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Sample: Title; rating (out of 4); principal setting; year of release; international co-producer (if any); cast; description; scriptwriter; director; content warning; running time.
BABAR: The Movie *
* * setting: other
(1989) (/France) voices of Gavin Magrath, Sarah Polley, Gordon Pinsent, Chris Wiggins, Stephen Ouimette.....Babar, the elephant king, tells a tale of how, when younger, he saved his city from the evil rhino army. Babar does Indiana Jones (or Scrooge McDuck) in this entertaining animated adventure featuring the famous pachyderm and spun-off from the CBC TV series. The animation is simple but effective and there are even a few songs thrown in. Some might consider it a little hawkish but not considering how nasty many "classics" are (at least no one dies in this one!). Another Babar movie was made a few years later. sc: Peter Saunder, John de Klein, J.D. Smith, Raymond Jafelice, Alan Bunce (whew!). dir: Alan Bunce. 70 min.
THE BABY FORMULA *
* setting: Ont.
(2007) Angela Vint, Megan Fahlenbock, Rosemary Dunsmore, Jessica Booker, Dmitry Chepovetsky, Roger Dunn, Michael Hanrahan, Hal Eisen, R.D. Reid, Matt Baram.....Story of a lesbian couple who both get impregnated by an experimental technique combining their DNA -- so they conceive without need of male sperm -- and of their dealing with the ups and downs of pregnancy, and their somewhat dysfunctional in-laws, all recorded by a documentary crew. Mockumentary has fine performances, and Vint and Fahlenbock are engaging enough, and it even boasts a "concept" hook. All of which makes it frustrating that the end result is uneven. It's a comedy-drama, but the comedy isn't that funny (aiming more often just to be cute or light-hearted) and though there are some good dramatic scenes...others are mishandled, or the potential just kind of frittered away as though inconsequential. Most of the characters, with the exception of Dunsmore as Vint's mom, aren't any different by the end than they were at the beginning! It starts off with its speculative gimmick...but is mainly low key slice-of-life and could just as easily be about a straight couple, more about the hiccups of pregnancy (ironically, written by a male screenwriter!) and the in-laws issues. It has some good elements...but struggles to justify its running time, or to fully morph into a movie rather than an expanded short and simply the sum of its parts. sc: Richard Beattie. dir: Alison Reid. app. 90 min.
BABY JOHN DOE *
* 1/2 setting: USA.
(1985) Jayne Eastwood, George Millenbach, Janet-Laine Green, Geoffrey Bowes, Helen Hughes, James Loxley, Ken James, Chuck Shamata.....When the parents (Bowes and Green) of a new-born downs syndrom child refuse to permit a life saving operation, a nurse (Eastwood) decides to take the matter into her own hands. Issue-oriented drama suffers from obviousness and a few weaker performances, but ultimately squeaks by on brisk pacing. But it plays like a For the Record episode, and would have been better shorter. Look for TV anchor Noelle Richardson as a reporter. And why does even a low-budget, not-particularly commercial Canadian movie still feel the need to be set in the States??? a.k.a. The Kidnapping of Baby John Doe. sc./dir: Peter Gerretsen. 91 min.
BABY ON BOARD
* setting: USA.
(1992) Judge Reinhold, Carol Kane, Geza Kovacs, Alex Stapley, Holly Stapley, Conrad Bergeschneider, Lou Pitoscias, Jason Blicker, Vito Rezza, Al Bernardo, voice of Errol Slue.....Big hearted New York cabbie (Reinhold) trys to reunite a kid with her mother (Kane) who's on the run from mobsters (headed by Kovacs). Some nice performances and one cute scene (where the kid's hiding in the back seat) in this cheapo suspense-comedy can't compensate for interminable chase scenes and really unfunny gags. sc: Damian Lee, James Shavick (story Doug Moore). dir: Francis A. Schaeffer. 91 min.
* setting: Ont.
(1998) Lenore Zann, James Gallanders, Elisabeth Rosen, William Dunlop, Richard McMillan, Sharon Corder.....Story of some very damaged people: an unstable, single mom (Zann), and her boyfriend (Gallanders) and the destructive love triangle that forms when the boyfriend falls for her fourteen year old daughter (Rosen). Gritty, slow moving drama can inspire a certain ambivalence. It boasts some compelling scenes, often with minamalist camera work and relying on the actors and the script. Zann and Gallanders are particularly good; Rosen tries admirably hard to capture the body language of her character, but is too obviously older than the part. But ultimately, you're kind of left to say: "And...?" Is it trying to be a searing, earnest, social drama...or just a particularly sordid film noire melodrama? It seems to want to be unsettling with its portrait of damaged people, under-age sex, and even child molestation, but ends up more unsavory and distasteful than anything. Only McMillan, in a bit part as the bus driver, adds a bit of "niceness" to the film. Filmmaker Atom Egoyan is credited as an executive producer. sc: Sharon Corder, Jack Blum. dir: Jack Blum. - sexual content, partial female nudity, brief male nudity.- 112 min.
BACH AND BROCCOLI see Bach et Bottine
BACH ET BOTTINE *
* setting: P.Q.
(1986) Mahee Paiement, Raymond Legault, Harry Marciano, France Arbour, Andree Pelletier.....Story of an orphan and her pet skunk, Bottine (a.k.a. Broccoli) who come to live with her stuffy uncle who's heavily into Johann Bach. O.K., technically well-done film is probably too subdued to really appeal to kids. One the Tales For All children's series. English title: Bach and Broccoli. sc: Bernadette Renaud, Andre Melencon. dir: Andre Melencon. 96 min.
BACK IN ACTION *
1/2 setting: USA.
(1993) Billy Blanks, Roddy Piper, Bobbie Phillips, Matt Birman, Nigel Bennett, Damon D'Oliveira, Kai Soremekun, Sam Malkin, Gerry Quigley.....A cop (Piper) and an ex-marine (Blanks) reluctantly team-up when a mob hit is ordered on the latter's sister (Soremekun). Dull action pic has moments of real dialogue and original scenes but too often is just tired and derivative with unexciting fight scenes. A nastiness to the violence precludes this being taken as 'all in fun'. sc: Karl Schiffman. dir: Paul Ziller, Steve DiMarco. - extreme violence.- 91 min.
BACK TO GOD'S COUNTRY *
* * setting: CDN.
(1919) Nell Shipman, Wellington A. Playter, Wheeler Oakman, Ralph Laidlaw, Charles Arling.....Story of a nature-loving woman (Shipman) and her run-ins with a nasty thug (Playter) who lusts after her, both in the woods and the arctic north. Briskly-paced, atmospheric silent movie melodrama holds up surprisingly well and is considerably more entertaining and exciting than more recent efforts based on James Oliver Curwood's stuff such as the Tales of the Wild films. This film is notable both because it remains the most successful Canadian movie of all time -- yup, in eighty years Canadian filmmakers have yet to top it, proportionately speaking (and unlike so many, it was set in Canada!) -- and because (even more depressing) it is believed to be the only film still left in existence from Canada's burgeoning silent film era. Unlike many American silent movies, it remained unavailable to TV or video until 1997 when BRAVO! television presented a restored version (surprisingly good, considering the obvious state of disrepair it had been allowed to fall into) with an effective piano score (recorded live) by Gabriel Thibaudeau. Shipman appeared in a number of movies derived from American writer Curwood's Canadian-set stories, though the others (before and after) were for Hollywood -- and none matched the success of this one. Remade at least twice by Hollywood. A bit controversial at the time because of Shipman's skinny dipping scene (you can tell she's probably naked, without actually seeing what we would consider nudity, if you understand the distinction). sc: James Oliver Curwood (from his novel Wapi the Walrus). dir: David M. Hartford. 73 min.
BACK STAB *
* setting: USA.
(1990) James Brolin, Meg Foster, Dorothee Berryman, June Chadwick, Robert Morelli, Isabelle Truchon, Brett Halsey, Bronwen Mantel, Norris Dominigue.....Framed for murder by a woman (Truchon) who picked him up in a bar, a U.S. widower (Brolin) finds even his own lawyer (Foster) doesn't believe his story. Promising thriller blows most of its opportunities with awkward scenes and dimwitted characters, but manages a few suspenseful moments in spite of itself. Truchon's nude scenes were re-shot for TV with clothes on -- though it'd still rate a "brief nudity". Producer Tom Berry has a bit as a court clerk. sc: Paul Koval. dir: James Kaufman. - partial female nudity, sexual content.- 92 min.
BACKROADS a.k.a. Bear Walker
BAD BLOOD a.k.a. Deadly Arrangement
BAD FAITH *
* 1/2 setting: CDN.
(1999) Tony Nardi, John Kapelos, Kenneth Welsh, Brian Markinson, Michael Moriarty, Gloria Reuben, Billy Morton, Patti Lupone.....Big city ensemble about a reporter (Nardi) and a cop (Kapelos) looking into what may be a police cover-up in a serial killer investigation. Film noire drama, where almost everyone is corrupt or corruptible, has a suitably rumpled, world weary ambience. But it's plot-driven...and the plot has so many convolutions and machinations that by the end you aren't entirely sure who did what to whom...or even why. Still, ambitious, with a particularly nice performance from Markinson as a police informant who may or may not be the chief suspect. And it's even set in Canada (which is pretty unusual for this kind of film). sc. Ian Adams (from his novel). dir: Randy Bradshaw. - violence.- 99 min.
BAD MONEY *
* setting: CDN.
(1999) Graham Greene, Stephen Spender, Karen Sillas, Alisen Down, Joe Turvey, Patrick Rengger, Tamsin Kelsey, Andy Curtis.....Story of various (occasionally intertwining) characters over the course of a week, many in need of money, such as a white collar worker (Greene), just laid off, or a restaurateur (American Sillas) who's forced to consider changing her menu, and her ethics, to bring in customers. Serio-comic flick about mores boasts an appealing cast and is quirky and amusing at times, and even clever, but it lags a bit and none of the story lines are of particular stand out interest. And by the end, there's a bit of an emotional vacuum that needs filling. Not bad...but not quite a success either. sc: Blake Brooker, John Hazlett, Michael Stephen Gregory. dir: John Hazlett. 88 min.
* * * setting: Ont.
(2005) (/U.K.) Dean Cain, Laurie Holden, Jennifer Tilly, Tim Curry, Max Baker, Angela Vallee, Munro Chambers, Sheila McCarthy, Kenneth Welsh, Richard Waugh, Jon Lovitz (voice of Bailey).....A philanthropist leaves her fortune and her animal shelter charity to her dog, Bailey, and his guardian, a good hearted animal behaviouralist (American actor Cain) who can actually talk to the dog -- causing consternation among the scheming relatives (Tilly and Curry) who had been using the charity as a cover for their own nefarious operation. Holden plays a charity employee and single mom. Family comedy mills familiar ground (probably borrowing ideas from a half dozen old Disney comedies -- and even the earlier Canadian movie, The Duke) but to surprisingly good effect. It ain't High Art, and you can find yourself thinking "this is stupid" as often as you laugh (some times you'll do both at the same time) but works because of an unapologetic sense of its own absurdity and weirdness. Kids should enjoy the slapstick and goofiness, but adults, who are willing to let their hair down, should also get a kick out of it, thanks in part to a nice cast. Cain (comfortably slipping into a Dean Jones-type role) and Holden are ingratiating, and Tilly and Curry ham it up shamelessly -- even bit parts include the likes of Euggene Lipinski, Julie Khaner, Jackie Burroughs, Leon Pownall. Perhaps the biggest weakness is with too many characters and plot threads, it's not always clear who the movie is mainly about: Cain? Holden? Holden's daughter and her daughter's friend? (Despite the title, Bailey is more a supporting character/plot device -- though amusingly voiced by Lovitz). Most amazingly: it actually admits it's set in Canada -- right down to McCarthy and Welsh (under-utilized) adopting Newfoundland accents as the maid and butler. Co-written by Mary Walsh -- yes, Mary Walsh! sc: Mary Walsh, Heather Conkie. dir: David Devine. 90 min.
THE BALLERINA AND THE BLUES (1987) Rex Smith, Tamara Chaplin. see Shades of Love.
BALLS UP *
* setting: Ont.
(1999) Brent Carver, Torri Higginson, Albert Schultz, Ellen Dubin, Jonathan Potts, David Calderisi, Angelo Mosca, Vik Sahay, Pamela Sinha.....A couple who work at a TV lottery show (Carver and Higginson) decide they can cheat the game and win the lottery, provided they can dupe the no-nonsense accountant (Schultz). Small-scale caper comedy gets better as it goes along, eventually putting some meat on the characters...but not enough. And at its best, it's more cute than funny. Shades of "Indecent Proposal" in that, in order to pull the scam, Higginson must seduce Schultz, but the ideas aren't really developed. Oddest gag is having real life ex-wrestler Mosca play himself, but in a fictional way, as a co-conspirator in the scam, in debt to the mob. Higginson comes closest to making her character real. Kind of racy for a TV movie (though considering Higginson's scenes of undress, the camera shows very little). sc: Richard Nielsen. dir: Alan Erlich. - brief male and female nudity, sexual content.- 93 min.
BALLYKISSANGEL, a British TV series, was adapted and turned into the Canadian produced show, Hope Island.
BANANAS FROM SUNNY QUEBEC
* * 1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1993) Marc Marut, Mathieu Kermoyan, Jessica Barker, Sebastien Tougas, Jean-Rene Ouellet, Vincent Lemay-Thivierge, Gordon Masten, Bronwen A. Mantel.....Anglophone boy (Marut) in the '50s is sent to a French-language boarding school where he gets into trouble and eventually runs off with a francophone friend who intends to go to the Amazon river. O.K. children's comedy-drama. sc: Terry Heffernan. dir: Peter Pearson. 92 min.
THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS see Les invasions barbares
* setting: CDN.
(1995) (/France) Jeff Fahey, Neve Campbell, Jacques Weber, Lorne Brass, Genevieve Rochette, Billy Two Rivers.....Period drama of an independent young metis woman (Campbell), lusted after by the vicious local fur trader (Brass), and of her pet wolf-dog, Baree. Top-billed American Fahey has relatively little screen time as basically the romantic interest (he reprises his role from Kazan, though this film isn't really a sequel in a literal sense). Final Tales of the Wild film has a lush, haunting atmosphere and is the best put-together. It almost rates higher, but it's slow and can't ultimately make up its mind who its main character is. Beautiful Campbell does good in her first real leading role. a.k.a. Northern Passage. sc: Jonathan Hales (from the novel Baree, Son of Kazan by James Oliver Curwood). dir: Arnaud Selignac. - violence, brief female nudity.- 96 min.
BARNEY'S VERSION * * setting: P.Q./other
(2010) (/Italy) Paul Giamatti, Rosamund Pike, Minnie Driver, Dustin Hoffman, Scott Speedman, Bruce Greenwood, Rachelle Lefevre, Mark Addy, Harvey Atkin, Macha Grenon.....Story of the (adult) life of irascible Barney Panofsky (Giamatti), told in various flashbacks, and particularly focusing on his third marriage (to Pike) -- the woman he sees as the love of his life, but whom he doesn't treat much better than most people in his life. Big screen adaptation of Mordecai Richler's novel seems to be the kind of movie people either love...or leave scratching their heads, wondering what on earth the fuss is about. It seems to get down to whether you like or are engaged by Barney. If you do, fine. If you don't...it's 2 and some hours about not very interesting people doing not very interesting things with little emotional or intellectual pay off to most of the story threads, with some static direction, though decent enough performances. Might have worked better as a mini-series, because too many of the characters and relationships seem short changed and undeveloped, with even a sub-plot about a mysterious death uncompelling -- though improves in the second half as it focuses on his marriage to Pike. The jumbled narrative can also be confusing -- some saw that as deliberate, a reflection of the character's fading memory, but it more just comes across as, well, a jumbled, confused narrative. Indeed, reading descriptions of what the movie is supposed to be (or what fans perceive it as being) can leave you more convinced of its short comings...because you might not see it. A lead character can be sympathetic or entertainingly unsympathetic, but Barney falls into the deadly middle of just being kind of bland. Lots of cameos include, among others, Paul Gross as the star of the cheesy soap opera, Maury Chaykin as an (unspeaking) wedding guest, and directors David Cronenberg (as a TV director), Denys Arcand (as a maitre d'), and Ted Kotcheff (as a train conductor -- himself a director of previous Richler adaptations). Saul Rubinek, who has one scene as the father of Barney's first wife, actually played Barney a few years earlier in a CBC radio play of the story. Received 7 Genies including for Best Actor (Giamatti), Supporting Actress (Driver), and Supporting Actor (Hoffman) -- many of the principal roles went to non-Canadians. sc: Michael Konyves. dir: Richard J. Lewis. - sexual content.- 134 min.
BARNUM see P.T. Barnum
* * setting: B.C.
(2003) Liisa Repo-Martell, Mort Ransen, Tygh Runyan, Murray Ritchie.....Middle-aged guy (Ransen), who lives comfortably in his semi-isolated cabin, finds his life turned upside down when he momentarily takes pity on a troubled, vaguely schizophrenic radical activist (Repo-Martell)...who keeps coming back. Off-beat drama is presented in an experimental fashion -- all scenes are shot (on video) in singlle takes from his P.O.V. (you see his hands, and hear his voice) -- and is the sort of movie where, ten minutes into it, you're wondering why you bothered: the technique is too cutesy, and her character is abrasive. But, half an hour into it, you can find yourself kind of caught up in the evolving relationship and kinetic, talky scenes. Till, by the end, and the memorable finale, you can find it all strangely compelling, as it evolved from just a one note nightmare (the crazy who won't stay away), to a complex character/relationship drama, to a socio-political parable. Uneven and rough around the edges, but more effective than not. sc./dir: Mort Ransen. - female nudity; sexual content; brief make nudity.- 98 min.
BATTLE QUEEN 2020
* * 1/2
(2000) Jeff Wincott, Julie Strain, Brian Frank, Bill Baker, Zehra Leverman, Jade Kroll, Paul Rapovski.....In an Ice Age future, where the remnants of civilization exist as the ruling Elites, who live in luxury and engage in secret experiments, and the poor live underground, the mistress (Strain) of the Elites' leader (Wincott) -- and the Madame of their brothel -- begins to question the established order of things and suspect that the "evil" rebels may have a point (and she's a decent physical combatant, to boot). Better-than-to-be-expected production from Danforth Studios still isn't a "good" movie in a conventional, mainstream cinema sense, but not bad as a B-grade movie. Better-than-usual production values, a decent cast, a reasonably effective evocation of a future reality (and accompanying atmosphere), and some unusual attention paid to characterization (with Wincott, inparticular, a more complex figure than just a black hat). Unapologetically sexploitive, with American B-movie Sex Symbol Strain not afraid to doff her garments, the movie's a curious mix of elements, sometimes an erotic drama, sometimes a sci-fi thriller, sometimes a maternal drama (as Strain befriends a kid), and sometimes a comic book film (with occasionally scenes morphing into still illustrations with captions!). sc: Michael B. Bruxman, William Hulkower, William B. Bostjancic, Caron Nightingale, with Timothy Lee. dir: Daniel D'Or. - female nudity, sexual content, violence.- 93 min.
THE BAY BOY *
1/2 setting: N.S.
(1984) (/France/U.S.) Liv Ullman, Kiefer Sutherland, Peter Donat, Mathieu Carriere, Isabelle Mejias, Alan Scarfe, Leah Pinsent.....Predictable story of a young boy (Sutherland, in his film debut) growing up in the maritimes during the depression that throws in every cliche in the book. Wooden dialogue, weak performances (except for Carriere) and, frankly, quite tedious. Won six Genies including Best Picture. sc./dir: Daniel Petrie. 107 min. - partial female nudity, violence.-
THE BAY OF LOVE AND SORROWS
* 1/2 setting: N.B.
(1993) Jonathan Scarfe, Joanne Kelly, Christopher Jacot, Peter Outerbridge, Elaine Cassidy, Zachary Bennett, Torquil Campbell, Rhonda McLean.....Story of various characters in a small town in New Brunswick in 1973 and how a casual flirtation with crime leads to death and chaos. Glossy looking but poorly done drama meanders about, story wise, as if the characters are everything (the story, ultimately, seems to be about a circle of friends which comes unglued in a crisis)...but the characters are poorly drawn and ill-defined (not to mention, largely unlikeable) despite what should be a good cast. Relentlessly unpleasant, to the point where, towards the end, it actually threatens to get silly! sc: David Adams Richards, Tim Southam (from the novel by Richards). dir: Tim Southam. - violence, casual male nudity - 95 min.
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