development, metaphors and subtexts. And some are pretty much their synopsis. Solid performances -- most in thankless parts -- with Pingue particularly effective as his black market contact. One wonders if the movie was inspired by an anecdote related in the documentary "Trekkies." sc./dir: Brandon Cronenberg. - extreme violence; brief female nudity.- 103 min.
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