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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.
* * setting: P.Q.
(1993) Roy Dupuis, Elise Guilbault, Andree Lachapelle, Gilbert Sicotte, Macha Limonchik.....Troubled young man (Dupuis) returns to his family's rural inn where he seems to lust after his sister, mother and best friend, and they him. Handsome drama with decent performances and striking scenery is the kind of pic the word "pretentious" was made for. But it's more often silly than profound. In French with some English. sc./dir: Michel Langlois. - male nudity and brief female nudity.- 115 min.
CAPTAIN POWER AND THE SOLDIERS OF THE FUTURE (TV Series)
This ultra-militaristic TV series suffered from poor dialogue, thin plots -- even given its target audience -- and bland characters with largely so-so performances. The talented Steen gave the best performance, ironic since she later revealed she was so uninterested in the material that it was in her contract that she be killed at the end of the first year -- a moot clause since the show only lasted one season. Most of the scripts were provided by American writers, including Executive Story Consultant J. Michael Straczynski whose scripts showed none of the virtues of his later successful -- and ambitious -- U.S. SF series "Babylon 5". Straczynski would also be involved with the Canadian version of The Twilight Zone.
Noteworthy (or notorious) for its gimmick of inter-active television: toy guns could be bought by the viewer, and fired at the glowing chest panels of the bad guys. Not surprisingly, this Saturday afternoon show was criticized both for its violence and its merchandising. Created by Gary Goddard, Tony Christopher. Half-hour episodes, originally on Global.
(1998-1999) (/U.K./U.S./Germany/France/Spain) * * 1/2 voices of: Richard E. Grant ("Cap. Star"), Adrian Edmondson, Denica Fairman, Kerry Shale, Gary Martin.....Animated comedy that, if not "adult" per se (there was no racy subject matter, profanity, what have you), it was certainly adult friendly...and probably geared as much toward grown-ups as kids. Famous (and he knew it) spaceship commander, Captain Star, awaits his next assignment on a deserted planet...and waits, and waits. His crew: Scarlet, the science officer (and possibly a joke on the X-Files' Gillian Anderson), Jones, a nine-headed stoker, and navigator Black.
Essentially a British series, this was a wry, gently amusing science fiction comedy that might take an episode or two to adjust to, but was ultimately fairly engaging. Appealing theme music by John DuPrez. Created by Steven Appleby. Half-hour episodes on Teletoon.
* setting: P.Q.
(1998) (/U.S.) Richard Grieco, Marie-Josee Croze, Michele Greene, Paul Hopkins, Lawrence Arcouette.....American ad executive (American Grieco) in Montreal, desperate for money to pay court ordered debts, is drawn into a scheme by the local femme fatale (the beautiful Croze) to kidnap the son of their boss (American Greene, in a small part). Suspense drama is expensive looking and superficially slick, but kind of paint-by-numbers, lacking any real tension or enough plot complications. Nor do we see enough of the characters planning their crime to make it something of a caper flick. The characters don't quite convince either: Grieco's supposed to be a decent guy, pushed to the point of accepting this mad scheme, but he seems more pensive than desperate. One of the Tales of Intrigue. sc: Mark David Perry. dir: Matt Dorff. - partial female nudity, sexual content.- 94 min.
* 1/2 setting: USA
(1999) Erika Eleniak, Michael Ironside, Catherine Colvey, Stewart Bick, Jack Langedijk, Noel Burton, Larry Day, Adrienne Ironside.....After her husband's unsolved murder, a beautiful American widow (American Eleniak) voluntarily has herself institutionalized for depression, unaware of various (at times contradictory) schemes being plotted against her by sundry nogoodniks. Well-acted, oddly watchable suspenser, though it's not as cleverly twisty as it wants to be and the logic of the thing doesn't hold up to even a cursory scrutiny...and some humour might've helped (ala the U.S. film "Wild Things"). And only misguided Canadian filmmakers would consider it an acceptable character quirk to have Ironside's "good guy" cop be a wife-beater!!! Endless use of flashbacks seem intended solely to boost the running time. sc: Rodney Gibbons, Richard Stanford. dir: Roger Cardinal. 90 min.
CAPTIVE HEART: The James Mink
Story * * 1/2 setting: Ont./USA.
(1996) (/U.S.) Louis Gossett Jr., Kate Nelligan, Rachel Crawford, Ruby Dee, Peter Outerbridge, Michael Jai White, Winston Rekert, Eric Peterson, Brenda Bazinet, Wayne Robson.....Story of an 1852 black Toronto business man and his white wife (Gossett Jr. and Nelligan) who marry their reluctant daughter (Crawford) off to a seemingly respectable white man (Outerbridge) -- who immediately sells her into slavery in the southern U.S.; and of their daring rescue. O.K. made-for-TV drama is a little uneven but held together by Gossett's and Nelligan's strong performances. Still, it never quite becomes more than, well, an earnest TV movie. Suggested by a real incident. It received the Gemini for Best Cinematography. sc: Bryon White and Brian Bird & John Wierick. dir: Bruce Pittman. - sexual violence.- 91 min.
* * setting: other
(1987) (/Japan/U.S.) Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, Chris Makepeace, Mari Sato, Seth Sakai, Michael Sarrazin.....During W.W. II, two American pilots (Makepeace and Sarrazin) crash near a remote Japanese village under the control of a benevolent ex-soldier (Morita). They are taken prisoner and one of them falls in love. Dull and unconvincing tale that seems to borrow a lot from other films. Filmed in Quebec. sc: Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, John A. Kuri. d: Paul Almond. 97 min.
CARACARA a.k.a. The Last Witness
* 1/2 setting: other
(1992) Kyle McCulloch, Gosia Dobrowolska, Sarah Neville, Paul Cox, Brent Neale.....Period story of a European mountain village where everyone must be careful of the noise they make, lest it induces an avalanche: and of the various relationships, unrequited passions, secret incestuous desires, and family conflicts that lurk within. Third feature from Toles-Maddin is like the others: an atmospheric and technically impressive homage to, and parody of, early European silent movies (except it's in colour and with sound) done as if a poorly preserved print of an old film (with over-the-top performances, washed out images, scratches on the film, and sound glitches). Arguably their best work, it's a purple melodrama of lust and revenge (even borrowing a bit from Hamlet in the second half) told as if a dream like fairy tale, with a clever central metaphor of a town that must suppress things lest there's an avalanche. Moderately interesting, with a story that boasts twists and turns...though it goes on a bit too long. And the problem with the movie being partly a parody is that you can recognize the characters are saying and doing silly things...but that doesn't necessarily mean you're laughing. It actually works better if you take it at face value. Ultimately, once you've seen one Madden film, you've seen them all. In fact once you've seen ten minutes of one, you've basically seen the whole film, stylistically speaking, but this one has the best developed story and characterization of them. Nice performance from McCulloch. Jackie Burroughs has a small part as a Butler Academy instructor. sc: George Toles, Guy Maddin (story Toles). dir: Guy Maddin. - brief nudiy, extreme violence.- 99 min.
* setting: P.Q.
(1992) Michel Dumont, Genevieve Rioux, Guy Thauvette, Patricia Nolin, Lorne Brass, Nelson Villagra, Manuel Aranguiz.....Withdrawn man (Dumont) reluctantly spends the day with his daughter (Rioux) and her boyfriend (Thauvette) on their boat, but when a storm blows in...things take a slight turn toward the supernatural. Drama might have worked for a half-hour "Twilight Zone" episode, or even a feature film, if only it wasn't so ponderous and pumped full of its own self-importance. Slow and unduly pretentious...considering its slight idea. In French. sc: Michel Langlois, Francois Girard, dialogue by Langlois and Marcel Beaulieu. dir: Francois Girard. - brief female nudity.- 90 min.
* 1/2 setting: other
(1987) John Savage, Kara Glover, Stephen McHattie, Sam Malkin, Zack Nesis.....American-born British agent (Savage) trys to stop an arms dealer in the jungles of Belize with the help of the baddy's female ex-associate (Glover). The location is the star in this choppy, sloppy thriller. But neither the scenery, McHattie's performance as the villain, nor Maury Chaykin in a bit part can save it. sc: Paul Donovan. dir: Michael Kennedy. - extreme violence.- 90 min.
* setting: USA.
(2009) (/U.S.) Lou Diamond Phillips, A.C. Peterson, Vlasta Vrana, Dominic Cuzzocrea, Simone-Elise Girard, Joe Cobden, Dan Petronijevic.....A murderous monster escapes from a travelling carnivale, with both the local Sherrif (American actor Phillips) and the sinister owner of the carny (Peterson) trying to catch it. On one hand, not as bad as it could be: it's nice to see reliable Alan Peterson in a prominent role (and he seems to be giving more nuance to his part than the script expects), and the cast overall is competent enough (Phillips is okay, though Cobden, in a supporting role as his deputy, has fronted one or two films himself and might've made an effective everyman lead). There are some unexpected moments of quirky, human touches to the scenes -- and, hey, it's got a flying gargoyle as a monster so, y'know, cool! But like a lot of its ilk, plausibility isn't paramount (the characters only seem mildly curious as to what this creature is -- which, as mentioned, is a flying freakin' gargoyle!) and never really make us care about what's going on or what happens to these people (a romantic sub-plot is decidedly minor). A more intriguing subtext about prejudice and the town/carnivale schism pokes it's head out occasionally, but is too often glossed over for a generic creature feature plot. Somewhat gory for a TV movie -- remember when Space used to say it was a sci-fi channel, not a horror channel? And now flicks like this are its bread and butter! Alas. sc: Douglas G. Davis. dir: Sheldon Wilson. - extreme violence.- app. 90 min.
CARVER'S GATE a.k.a. Dream Breaker
A CASE OF LIBEL
* * * 1/2 setting: USA.
(1983) (/U.S.) Ed Asner, Daniel J. Travanti, Gordon Pinsent, Robin Gammell, Lawrence Dane, Chris Wiggins.....In the '50s, a U.S. newspaper columnist (Pinsent) sues a one-time friend (Travanti) for slanderous remarks which claim he's a communist. Strong performances all around, especially from Pinsent and Travanti, in this stagey-but-gripping, made-for-cable court-room drama. Inspired by a true story. Asner stars as Pinsent's lawyer. sc: Henry Denker (from the book My Life in Court by Louis Nizer). dir: Eric Till. 92 min.
THE CASE OF THE WHITECHAPEL
VAMPIRE * * * 1/2 setting:
(2002) (/U.S.) Matt Frewer, Kenneth Welsh, Shawn Lawrence, Neville Edwards, Michel Perron, Tom Rack, Cary Lawrence, Isabel Dos Santos.....Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (Frewer and Welsh) investigate when members of a London monastic order are being killed off...seeming by a vampire. Fourth teaming of Frewer and Welsh as Holmes and Watson is the first not actually adapted from any source story, and it works surprisingly well. In fact, it's arguably the best of the batch. These Sherlock Holmes TV movies work because everyone seems to be having fun doing them, and have translated that fun to the viewer; not stodgy and earnest, but fruity and enthusiastic, with director Gibbons investing this entry with enough of a spooky mood to make it a fun, Halloween treat (though CanWest-Global first aired it in August -- and it's set during Christmas, suggesting they were hoping it could be an annual staple of one kind or another). It veers toward deliberate camp...but puts on the breaks before it crosses that line, with scenes between Fewer and Edwards, as an enigmatic naturalist, particularly well played with a dramatic nuance. Even the fake bats -- a notoriously difficult special effect throughout film history -- aren't bad. There's even a hint of more serious, modern "issues" by touching on racism and evironmentalism. The main quibble is that writer-director Gibbons doesn't give the viewer access to all the relevant clues, making it a bit of a cheat. And with all those monks, it's hard to keep the names straight to remember who's who. But all in all, a highly enjoyable romp. sc./dir: Rodney Gibbons. 88 min.
Ironically, after only a few years on the air, APTN seems to be proving itself more commited to original programming than a lot of other cable stations, with this just one of a few series airing. This boasts an interesting, and culturally rooted premise (ie: Indian casinos) and can kind of be viewed as a low rent version of the US series, "Casino". But it is low rent, feeling a bit cheap and low-budget, and ultimately feels more light- hearted than actually funny. And though they've assembled a group of diverse characters...they've failed to make them particularly endearing characters. Even Gould's character -- surely the series' moral centre -- isn't especially involving. I don't mean you hate them, per se, merely you don't necessarily care about them, which means you can find yourself observing the actions...but not becoming involved in them. Still, it's one of those series that teeters on the edge and maybe with a few more episodes under its belt to smooth out the rough spots... And the series boasts an admirable pluralism, not only with its mix of Native and white actors, but Holness is basically supposed to be be the outsider from "white" society...but she's actually black. Half hour episodes on APTN.
THE CAT IN THE BAG see Le
chat dans le sac
Largely overlooked gem of a TV series mixed urban grittiness with solid drama and quirky, intelligent humour all presented with a really laid-back ambience. An effective, human series with characters -- thanks to the extremely engaging and personable cast -- who you cared about. Set, more-or-less, in the United States, and, ironically, ceased production because the Americans lost interest...though, supposedly, a second season was filmed (with some cast changes) but to my knowledge it has yet to air in Canada. Despite being on the "Youth" network, this was a decidedly adult series. Interestingly, Taylor's character was supposed to be the product of mixed parentage (Chase is black, Bazinet white), which may well be one of the first times a (grown up) character in a weekly series was supposed to be the product of such a liason; TV had depicted interracial relationships, but, bizarre as it may seem, the result of such a relationship seemed to be a taboo for the longest time (another Canadian series, 9B, is another series that comes to mind featuring a mixed race character). Created by Alan Levy. Original songs composed by Orin Isaacs and Rupert Gayle. 24 hour long episodes on YTV.
CAUGHT IN THE HEADLIGHTS
* * 1/2
(2005) Erika Eleniak, Kim Coates, Brigitta Dau, Erin Gray, Stacy Keach, Stephen Huszar.....F.B.I. agent (Eleniak) sent to escort a spunky fugitive (Dau) back to the U.S. from the small town to which she'd fled, finds she claims she's innocent...and assassins are trying to kill them! It's easy to get cynical about straight-to-video, low-budget thrillers...but sometimes, you shouldn't. 'Cause this is actually a decent little effort, livened up with humour, a few story twists, some quirky ideas (Gray and Keach as an old married couple assassin duo) and some deeper-than-expected characterization and relationships. Maybe doesn't quite jump the bar, hamstrung by budget problems (including some clumsy action scenes) and not really generating edge-of-the-seat suspense, but certainly an agreeable watch. Coates does good in a change-of-pace role as a more sympathetic, albeit enigmatic, character than he usually plays. A nice score by Harry Manfredini. Still, I've often remarked how so many Canadian filmmakers are loathe to acknowledge their Canadianess on camera...and here's one of the most bizarre examples. The movie is set in a North American-looking small town where everyone has North American English accents and it's not the USA (as the character is being extradited) -- so there's really only one country it could be, right? And yet the filmmakers still manage to go through an entire film making no references to "Canada". Logically the movie has to be set in Canada...but they never acknowledge that on screen. Eleniak, Gray and Keach are all American. sc: Glyn Brock, Jerrold W. Lambert. dir: Gavin Wilding. - violence.- 91 min.
THE CELESTIAL MATTER *
* setting: other
(1987) Doug Bagot, Harold Jones, Ken DeLisle, Peter Spencer, Earl Billman .....In the middle-ages, an Italian astronomer (Bagot) is tried for heresy before a religious tribunal for claiming the earth revolves around the sun. Off-beat, low-budget little drama is audacious (considering its budget) and not without its moments, but ultimately it's a bit draggy (even considering the short running time) and not much more than the synopsis. Filmed in Manitoba. sc./dir: John Kozak. - violence.- 65 min.
* * * 1/2 setting: P.Q./other
(2008) Christine Ghawi, Enrico Colantoni, Jodelle Ferland, Peter MacNeill, Louise Pitre, Mac Fyfe, Natalie Radford.....Story of singer Celine Dion, from her working class childhood to her international stardom, and chronicling her evolving relationship with her older manager (Colantoni). Dion is a mega star singer, and her life had ups and downs, but not necessarily much that screams for a dramatization, suggesting a flick mainly of interest to her existing fandom. But this made-for-CBC TV movie is -- surprisingly -- quite compelling even for those who've barely heard Dion sing a note, even making the central romance plot affecting, and with good performances all around. Ghawi (in her first major role) injects a lot of feisty charisma into her adult Dion -- even if she does sometimes look a little distractingly like a (prettier) Andrea Martin! Even without Dion's official participation, this is a puff piece...but it avoids being too cloyingly fawning. Ironically, hardcore Dion fans seem to be those most critical of it (like many "docudramas", it plays a bit loose with details). Granted, it's a bit odd to do a bio-pic about a French-Canadian star in which few of the actors are Francophone (and the movie glosses over any career decisions a performer might make in trying to crossover from a French to an English market), Credit where credit is do: so props to scripter Martin, more than a few of whose films I've dissed on this site over the years! sc: Donald Martin. dir: Jeff Woolnough. app. 90 min.
* * 1/2 setting: CDN.
(2002) Joel Bissonnette, Lindy Booth, Colm Feore, David Hewlett, Sandrine Holt, Janet Kidder, Mia Kirshner, Chantal Kreviazuk, Eugene Lipinski, Raine Maida, Tom McCamus, Earl Pastko, Russell Yuen, Aron Tager, voice of Jeremy Ratchford.....Various stories from different 20th Century time periods are intercut, played out in the same hotel room. Drama boasts a brisk tempo, fine performances, and smart, crisp dialogue, making for a moderately enjoyable watch. But as is often the case with these multi-plot type movies (that have become the rage with modern Canadian filmmakers), it can seem a bit, well, lazy at times. By telling "mini" movies, the plot and characterization of each individual story is often pretty rudimentary. None of the stories are that strong or interesting on their own. Kirshner seems to spend most of her scenes in various stages of undress (Booth also doffs some garments, as do some of the guys). Nice closing song by real life singers (and couple) Kreviazuk and Maida. sc: David Weaver, Bridget Newson. dir: David Weaver. - partial female nudity, sexual content, casual male nudity, violence.- 97 min.
CEREMONY see Spenser: Ceremony
CERRO TORRE a.k.a. Scream of Stone
A Certain Mr. Takahashi, a novel by Ann Ireland, became the film The Pianist
Certain Practices *
* * setting: Ont.
(1979) Richard Monette, Alan Scarfe, David Gardner, Philip Akin, Susan Hogan.....A doctor (Monette) struggles with the ethics of medical experimentation when a colleague's botched operation results in the patient's death. Gritty, authentic hour-long drama, well directed and acted. Made for the For the Record series. sc: Ian Sutherland. dir: Martin Lavut.
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