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.

(2007-2008)  * * Ordena Stephens "Novelette Campbell", Trey Anthony "Joy Campbell", Richard Fagon "Nigel", Ngozi Paul "Starr", with Conroy Stewart "Dre" .....Comedy-drama set at a small Carribean-Canadian hair salon in downtown Toronto. Stephens plays the level-headed owner of the shop; Anthony her irresponsible sister; Fagon the womanizing hairdresser; Paul the more repressed apprentice. Stewart plays "Novelette"'s son, only recently come to stay with her. 

Derived from a successful stage play (and following in the heels of other black-themed stories set at barber shops, such as the British "Desmond's", and the Hollywood movies "Barbershop") Da Kink suffers -- as some other series have before it --- from a lack of focus at its very core. Essentially, it's meant to be a dramedy, a term initially coined to denote something that straddles being both a comedy and a drama, but too often results in series that are neither very funny, nor that effective as dramas. Here the scripts lean more towards being light dramas...but the presentation too often leans towards the broadness of a sitcom, with largely ineffective results. The episodes try hard to cram a lot into their half hour -- including throwing in flashbacks to a customer-of-the-week's private life (as if "Novelette" can almost mystically read that person's pain while cutting her hair) -- and it can seem like too much. Stephens and Anthony are good, but many of the other actors are more uneven and, as mentioned, the needed tone of the performances (is it a broad comedy or a subtle drama?) isn't really settled on. 

An awkward sub-plot also has "Starr" be secretly infatuated with "Nigel", even as she publicly criticizes his philandering ways -- it's done almost as though it's supposed to generate "will they/won't they" romantic tension but, as such, just seems to condone and glamourize the very stereotype (promiscuous black man always on the make) her character ostensibly criticizes. Billed as Canada's first all black series...but, depending on your point of view, in 21st Century Canada is that a healthy thing to have any series be "all" one ethnicity -- previous "black" series in Canada (Lord Have Mercy, Drop the Beat) usually had a few token non-black characters, just as most "white" series usually make the effort to include non-white regulars. Still, the second season reflected a greater sense of pluralism and multi-culturalism (the story about the white mother with the black daughter who wanted straight hair was even kind of touching by the end). Developed for TV by co-stars Paul and Anthony. Two seasons of half-hour episodes on CanWest-Global. 



(1998)  * 1/2  Greg Thomey ("Ernie Post") with Richard Donat ("Charles"), John Nowlan.....Satire of TV lifestyle/interview shows with Thomey as the inept host fumbling his way through interviews and Donat as the resident chef, broken up with pantomime sketches (that tended to really drag). Nowlan provided the voice of the announcer.

This TV series was probably conceived on the basis of how to make a sitcom really, really cheaply...unfortunately, though not horrible, it boasted few real laughs. Much better series have been fashioned around a similar premise from American shows like "Buffalo Bill" (which was a more conventional sitcom, taking the viewer behind the scenes into the characters' personal lives) to "Night Stand" (a short-lived parody of tabloid TV: like Daily Tips... it had basically one set, and an inept host interviewing "guests") to the Canadian Red Green Show (which also had pantomime segments). 6 half-hour episodes on the CBC.

DAMES GALANTES  * 1/2  setting: other
(1989) (/France/Italy) Richard Bohringer, Isabella Rosselini, Marianne Basler, Marie-Christine Barrault, Robin Renucci, Ann Letourneau, Alain Doutey .....In 1500s France, soldier Brantome (Bohringer) finds he would much rather reflect on all the women he has loved than fight. Choppy, episodic serio-comic pic -- in which even the episodes seem choppy and episodic -- leaves one entirely unsure why it was even made. The politics, too, will be confusing to those unfamiliar with the period. English titles: Romantic Ladies and Galant Ladies. sc: Jean-Charles Tacchella, Jacques Emmanuel. dir: Jean-Charles Tacchella. - sexual content, partial female nudity.- 103 min.

DAN CANDY'S LAW a.k.a. Alien Thunder

(2010-2011)  * * * ... * * 1/2  Fred Ewanuick ("Dan Phillips"), Mary Astor ("Claire"), Paul Bates ("Jeff"), Benjamin Ayres ("Mike"), Suzanne Coy ("Anita") (1st), Laurie Murdoch ("Alan Duffy"), Agam Darshi ("Brianna") (1st), David Ferry ("Fern"), Lara Jean Chorostecki ("Charlie") (1st) .....Comedy about a slacker-loser (Ewanuick) who spontaneously decides to run for mayor of his home town (the fictional Wessex, Ontario). Astor plays his ex-girlfriend, a successful publicist; Bates his level headed best friend reluctantly recruited as his campaign manager; Ayres plays "Claire"'s coporate climbing fiancee; Coy and Murdoch rival candidates, she a no nonsense small businesswoman, he the current deputy mayor; Darshi plays "Anita"'s pretty niece; Ferry the spaced out owner of the pub where "Dan" works, and Chrorostecki the snarky waitress. With the second season, "Dan" was now mayor. Admittedly, you (probably) couldn't keep a series going year after year set during an election, but the new dynamic maybe hurt it a bit -- oh, the series remains reasonably clever and witty, but lacks some of the freshness of the first season being now just another series about a politician navigating the system. "Dan" is, by default, no longer really the underdog. Murdoch was still around, now acting as "Dan"'s aide, and "Dan" was now back with his ex (with "Mike" now the pining ex) and "Jeff" took over running the bar, with Ferry's appearances more irregular...and Coy, Darshi and Chorostecki gone entirely. 

One of two sitcoms hoping to ride the wave of post-Corner Gas (the other being Hiccups) -- this one stars former Gas-er Ewanuick, and was created by guys who had worked on that previous hit series. And the initial result -- was very funny. A nice "concept" premise, with agreeable characters played by personable actors, with just enough shading to give (most of them) dimension and nuance beyond simply delivering a gag. Bates is arguably the stand out, delivering a drily funny turn as a "straight man". The first season plots were interesting, and the dialogue clever, mixing low-key "amusing" bits, with out and out silliness (and occasional black humour) -- not unlike Corner Gas itself, but arguably smarter and more ambitious. Farrell and the co-creators seem to like words, making for some clever phrasings and use of language. Unfortunately, the second season wasn't as strong, lacking the energy and freshness of the first season -- still amusing and clever, but often seeming to be struggling a bit to fill out the running time with rather minor plot lines. It was cancelled after its second season, though probably less because of any consensus that it wasn't as strong, and more simply its failure to improve on the first season ratings (as well as a general house cleaning at the network). Created by Mark Farrell, Paul Mather, Kevin White. Two seasons of half-hour episodes on CTV. 


Dan Redican Comedy Hour  * * *
(1993) Dan Redican, Paul Greenberg, Maria Vacratsis, Sheila McCarthy, Deborah Theaker, Dana Brooks.....Hour long sketch comedy featuring ex-Frantic Redican in his first TV special. Funny, inoffensive show proves that Redican is one of this country's most underrated comedians. It works thanks to the succinct, slightly surrealistic sketches and the fact that Redican and co. underplay...unlike so many in this country who feel that mugging is an art-form. sc: Dan Redican, with Tim Burns, Terry Saltsman, Carol Commisso. dir: Perry Rosemond.

THE DANCE GOES ON * 1/2  setting: P.Q.
(1992) Matthew James Almond, James Keach, Bryan Hennessey, Cary Lawrence, Louise Marleau, Elton Hayes, Genevieve Bujold.....Man (Keach) tries to aquaint his materialistic, L.A.-raised son (Almond) with his heritage on a trip to Gaspe. Seemingly from the heart, this drama -- reminiscent of Isabel, but lighter in tone -- is trite, obvious and clumsy, with the actors, both professional and non-professional, never convincing and the film more a travelogue than a drama. Actor Almond is the son from the one-time marriage between the director and Bujold (in a couple of cameos). And since there are obvious parallels to the director's life, implying that it's mainly the mother's fault seems a little mean-spirited. sc./dir: Paul Almond. 104 min.

DANCE ME OUTSIDE  * *  setting: Ont.
(1994) Ryan Black, Adam Beach, Lisa LaCroix, Michael Greyeyes, Kevin Hicks, Jennifer Podemski, Sandrine Holt, Herbie Barnes.....Life on an Ontario Indian reserve as viewed by a couple of happy-go-lucky teens (Black and Beach), with love, Native rights, and the murder of a local girl that leads to plans of revenge. Comedy-drama was critically praised (but then, what isn't in Canada?) but is ultimately pretty slight. The comedy rarely becomes more than obvious, let alone clever, and the drama, despite serious topics, remains emotionally unrealized -- and downright scarey, if you take its matter-of-fact approach to vigilantism seriously. Adapted from a collection of short stories, which could explain its lack of focus, and the fact it was turned into the series The Rez could explain its lack of character development: it's little more than a TV episode disguised as a feature film. sc: Bruce McDonald, Don McKellar, John Frizzell (from the book by W.P. Kinsella). dir: Bruce McDonald. 85 min.

DANCING IN THE DARK * *  setting: Ont.
(1986) Martha Henry, Neil Munro, Rosemary Dunsmore, Richard Monette .....Obsessive house-wife (Henry) builds her world around her husband (Munro), then goes crazy when she finds he's not all she thought he was. Interesting idea and well directed but over-long, repetitive and lacking an interesting protaganist. Henry is excellent and Munro fine in a supporting role. Won Best Actress Genie (Henry) and Adapted Script. sc./dir: Leon Marr (from the novel by Joan Barfoot). - sexual content.- 98 min.


(1984-1989) (/U.S.)  * * 1/2   Donnelly Rhodes ("Grant 'Doc' Roberts"), Deborah Wakeham ("Joyce Carter") (1st), Susan Walden ("J.J. Duval") (2nd-), Christopher Crabb ("Jonah"), Ocean Hellman ("Nicole"), Michele B. Chan ("Donna Chen"), Hagan Beggs ("George Dunbar").....Family drama/adventure about a Vancouver-based Marine biologist and single father (Rhodes). Crabb and Hellman played his kids and the family had a pet otter named Danger. Wakeham played a bush pilot/love-interest, replaced by Walden as...a bush pilot/love interest. Chan was a fellow biologist and Beggs their boss.

O.K. TV series became better as it went along, with a willingness (surprisingly) to deal honestly and seriously with the everyday problems and conflicts of family life. Created by Peter Dixon, Paul Saltzman. Co-produced with the U.S. Disney Company. Half-hour episodes.

(1998) Andrea Roth, Linden Ashby, Rae Dawn Chong, Ian Tracey, Aaron Pearl, Ian Marsh, Paul McGillion, Maria Delver.....A female executive (Roth) takes a walk on the wild side, becoming involved with a mysterious and dangerous man, while also sort of seeing a more staid co-worker -- all the while murders are occurring around her. Enjoyable suspense-drama with good performances from all the principals (including American import Ashby), and a reasonably good tempo that keeps the thing from bogging down...despite the fact that there's nothing really new or even always plausible here. The movie hinges on an obvious twist, yet it's unclear whether it's meant to be a surprise or not! Roth is fine, but this is an "erotic" thriller...and she, apparently, doesn't do nude scenes. So it's an erotic thriller where all of the star's flashes of flesh are a body double! sc: Michael Hamilton-Wright. d. Penelope Buitenhuis. - sexual content, partial female nudity, violence. - 95 min.

A DANGEROUS METHOD * * 1/2   setting: other
(2011) (/Germany/U.K.) Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbinder, Sarah Gadon, Vincent Cassel.....Early 20th Century story of pioneering psychoanalyst Carl Jung (Fassbinder) and his relationships with patient/colleague/mistress Sabina Spielrein (Knightley) and Sigmund Freud (Mortensen). Drama is well enough acted and with some good scenes...but can feel oddly structured, as though they had various incidents and trivia they wanted to include for historical significance (from references to Jung's interest in parapsychology to Cassel in a small part as colleague, Otto Gross), weren't sure how to shape them into a shot them anyway and hoped to stitch it together in the editing room. The result can feel like an assortment of scenes, set pieces, and monologues, kind of like "Thirty-Two Short Films About Carl Jung" (that's a reference). All of which presumably reflects the work's origin as a stage play. The result -- perhaps appropriate for a film about psychiatrists and typical of director Cronenberg's aloof style -- is a movie that can feel overly cerebral...while missing out on really exploring the human emotions underneath. You can come away ambivalent about the characters and, for a movie about the pioneers of a school of medical thought, kind of vague on the technobabble (perhaps because, at this point in their careers, psychoanalysism has already become more accepted). Of the cast, only Gradon, as Jung's wife, is Canadian. Received five Genies including for Best Supporting Actor (Mortensen). sc: Christopher Hampton (from his stage play, "The Talking Cure", and the book A Most Dangerous Method by John Kerr). dir: David Cronenberg. - sexual content, partial female nudity.- 99 min.

DANGEROUS OFFENDER * * * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1996) Brooke Johnson, Sara Botsford, Patricia Gage, David Fox, Tracey Moore, Maurice Godin, James B. Douglas.....Story of Marlene Moore (Johnson), a troubled woman who'd spent most of her life in jail, and focusing on her period of incarceration while fighting the Crown's attempt to have her declared a dangerous offender and locked up indefinitely -- the first woman to be so labelled -- despite the fact that she had never committed a serious crime. Johnson's brilliantly mesmerizing, uncompromising performance of a truly damaged person combine with a seeming genuine empathy for their subject by Cole & Dale (who both knew the real Moore) to make this a notch or two above most made-for-TV true stories. Eric Peterson appears, unbilled, as a sympathetic psychiatrist. Johnson deservedly received the Best Actress Gemini. Aired on the CBC. sc: Janis Cole. dir: Holly Dale. - violence, casual female nudity.- 92 min.

DANS LE VENTRE DU DRAGON* 1/2   setting: P.Q.
(1989) David La Haye, Remy Girard, Michel Cote, Marie Tifo, Monique Mercure, Pierre Curzi, Jean-Louis Millette.....Poor man (La Haye) volunteers to be a guinea pig at a strange research centre (headed by Mercure) and his buddies (Girard and Cote) decide to rescue him. Yves Simoneau, the king of style-over-substance, triumphs again with this visually striking, incredibly boring film. The elements of comedy, drama, suspense, SF and social commentary in other hands could have made a brilliant film. Too bad. English title: In the Belly of the Dragon. sc: Pierre Revelin, Marcel Beaulieu, Yves Simoneau. dir: Yves Simoneau.

THE DARK  * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1994) Stephen McHattie, Cynthia Belliveau, Jaimz Woolvett, Neve Campbell, Dennis O'Connor, Brion James.....A creature living below a U.S. cemetery, able to both cure and kill, draws together various characters, including a scientist (McHattie) who wants to capture it. The good news is that this low-budget suspenser is more original than most Canadian made quickies, with a strong streak of humanity (reflected in the absence of graphic violence), attempts at humour and a largely respectable cast. The bad news is that it's still about a half-dozen rewrites away from being any good. McHattie's still in search of that great movie vehicle. sc: Robert C. Cooper. dir: Craig Pryce. - violence, brief female and male nudity, sexual content.- 87 min.

Dark Eyes  * *  setting: USA.
(1994) (/U.S.) Kelly McGillis, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Roy Dupuis, Kenneth Welsh, Ron White, Michael Copeman.....American police woman (McGillis) takes charge of a disgruntled task force whose last case got an officer killed. Hour long pilot that never became a series, and it's not hard to see why. Not atrocious, but dull and confusing. Imports McGillis and Kelly (as her ex) get most of the lines. It may have been inspired a little by the British series "Prime Suspect" (also about a woman cop heading an all male squad). Shown in Canada on CTV. sc: Wayne Grigsby, Barbara Samuels. dir: Nancy Savoca.

Dark Horse  * 1/2  setting: Alt.
(1991) Christianne Hirt, Wayne Robson, Catherine Disher.....After her own mount is hurt, an equestrian rider (Hirt) is given a second chance with a difficult horse -- and the challenge to prepare it for the Olympics. They say truth is stranger than fiction, but not if this hour long, fact based drama is anything to judge. Dull and flat, with (surprisingly) only so-so performances.

(2015-)  * * *  Marc Bendavid. ("One"), Melissa O'Neil ("Two"), Anthony Lemke ("Three"), Alex Mallari, Jr. ("Four"), Jodelle Ferland ("Five"), Roger R. Cross ("Six"), Zoie Palmer (android), others......Science fiction about a group of people who wake aboard a space ship with no memory of who they are (they take to calling themselves by the order in which they awoke). They quickly learn they are allegedly a rag tag group of wanted criminals and mercenaries (each with secrets)...and are faced with the mystery of who and why their memories were wiped (and whether one of them was responsible). Bendavid plays the guileless conscience of the group; O'Neil the default captain; Lemke the roguish self-interested one; Mallari the taciturn battle-hardened one; Ferland the guileless teenage computer expert; Cross the level-headed one; Palmer plays the ship's on board android.

This aired just a week before Killjoys, another Canadian-made sci-fi series set in outer space (at a time when much TV sci-fi is budget-restricted to contemporary earth) and with both utilizing a kind of grungy galactic civilization of rich/poor factions and mercenaries. And like Killjoys it was Canadian in conception (as opposed to being based on an American source properly -- though the creators test drove the property first as an American comic book) and from creators with past Canadian sci-fi TV credits: in this case, the StarGate franchise. And if you like to look for precedents, the premise is (vaguely) evocative of the earlier Canadian-made SF series, Deepwater Black. Like Killjoys this series is attempting an ambitious, big-budget premise on, presumably, a limited budget (here relying a lot on ship-based episodes with the set characters). It has a perfectly good cast, mixing familiar veterans like Lemke and relative newcomers like O'Neil (a stage actress marking her first major film/TV work) and many with "genre" credits giving them a slight catchet appeal for sci-fi fans. And the series doesn't stint on the mysteries and puzzles-within-puzzles (presumably inspired by American series like "Lost"). But arguably there can be too much emphasis on mysteries (where it's all headed) at the expense of the plots-of-the-week (the now). Initially it was hard to care too much about the characters (since even they didn't really know who they were) with too much repetition, but unsurprisingly it improved as the first season progressed, the characters and relationships developing a bit.

There is definitely a StarGate vibe to the show -- to good or ill effect. Good, as StarGate proved a remarkably enduring TV franchise with a huge fandom -- ill because if you weren't a fan of those shows, this is cut from the same cloth. Competent but unexceptional execution and a mix of drama and wisecracking humour that can just pool in the middle, and a fairly middle brow approach (despite a premise that could be rife with themes of existential angst and identity and perception). In a way, you could argue in the Dark Matter/Killjoys comparison -- Dark Matter is "Star Wars" (with its slightly broader characters and themes) and Killjoys is "Star Trek" (slightly more grounded with more "real" characters). Created by Joseph Mallozzi, Paul Mullie. Hour-long episodes shown in Canada on Space. - violence.-  


(2016)  * * 1/2  various .....Suspense/horror anthology utilizing a linking thread of technology (CCTV surveillance, cell phones and the internet -- and a mysterious website, The Darknet, which many of the characters log onto in the stories). It's not explicitly "supernatural" (which is more common with TV thriller anthologies) so much as it's just creepy and macabre (with a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek).

A long time problem with anthology series is that often the stories feel stretched to fill the running time, and more focused on building to an obligatory twist ending than fleshing out the characters or the plot. Darknet tries a way around that by intertwining two or three stories in an episode. Although that makes the plots tight and focused, they can feel even more reduced to just a set-up/twist ending. They're like dramatized Urban Legends rather than fully developed stories -- and often not really holding up to any questions about logic or motivation. Another gimmick is how the stories/characters will cross paths with each other in an episode (or even over different episodes, meaning some episodes should be viewed in their proper order to each other). It's a tactic that was maybe meant to suggest a larger story arc was being unfolded. But cancelled after the one season of six episodes, if so it never saw fruition.

Though based on an original Japanese series, another unusual aspect to the series was that it actually admitted it was set in Canada (specifically Toronto) with a Canadian cast. Over the years Canadian producers have been involved in many horror/sci-fi anthology series, but this may well be the first one to actually admit it's Canadian setting (as opposed to pretending to be set in the U.S.) and not to bother importing Hollywood actors to headline. Indeed, part of the fun is seeing the likes of Cara Gee, James McGowan, Jeananne Goossen, David Hewlett, and others fronting an unpretentious horror anthology. The end result is worth a look-in if you're in the mood for a bit of macabre cheesiness, the episodes unlikely to test your patience (thanks to the short plots within the already short running time) -- but without really coalescing into anything as compelling or involving as a Canadian equivalent of Rod Serling's original Twilight Zone. Made for cable, it contains some graphic gore -- but not consistently (even if the themes and ideas are more creepy). 6 half-hour episodes first aired on SuperChannel and later Netflix Canada. - extreme violence.-  

DARK STORM  * 1/2  setting: USA
(2006) (/U.S.) Stephen Baldwin, Ron LaBelle, Gardiner Millar, Camille Sullivan, Keegan Connor Tracy, William B. Davis, Carrie Genzel.....American scientists experimenting with Dark Matter energy accidentally set off rogue energy storms, and the lead scientist (American actor Baldwin) gets imbued with mysterious abilities...and bad guys are trying to steal their research. Despite all that going on...this still ends up a frustratingly dull, static made-for-TV flick. Scientific implausibility is the least of the problems here, despite a premise that, on paper, might've made a fun B-movie romp. One of those movies where you can't decide where the root fault lies: poor script, poor direction, or some poor performances -- some of the actors are okay (LaBelle, Sullivan, etc.) but others not so much, notably Baldwin who seems a little like he's on tranquilizers. But ultimately each weighs down the other (maybe a more dynamic star would've energized the dialogue -- maybe a better script would've kindled the actors' enthusiasm). sc: Sean Malcolm, Brett Schneider, John Cherfer, Jason Bourque. dir: Jason Bourque. - violence; sexual content.- app. 90 min.

THE DARK SIDE OF THE HEART see El Lado Oscuro Del Corazon

DARKNESS FALLING * 1/2  setting: USA
(2001) (/U.K.) Janet Kidder, Paul Johansson, Jason Priestley, Patsy Kensit.....After her twin dies under suspicious circumstances, a straight-laced lawyer (Kidder) discovers she lived a kinky S&M lifestyle, and is alternately repulsed by, and attracted to, that sub-culture. Dull suspense-drama has a pretty familiar premise but takes so long between the "suspense" bits, it seems more like it wants to be just a drama, but doesn't actually develop its characters enough to succeed, nor does it really seem as though the filmmakers put much effort into understanding their kinky sub-culture. It's definitely just there for lurid titilation...but not enough so to actually makes this an erotic drama. And the climax is handled so sillily, it seems almost a spoof! A twist to the whole twin thing and the killer's motive is nice and Kidder and Johansson (as her fiance) are certainly capable enough. Filmed cheaply on video tape. One of those movies where you can recognize Toronto newspaper boxes, streetcars, and even glimpse a Canadian flag in one shot...yet it still throws in a lingering close up of U.S. flag emblazoned over an American eagle during a brief scene at a police station! Right, like it would've been a worse movie if it admitted it was set in Canada (I'm not sure that's possible). sc: Colin D. Simpson, Bradley Simpson, and Wilson Coneybeare (story Kate Hole, Sheldon Inkol). dir: Dominic Shiach. 91 min.

THE DARKSIDE  *  setting: Ont.
(1987) Tony Galati, Cindy (Cyndy) Preston, Peter Read, John Tench, Charles Loriot.....Cabbie (Galati) becomes involved with a girl (Preston) who's on the lam from some thugs. Weak performances in this badly made and muddled thriller. sc: Allan Magee, Matt Black. dir: Constantino Magnatta. - violence, partial female nudity.- 95 min.

(1993) Linda Griffiths, Alan Williams.....An unmarried couple who have been seeing each other only for a few months is faced with her unexpected pregnancy...and what to do about it: she thinks maybe she wants it, and he thinks probably he doesn't. Minimalist two character drama is interesting and, surprisingly, amusing at times, though hurt by direction and even performances that can lean toward being self-consciously important. A little subtlety wouldn't have hurt. sc: Linda Griffiths (from her play). dir: Alan Zweig. 85 min.

Daughters of the Country.....Anthology title for four hour-long dramas made in 1986 by the NFB and produced by Norma Bailey, exploring Native/white relations by focusing on fictional metis women at different periods in Canadian history. So-so series, as a whole, got bogged down in its obvious (and reverse racist) preachiness, with only a couple of them really working as dramas. titles: Ikwe, Mistress Madeleine, Places Not Our Own, The Wake.

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