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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.
The three leads were genuinely appealing with good on-screen camaraderie in this TV series, which went for a "Magnum P.I."-style mixture of humour and drama, but ultimately it just wasn't...riveting. Not terrible, but blah and not sufficiently well done or unique to really make it catch on. Ultimately it suffered from the same problem as a lot of American TV mogul Stephen J. Cannell's filmed-in-Vancouver series (Two, Street Justice): professional, but a little too generic. Best bets: "Caged Fury" using the old reliable 'corrupt cops in a small town' scenario and featuring Hossack in a more principal role. Created by Stephen J. Cannell and Steve Long Mitchell & Craig W. Van Sickle. Hour-long episodes, not shown nationally until 1996-1997 on Showcase!
THE COCKROACH THAT ATE CINCINNATI*
(1996) Alan Williams, Deborah Drakeford, Oliver Dennis.....A couple of amateur filmmakers decide to chronicle the eccentric ramblings of neurotic, British misfit (Williams). Entertaining, kinetically directed, lively comedy, essentially just a collection of monologues with the central character relating quirky anecdotes from his life and commenting on pop culture and Western Civilization. Williams' energetic and amusingly eccentric delivery, though initially fascinating, can actually be a bit exhausting, with the viewer struggling to keep up with him as the film progresses. And the movie never quite generates a narrative drive, despite the monologues progressing chronologically and a cute revelation near the end. As well, since the stories often veer off into absurdism, it's not always clear what's based on reality, and what's just silly, undermining some of the socio-political commentary. An enjoyable, amusing movie, but one that might play better being watched in instalments. Apparently this was director McNamara's second take on it, after his original footage was wrecked (allowing him to rethink the material in the interim). sc: Alan Williams (from his Cockroach trilogy of one man shows). dir: Michael McNamara. 92 min.
THE COCKTAIL PARTY *
* setting: other
(1960) Murray Matheson, William Hutt, Helena Hughes, Mary Savidge, Jane Mallett, Gillie Fenwick, Jeremy Wilkin.....Story of mores and infidelities among some upper middle class Britons. Black & white, staged for CBC version of the T.S. Eliot play doesn't seem to have aged well. It seems like an odd collision between completely separate ideas and even genres (sometimes realistic...sometimes surreal) that don't really form a satisfactory whole. The first part is the best, if a little overly written, focusing on characters and their soap opera-y relationships in the aftermath of a cocktail party...then it segues into a heavy handed sequence involving a psychiatrist, and final resolves with a bizarre conclusion involving martyrdom! Adapted by Desmond Scott. 83 min.
Comedy troupe Codco was given their own series and proceeded to produce real hit and miss sketches -- many of which benefitted from the relative uniqueness of a Newfoundland perspective. But, as so often happens, as the series went on the sketches became increasingly self-indulgent and unfunny, with the emphasis more on shock than humour and an odd fascination with American sketches (parodying U.S. pop stars and politicians more than Canadian ones). Even politically the series was inconsistent, sometimes being pointed, other times murky. Half-hour episodes originally on the CBC.
(2001) (/France) * * 1/2 Cameron Bancroft ("Ethaniel"), Ingrid Kavelaars ("Dr. Laura Keating"), Andrew Gillies ("David Banning"), Gordon Currie ("Dent"), Joseph Baldwin ("Byder"), Olivier Gruner ("Tawrens"), others......Science fiction/suspense set in contemporary America about an alien (Bancroft) -- initially suffering from amnesia, but from the planet Therian -- and a psychiatrist (Kavelaars) who continually seek to sabotage the world-destroying plans of another alien (Gillies), also a Therian, who masquerades as a respectable, big business man. Currie played the evil alien's chief henchman, a shape shifting android. Gruner was another alien who sided with the heroes and Baldwin a computer hacker who helped them.
This series is essentially cut from the same cloth as First Wave, with aliens, disguised as humans, engaged in secret plots, while lone wolf heroes seek to stop them, knowing no one in authority would believe them. And every episode is, well, kind of like every other episode, since you always know who the villain will turn out to be. Although that very repetition can, one supposes, give a series a clearly defined identity. The plots tended to be kind of thin, the stories repetitive (all flaws shared with First Wave), but there was a certain, low-key charm to the thing that First Wave doesn't quite have. The actors are genuinely ingratiating, and even villains Gillies and Currie are kind of fun in their movie serial malevolence. Not a great series, but an O.K. watch from time to time. And though set in the U.S., all the actors in this Canada-France co-production were either Canadian or European, save for Baldwin (and the occasional guest star like Billy Dee Williams).
Its biggest weakness was it's inability -- or unwillingness -- to articulate even its basic premise. TThis was on purpose early on, since even the heroes weren't entirely sure what was going on or why, but even later the series could be kind of hard to just drop into. It wasn't that the premise was particularly esoteric -- it just wasn't explained often (no voice-over during the opening credits telling us who was who). This lack of accessibility may have factored in to the series' short life. I believe it was cancelled after one season. The final episode ends kind of downbeat with the bad guys basically succeeding in unleashing their world destroying plan...presumably it was just intended to be a cliff hanger rather than the actual end of the series. Ah well. a.k.a. Codename: Eternity. 26 Hour long episodes, with the copyright date at the end of the episodes being 1999...but it didn't air nationally in Canada until 2001 on the Mystery Channel.
LE COEUR AU POING *
* 1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1998) Pascale Montpetit, Anne-Marie Cadieux, Guy Nadon, Guylaine Tremblay.....Young woman (Montpetit), feeling rootless and directionless, creates her own "game" wherein she goes up to perfect strangers and offers herself for one hour -- one hour in which she will do whatever they want. O.K. drama is slickly put together, boasting an intriguing, provocative premise, with nice performances from Montpetit and Cadieux (as her patronizing sister), but it doesn't quite live up to its full potential. Instead of getting insightful episodes exposing the Human Condition, a lot are just trivial vignettes, not entirely building to the denouement the movie's going for. Some good scenes (the security guard, the gay man) but even the heroine's motivation is a bit undeveloped. Not bad, but should've been better. A few too many sexual encounters (no, no, this isn't an erotic drama) which though probably realistic, doesn't really exploit this premise (if the filmmakers wanted to do that, why not just make her a prostitute, ala "Crimes of Passion"?). English title; Streetheart. sc: Monique Proulx, Charles Biname. dir: Charles Biname. - explicit sexual content, partial female nudity.- 97 min.
* * * setting: Ont.
(2012) Ryan Robbins, Zoie Palmer, William MacDonald, Sergio Di Zio, Merwin Mondesir, Husein Madhavji, Thomas Mitchell, Samantha Kaine.....Story of a hospitalized jewel thief (Robbins), the rookie cop guarding him (Palmer), the ruthlessly sociopathic leader of the jewel-robbing gang (MacDonald) and others hunting each other around a deserted wing of a hospital in a deadly game of cat and mouse. New filmmakers with limited budgets are always looking for that bravura "high concept" premise to make a splash: one that doesn't just rise above its budget, but actually embraces it, and the DVD shelves are littered with such self-conscious efforts. But sometimes...it comes together. Here the minimalist premise offers more twists and nuances than you might expect, thanks to characters with different temperaments, conflicting goals, and shifting alliances (so it's not just one hero being chased by a generic gang for 90 minutes). Clever, well-paced and well acted (by a cast of familiar faces), with MacDonald a particular stand out delivering a chillingly understated performance. There's even a theme about integrity that, in a refreshing defiance of modern cinematic convention, the filmmaker doesn't flinch from. Moments of extreme brutality are a bit jarring -- in part because those scenes are few -- though presented in a deliberately matter-of-fact way (perhaps as a slight Quentin Tarantino homage). In fact there's a surprisingly small body count overall! Worth a look. Trivia note: Robbins and Palmer once played lovers in the TV series The Guard. sc./dir: Jason Lapeyre. - extreme violence.- 86 min.
* * * setting: Sask.
(1989) Maury Chaykin, Margaret Langrick, Paul Gross.....Trapped in a blizzard, a travelling salesman (Gross) finds himself the "guest" of a strange man (Chaykin) and his daughter (Langrick) in the middle of nowhere. Atmospheric, well-acted artsy-thriller doesn't quite build the way it should, but still good. Won Best Adapted Script Genie. sc: Richard Beattie, L. Elliott Simms (from the play by James Gerrard). dir: Vic Sarin. - partial female nudity.- 90 min.
COLD FRONT *
(1989) Martin Sheen, Michael Ontkean, Beverly D'Angelo, Kim Coates, Yvan Ponton, Jan Rubes, Miguel Fernandes.....U.S. cop (Sheen) in B.C. and his Mountie partner (Ontkean) investigate a psycho killer involved in espionage. Thriller lacks suspense -- since the plot is explained in an opening prologue -- or interest -- since it's so derivative and badly done. The cultural undercurrents amount to nothing more than a few dumb jokes, rather than any difference in characterization. Sheen must've been desperate. sc: Sean Allan, Stefan Arngrim. dir: Paul Bnarbic. - violence.- 94 min.
* * 1/2 setting: Man.
(1975) Johnny Yesno, Buckley Petawabano, Chief Dan George, Alphonse Dorion, Guy L'Ecuyer, Denis LaCroix.....Story of a confused Native Indian teen (Petawabano) falling in the cracks between his erstwhile Cree culture and white society after spending years in a residential school, which leaves him neither one thing or the other. Years before Where the Spirit Lives was this less sensationalistic indictment of the Residential School system (no reference to abuse, just the flaws in the system itself). Oddly presented, relying a lot on narration by Yesno (playing the school's Ojibway janitor who befriends him) as though a documentary, and a bit rough and uneven. But ultimately kind of works thanks to its naturalism, its seeming authentic look at people and their culture, in a matter-of-fact way not usually depicted, and a sincere performance from Petawabano (of Adventures in Rainbow County). Yesno remains best know for the classic Wojeck episode, "The Last Man on Earth". '70s Canadian starlet (if Canada had stars) Sue Helen Petrie (a.k.a. Susan Petrie a.k.a. Sue Petrie) has a bit part as L'Ecuyer's daughter. sc: David B. Jones with George Pearson (story Martin DeFalco). dir: Martin DeFalco. 76 min.
The third season dumped everyone but Stewart from the cast and de-emphasized the whole "cold squad" concept, making it just another cop show, usually splitting the episodes into two stories: one an investigative piece, the other an action one with lots of running about and stakeouts in back alleys. Gone was the gritty, "just the facts, ma'am," ambience in favour of "colourfully" eccentric cops in designer fashions, soap opera-y interplay, chases, comic sub-plots (even to the point of bad taste)...and lame plots. The fifth season added Bennett, a welcome addition with his low-key intensity (kind of like a Canadian Kevin Spacey), and a new story concept: a single case, stretched over the entire season (interwoven with other, episode-by-episode cases).
Though initially cut from the same cloth as series like the U.S. "Homicide" and the British "Prime Suspect", it initially avoided the more odious cop show cliches (like right wing rants against pesky things like civil rights) with the stories mysteries with surprise endings, but it tended toward being a bit dry and housebound. Not bad, not great, but it was a respectable effort -- arguably one of the better shows to come out of Canada in the late '90s. At least, that was true of the first two seasons. But with most of the subsequent changes, the series seemed to be getting dumbed down...you can practically feel your brain shrinking as you watch. Too bad. And the fifth season single-case idea was mishandled; the series didn't bother with "previously on..." montages at the beginning of the episodes, so it was hard to even know what they were investigating or why if you missed the beginning of the season!
Like a lot of '90s Canadian series intended mainly for the Canadian market, it was made with looser restrictions than most U.S. series, indulging in some profanity and, occasionally even nudity (at least one scene in the 4th season involving the obligatory strip club with a brief glimpse of more -- or less -- than a bikini). Despite the series' constant efforts to reinvent itself hinting that it wasn't quite the success it wanted to be, it can be seen as having begat a whole trend of "gritty" crime dramas in Canada, preceding series like Da Vinci's Inquest and Blue Murder, as well as various TV movies. In 2003, American producers came out with the notably similar "Cold Case", leading to threatened legal action from the producers of "Cold Squad" (CTV didn't seem to mind, and happily carried both shows). Created by Matt MacLeod, Philip Keatley, Julia Keatley. Seven seasons of hour long episodes on CTV, and rerun on Showcase.
COLD SWEAT *
* 1/2 setting: Ont.
(1993) Ben Cross, Adam Baldwin, Shannon Tweed, Dave Thomas, Henry Czerny, Lenore Zann, Maria Del Mar.....A troubled hitman (Cross), haunted by a ghost (Zann), gets involved with a murder plot involving business partners (Thomas and Czerny) and the former's adulteress wife (Tweed). Suspenser benefits from a decent cast, clever twists, off-beat ideas and black humour. But it's a bit sluggish, with a thin story and undeveloped, unsympathetic characters (perhaps the influence of Prom Nights II and III's Ron Oliver -- who's given a consultation credit). Still, there's a surprisingly lot of sex and exposed flesh, with Tweed doing the lion's share, followed by Zann, but Czerny, Baldwin and even, very briefly, Del Mar doff some garments as well...all scenes extensively re-shot and edited for TV (even Canadian stations show the adulterated version) which, admittedly, hurt its interest-level. sc: Richard Beattie. dir: Gail Harvey. - partial female nudity and casual male nudity, sexual content, violence.- 93 min.
A COLDER KIND OF DEATH
* * *
(2001) Wendy Crewson, Victor Garber, Robin Dunne, Patrick McKenna, Cynthia Gibb, Terri Garr, Eric Peterson, Kari Matchett, Soo Garay.....Joanne Kilbourn (Crewson) investigates when someone is arrested for the 6-year old murder of her husband, and is himself subsequently murdered, hinting at a conspiracy involving her husband's old political cronies. Fourth made-for-CTV Kilbourn movie is arguably the best of the bunch so far, thanks, in part, to the more personal nature of the crime being investigated. see The Joanne Kilbourn Mysteries. sc: R.B. Carney, Andrew Wreggitt (from the novel by Gail Bowen). dir: Brad Turner. 89 min.
LE COLIS *
* setting: P.Q.
(2011) Emmanuel Bilodeau, Gildor Roy, Sylvie Léonard, Jean-Marie Corbeil, Evelyne de la Chenelière, Alice Morel-Michaud, Paul Doucet.....Story of a seeming successful businessman (Roy) whose gambling has brought him to the point of financial collapse, and a poor but good-hearted courier (Bilodeau) who is drowning in debts and losing his family, eventually leading to the courier having to kidnap the businessman. Bittersweet comedy has a gentle heart, some good ideas, and effective performances, particularly from Roy and Bilodeau. But seems to struggle to figure out how to milk a feature film out of it. The first half is, essentially, just establishing the situation, with some nice scenes (though not too many big laughs, per se) but also a lot of repetition. Then it becomes a different movie once the two men come together, turning into a quirky farce, leavened with some nice character moments...except still more amusing than hilarious, and again, feeling like they're struggling to fill the running time. The result feels like it could be a really good movie...instead of a movie with some really good elements. In French. a.k.a. Le COLI$. English title: Return to Sender. sc: Gaël D'Ynglemare, Jean-Marie Corbeil. dir: Gaël D'Ynglemare. 106 min.
* * setting: P.Q./USA.
(2001) Maude Guerin, Luc Picard, Lawrence Arcoutte, Charles-Andre Bourassa, Yves Jacques, Julie Menard, Yvan Ponton, Christian Begin, Alexis Martin, Francois Papineau.....Police detective (Guerin) investigates a grisly serial killer who murders his female victims, then steals their body parts, while also acting as a reluctant surrogate mom to some street kids (the cop, that is, not the serial killer). Suspense-thriller is ultimately a bit too slow moving (not to mention periodically gory and unsavoury), with the stuff involving the street kids more interesting than the serial killer plot. Doesn't really maintain tension...with even the climax seeming a bit anti-climactic, and with the whole movie just going on longer than it needs to. With its familiar aspects (a serial killer with a mother fixation and into taxidermy!) and its various disparate plot elements, it seems a bit like its subject matter...something cobbled together from parts of other stories. Even the intentions of the filmmaker are a bit vague, like when exactly are we supposed to guess who's who (and when are the characters supposed to guess, too). Picard is memorable as the villain. English title: The Collector. sc: Jean Beaudin, Chantal Cadieux (from the novel by Chrystine Brouillet). dir: Jean Beaudin. - extreme violence.- 125 min.
THE COLLECTOR see Le Collectionneur
(2004-2006) * * 1/2 Chris Kramer ("Morgan Pym"), Carly Pope ("Maya") (1st), Sonya Salomaa ("Maya") (2nd-), Ellen Dubin ("Jeri Slade") (-2nd), Christine Chatelain (2nd-), with Ona Grauer ("Katrina"), with Aidan Drummond, Colin Cunningham, Rick Tae ("Peter") .....Supernatural suspense-drama about a medieval monk (Kramer) who sold his soul to the Devil and now operates as the Devil's bag man in modern day Vancouver, collecting the souls of others who've made deals with the Devil and whose time is now up. The catch is, he's made another deal with the Devil, wherein he is given 48 hours to try and redeem the people and thereby nullify their deal. Pope plays his neighbour, a troubled ex-prostitute/junkie he's befriended and helping to reform -- her character "died" but made her own, secret deal, with the Devil, allowing her to come back in another body (Salomaa). Dubin played a suspicious investigative reporter who's autistic son (Drummond, looking eerily like a progeny of Donald Sutherland) seems to perceive more of the supernatural goings on than she does. Chatlelain plays her sister who, after Dubin's character was written out, assumed guardianship of Drummond's character. Grauer crops up in flashbacks as a peasant girl "Pym" loved, and the reason he sold his soul in the first place. Tae plays the autistic boy's teacher. The Devil appears as different sardonic actors each episode, but Cunningham recurs, in flashbacks, as the version with which the hero made his initial bargain (and also provides the introductory voice over). The gimmick is that the episodes don't have guaranteed happy endings. Sometimes he saves a soul, sometimes he doesn't; sometimes the people are good people who made a bad decision, other times, they turn out to be bad people.
This TV series was wildly promoted for its Canadianess -- though Canadians have been involved in many fantasy/SF series, some quite successful, this was one of the very few that was actually set in Canada, and with an all-Canadian cast. The basic premise seemed a little slapped together at times, borrowing shamelessly from past TV series such as the U.S. "Brimstone" (good guy reluctantly working for a sardonic Devil collecting souls) as well as Canadian ones like being a darker version of Twice in a Lifetime, even with shades of Matrix. Series that only ran one or two seasons -- wouldn't you think, if you were going to take your inspiration from something, it should be a successful something? The series started out rather uneven, often delivering slow, clunky episodes (supposedly spending 1.4 million per episode, but you'd never guess it), and with the basic logic of the premise not always consistent. But it improved as it went, delivering stronger stories, and with Kramer and Pope growing into their roles, both bringing a sincerity and humanity to their parts (though Pope, of course, was replaced by Salomaa). Though, like a lot of modern series (particularly fantasy/SF ones) it got increasingly bogged down in its back stories and sub-plots, making it a bit hard to just jump into for a casual viewer. However, the prominent roles given to guest stars made this an increasing rarity in modern TV...a series that provides a showcase for guest performers to strut their stuff. Initial reports suggested it was guaranteed for five seasons even before the first episode aired...but it was cancelled after only three. Ironically, Kramer, a practising Catholic, had some initial qualms about even accepting the part. Best bets: the one about a roboticist (played by Gabrielle Miller) for its stronger plot and ironic ending; the one with Winston Rekert as a loveable rogue for, well, Winston Rekert as a loveable rogue; the one about the political candidate played by Cameron Bancroft; others. Created by Jon Cooksey, Ali Marie Matheson. Three seasons of hour long episodes, shown on various CHUM affiliates, such as Space.
(2013) Kevin Zegers, Laurence Fishburne, Bill Paxton, Charlotte Sullivan, Atticus Mitchell, Dru Viergever, Julian Richings, John Tench, Michael Mando.....In a near-future ice age where remnants of humanity live in small underground colonies, members of one colony are sent to investigate when they lose contact with a neighbouring colony. Sci-fi horror is gritty and violent, but seems like a B+ version of a straight-to-DVD quickie. Briskly-paced, a (moderately) decent budget, and good performances, particularly Zegers and Fishburne -- and where the actors are allowed to play the scenes with nuances and reactions as opposed to just walking through them. But it's all in service of a generic, workmanlike story which you can map out ahead of time, from whose going to sacrifice themselves to who's the bad apple (good acting aside, beyond Zegers and American actors Fishburne and Paxton, there isn't much personality to the roles) to the Film 101 thematic undercurrents (about survivalism and the like). Why they needed four writers to cobble it together is a mystery, though might explain why there seem disparate threads that never quite develop into much (from the colony living in fear of potential epidemics, to Paxton as the aforementioned bad apple) as though each writer was contributing something but all they could really agree on was the core horror movie cliche. Still, an okay time killer. sc: Jeff Renfroe, Pascal Trottier, Patrick Tarr, Svet Rouskov (story Trottier, Tarr). dir: Jeff Renfroe. - extreme violence.- 94 min.
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