The Great Canadian Guide to the Movies (& TV) presents...


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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.

BUBBLES GALORE  * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1996) Nina Hartley, Tracy Wright, Daniel MacIvor, Shauny Sexton, Andrew Scorer.....Bisexual porn actress/filmmaker, Bubbles Galore (American porn actress Hartley), makes her latest film -- becoming infatuated with her nubile co-star (Sexton) while ignoring her faithful assistant (Wright) -- while her psychotic ex-boyfriend (MacIvor), a rival porn producer, will go to any length to sabotage her. Low-budget, shot-on-video flick is a mishmash of ideas and intentions: a "feminist" porn movie, a parody of porn movies, a story about the victimization of women in the porn industry...with awkward results. The sex scenes lack sensuality (not to mention only sporadically explicit -- though they are explicit in spots, with lots of male genitalia -- rubber props -- and occasionally female -- real), yet the story/character stuff isn't sufficiently evolved to qualify as a mainstream movie. The film's rife with scenes of misogyny, brutality, and rape (of both male and female characters)...yet the movie is billed as a sexy comedy! If this is the filmmakers' idea of erotic...yikes! The movie gained notoriety in 1999 when a politician publicly objected to the fact it had received government financing. Wright delivers a nice performance and American pin-up model Sexton is no great actress (though in this age of Arnold Schwarzenegger, that doesn't seem to be a crime); she's beautiful (even from the neck up) but we don't see enough of her (and you can take that comment any way you want). Still, it's actually set in Canada, which is admirable...but is there even an (English-language) Canadian porn industry? At least, when this was made? sc: Cynthia Roberts, Greg Klymkiw. dir: Cynthia Roberts. - explicit sexual content, graphic nudity- 86 min.

BUFFALO JUMP a.k.a. Getting Married in Buffalo Jump

A BULLET IN THE HEAD * *  setting: other
(1990) Attila Bertalan, David Garfinkle, Andrea Sadler.....Story of two men wandering through the countryside in an unnamed, war-torn country; a wounded soldier (Bertalan) and a local peasant (Garfinkle). The ideal concept for a bilingual country like Canada: one in which the characters speak -- when they speak -- a made up language making it, ironically, universal. But despite the audaciousness of the concept, and the experiment of doing, essentially, a silent film (since ideas must be conveyed by actions, rather than words) the result is more so-so than anything, with a fairly rudimentary story. sc./dir: Attila Bertalan. - violence, partial female nudity, sexual content.- 89 min.

BULLET TO BEIJING  * *  setting: other
(1996) (/Russia/U.K./U.S.) Michael Caine, Jason Connery, Mia Sara, Michael Gambon, Michael Sarrazin, Lev Prygunov, Anatoly Davidov, Burt Kwouk, Sue Lloyd......Forced into early retirement by the end of the Cold War, aging British spy Harry Palmer (Caine, reprising his role) is hired by a mysterious Russian (Gambon) to find the stolen components of a chemical weapon. Made-for-cable TV espionage flick is a surprisingly well-intentioned attempt to resurrect novelist Len Deighton's working-class spy (featured in a trilogy of British films 3 decades earlier: "The Ipcress File", "Funeral in Berlin" and "The Billion Dollar Brain"), but ultimately the story (not based on anything by Deighton) is just too thin and meandering with most of the twists coming near the end...when it's too little, too late. Sarrazin, the only Canadian in the cast, plays an American, natch. Filmed partly in Russia. Followed by Midnight in St. Petersburg. a.k.a. Len Deighton's Bullet to Beijing. sc: Peter Welbeck. dir: George Mihalka. - brief female nudity, violence.- 122 min.


BULLIES  * *  setting: B.C.
(1986) Jonathan Crombie, Janet-Laine Green, Stephen B. Hunter, Dehl Berti, Olivia D'Abo, Bill Croft, Adrien Dorval, William Nunn, Bernie Coulson, Wayne Robson.....Blended family (Crombie, Green and Hunter) move to a small town and discover it's in the grip of psychotic clan (fathered by Croft). Good-looking if somewhat unpleasant suspenser has solid performances, but the characters never become interesting. Still, it gets credit for admitting it's in Canada. sc: John Sheppard, Bryan McCann. dir: Paul Lynch. - violence.- 96 min.
BURDEN OF TRUTH (TV Limited Series)

(2018)  * * 1/2  Kristin Kreuk, Peter Mooney, Alex Carter, Star Slade, Nicola Correla-Damude, Sara Thompson, Meegwun Fairbrother, Benjamin Ayres, David Lawrence Brown, Jessica Matten, Anwen O'Driscoll....Drama. Big city lawyer (Kreuk) returns to her small hometown to fight a class action suit brought by some teenage girls who have become sick; but even though she wins, she ends up joining the girl's lawyer (Mooney) to get to the bottom of the health crisis. When clues point to a local mill, it puts them at odds with many in the town -- and with her own law firm, run by her father (Carter). She also has to confront some of her own family's buried secrets. With various supporting characters and their plot-threads threaded throughout (Slade, as a plucky teen who joins their team but has her own connection to her family; Correla-Damude, as her high school friend-turned-guidance counsellor; Thompson as the named plaintiff in their case; Fairbrother as a nice guy cop; etc.)

Uneven drama comes across a bit like a quickly shot "ripped from the headlines" movie-of-the-week, with often workman-like direction, cinematography, dialogue, etc. -- except stretched out to ten hours! It wants to be a -- mostly -- realist, unsensationalistic drama (other than an occasional bit of vandalism and assault) but as such kind of lacks too many dramatic beats or surprise twists to energize the lengthy telling (the family secrets sub-plot can be more interesting than the legal case -- though even it sputters at times). Plus, for a series all about legal wrangling and medical diagnoses, it's not always convincing in how it portrays the law or medicine. With that does become more engaging as it goes. Whether that's because the episodes improve or -- inevitably -- the longer you spend with the characters (in a soap opera-y way) the more you grudgingly come to care about them, I'm not sure. Kreuk has always projected a certain innate cerebralness, so a big city corporate lawyer is maybe a natural fit for her; and there are some notable supporting turns including Correla-Damude, Slade, and the always dependable Ayres as a rival lawyer (and, as I say, most of the characters/actors grown on you a bit).

The series is also an interesting look at how "Canadianess" is handled in some TV shows. The first few episodes have a conspicuous "Anytown, North America" vibe -- the big city at the beginning is anonymous, the small town main street is devoid of flags, and dialogue veers toward American colloquialisms; but as it progresses it gets more free with acknowledging a Canadian setting (and the significant contingent of Indigenous actors in the cast arguably distinguishes it from an American series -- especially as it's matter-of-fact and not really remarked upon). One could wonder if the shift was because when they were writing the first few episodes they were hoping to shop it to the U.S. (and so redacted any Canadianess) but by the time they were writing the later episodes they assumed it was mostly for a Canadian audience, so let their hair down. Ironically, then, it was only after it had started airing on the CBC that it was announced they had landed an American broadcaster (presumably with the later-episode Canadianisms intact!) 10 hour-long episodes on the CBC.

THE BURIAL SOCIETY * * *  setting: B.C.
(2002) Rob LaBelle, Jan Rubes, Allan Rich, Bill Meilen, David Paymer, Seymour Cassel, Nathaniel Deveaux, Jeff Seymour, Bill Mondy.....A nebbishy bank employee (LaBelle), hiding from his mob connected bosses in a small town, asks to join the trio of old men who are the local Chevrah Kadisha (who prepare the bodies of the dead according to Jewish tradition). Enjoyable, off- beat flick starts out seeming a thoughtful drama...then gradually reveals its true intent as a film noirish suspense-drama (albeit quirky and low-key) where motives aren't quite what they seem. The fact that the movie isn't quite as high minded as it at first seems is both a plus, and a minus, depending on what you're looking for. Nice use of an unusual cultural tradition. Rich, Paymer (in a small part) and Cassel (in what amounts to a cameo) are all American imports. Even LaBelle is originally from the States, but he came up to co-star in First Wave and seems to have stuck around which, if true, makes him Canadian enough. sc./dir: Nicholas Racz. 89 min.

BURIED ON SUNDAY * * 1/2  setting: N.S.
(1992) Paul Gross, Denise Virieux, Maury Chaykin, Henry Czerny, Jeff Leder, Tommy Sexton, Louis Del Grande.....When a federal delegation (Virieux, Chaykin and Czerny) announce its fishing rights are suspended, the Maritime island of Solomon Gundy (headed by Gross) decides to separate from Canada, arming itself with a Russian nuclear submarine...which escalates things. Conceived as a slapstick comedy, this flick ended up a drama with humourous moments (though it was still billed as a comedy!). Interesting with a good cast, but it's too obvious and suffers from inconsistant characterization and scenes that don't go if leftovers from earlier drafts. It should've been better. Cameos from Mary Walsh, Andy Jones and Greg Malone's voice as a radio preacher. sc: Paul Donovan, Bill Fleming. dir: Paul Donovan. 100 min.

BURN: The Robert Wraight Story  * * 1/2  setting: Alt.
(2004) Jonathan Scarfe, Alan Scarfe, Kristin Booth, Karl Pruner, Mark Wilson, Shaun Johnston, Paul Coeur, Sara Botsford.....Story of a family in rural Alberta who find one of their kids becomes sick, and their land is contaminated, by a local oil rig. When they find no one is willing to do anything, the husband (J. Scarfe) gravitates to a local eco-terrorist and quasi-cultist, Wiebo Ludwig (A. Scarfe) -- but then begins to worry Ludwig will go too far. Inspired by a true story, this made-for-CTV suspense-drama is professional enough, but never quite becomes electric (though benefits from Alan Scarfe's intense, charismatic performance). The filmmakers seem like they want to do a movie about corporate pollution, but are kind of forced into a film that wants to play all sides (polluters bad - eco-terrorists bad) resulting in a kind of muted, wishy washy effort. The film is named for the protagonist...but Ludwig's name is the more familiar to Canadians. The film's a bit of a family affair: the two Scarfe's are father and son, and Botsford (in a bit part as a company executive) is Jonathan's mum, and Alan's ex. sc: Shelley Eriksen, Sean O'Byrne (suggested by the book Saboteurs by Andrew Nikiforuk). dir: Stefan Scaini. 92 min.

BURN UP (TVMS)  * * 1/2  setting: other/CDN.
(2008) (/U.K.) Bradley Whitford, Neve Campbell, Rupert Penry-Jones, Marc Warren, Claire Skinner, David Calder, Rosemary Dunsmore, San Shella, Sandrine Holt.....Story of various characters, and various agendas, leading up to a global conference on climate change -- involving conspiracy, skulduggery...and murder -- and focusing inparticular on the British branch of an American oil conglomerate. After the last few years of the CBC offering up some classy, big, ensemble mini-series -- many with relevant themes -- CanWest-Global finally tries to step up with this drama-thriller...and almost succeeds. Essentially more a British production than a Canadian one (despite American Whitford and Canadian Campbell in the cast), it boasts a big budget and that British panache, with lots of sharp, smartly written scenes, and textured, nuanced performances...but also suffers from a lot of obvious, even cartoony scenes. It's trying so hard to be so many things -- a thriller, a character drama, a polittical back room drama, and a pedagogical exercise -- that it can lose focus at times. Starts out well, meanders at bit, then gets better in the second half as (ironically) it becomes more about the conference and back room deals. It wears its politics on its sleeve, and isn't going to win any fans on the political right (despite trying to give some voice to the climate change deniers' views -- and Whitford, as a sinister oil lobbyist, is given more dimension than just a straight black hat). Ultimately, okay...but so good in so many ways that the whole should've been better. Four hours. sc: Simon Beaufoy. dir: Omar Madha. - sexual content.-

THE BURNING SEASON * 1/2  setting: CDN./other
(1993) Akesh Gill, Ayub Khan Din, Om Puri, Uttara Baokar, HabibTanvir .....Trapped in a loveless marriage and stifled by her ultra-traditionalist in-laws, an Indo-Canadian woman (Gill) flees with her daughter to rural India to be with her wealthy lover. Pretty bad drama has a thin script and even less characterization, with direction and performances that never get inside the heads of the characters. sc: Harvey Crossland with Annette Cohen. dir: Harvey Crossland. 89 min.

BUSH PILOT  * *  setting: Ont.
(1947) Rochelle Hudson, Jack LaRue, Austin Willis, Frank Perry, Eric Clavering......Story of a bush pilot in northern Ontario (Willis, good in his film debut) and his rivalry with his no good brother (La Rue), another bush pilot, and their vieing for a local school teacher's affections (Hudson). The synopsis probably sounds better than it is. This recently restored black and white talkie (perhaps one of the first English language theatrical sound releases in Canada) seems to borrow its ideas from other films, without understanding how they go together. "Big" scenes crop up that have little dramatic resonance because there was no groundwork laid for them. Episodic and low-budget, but not without its moments. Hudson and Jack La Rue were imported from Hollywood, setting a pattern that would be with us to this day. Legendary Canadian radio actor John Drainie is listed as "dialogue director". sc: W. Scott Darling, with Gordon Burwash. dir: Sterling Campbell. 60 min.

BUSTED UP  * 1/2
(1986) Irene Cara, Paul Coufus, Stan Shaw, Tony Rosato, Frank Pellegrino, Gordon Judges, John Dee.....Bare-fisted boxer and gym owner (Coufos) agrees to a winner-takes-all fight when a local thug (Rosato) starts "aggressively" buying up the neighbourhood. Top-billed American singer/actress Cara has a relatively small part as the hero's ex-wife, a lounge-singer (which provides excuses for musical interludes). Gritty, low-budget drama trods ground that's been done before, and better. Awkwardly structured. Shaw (another import) stands out as the hero's partner. sc: Damian Lee. dir: Conrad E. Palmisano. - violence.- 95 min.

BUSTER'S BEDROOM  * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1991) (/German/Portugese) Amanda Ooms, Donald Sutherland, Geraldine Chaplin, Valentine Cortese, David Warrilow, Taylor Mead, Ari Snyder, Martin Wuttke, Nina Franoszek, Lena Lessing.....Young woman (Ooms), fascinated by American movie star Buster Keaton, visits a U.S. sanitorium where he once stayed and encounters the patients (headed by Sutherland) who've taken over. Slow-moving, atmospheric comedy's eccentricity seems forced rather than whimsical. British-Swedish actress Ooms is appealing (as always) but too many long shots often relegate the actors to being props rather than characters. And why is it that a film drawing on so many cultures still finds itself being about the U.S.? sc: Rebecca Horn, Martin Mosebach. dir: Rebecca Horn. - partial female nudity.- 105 min.

BUTTERBOX BABIES * * 1/2  setting: N.S.
(1995) Susan Clark, Michael Riley, Peter MacNeill, Catherine Fitch, Cedric Smith, Nicholas Campbell, Shannon Lawson, Chris Wiggins, Stephanie Morgenstern.....Fictionalized true story of Lila and William Young (Clark and MacNeill) who ran a maturnity home for unwed mothers in the '30s and '40s and their increasingly unethical and reprehensible activities. Riley plays the social worker trying to shut them down. Yet one more shocking-true-story dramatized in the name of ratings. This one is slickly put together, and Clark and MacNeill are particularly good, but the characters remain ambiguous, the movie largely dispassionate, and the "good guys" (even Riley) no more likeable than the "bad". Received Gemini Awards for Best Movie/Mini-Series and Supporting Actress (Fitch). sc: Raymond Storey (from the book by Bette L. Cahill). dir: Don McBrearty. 92 min.

(1989) Jeff Schultz, Page Fletcher, Laura Cruikshank, Leslie Toth, Dean Stockwell, Wayne Robson, Michael Rudder, Tony de Santis.....After getting into trouble with the law, a city man (Schultz) is persuaded to act as an undercover agent to bring down a small town gangster (Fletcher) who had a friend of his killed. Suspense-drama is refreshingly unpretentious, with nice performances from Schultz, Fletcher and imported Stockwell (as a cop) but after a decent opening, the movie slows down without enough twists or turns to sustain itself. Still, not terrible. But why would cops bother to enlist the aid of a civilian who would be a stranger in town, have no expertise relevant to the case, and no "in" to get close to the baddie? The Gabouries needed to rethink their premise. sc: Mitchell Gabourie, Richard Gabourie. dir: Mitchell Gabourie. - violence, sexual content, partial female nudity.- 94 min.

BY DESIGN  * 1/2
(1981) Patty Duke Astin, Sara Botsford, Saul Rubinek, Sonia Zuamer, Mina E. Mina, Alan Duruisseau.....Lesbian fashion designers (American Astin and Canadian Botsford) eventually decide they'd like to have a child, but when adoption proves not an option, consider persuading their photographer (Rubinek) to act as a stud. Disappointingly bad comedy-drama suffers from a low-budget, an awkward delivery (comic scenes are played too straight, serious scenes played too comic), too many interminable scenes, and a story that isn't sure how to fill up the running time. There are some decent ideas (the cute idea of the phone call during the, um, insemination) and Botsford (in one of her first major roles) and especially Rubinek are good -- the latter impressive given how erratically his character is written. It's also a movie that hasn't aged well (assuming it worked at all when it was first made), from the oddity of a "progressive" movie about lesbianism...where all the intimate scenes are heterosexual, to the appalling idea of a predatory sexual harasser who is, apparently, supposed to be a loveable guy. Look for Joe Flaherty as a guy in a waiting room, and look real, real fast for later TV personality Ralph Benmergui as a guy dressing a mannequin. sc: Joe Wiesenfeld, Claude Jutra, David Eames. dir: Claude Jutra. - sexual content; partial female and male nudity.- 92 min.

BY WAY OF THE STARS (TVMS) * * 1/2  setting: other/USA./CDN.
(1992) (/German) Zachary Bennett, Gema Zamprogna, Hannes Jaenicke, Christian Kohlund, Dietmar Schonherr, Dominique Sanda, Jan Rubes, Tantoo Cardinal, Albert Millaire, Michael Mahonen.....Prussian peasant boy and a Baron's daughter (Bennett and Zamprogna) in the 1800s travel to North America in search of his falsely-accused fugitive father...while being pursued by the real villain. Uneven youth-aimed adventure starts out drily, hits its stride in the middle with colourful characters and fast-pacing, then deteriorates in a choppy, confusing final episode. Stand-out supporting performances include Kohlund (as the father), Cardinal and Millaire. Still, more lively than most of producer Kevin Sullivan's works. The German version contains an extra two-hours. The Canadian version runs 4 hours. sc: Marlene Matthews (from the novel The Long Journey of Lukas B by Willi Fahrmann). dir: Allan King. - violence.-

BYE BYE BLUES  * *  setting: Alt./other
(1989) Rebecca Jenkins, Luke Reilly, Stuart Margolin, Wayne Robson, Robyn Stevan, Kate Reid, Michael Ontkean.....After her husband is sent off to W.W. II, a mother (Jenkins) returns from India to her prairie home and, to make ends meet, joins a local bar band. Amusing, but unfocused and lack-luster comedy-drama has lots of ideas and ends up not doing justice to any of them. Characterization is weak, the music short-changed and the ending ineffective. Reilly shines. Won three Genies including Best Actress (Jenkins), Supporting Actress (Stevan) and Song. sc./dir: Anne Wheeler. - brief female nudity.- 117 min.

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