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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.

(2004-2005)  * *  Claudia Ferri ("Elena 'Bella' Batista"), Ellen David ("Sophia Batista"), Tony Calabretta ("Edwardo Batista"), Jessica Heafey ("Carmie Batista"), Louis- Philippe Dandenault ("Ernie"), Carl Alacchi ("Nunzio"), Peter Miller ("Elio Lanza"), others.....Comedy about a level-headed, single, career woman (Ferri) who still lives with her high-strung, domineering Italian-Canadian family. David and Calabretta play her parents; Heafey her sister and Dandenault her sister's finance. Alacchi her uncle who owns the construction firm she works at; Miller an old friend with whom she begins a romantic relationship. 

Made by the same people who did the hit movie, Mambo Italiano, this TV series covers similar territory, and seemed like a logical idea (successful movie = successful TV series). But what worked in a one-time, farcical film seems a bit overdone and strident in a weekly series. Everyone tries real hard to evoke comical Italian stereotypes, with lots of yelling, and hand waving, and running about, but the trying too hard may be part of the problem. The bottom line, as always, with a comedy is does it make you laugh? And, with a series, do you care enough about these people to visit with them every week? And despite an occasional chuckle, and an O.K. performance from Ferri...not really. And the over-the-top ethnic clichés (again, funny in a one time film) are more uncomfortable than amusing...made moreso by the insistence of one of the actors in an interview that every Italian-Canadian's life is like this. Ethnic stereotypes are no more legitimate when endorsed by people within that ethnic group than by those outside of it. What? No Italian-Canadian families sit around and read books and have quiet conversations? Filmed simultaneously in English and French, but the demarcation is so sharp, even though it admits it's set in Montreal, in the English-language version you probably wouldn't realize the action took place in a predominantly French-speaking province! Created by Steve Galluccio, Emile Gaudreault. Half-hour episodes on the CBC. 

CINEMANOVELS  * *  setting: CND.
(2013) Lauren Lee Smith, Jennifer Beals, Ben Cotton, Kett Turton, Katharine Isabelle, Catherine Michaud.....A flighty young woman (Smith) -- ambivalent about what she wants from life (she and her husband are supposed to be trying to get pregnant but she deliberately sabotages their efforts) -- impulsively agrees to organize a retrospective of the work of her late, estranged father, an internationally acclaimed Art House filmmaker. Meandering dramedy is well acted and professionally mounted (writer/director Miles also the editor, cinematographer, etc.) and is a loving homage to 1960s New Wave European films and 1970s North American counter culture ones: that's what her father's films are like (seen in snippets) and the movie itself has that vibe. Unfortunately it can feel a bit like a superficial imitation of movies that, themselves, could seem self-indulgent. It will mainly appeal to audiences who share Miles' love of those films and/or are infatuated with Smith, much of the film just involving her wandering about, eating lunch or whimsically feeding parking metres. But if neither of those float your boat, the movie doesn't have enough plot or genuine human insight to fall back on (and it's one of those films that's a "comedy-drama" in the sense that it's not serious enough to be dramatic and not funny enough to be a comedy). American actress Beals (who co-starred in Miles' A Night for Dying Tigers) has a relatively thankless part as Smith's best friend. sc./dir: Terry Miles. - partial female nudity; sexual content.- 90 min.

THE CIRCLE GAME  * *  setting: Ont.
(1994) Marnie McPhail, Janet-Laine Green, Renessa Blitz, Albert Schultz, Tom McCamus, David Fox, Jayne Eastwood, Dawn Greenhalgh, Brooke Johnson, Christopher Bondy.....A musician (McPhail), concerned her mother (Green) is neglecting her little sister (Blitz), applies for custody...on the grounds that she's the real mother. Frustrating drama has a good cast and some good scenes (though Blitz's part is awkwardly written and directed in spots) but it just plods along like a really long public service spot, with many of the scenes needing to be tighter and more, well, cinematic. An earnest drama isn't automatically a good drama. Prominently billed Greenhalgh has just one scene as Schultz's mother. sc: Brigitte Berman, Marie-Lynn Hammond. dir: Brigitte Berman. 113 min.

CIRCLE MAN  * *  setting: USA.
(1987) Vernon Wells, William Sanderson, Michael Copeman, Sonja Belliveau, Real Andrews, Frank Moore.....Aging, bare-fisted boxer (Wells) wants to get out while he can, but he keeps getting forced back into the circle. Gritty action-drama about losers and dreamers has some good ideas but lacks in the execution. So-so performances. a.k.a. The Last Man Standing. sc: Damian Lee, David Mitchell. dir: Damian Lee. - violence.- 90 min.

CIRCLE OF FRIENDS * * 1/2 setting: USA.
(2006) Julie Benz, Chris Kramer, Venus Terzo, Paula Costain, Adrianne Richards, Kent McQuaid, Peter Dillon, Nicolas Wright.....Woman (Benz) returns to her American hometown for the funeral of an old friend...then gradually becomes suspicious when she learns a number of her high school acquaintances have died recently in supposed accidents. Low-key suspense-drama is a bit too slow-moving, focusing more on the characters than the mystery at times, but is nonetheless okay with an engaging enough cast (American import Benz is an effective lead) and a clever resolution. sc: Joyce Brotiman. dir: Stefan Pleszcynski. - sexual content.- 88 min.

CIRCLE OF TWO  * *  setting: Ont./USA.
(1980) Richard Burton, Tatum O'Neal, Nuala Fitzgerald, Robin Gammell, Patricia Collins, Kate Reid, Donann Cavin, Norma Dell'Agnese, Michael Wincott.....Story of a platonic romance between a 60 year old painter (Burton) and a 15 year old wanna-be writer (O'Neal). Fairly restrained handling of the subject, and surprisingly more interesting than it sounds, but ultimately hurt by flat performances. sc: Thomas Hedley (from the novel A Lesson in Love by Marie-Terese Baird). dir: Jules Dassin. - partial female nudity.- 105 min.

LA CITÉ  * *  setting: other
(2009) (/Swiss) Jean-Marc Barr, Claude LeGault, Sabine Karsenti, Pierre LeBeau, Vincent Winterhalter.....A decommissioned army doctor (Barr) in colonial-era North Africa awaits transport home in a small town fraught with simmering tension between the colonial army and the indigenous locals -- tension exacerbated by the arrival of a seeming plague. Well-intentioned drama-cum-suspense film -- an allegorical fable -- starts out promising with moody and evocative location filming, and some good ideas at its core. Which makes the result all the more disappointing. Seeming content to rest on its high ideals and themes of imperialism and prejudice, it doesn't really develop the plot beyond the bare bones, the characters beyond the basics (and most not even that -- prominently billed Karsenti barely has any lines) and the message beyond the obvious and heavy handed. Even at less than 90 minutes it feels too long. In French. English title: The City of Shadows. sc./dir: Kim Nguyen. - violence.- 82 min.

CITIZEN GANGSTER  a.k.a. Edwin Boyd

THE CITY (TV Series)

(1999-2000)  * * 1/2  Torri Higginson ("Katherine Strachan"), Aidan Devine ("Shane Devlin") (1st), John Ralston ("Jack Berg"), James Gallanders ("Michael Croft") (2nd), Jody Racicot ("Crispin St. James"), Larrisa Laskin, with Matthew Lemche ("Strachan Berg"), Robin Brule ("Angie Hart"), Shannon Lawson ("Mary Lamar"), Michael Sarrazin ("Milt"), Arnold Pinnock ("Tyrone Meeks"), others.....Drama/soap about life in the big city (Toronto) focusing on characters from the upper and lower ends of the spectrum. Higginson plays a wealthy conservative who becomes a councilwoman, Ralston her developer husband from whom she became estranged, and Devine her true love, now an unorthodox, liberal Catholic priest working with the disadvantaged. Lemche played her son (who was also revealed to be the priest's illegitimate son). Brule played an ex-hooker struggling to make ends meet for her young daughter; Pinnock her estranged, but good-hearted, common law husband; Lawson her coarse, boozy mother. Sarrazin played an eccentric derelict. The 2nd season dropped the (pivotal) character of the priest, and shuffled most of the working class characters off to the peripheries, save Lawson who was made Higginson's secretary. Added was Gallanders as a police detective and love interest for Higginson's character; Racicot, who had played a small time gangster in the first few episodes, returned full-time; and Laskin was added as another city council woman.

The problem with this expensive-looking TV series is that, for all its intentions to be a big, sprawling slice-of-urban-life, exposing the grit as well as the glamour, it comes across like it was made by people whose life experiences had been gleaned sitting in front of a television set. Instead of true-to-life, it was populated by pop-cultural cliches and scenarios. The actors were professional, though even then didn't always bring out the nuances of the characters. Higginson was good and Sarrazin surprisingly effective in an atypical roll. Still it was slick and certainly watchable.

The series' politics and attitudes were initially ill-defined, with both Left and Right wing characters, but more like a series that was trying to seem liberal, but with a conservative heart. The balance seemed to shift further toward the right in the 2nd season, shuffling off most of the poor characters, save Lawson who was now full-time comic relief (in the first season she had been a mix of drama and humour) and emphasizing on-going law & order plot lines of serial killers and the like. The main representative of the poor and disenfranchised now seemed to be villain Racicot. If the the greater shift to the right was intended to bolster sagging ratings, it didn't work. The series was cancelled after its second season.

The series bore more than a passing resemblance to the CBC's earlier Riverdale -- also a drama set in Toronto about a panorama of characters ranging from the rich to the poor, and how the two groups interact. Both series even started with the shooting of a teenage character! Ultimately a competent, watchable series, nothing more. Created by Pierre Sarrazin and Suzette Couture. Two batches of hour long episodes (including a double length premier) on CTV. 

CITY BOY  * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1994) (/U.S.) Christian Campbell, James Brolin, Wendel Meldrum, Christopher Bolton, Sarah Chalke, David Glyn-Jones, Victor A. Young, Matthew Walker, Alan C. Peterson.....One-handed Chicago teen (Campbell), on a quest to find the father he never knew, gets a job with 1800s loggers as a watchman, protecting an old forest from illegal cutters. O.K. family film is good-looking with solid performances and benefits a lot from the lush, moody scenery (filmed in B.C.). But shouldn't the CBC be making movies set in Canada and leave the let's-pretend-we're-in-the-U.S. flicks to others? sc: John Kent Harrison, Coralee Elliott Testar (from the novel Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter). dir: John Kent Harrison. 91 min.


CITY ON FIRE  * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1979) Barry Newman, Susan Clark, Shelly Winters, Leslie Nielson, Henry Fonda, Jonathan Welsh, James Franciscus, Ava Gardner.....Arson set fire threatens to destroy an American city. Disaster pic is no worse and no better than most of the American films it's trying to emulate. Usual collection of stars hired to embarrass themselves (though Welsh does all right as the arsonist). sc: Jack Hill, David P. Lewis, Celine La Freniere. dir: Alvin Rakoff. - violence.- 101 min.

CLADDAGH (Web Series)

(2012-)  * 1/2   Alan Duggan ("James McGovern"), James McGowan ("Frank McGuire"), Adam Lolacher ("Kieran O'Malley"), Marlon Long ("Mo McCann"), Trevor Hayes ("Mickey Finn"), Nick Baillie ("Gerry Donnelly"), Richard Zeman ("Alister Simms"), Patricia McKenzie ("Det. Grace O'Neil").....Crime-drama set amid the Irish mob in Montreal -- whose murky origins in the days of the IRA is coming back to haunt some of them. An internet series, with most episodes running around 7 to 8 minutes, it's a large ensemble cast, with Duggan the nominal lead as the prodigal son returned. McGowan plays the boss/godfather of the gang. McKenzie the cop investigating their doings.

Web series can range from barely more than amateur, to slick with "name" stars. Sometimes telling stories that wouldn't suit a conventional TV format -- other times intended as a trial run for a TV version (such as Sanctuary, which began as a web series). In the case of Claddagh, it's low budget in an old Drive-In movie way (including sound mix problems), despite a cast that does have a few familiar faces, like McKenzie, and others -- most notably McGowan (who's perfectly fine). In fact, given that the cast are professionals, the short comings probably can be laid at the budget problems (lack of rehearsal time, bland camera angles) as much as any paucity of talent. The short episode/web format doesn't really add to the concept, an otherwise familiar mobs n' mean streets saga. The cliched idiom is the point, but it doesn't bring anything fresh to the table to counterbalance the production problems (other than an arguably Canadian multiculturalism in that it's about an Irish mob...but with black and Italian characters). The large cast is hard to keep track of, particularly given the short episode length, though if you stick with it you can appreciate that the actors are defining their roles -- but that doesn't mean you actually care about them. It's too plot focused to develop the human side...yet the on-going plot isn't that intriguing, or even that tight. And whether this is a self-employment project for a bunch of actors and crew in need of a job (some double behind-the-scenes), or a labour of love made just for the fun of it, the result isn't slick enough to coast by on professionalism, and not compelling or quirky enough to rise above the technical lapses (an absurdist gag about a "ninja parade" notwithstanding). Created by its star, Alan Duggan. Two seasons (so far) -- each season totalling about the length of a movie. - violence.-

THE CLAIM  * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(2000) (/U.K./France/U.S.) Wes Bentley, Milla Jovovich, Nastassja Kinski, Peter Mullan, Sarah Polley, Julian Richings.....Set in a wintery frontier town in 1867 California ruled over by the all-powerful town's founder (Mullan) and the events when various characters converge on the town, including a woman and her adult daughter (Kinski and Polley) from the man's past, and a railroad surveyor (Bentley). Film is part gothic melodrama and part Art House drama, almost as though intended to be viewed as a fable (like a poor man's "Days of Heaven"). Lavish and expensive, it's deliberately-paced, atmospheric and moderately interesting. As a drama, the story and characters (and relationships) need more fleshing out, and as a fable or parable, it needs to make its point clearer...if any. Awkward segues into flashbacks can be a mite confusing, too. Some curious casting, but Mullan is very good, and Richings, usually cast as weird or creepy characters, does good as Bentley's best friend. Set in the U.S., which one sort of shrugs off if it's a B-grade action-movie, 'cause one doesn't expect much more. But for a serious, Art film produced by international producers, you might expect a little more integrity by setting it in, say, Canada (after all, it's filmed largely in Alberta). sc: Frank Cottrell Boyce (inspired by the novel The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy). dir: Michael Winterbottom. - brief female nudity, sexual content, violence.- 121 min.

(1988) Bobo Vian, Susan Eyton-Jones, Paul Babiak, Jack Spinner, Attila Bertalan, William Kosaras.....A mysterious woman intrudes upon a farming family's existence -- which doesn't even begin to describe it. Interesting, surreal little silent-film fable is off-beat, at times amusing and definitely well titled. sc: Bachar Chbib, Maryse Wilder. dir: Bachar Chbib (a.k.a. Bashar Shbib). 85 min.

CLASS WARFARE  * 1/2  setting: USA.
(2000) (/U.S.) Lindsey J. McKeon, Wade Carpenter, Robin Dunne, Kiele Sanchez, Dave McGowan.....A weekend getaway for a group of wealthy American teens' turns deadly when two of them discover their family fortunes have gone bust, and the poor kid among them (Dunne) -- an acerbic socialist -- innocently annnounces he has a winning lottery ticket and no one but them know about it. Despite an intriguing premise, this made for TV suspense drama doesn't really work...but the curious thing is trying to figure out what it's even trying to be. It starts out seeming a little like a straight faced satire of mores and rampant greed, except it's not smart enough, nor the characters well enough drawn, to succeed. Then it seems like maybe it's just a film noir thriller, except it's too slow moving without enough twists and turns until closer to the end. And the villains are the main characters (almost seeming like some tawdry "based on the shocking true story" expose) meaning there's no one to root for. And McKeon's, inparticular, is a one-dimensional role. In the main cast, only Dunne and McGowan are Canadian. sc: George Finch. dir: Richard Shepard. - violence.- 88 min.

CLEAN  * * 1/2  setting: CDN./other
(2004) (/France/U.K.) Maggie Cheung, Nick Nolte, Jeanna Balibar, Beatrice Dalle, Don McKellar, Martha Henry, James Johnston, James Dennis, Remi Martin, Laetitia Spigarelli.....Story of a junkie/musician (Cheung) who, after her low-level rock star husband dies of an overdose, wants to clean up and get her life back on track so that she can reconnect with her young son who is living with her parents-in-law (Nolte and Henry). Minimalist, low-key drama, told in intimately filmed, often episodic vignettes, is moody and lyrical at times, with some strong scenes, unexpected characterizations (the heroine is, at times, her own worst enemy) and nice performances, particularly Nolte as the kind hearted father-in-law who doesn't quite trust the heroine...but doesn't hate her either. A bit too free flowing to be totally riveting, with an inherent superficiality, but reasonably effective. An international co-production that nicely embraces that fact, by having the story reasonably unfold in various locales. sc./dir: Olivier Assayas. 110 min.

CLEARCUT  * *  setting: Ont.
(1991) Ron Lea, Graham Greene, Michael Hogan, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Rebecca Jenkins, Tom Jackson.....White lawyer (Lea) finds his rage over being unable to prevent logging on Indian land personified by an unpredictable Native (Greene) who takes him and the logger boss (Hogan) on a nightmare journey into the woods. Graphically violent, arguably earnest film suffers because most of the characters are just caricatures (white and Native) and there's no subtlety, robbing the film of any dramatic force. Surprisingly poor performances from most, though Jenkins is good in a bit part and Greene is a stand-out as an alternately funny and terrifying figure. sc: Rob Forsyth (from the novel A Dream Like Mine by M.T. Kelly). dir: Richard Bugajski. - extreme violence.- 99 min.

THE CLIMB  * *  setting: other
(1987) Bruce Greenwood, James Hurdle, Kenneth Welsh, Ken Pogue, Thomas Hauff, Guy Bannerman.....Fact-based story of a historic Austro-German mountain climbing expedition in 1953 on Nanga Parbat in the Himalayas. Beautiful scenery but there's little characterization and no real insight into what drives these men. Unconvincing. An edited version appears in the film Summits of Glory. sc./dir: Donald Shebib. 86 min. (video)

CLOSE TO HOME  * * 1/2  setting: B.C.
(1985) Daniel Allman, Jillian Fargey, Anne Petrie, Micki Maunsell.....TV journalist (real-life journalist Petrie), making a documentary on street kids, crosses paths with two runaways who are living as prostitutes. Earnest, non-exploitive film loses something because it can't quite decide whether it wants to be a documentary or a drama. Very real performances help make up for the episodic plot. Not aired until 1988. sc: Ric Beairsto, Harvey Crossland. dir: Ric Beairsto. 93 min.

CLOSING THE RING  * * 1/2  setting: USA./other
(2008) (/U.K.) Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, Mischa Barton, Stephen Amell, Neve Campbell, Pete Postlethwaite, Gregory Smith, Martin McCann, Brenda Fricker, Allan Hawco, David Alpay.....Drama about an embittered, recently widowed American woman (MacLaine) in 1991, and her WW II youth (played by Barton) and the secret starcrossed romance (with Amell) that cast a pall over the rest of her life, and estranged her from friends and even her daughter (Campbell). Drama is certainly sprawling -- almost too much so, cutting between the 1990s and WW II, America and Ireland, involving homefront drama, family secrets...and the IRA! And with a large cast of characters whose lives interconnect. It can feel like a novel (with hints of The Stone Angel and such) they're struggling to squeeze into a movie's length! And the result has great strengths...but is uneven. The scenes themselves are often very good and compelling (if occasionally hokey) and well acted by almost all concerned (the weak link, ironically, is Amell who's somewhat bland and stiff -- which may have been deliberate, to convey a romantic paragon, but makes it hard to get swept up in this supposedly life-defining love affair!). But maybe the biggest weakness is for such a sprawling saga about secrets and revelations...most of the secrets you are told before the characters, or you can guess, or aren't that surprising. It wants to deal with themes about promises and obligations and guilt, without really succeeding in being convincingly profound, nor the characters defined much beyond the needs of the scenes. And the problem with a story about an embittered, frustrated protagonist is that there's a fine line between that...and an unlikeable protagonist and ultimately the heroine herself is never really engaging (or developed) enough to compensate for her more negative behaviours. The result is certainly worth seeing (particularly for fans of Lit melodramas) for the audacity, the good scenes, and a lot of stand-out performances (particularly Plummer, as a family friend, Campbell, Postlethwaite and McCann as an Irish lad), and -- sure -- for Barton in the buff, but doesn't quite fulfill its own ambitions. sc: Peter Woodward. dir: Richard Attenborough. - partial female nudity.- 117 min.

(1998) James Duval, Sarah Lassez, Tatyana Ali, Melissa Galianos, Ryan Bittle, J.P. Grimard, Elizabeth Crawford, Margot Kidder, Christopher Plummer.....A group of teens are assigned to fix up an abandonned opera house, unaware a psychotic clown is living in the basement. Horror flick may be trying for a "Scream"-style homage to old horror/slasher flicks, what with its Phantom of the Opera premise, "knowing" references to horror films, casting Margot Kidder (who appeared in Black Christmas) or even the "Clown" title (there was an earlier Canadian slasher flick called The Clown Murders). Even hints it's set in the 1970s (one of the kids drives an old Volkswagon Beetle and Plummer refers to having had an uncle who lived at the Turn-of-the-Century -- Plummer just ain't that old). Whatever the intentions, the result is good looking...but too slow-moving, with too many dumb, "I can't believe the character would do that" scenes. Kidder and Plummer are fine in bit parts (Plummer, inparticular, plays it with conviction) and teens Ali (as the black girl) and Grimard (as the gay guy) are notable among the younger cast. Despite Canadians Plummer and Kidder being the "names", Duval, Ali and Bittle are imports from Hollywood! sc: Kenneth J. Hall. dir: Jean Pellerin. - extreme violence, sexual content, partial female nudity.- 91 min.

THE CLUB  * 1/2
(1993) Joel Wyner, Andrea Roth, Rino Romano, Zack Ward, Kelli Taylor, Matthew Ferguson, Kim Coates.....A group of teen-agers find themselves in a deserted castle where they must face various fears. Good-looking but pretty bad horror-thriller -- which seems to think it's funny -- seems more an excuse for writer Cooper to show his disdain for plot and director Spencer to show how much he'd rather be directing a music video. Paul Popowich has a bit part, bringing the contingent from Catwalk up to 3. sc: Robert C. Cooper. dir: Brenton Spencer. - extreme violence, brief female nudity.- 94 min.

CLUTCH  * 1/2
(1998) David Hewlett, Tanya Allen, Gordon Michael Woolvett, Peter Spence, David Fox, Ellen-Ray Hennessy, Carlo Rota, Keith Knight.....After accidentally killing a man while robbing a rare book, the thief (Hewlett) goes through various frustrating misadventures trying to deliver the book to his employer (his car breaks down, the book is absconded with, etc.) while his friends (Woolvett and Spence), with varying degrees of enthusiasm, attempt to dispose of the body. Slickly made black comedy with touches of whimsical surrealism (the book has mystic properties) is just an exercise in brutality, ugliness and unpleasantness masquerading as a comedy. The actors deliver good performances, particularly Hewlett and Spence (as his brother)...but they aren't necessarily comic performances. The movie sputters at times, threatening to light, with scenes that, if handled with more comic finesse, could be amusing, or a bit of existential dialogue that hints writer/director Grismer thinks he's doing something profound, but overall the movie leaves you wanting a shower. There are plenty of outrageous, black, taboo-busting funny comedies out there...this ain't one of 'em. Made under the auspices of the Canadian Fim Centre, which "teaches" up and comers how to make movies...but there's more to a film than knowing how to edit and light it properly. Shock comedian Tom Green appears briefly in one scene as the proprietor of a cyber-cafe. sc./dir: Chris Grismer. - violence.- 79 min.

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